Facing price objections? It’s because your buyers are focusing on Inputs not Outputs.

And, it’s because YOU haven’t had a “case for change” conversation with them – where you’ve coached the buyer to articulate THEIR business case and personal win.

Fellow speaker and advisor Noah Fleming wrote an article recently about how buyers can reject investing in their business even when it is clearly in their best interest, because they’re focused on the Input (Cost, Hours) instead of the Output ($ Impact, Outcomes, Results, Hitting Goals). You can read the article here.

I’m here to share with you, that the responsibility for the rejection lies with you as the salesperson. You see, buyers often get sucked into focusing on the features, functions and price of a solution, product or service and make their decisions based on those criteria.

In doing so, they lose sight of what they’re really trying to achieve when introducing something new into their system; that they’re looking to improve in some way and that the improvement delivers order of magnitude value to them, beyond the price of what they’re buying.

Below are three examples from Noah Fleming‘s follow up blog post to the one mentioned above (you can read it here), where buyers have realized that they’re focused on the wrong criteria for buying.

One President of a company shared this response:

“We were recently talking to a company that was going to provide us with some marketing design services. One of my direct reports asked almost immediately, ‘What’s your hourly rate?’

I was nodding along when I remembered this Tidbit, and gently shut that line of questioning down, because I realized that you were right – the hourly rate didn’t matter.

What mattered was what we’d be left with, and what the total cost was. 

Even in the last week, I’ve seen so many subtle areas of input vs. output thinking that I’m excited to be able to catch more and more, so we can all stop focusing on the irrelevant things and instead focus on the results.”

Another wrote: 

“Thank you for bringing this up. It seems to be commonplace in our industry to always focus on the inputs over the outputs. One of the most valuable things we’ve done is tried to identify how many times we’ve used this type of thinking to make decisions over the past few months, and we’re also applying it to decisions we’re currently considering.

Looking back, here’s an example we found. We spent months trying to choose a vendor to supply us with software for our customer service department. As we looked back, we realized that a lot of time was spent on the cost per month, cost per user, and so forth. What we missed was that we never really figured out how and when to determine if the system had been successful at all! In the end, we chose based on price and features. 

I realize we still have no way of knowing if we made the best decision, but we’re living with it! Hindsight is 20/20 they say!”

This came from a startup founder… 

“I found myself focusing in on hourly rates for creative design work in getting a logo created for my company. I had 30 applications in front of me, and I was going back and forth based on their quoted hourly rates… There was one designer who had pitched me a flat fee service, and I realized after reading this tidbit that’s all that I really cared about… So long as it was good, I didn’t care if it took somebody 15 seconds of work or 15 days of work, and in fact, I’d prefer 15 seconds because I could start using it earlier.”

See, buyers – even very senior ones, are humans too! They make mistakes and errors of judgement just as much as salespeople do.

And that’s because most of them have never been taught how to build a “case for change” or build a business case for a purchase.

A highly effective and simple way of guiding your buyer to build their own business case is to ask a series of questions, like the simplified ones below.

Salesperson: “What are looking to impact by having a conversation with me?”

Buyer: “I’m looking to improve our sales growth”

Salesperson: “Which particular aspect of sales growth specifically?”

Buyer: “Proposal to win rate.”

(Insert questions and conversation around what they sense is causing the low win rate and what their sense of what their sales people should stop, start and continue doing, while sharing your insights and experience on this topic)

Salesperson: “OK, tell me, what are your proposal win rates today – and what would you like them to be?”

Buyer: “They’re X% today and I want to get to $Y%.”

Salesperson: “And in what timeframe?”

Buyer: “In the next 12 months.”

Salesperson: “Tell me, in dollars, what will that % increase mean in terms of revenue to your business?”

Buyer: “It will mean an additional $XXX,XXX for the year.”

Salesperson: “What will you do with/how will you deploy that additional revenue?”

Buyer: “I’ll be able to invest that in XYZ.”

Salesperson: “And how will that impact your objectives?”

Buyer: “I’ll be able to grow so much faster and achieve my growth target of X faster.”

