The Deal Doctor | Blog

Your SalesMBA

Welcome! This is the places for fresh insight on the award-winning prospecting, negotiating and closing techniques developed and delivered by M. Jeffrey Hoffman. Jeff presents to thousands of sales professionals around the world, and his methods are used by best-in-class sales teams such as Google, SuccessFactors, Symantec and many more. Bookmark this page and check in often. As always, please comment and share. You may also subscribe to our RSS feed here.

       


Strictly Sales with OpenView Venture Partners

Jen Hoffman - Thursday, February 20, 2014

We are thrilled to partner with our friends at OpenView to share Jeff’s latest insights in the new Strictly Sales series by CeCe Bazar

Strictly Sales takes Jeff’s entertaining style out of the classroom and into the written word, making his stories available to anyone interested in the world of sales.

For the seasoned sales executive enjoy Jeff’s tips on hiring top talent and inspiring teams to achieve sales greatness.  New to sales?  Learn his latest prospecting techniques as well as the secret to identifying those pesky tire-kickers. And recent college grads considering a career in sales can discover which jobs are the best (and which ones to avoid.)

Strictly Sales Series Topics

  • The Keys to Prospecting and Sales Management
  • The Best and Worst Sales Stories & Advice
  • Dealing with Tire-Kickers and Oh Sh*t Moments
  • What Recent Grads Shold Look for in a Sales Role
  • How to Hire Top Sales Talent
The author of the series, CeCe Bazar works with OpenView’s portfolio sales teams, teaching them how to improve performance and achieve their goals. “We love working with Jeff!” she shares. “His trigger-based approach to prospecting has completely transformed the way we train prospecting teams within the portfolio. His feedback and insight is instrumental to the success of these teams."

CeCe will also be facilitating a sales management webinar featuring Jeff on Wednesday, February 26th. "The Secret of Sales Management" will cover exactly what sales managers need to know about boosting their “A” players’ performance while minimizing the impact a “C” player can have on their teams.  Jeff and CeCe will also be joined by OpenView’s Director of Sales and Marketing Support, Devon McDonaldRegister to hear Jeff’s latest tips for today’s sales managers. 


Remember to follow Jeff on Twitter at @mjhoffman and subscribe to our quarterly newsletter The Deal Doctor™ for his latest tips and techniques.

You can also follow CeCe at @howbazar and Devon at @DevMcDee
Happy Selling!

Housekeeping ‘To Do’s’ for a Successful 2014

Jeff Hoffman - Monday, December 23, 2013

Motivated to work off some extra Thanksgiving pounds, I bounded out my front door for a quick run, only to be met by an unexpected fall off the icy front steps. The result? A weeklong rest on the couch, doctor’s orders.  Sulking about the uninvited “vacation” I stewed about not being able to make the calls and visits that I had planned to wrap up December business. Tired of hearing the rant, my wife turned to me and remarked, “Well at least this happened in December.”

It occurred to me that she was right.  Although many of us feel enormous pressure to close final deals, the truth is that most of our customers simply aren’t around at year-end.   And after December 15?  Forget about it.

My past calendars support this, as December is traditionally my least busy (and least hectic,) month.  So besides chasing those few remaining deals stuck in your customer’s procurement departments, why not do a little housekeeping and set yourself up for success in 2014?  Here are three things you can do to hit the ground running come January 1st.

1. Take Inventory.  While it’s still fresh, capture the activities of the past 12 months.   Break down each month – how many meetings did you have?  What were your busiest travel periods?  What months enjoyed the newest customer wins?  The answers will probably surprise you!  This reflection will go a long way to insure a thoughtful plan for success in the upcoming year.

2. Ask for a Grade.  Contact some of your select customers, and ask them to give your services a specific grade (A-F.)  This isn’t a “How are we doing?” phone call, or a veiled attempt to try to upsell.  It is an opportunity to truly hear what your customer thinks of you post-sale.  Listen closely:  An “A” is terrific.  A “B” sounds good, but generally means there are at least a few major problems.  And a “C?”  That generally means that you are failing, and the account is at significant risk. 

After listening patiently, ask:  “What can I do between now and January so that the next time I ask, you give us a B-?”

Your goal here is to accept their grade, and to then aim for reasonable improvement.  This shows that you are listening, and that you truly value their business.

For more on how to boost sales with existing clients check out my Secret of The Endless Cycle™ videos tips on the MJ Hoffman YouTube channel.

