Sunday, December 15, 2013

Technology Reflection 2013

As 2013 comes to an end, we all have a couple of slow weeks to close that last big sale before the Holidays, wrap up our loose ends in the office, and plan for a great start to 2014.  By reflecting on what went well this past year, and reviewing those challenges that didn’t quite go the way we hoped, achieving a quick jump out of the gate for next year is possible.

One thing we have seen over the past couple of years is a quantum leap in new technology.  Cell phones are changing by the day, from the iPhone5 to the Galaxy 4, the iPad has developed into the 2nd generation iPad Mini and iPad Air, and wireless and cloud IT services have skyrocketed.  

Technology Adoption Graph
So how do we decide on our business plan to incorporate the changing technologies?  Do we jump right in with the newest equipment, or do we sit back and wait for the kinks to get worked out?  That’s a great question. If you’ve been in sales or marketing, I’m sure you seen some variation of the graph to the right.  Some people are “Innovators”, some are “Early Adopters”, some are in the “Majority” and still others are “Laggards” when it comes to adopting new ideas and products.

A small percentage of the population falls into the early and late stages of technology, but 68% of the market falls into the “Majority” phase.  This is the market that successful businesses typically target.  While some companies are “Innovators” (think Apple), many of the Fortune 100 companies adopt their business plans to focus on winning the “Early Adopter” market. 

So how does this affect your business?  Working in a Channel Sales management role, I often see my Partner’s dealing with changes in their product sets from their vendors.  Many providers simply eliminate older technology and change their compensation plan to drive Agents to their newer technologies.  After all, a good sales person will take about 5 minutes to break down a new comp plan and sell what makes them the most money.  I know I do…......but does the sales person make more money selling new, unproven technology?

If I had a $1 for every time someone told me the following statement, I’d be a very wealthy person and would probably be retired :

“ I don’t sell your company’s type of services anymore.  My customers don’t have a need for that any longer”.  

Wow!……..that would be a powerful statement if it were actually true.

Selling the new technology is certainly flashy and gives the appearance to your prospects that your company is on the “Leading Edge”.  The problem is, focusing on the new technology being pushed by your provider can effectively limit your prospect bucket.  As 68% of businesses don’t adopt new technology right away, according to the “Adoption Graph”, you’ve immediately reduced your market to 32% by thinking this way.  In order to avoid this issue, I recommend to my Partners to consider switching to another vendor for their current product set, while integrating the new technology via their existing vendor who is targeting the “Early Adopters”.  By incorporating this process into a business plan, you’ve effectively maintained your prospect bucket at nearly 100%, meaning almost every company you talk to can buy something from you.

By offering the newest and greatest products through one vendor and older, more proven technology through a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th vendor, you have a more complete product line and can meet a variety of customer challenges.  This will ultimately lead to more sales.  I can’ think of the last time I visited a car dealer who sold only one model, nor does Walmart carry only one brand of TV’s.  Why would you limit your agency’s portfolio by eliminating a product set used by 68% of businesses.

During these last couple weeks of 2013, take the time to reflect on your product portfolio and determine if it makes sense to try and hit all sections of the “Adoption Graph”.  You may see it helps make 2014 a better year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Would You Return This Call?

Telephone Cold calling…Email…SMS Text…Twitter…Linkedin…Facebook…Webinars…and more.
All standard techniques for sales professionals to try and drum up business leads and get in front of qualified prospects.  Sometimes these methods work.  More often than not, they don’t.  Why?  Because you’re delivering the wrong message.

How many of us have gone into one of the big box stores and run into the poor person walking around with the dreaded clipboard?  All of us!  The person is typically trying to get your attention, offering a deal of some sort, completely different from the product you went into the store to buy.  Why do you most often walk away after saying “I’m not interested”?  Why are these people getting such a low conversion rate?  They are not offering a service YOU think YOU need at the moment and your time is valuable.

That is the underlying problem sales professionals are facing every day during their prospecting efforts.  We email, call, text, tweet etc. to people WE perceive as prospects, interrupting their daily work and expecting them to drop everything and respond to us.  This just doesn’t produce enough results.

So how do successful sales professionals get their prospects interest?  The top sales producers have learned the technique of creating a sense of need with their prospects.  They have redesigned their message from selling their company’s value proposition to offering a sure fire method to grow their prospect’s business.

Consider this scenario, left on voicemail…..