Salesperson: “May I ask, if you do achieve all the outcomes we’ve discussed, what’s the personal win for you?” (Getting to Personal Win is what the best of the best aim for and get as it truly serves your clients best interest)

Buyer: “I’ll be able to Y (feel like I’m winning/buy the cottage/retire happy/support my team.” (Pun, intended. The Personal Win is an articulation of their “why” or real motive(s) for buying)

You now have the Business Outputs/Impacts/Results and Personal Output/Impact/Result. Here lies GOLD!

What do you think is more influencing, the customer sharing their own business case and motives for buying, or you telling them what the ROI of working with you will be?

If you said the former, you’re correct.

Sales people who tell the the customer what ROI they will get is the equivalent of “let me tell you how handsome/beautiful I am.” It ain’t effective and it isn’t believed.

In conclusion, if you want to avoid price objections, focus on guiding your buyer to articulate their own business case and motives for buying. You’ll both get what you want that way.

If you’d like to discuss this topic, get in touch.

CEOs and Sales Leaders: Is lack of curiosity impeding your salespeople’s results?

Curiosity. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 is not good…10 is world class), how would you rate the “curiosity” of your salespeople?

If it’s below 7, keep reading.

Dictionary.com defines curiosity as “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.”

Many of the CEOs and Sales Leaders I speak with want their sales people to be more curious.

Why, you may ask? (gold star for being curious!)

They know, that the “uncommon” sales conversations are the ones that yield the most results.

The conversations that goes beyond feature, function and benefit conversation, aka the “pitch.”

Or the conversation focused purely on ROI and business case.

These executives know that their buyers are human – human first, buyers second.

Humans have a deep need to be understood, at business level AND at a personal level.

They appreciate the untypical questions. They appreciate it when sales people go beyond surface level contextual business questions, ask them for their point of view, or their experience on a particular topic or issue. And they reciprocate in kind – and build equal business stature in the process.

Here are my 3 tips for developing curiosity in sales people, that you as CEO or Sales Leader can influence.

PURPOSE: What do your sales people think their job is? To hit quota? Sell stuff?

If this is what you’ve told them, you can’t be surprised that they treat your customers in a transactional manner – and you’ll probably find that your sales cycles are long and that not enough opportunities end in wins. The executives who lead world class sales organizations make it clear that their salespeople’s purpose is to measurably improve their customers’ business and personal condition. In making this distinction, sales people automatically go beyond trite “me too” questions and conversations and focus on jointly building a “case for change” and assessing if their is a good fit between your clients and your business.

BUILDING A CASE FOR CHANGE: Once your sales people become clear on their purpose, you’ll find them naturally moving from conversations focused on “why choose us” to co-creating a case for change with your customers – “why change and why now.” They’ll be more interested to understand how customers do business today, what works, what doesn’t, what good work can be built on/expanded on, what needs to stop, what needs to start, what risks need mitigating in the future and more…

And they’ll be able to naturally guide the customer to articulating their business case (not your salesperson’s) – what success looks like, what they measure, what results they get today, what results they want in the future, in what time and what the $ value of that is…and does it make sense to change and hire you…or not (in which case your sales person can exit gracefully without investing too much time and resources).

THE PERSONAL WIN: It’s at this stage when your salesperson can truly differentiate themselves and your company from your competition because they’ve taken the time to build credibility and trust by having a very different conversation than the client is used to.

Human beings buy on emotion and back their decisions up with logic. Being curious allows your sales person to artfully uncover the case for doing business and then really make the other party feel heard and understood by asking for “the personal win.” What will the stakeholder have to gain as a result of buying from you? It’s in these answers where unshakeable relationships are created.

Being curious helps your salespeople make more sales, bigger deals, in a lot less time.

What will you do as a leader to exercise your salespeople’s curiosity muscle?

Thoughts, comments?

Click here to learn more: mattconway.redeyedesign.ca

53% of sales reps are not hitting quota…

CEOs and SALES LEADERs: if, as research firms suggest, 53% of sales reps are not hitting quota, this is a LEADERSHIP issue. 2 suggestions…

  1. Review your value proposition and messaging. If it looks and sounds like this, then you need to change it because it is focused on you/your company and not your potential customer.