3. Upgrade Your Tools.  To once again borrow from the late Dr. Stephen Covey, this is a great time to introduce yourself to something new.  Read a new book.  Attend a seminar.  Even re-read a favorite (I generally re-read Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People (link) once a year.)

I enjoy holiday parties and college bowl games as much as the next guy.  But as the winter days get shorter, consider using the end of year downtime wisely on pursuits you rarely have time for throughout the year.  That way, you can kickoff January with new energy, purpose, and opportunity.

Happy holidays, and Happy Selling!

Jeff


Client Gifts That Keep On Giving

Jeff Hoffman - Thursday, December 12, 2013

Back when I started selling (when dinosaurs ruled the earth,) we used to thank our customers with an expensive steak dinner or a bottle of single-malt.  But we have matured since then (sniff) and the days of large expense accounts for salespeople have long since been retired.  But with the holidays fast approaching, it’s an easy time to think about playing Santa.  So what do we do?  What’s appropriate?  What’s not?  And how do I not look cheesy?

Let me start by offering some do’s and don’ts – First, DO let your manager, (and your legal/HR contact) know that you are planning on giving some holiday thank yous to selected clients.   Different organizations, industries, and even jurisdictions vary on what is permitted in regards to gifts.  Second, DO make sure that the gift is from you personally – this shouldn’t be reimbursed through an expense report.   And finally, DON’T give gifts to prospects.  This isn’t about buying the business.  It’s about making thoughtful gestures to the business you already won and value.

Sorry, but you won’t see me sending a basket of chocolate covered fruit, or a logo-embossed laptop bag this year.  Here are the 3 things that I will do (all for under $50 by the way) that should go a lot further in advancing relationships than boring (and expensive) tickets to a basketball game.

1. An airport lounge gift certificate

My clients generally travel as frequently as I do, and for most of us, membership dues to airport lounges are no longer allowed as a business expense.  Although expensive, these lounges can be a much-needed oasis of silence, comfortable seating, and free refreshments, in the middle of a stressful journey.  Send a coupon (or 2) to your client with a note that says you hope that she (and her family) can enjoy a few relaxing hours during their upcoming holiday layover in O Hare.  Imagine the smiles. 

Amount spent:  $50.00 per voucher.

2. A book

Yes an actual book, preferably hardcover.  I love to send books that I have personally enjoyed to favorite clients, particularly if there is something in the book that reminds me of them.  Years ago, I had a CEO client who was embarking on a radical change in the marketing strategy for his company.  Knowing this, I sent him a copy of W. Chan Kim’s Blue Ocean Strategy with a personal inscription from me.  Even now, years later, he still comments on how much he enjoyed it.  

Amount spent:  $24.99.

3. A blind referral

Still my favorite holiday gift.  Scour your network for a person who works for a company that you are certain would be attractive to your client.  Then, ask that contact to reach out directly to your client with something like, “Hi Bob.  This is Jerry at XYZ.  Jeff Hoffman told me that you are interested in introducing your services to my company.  I’ve known Jeff for years, and I am happy to help.  Feel free to call me and we can talk.  Happy Holidays.”  What enormous value this gift could have for your prospects! 

Amount spent:  $0.

It isn’t a stress-ball or a coffee mug that will endear you to your clients this holiday season. It is doing something simple (and even vulnerable) that communicates that you are thinking about your clients as people, and want to personally thank them for the relationship.  Remember:  It really is the thought the counts.

Happy Selling!

Jeff

Make the Switch: Be A Student, Not A Teacher

Jeff Hoffman - Monday, October 28, 2013

Most of today’s sales professionals understand that knowledge is king.   Knowing how company offerings can satisfy customer’s needs is only the beginning.  Sales reps must also be conversant in the latest industry trends, executive leadership changes, market shifts… you name it. 

As a result, we want to share our knowledge. Prove that we are experts and can lead a potential customer to the path of enlightenment. In other words, buy our stuff.  But I’ve found lately that most customers have zero interest in being taught. They already know.

In my Inc.com article “How to Sell Today: Be A Student, Not A Teacher” I share some of the conversations today’s customers want to have.  It’s a lot less, “Tell me what you do.” And a lot more, “Let me tell you what I already know you and your competitors do.”  After several of these encounters, I quickly realized that a new approach was needed to connect with these savvy buyers.  And here’s what I found worked best.

Instead, of playing the role of omniscient teacher, try being a curious student.