”Hi Mr. Customer, my name is Kevin from ABC Inc., and I’d like to speak with you about my “Widget” program for your company and the value it brings.  Could you please give me a call back at 781-123-4567”

Pretty standard stuff for a voicemail.  Do you think Kevin is going to get a call back? Pretty unlikely……

Now a different approach…..

“Hi Mr. Customer, this is Kevin from ABC Inc. calling.  I’m looking to arrange a brief 15 minute call to discuss how your company can grow a new revenue stream using the same program I designed for …(a company within your prospects industry)……  Please drop me a quick call @ xxxxxx or email with an appropriate time and I‘ll confirm via Outlook invite.”

Do you think “Kevin’s”  2nd message will get a better response rate?  Absolutely it will.  By delivering the same message but creating the impression of a new income stream, “Mr. Customer” is more likely to respond.  Not guaranteed by any means, but more likely.  It might take a few follow ups to get a response, but any CTO or COO will tell you unless you create a way for them to benefit from your call, they will not give you the time to make your pitch.  And Kevin didn’t even mention the product in his 2nd message.

Creating a perceived need for a product or service will help justify the prospect agreeing to give you the time on their schedule to make your pitch.  Try imagining yourself in your prospect’s chair and consider what would make you return a call on your product.  Once you’ve crafted the right message, you’ll see your prospecting efforts return more set appointments which will lead to more sales…….

Have a great opening pitch? I'd enjoy hearing about it.....

Good selling……….

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sales exclusivity – Does it limit potential or add value?

Having been in a variety of senior sales and sales management positions over the past 25 years, I’ve worked in and managed both direct and channel sales groups.   In both cases, one major decision always seems to pop up……this issue of “exclusivity”

What exactly does the term “Exclusivity” refer to in sales?  The term really can have a double meaning in sales agreements.  

In one case “exclusivity” can be granted to a sales person or company to be the only person authorized to sell a certain set of products, or be the only authorized sales agency in a specific geographical region.  This could be a state, county, country etc.

The second definition can be written where a sales person or company can only sell one manufacturer’s product line, thus becoming an “exclusive” agent for a particular vendor.  In return for accepting this type of arrangement, the sales agent can typically negotiate favorable terms and pricing for the product.

But is “Exclusivity” hindering the sales organization’s success?  That is a debate that has been going on for years and will continue for the foreseeable future.  I have witnessed organizations who sell only one product or brand become highly successful and profitable.  Unfortunately, I have also often seen these relationships sour as technology passes by the product, or competition developing a better, more price competitive product.  

Just recently, the drug manufacturing company Merck lost it’s “exclusivity” to sell the drug Singulair when it’s patent expired.  According to, Merck & Co. “reported a 49% decline in second-quarter profit, as the drug maker continues to feel sales pressure from patent expirations”.  This is a big impact from the addition of sales competition to the playing field.  Obviously a positive In making the case that “exclusivity” helps drive increased profits.

On the other side of the fence, being an “exclusive” agent limits your options to a present to a potential customer.  While price limitations is an obvious result of this situation, consider other issues:  your prospect may have had a bad previous experience with your manufacturer, your product may not have the right features, your install or delivery requirements may not fit, or the prospect may just like to make a choice rather than be “sold” on a solution.  In any of these situations, “exclusivity” can hurt your sales efforts and can often lead to a lost sale.  If “exclusivity was good for business, Walmart would carry one type of vacuum, one brand of potato chips, one brand of laundry detergent, and so forth.  We all know they don’t, and they are America’s largest retailer.

So at the end of the day, is “exclusivity” worth it?  Still up in the air but it’s fun to discuss.  Personally, I think limiting yourself to one type of anything is a bad idea.  After all, how many of us  own more than one car and have all of the same type of vehicles in our garages and driveways?   There are 4 cars in my family, a Cadillac, a Toyota, and 2 Chevy’s.  And yes, I have 3 different brands of HDTV’s too!

So much for “Exclusivity” in my family!

How about you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Copper Phone Lines – End of the Road or Just the Beginning?

As the Bell companies continue to migrate their service focus away from their legacy copper networks, pushing new technologies like FIOS, Ethernet, fiber, satellite, and wireless, are businesses witnessing the end of an era?

Copper lines are in every neighborhood
Copper phone lines have been around since the invention of the telephone in the late 1800’s.  Alexander Graham Bell is credited with designing the first electromagnetic  telephone in 1876.  Copper lines have been in use ever since.  The number of copper lines in the United States peaked at 186 million in 2000.  Since then, more than 100 million lines have been replaced with newer technologies.