“I/we help companies to…”

This OLD message framework forces your sales people to focus on “why choose us” messaging, which stops them from creating outcome, impact and results focused messaging that your potential client will be interested in. This OLD messaging framework positions you/your company as hero.

Focusing on impact/outcome/results messaging answers the “why change, why now” question in the clients mind and positions you/your sales people as guide and mentor and your clients as the hero. Think you as Obi Wan Kenobi and your client as Luke Skywalker.

2. Are your sales people talking to people who can say “yes” AND mobilize internal resources and create or access budget (according to The Chasm Group 85% of budgets are already spoken for on existing initiatives) ?

To often sales people are wasting their time with mid ranking executives who are “invested in the status quo, can’t say yes, but can say no.” And, even if they are working with a mid ranking exec who wants to drive change, the mid ranking exec probably can’t push the deal through/up the chain of command.

What difference would it make to your business if your sales people were speaking to executives who are interested in change or can drive change…and create budgets?

And here’s the kicker. If you’re a CEO or Sales Leader reading this, what would you do if you wanted to do business with another company? Would you reach out to a mid ranking exec with a Manager, Director or even a VP title?

No? Why not?

The answer I get from most leaders is because they know that decisions to change are made at the C suite level and that those decisions are made fast.

If that’s the case, then why are you letting your sales people prospect into mid ranking execs where they have low probability of success (research from SBI shows that as much as 58% of deals end in ‘no decision’.) You’re wasting your sales people’s lives and putting your company’s growth at risk.

If you’d like to have a conversation about how to solve for these issues, contact me. I’ll share some uncommon ideas and insights that could well accelerate your growth trajectory.

Sales leader or Marketing VP. Is your SDR’s and Sales Reps email signature sabotaging their prospecting?

If your salespeople are involved in prospecting for new business and they use email as part of their outreach to new contacts, you may want to take a close look at their email signatures…specifically their job title.

Does their job title establish peer to peer credibility with the person you want them to speak or meet with – or, does it, like most of the sales teams that I work with, sabotage their prospecting effectiveness and results?

Last week I worked with two teams on how to write emails and letters to CEO’s and other senior decision making executives that would result in responses and meetings in minutes, hours or days…not weeks, months or never.

The first was an inside sales team tasked with generating meetings for field sales – the second, a field sales team who also wanted to be able to generate meetings with their top ‘must win’ accounts.

In both sessions the topic of job titles came up and how they would be perceived by a receiving CEO or senior executive.

Here’s the question I asked both teams. “Do you think your job title hinders or helps your ability to get meetings with the CEO?”

Both teams agreed that it hindered.

Here was my follow up question. “So why have a job title in your email?”

“Because marketing says we have to!” cried out the SDR’s.

As the VP of Marketing was sitting in the first session, I asked him ‘why’ a job title was needed in the SDR’s signature and would it be OK if they removed it immediately. “Of course” was the sheepish reply.

The next day the VP of Sales smacked his head in disbelief at being asked the same ‘hinders or help’ question. It had never occurred to him that this small detail could hinder his team’s success.

Folks, it’s little details like this that can make a big difference between getting results like these;

Matt’s advice has helped me reach out to C-level prospects in a much more efficient way. By tweaking wording, focusing on the big picture and putting together a strategy to reach target accounts, his help has provided results right out of the gate. My first CEO response was under one minute after sending our message! Nate Lawrence, SDR

Matt is a dynamic speaker and can effectively help you in reaching the C-Suite level. I employed his suggestions after receiving his valuable training and literally within 2 hours of sending out a well thought email, I set an appointment! Matt is an amazing resource and I highly recommend him. Amanda Fleck, Associate Sales Manager

The results across the team have been exceptional. I myself used Matt’s methodology in an email to the GM of a large organization I had been prospecting for the longest time.Within 24 hours from sending the email, I had my meeting confirmed! Orlagh Brady, Senior Client Partner

…or having your sales people spend weeks, months or years, spending valuable time and 10 to 30 touches before they get a meeting with a mid ranking executive who can’t say ‘yes’ but can say ‘no’.

Life is too short for this kind of inefficiency! No other profession would tolerate it…would they?