This sample dialogue will show you how a new approach can accomplish several things:

  1. RESET THE PACE:  Slowing everybody down will prevent you from racing into the weeds too soon, potentially missing valuable information.
  2. SHIFT THE PARADIGM: Now, it is the customer who must act as “teacher,” while you take on the role as “student.”
  3. PRESENT THE FINISH LINE: Telling the customer there is a definite end to the discussion, just 10 minutes or so of questions, keeps the customer from rushing you off the phone.


These 10 minutes will give you insight into a variety of things that you otherwise might not learn.  Things like how your prospect describes his role within the company, which is often very different from what his title may suggest.  Or why he chose to join this company within this industry.  You may also be able to gather clues about how he makes decisions, something that could be extremely valuable as you move further down the sales process.

In the end, this 10-minute lesson will teach you two critical things:

  1. How much decision-making authority does he or she actually have?
  2. Should you be selling to the customer's “pain” (that is, how your product can solve a problem) or “pleasure” (how your service can help this organization get to the next level)? 

Bottom line: With just 10 minutes of behaving like a student, you can turn an entire meeting around.  And when it’s time to take the conversation further, be sure to use some of the The Winning Call™ techniques shown here on the MJ Hoffman YouTube Channel to take your skills to the next level.

Read more of my Inc.com article, “How to Sell Today: Be A Student, Not A Teacher”.

Happy Selling!

Jeff


How to Go For Gold and Beat Your Competition

Jeff Hoffman - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

After weeks of what seemed like endless trials, meetings, calls and negotiations, I finally received a return call from my contact. My hope was we would be talking about the next steps to finalize the deal. Unfortunately, he had something else in mind.

“Hi Jeff. This is Tom calling. Hey, before we get started, I wanted you to know that you did a great job. But I’m sorry to say that we have decided to go with your competitor.”

Ouch. Despite having bested most of the other vendors it looked like I was walking away with a consolatory, “Thanks for playing.” Knowing you can’t win every deal every time is part of the game. But I’d rather finish dead last than come in second. There is no silver medal in sales. Second place leaves you with exactly what you get when you bring up the rear: Zilch. Zero. Absolutely nothing.  

Accepting that there will be losses along the way, here are three things I do to better the chances of taking home the gold.

1. Consider the odds. 

I generally back out early when I discover that I'm one of three or more vendors under consideration. This is not a table I’d ever sit at in Vegas, so why do it in business? Plus, who has time to look at four vendors? Is this person really a decision-maker? Or worse, is this even a real project? By walking away early, I get to focus on better opportunities. And I can always revisit the opportunity later after few competitors have been eliminated.

2. Bury one early. 

If the customer is considering three different offerings, then I stand, at best, a 33-1/3 percent chance of winning. Not great either. My only choice?  Bury one competitor immediately. My goal is to compete head to head, or not at all. Fifty-fifty gives you a fighting chance.

In my Inc.com “3 Ways to Beat the Competition” article I provide an example of how you might want to approach this conversation. In general, your goal should be to avoid badmouthing the other guy, but still use them as a way to pay the customer a compliment.

3. Get a champion. 

The idea here is to find one member of the buyer’s team like you best. This doesn’t guarantee a sale, but it may give you a champion. And this champion can help identify your “anti-champion.”

More on this conversation here.

Try to uncover who is championing your competitor. You can be sure that someone is, and they’re sitting in your meetings, quiet and smiling. The earlier you can learn this, the better shot you have at disarming him.

I have since moved on from the sting of Tom’s call, though I am sure there will be similar ones in my future. But whenever you are faced with competitors for an account, remember: Fight to win or bow out. When it comes to sales, it truly is winner takes all.

How To Ease Your Sales Team into Social Selling

Jeff Hoffman - Thursday, July 18, 2013

For over 20 years, I have spent most of my career largely in a world filled with sales and marketing professionals, and I am often baffled that one group will often embrace a new technique or method, while the other will completely ignore it. No place is this more apparent than in the world of social media.

Although salespeople have grown comfortable with the use of LinkedIn as a sales tool (more on WHY later), they seem to avoid blogging like the plague. And Twitter? Even poorer adoption. When I ask them why, I commonly hear: “I’m not a writer,” and “Who cares what I think? I’m just a sales rep,” and “Why should I? I’m busy. Besides, how is Twitter going to help me make my number this month?”

Tough objections indeed.

But after working with thousands of salespeople and their managers (and after some self-analysis on my own reluctance to “join the conversation”), I think I may have discovered at least three of the reasons that are holding them back. But if you hope to inspire a change in their behavior, you must first take a moment to understand their reluctance. Here are my top recommendations.

Discovery #1 Salespeople don’t like to share.