Today, the legacy copper network is expensive for the incumbent local carriers to maintain, and they continue to move resources out of the copper network and into the new transport methods.  The copper wire gets wet during storms and corrodes, causing outages and requiring constant repairs.  But what happens to us, the consumer, who has relied on “copper” to form the backbone of our national communications networks for the last 130 years?

Manholes can be a disaster for a repair tech
The decision by the bell companies to reduce their support structure for their legacy networks has opened a door of opportunity for a few wholesalers to enter the market and offer consolidated billing services, discounted rates, and an exceptional customer experience.  While it’s common to hit an IVR platform, and be placed in a call queue for up to 20 minutes when calling your local phone companies, using a wholesaler can deliver calls answered by a live person, within as little as 8 seconds, 24x7x365.

Another benefit delivered by these wholesale providers is the ability to consolidate billing across traditional company boundaries.  If you own a 
multi-location business, and have offices in Verizon territory in the northeast, locations in AT&T’s footprint in the south, and others in Centurylink’s territory in the northwest,  you now have the capability to combine all these locations on to a single invoice, with a single point of contact for all your moves, adds, changes, new installs, billing questions, etc.  The service comes with an online web portal, providing your business with unmatched visibility to your services, circuit inventories, repair tickets, adds, changes, and installs.

As the wholesalers work through agreements with the various bell operating companies, switching your services to one of their platforms is as simple as signing a “Letter of Authorization” or “LOA”, and having an electronic transfer occur.  The lines physically remain on the Bell network, with only the customer service and billing functions being moved.

The best part of all is because of the massive buying volumes the wholesalers bring to the market, among all these benefits comes the best one of all, a reduction in price of up to 30% off tariffed rates.

If you are interested in learning how to take advantage of a wholesale arrangement for your business, please reach out to me @davehanron on Twitter or email me at and I’ll be happy to assist you.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Friend’s Perspective on Your Business

A Friend’s Perspective on Your Business

Over my 25+ years as a sales professional, I’ve come to realize that none of us will ever know all there is to know about any of our professions…..and sales may perhaps be the hardest one of all to conquer.

I’ve attended dozens of conferences and seminars, hundreds of webcasts, internal training, external training, new hire training, I even once took a course on how to train.  Still, with all this training, I will never fully understand all there is about selling.

I have worked with loads of other sales professionals…. some old, some young, many my age, and learned something good or bad from each and every one of them.  In our early years, it seems easy to pick up closing techniques, prospecting tricks, and perceived shortcuts to success.  Later in my career, I’ve found it more likely to observe people using methods that involve new styles, like social media, SEO, self-branding, and using other modern systems to succeed.  Today, the information available to us through the internet is almost infinite.

But to put this all into perspective, is using Hoover’s or Jigsaw or Linkedin to research companies and prospects any better than the old school method of “dialing for dollars” out of the phone book?  I’m not sure; I guess it would depend on what works for you….

But over the years, I have learned that the best method to get a neutral perspective on how your sales pitch works is to simply run it by one of your personal friends.  I have a lot of friends outside of sales and many work in fields completely removed from my product line.  There is no better test for your pitch than running it by one of your friends who has no idea whatsoever what you really do for work and what you really sell.

If you can maintain the interest of your friends with your sales pitch and at the end of your five minute pitch, they understand your product,  you’re on the right track.  I have even had the pleasure of hearing some great ideas from some of my friends which I have put into play and had great success with.  I consider this a bonus, but it happens more than you think.  It just takes you to practice perhaps the hardest sales skill of all…Listening!

So the next time you’re at a lunch, a ballgame, a cookout, or perhaps on the golf course with one of your friends, take a couple minutes and give him or her your pitch.  You might be surprised at what comes of it…and you might even discover they have a great contact or two for your to reach out to.  They had them all the time but never truly understood what you did or what you sold?  

But be prepared...good friends are brutally honest.  Just as quickly as they'll tell you your clothes don't match or you car is filthy, they'll tell you your delivery stinks!  If after you've finished, they still have no idea what you sell, you need to go back to the drawing board and rework your story.

I'm looking forward to hearing how successful you are in the coming weeks after you try this technique.  If there's someone's friend out there who's had the pleasure of being on the receiving end of someone's sales speech, I enjoy hearing about that too.

So let's get out there and engage our Friends!