Do your new business sales team a favour. Help them be more successful.

Reduce their (and your) stress and have more fun prospecting – for less effort and with more positive results.

If it’s takes your new business sales people too long to get meetings with senior decision makers (weeks or months) – for too much effort (more than 4 touches) – and your sales cycles are long and not enough deals close because they’re selling too low, get in contact with me.

It’s Time to Stop Dehumanizing Customers with Your Language

Originally posted on April 28th on Selling Power Magazine’s Sales 2.0 blog. http://www.sales20conf.com/blog/time-stop-dehumanizing-customers-language/

Words have power. How you, as a company leader and sales leader, talk about your potential customers has a tremendous impact on your growth results – because how you talk about customers will be how your sales people talk to your customers.

Think about the words the sales profession habitually uses to describe potential customers and how many organizations still describe the sales process: Potential customers are “suspects,” “prospects,” and “targets”…to be “probed,” “qualified,” “handled,” “controlled,” and – finally – “closed.”

Dehumanizing much?

Many sales organizations I’ve visited have “war rooms” to review their deals. In strategy sessions, “beachheads” and “outflanking” to “beat” the competition are discussed.

In account planning, accounts are to be “penetrated.”

New hires – “aggressive” “hunters” and “closers.”

Now just imagine for a moment that your “must win” customers were listening in on these conversations. Do you think they would ever want to work with your salespeople or your company if they overheard how you talk about them? Or would they flee to the hills to escape your barbaric and rapacious hordes?

“Yeah, but they’re not listening in – so it’s OK. Right?”

It’s not. Here’s why you might want to reconsider how you describe potential customers and be very intentional about the words you use.

The latest research in neuroscience and linguistics shows that the words you use play an important role in regulating emotion and behavior – from communicator to recipient and back again – and, for many salespeople, this is done at an unconscious level. They’re not intentional in the words they choose.

If sales is the transfer of emotion and energy to another human being, what energy and emotion are being transferred to your potential customers when your sellers are on the phone or three feet away from them?

Is your salesperson picturing the human being opposite them as a “target” to be “hunted” and “closed?” And, if so, how do you think the “target” will feel? Defensive or open? Ready to do business, or thinking how to get your seller out of their office?

As company leader or sales leader, this is your responsibility to change, expect, and make intentional. Like kids who model the behavior and language of their parents, your salespeople will model the words they hear from you. If you talk and describe your potential customers in the terms above, you shouldn’t be surprised that your salespeople’s customer interactions – from prospecting to discovery conversations – aren’t delivering the results you want to see and hear.

YOU need to start changing your language and being intentional about how you describe your potential customers and where they are in their buying journey, if you want your salespeople to model the same.

Awareness is the first step. STOP using the words above. START being intentional in your choice of words. Openly correct yourself in front of your salespeople when you call a potential customer a “target.” They’ll soon get the message.

You’ll be glad…and so will your new customers.

Get your prospecting email opened. 1 simple tip.

In my work consulting and copywriting Executive Access emails, letters and Inmails for B2B new business sales teams all over the world, I see one common omission made by experienced sales people and those new to new business prospecting* – that significantly reduces the effectiveness of their prospecting messages.

Namely, they fail to use the first name of the person who they are trying to contact in the subject line.

Think about this for a moment.

Why were you given a first name?

Yes, of course it’s an adorable name! Or perhaps you were named after a favourite Uncle or Aunt. And this isn’t the point…

Because, a first name is a societal construct for getting the attention of an individual.

Imagine shouting to a crowd of people “hey you!” Everyone turns round. Not helpful, useful or quick when you’re trying to get one person’s attention.

You and your prospective customers have been conditioned to respond when your name is used, so take advantage of this in your prospecting message subject line.

Use the prospects* first name in your subject line, e.g. “Matt, good morning…”

A subject line can be a simple greeting and pleasantry (another influence construct) as in the example above, or it can allude to a trigger event, e.g. “Matt, your recent speech…” “Matt, your interview in WSJ…” “Matt, your $1B growth objective…”

The new business sales people that I work with say using the first name of the person they want to connect with in their subject line has helped them dramatically improve their ability to engage executives in conversations.

“Getting the attention of an executive has always been one of the most challenging parts of business development for me. I worked with Matt to put together a very targeted and powerful email that was intended to stir the interest of my C-level prospects. Incredibly, the email has yielded a 50% response rate and in a couple of situations, I was on the phone the next day with prospects I had struggled to reach in the past! I can’t recommend Matt enough. The process that he walks you through is guaranteed to result in emails that yield results.” –  Managing Partner

Sometimes it’s the little things that yield some of the greatest results.

That’s often been true in my experience. What do you think?

Executive Access – in minutes, hours or days…not weeks, months or never! mattconway.redeyedesign.ca

* Be mindful of how you think and talk about potential customers. “Prospect, suspect, target.” These words influence our energy and the way we write and talk to potential customers. If you describe them in these terms you will sabotage your results – unconsciously these terms will influence what you write/say and how you come across to your potential customer.

Fed up with long sales cycles & low close rates? Prospect & Sell to the right people.

Last week on a trip to the Middle East, I conducted an Executive Access! workshop for a combined group of inside sales, field sales and marketing people.

I was struck by how many participants stood up to take pictures of the graphic above – which summarizes the core motivations of functional and strategic executives and their ability to spend/buy.

Even more impactful were the ‘ahas’ and stories of frustration from sales people who realized that they spend most of their time prospecting into and trying to sell to mid ranking functional executives who are vested in the status quo…”who can’t say yes, but can say no.” Quite simply, the motivations of mid ranking executives they had been spending all their time on are operationalize and execute – not to introduce change/buy (unless a significant trigger event was in effect).

If, as research shows, as much as 95% of buyers are in status quo and mid ranking executives motivations are to execute/operationalize – not introduce change, then why do most sales leaders and their sellers focus their time and energy on such low probability activity?

Firstly, I think this is an awareness issue.

Many sales people and sales leaders simply haven’t been taught what the motivations and drivers of various buying stakeholders are – and they simply accept that if they sell a technology, then the IT Director is the buyer. Or if they sell marketing solutions, then it’s the VP Marketing. Or if they sell training, it’s the Dir/VP HR or Learning and Development. Etc, etc. This will have been reinforced by Ideal Customer Profiles that don’t take into account the circumstances or triggers that caused these mid ranking executives to buy in the past (that loosened the status quo and put them in the market to buy).

Secondly, most messaging that is produced tends to be product/solution focused – not outcome or results focused. Only mid ranking executives tend to respond to feature/function messages. Senior executives will just delete. So sellers come to believe that senior decision makers will not meet with them because they never respond. They DO respond and agree to meetings, just NOT with sales people whose email sounds like a promotional message. And most sales leaders and sales people struggle (marketing too) to create customer focused messaging. And most have never been taught to WRITE persuasively to senior execs either. So they keep sending out the bland stuff that sounds just like everybody else and rely on ‘grit’ and ‘activity’ to get lucky.

Here’s what happens when the written message becomes customer focused and sellers go high. Immediate results for sales and marketing…

“I got a referral to the right person in 7 minutes!”

“I spent 2 years with one of my prospects without any response using the old mindset of approaching mid-level managers. After a 2 day session with Matt the result was amazing,CEO meeting in 9 hours after one email with no follow up.”

“Thanks again for a great session. I can’t stop saying that we should have learnt this at University! The open rates increased for each of our campaigns, taking them to an average of 18-20% instead of 12-15% and improved the registration numbers to our events. Thanks a lot for that! I am sure some of your magic positive power helped us too .”

Here’s some other RESULTS.

For FREE resources that will help you get calls and meetings with senior executives in minutes, hours and days…not weeks, months or never, visit mattconway.redeyedesign.ca

Do you ‘weewee’​ on your prospects?

” We help companies to…”

” We help our customers to…”

” I help my clients to…”

Interested to see how many of you have been taught value proposition and message development like the examples above?

NOTE: the bold words above are naughty and responsible for keeping your sales people focused on your product/service and not the results and outcomes important to your customers.


Buying Personas: Are they responsible for poor sales results?

I’m reposting these stats again as they make for sobering reading.

  • 58% of sales opportunities end in “no decision” – Sales Benchmark Index
  • Only 54% of sales people made quota in 2015 – CSO Insghts
  • Only 46.3% of forecasted deals closed in 2015 – Rob Jeppsen
  • 22% increase in average sales cycle in last 5 years – Dave Borrelli, Salesforce

Could buying personas be partially responsible for declining sales performance?

My point of view is that the fashion of building out buying personas has had unintended consequences on sales results.

  1. The focus on identifying the ‘ideal’ buyer – by their psychographics and demographics has caused sales and marketers to forget that 95% of buyers are in status quo. The ideal buyer + a trigger event or circumstance can cause the buyer to become active and become part of the 5% for a period of time. Sellers and marketers would be wise to combine buying personas + triggers in their outreaches and campaigns to maximize results. I believe Tim Riesterer of Corporate Visions has a similar point of view.
  2. Many of the buying personas that I’ve seen are of mid ranking and functional executives – who are deeply vested in the status quo – “can’t say yes, but can say no.” Sales and marketing spend time trying to convince these ‘buyers’ who are tasked with operationalizing what’s in place for the case for change – with poor returns for their efforts.

In order to loosen the grip of the status quo, sales people need to prospect into people who are motivated to change – because that is what selling is – it’s changing from one state to another.

Who is motivated to make change?

The executives of the company. The C suite’s role is to look for new ways of doing things that will give them a competitive edge.

This is where top sales performers start their engagements. The top down approach.

Most sales leaders and sales people have never been taught how to write and message a C suite buying persona – so they revert to trying convince…you guessed it…the mid ranking ideal buying persona. And so it continues.

If you want to dramatically accelerate your sales cycles and improve win rates then work on your messaging mindset and skills to engage the C suite at your must win accounts.

That’s what I think. What do you think?


Sales Onboarding: Is it sabotaging results?

You’ve hired some great sales people…

…then why can’t they get meetings with decision making executives?

Two reasons.

  • Firstly, your sales on boarding is broken…really broken.
  • Secondly, nobody teaches sales people how to write. That’s right. Write.

Here’s what happens.

You hire good people.

Experienced sellers with proven track records.

Or energetic millennials in their first or second job – who want to make a difference in the world.

And what you do is bring these people into your organization and then start talking about ‘us’. Our products, our solutions, our market.

What you should really be talking about is THEM – your buyer, your customer.

Most sales people have never done the job of the person they’re expected to sell to. They don’t know what a VP or a CEO’s job is.

And yet, you’re telling them to go sell to those people, armed with nothing more than internally focused product marketing information.

If they’re experienced sales people, you expect them to know how to write and prospect into the C suite. It’s kind of an unwritten rule that nobody asks about, isn’t it?

And if they’re new to sales? Well, you expect them to ‘figure out’ how to write and prospect into the C suite. Learn by osmosis. Don’t you?

What you need to do is be intentional about this critical part of the sales cycle – teach them about your prospective customers first. Most sales organizations aren’t and don’t.

What concerns does a C level executive vs a Line of Business leader have? What’s a ‘day in their life’ look like? How are they measured, what are the trends impacting their market, what challenges do they face, how are they currently addressing those challenges? What opportunities could they be taking advantage of…but they’re not? They’re doing this, when they could or should be doing that.

When they really grasp and understand your customers, now you tell them how your products, services or solution links back to their customers’ issues and helps them improve their business.

And then you show and teach them “how to” communicate this in writing AND in conversation to decision making executives at your prospects.

Unfortunately, most companies never do this.

And that’s why time to ramp is so slow and why 60% of opportunities end in no decision.

Sales people are spending their precious prospecting and selling time, writing and talking about your company to mid ranking managers who defend the status quo – without the ability to discover what is important to the customer and articulate the full value of working with your company.

So, do your sales people and yourself a favour.

Go beyond “drinking the cool aid” and only exposing your sellers to your product marketing information.

On board them from your buyers’ perspective.

And arm them with the written word and conversational mindset and skills to sell “beyond their pay grade.”

You’ll be glad you did.

That’s what I think. What do you think?