It’s true; they don’t. And for very good reason. We often equate competitiveness as a strength in our salespeople. Their compensation, job security and advancement, territory alignment, and even specific sales opportunities are treated as tangible rewards to those who openly compete and win. But that open competition comes with a price. Why volunteer to reveal information (especially personal) in a world where most activity is openly broadcasted and critiqued? Keeping things close to the vest would seem to make sense. How would you react if you were greeted by a large whiteboard every morning that ranked your comparative “worth” by the # of quality leads you independently generated that previous week?

Recommendation: Make it a contest.

We incentivize salespeople every day to record the number of appointments, outbound calls, proposals sent, and other activities that we know drive sales. Why not include their number of blog comments?  Or new Twitter followers? Or recommendations on LinkedIn? Make it fun, and make it competitive at the same time. Rank the sales team in order of their “social strengths.”

Discovery #2: Salespeople behave more like “day-traders” than long-term investors.

Given that their quotas are often measured in monthly increments (and sometimes even shorter), the rep is conditioned to find the opportunity to close in virtually every activity, and are thus driven to value immediate wins over long-term investments. So creating content, blindly releasing it on the web, and then waiting for some form of ROI to appear would be maddening for even the most level-headed sales rep. Most deals change wildly, so many salespeople learn how to make small, real-time adjustments while managing their opportunities. Therefore, any long-term approach to better sales will often fall on deaf ears.

Recommendation: Give them the numbers. 

Take the time to show them how to use analytics during the process. Create customized dashboards in a tool like HubSpot's Social Inbox so they can witness the progress of their social activity in real time.  Establishing cause and effect is a quick way to communicate with a salesperson in a language they readily understand. And from a selfish perspective, you will benefit from the amazing ability many salespeople possess to analyze this data. 

Discovery #3: Salespeople are inherently neutral.

One would think that salespeople would naturally revel in sharing their opinions to a large audience.  But surprisingly, they have probably already been trained to do the exact opposite. Even on their first day, they are taught to never bad mouth a competitor, never argue with legal or procurement, and always hand off any technical objection to a sales engineer. Furthermore, knowing that their world is fraught with rejection, the salesperson is conditioned to adapt quickly in hopes of building rapport at every turn. For many, any loss of rapport is often perceived as even a criminal offense. Terrified at the mere thought of disagreeing with a customer, the typical sales rep goes to extreme lengths to appear “neutral” on virtually every topic.

Recommendation: Ask them to write a blog post about why they joined their company. 

One topic that salespeople often feel confident in is their decision-making. They constantly make decisions throughout their day, and then are often asked to defend those decisions publicly. So having them defend their decision to work for your company will seem fairly straightforward. This will now provide an arena for the rep to personally express themselves. Hopefully, they can now transfer their pride in working for your company to pride in writing something that elicits positive feedback. And it is that personal voice that can lead to higher self-confidence in expressing an opinion, regardless of how others may debate it. I have always believed that demonstrating self-confidence is nothing more than embracing one's vulnerability, yet doing something scary anyway. Let them feel the satisfaction of being authentic when “picking a lane."

The late Dr. Stephen Covey once said, “Seek first to understand .” Instead of trying to convince salespeople why they should engage in the world of social media, take a moment to recognize that this world is a very foreign place to them. Be creative with new exercises, and always leverage their existing strengths as an enticement to join. You will find them participate more willingly, and once they experience the inevitable results of their efforts, you can enjoy watching as many salespeople start to include content creation as part of their regular routine.

HubSpot's Inbound 2013 on Tuesday, August 20th in Boston.  I hope to see you there!

As always, Happy "Social" Selling!

Jeff

Exit Criteria: Activities That Predict Buyer Behavior

Jeff Hoffman - Wednesday, June 05, 2013

This dynamic has always been the same: Marketing is frustrated by Sales not following up on their hard-won marketing qualified leads (MQLs), while sales complains that there aren’t enough “good” leads worthy of their attention. Sound familiar? Even the most sophisticated internal systems will often spur this debate.

So where is the problem?  Who is right?  And more importantly, how do we fix it?

The solution may lie in creating a more defining language for both Sales and Marketing.  I am not suggestion yet another re-definition of your company’s sales stages, but a different approach — one that asks a new question.  Not, “What characteristics define a potential buyer?”  But, “What activities may indicate an engaged buyer?

The truth is that the measurement linking lead to closed deal is precarious at best.  Far too many steps occur between those two moments to offer clarity and insight into our company’s “a typical deal.”  One look at the standard deviation between the average days in the sales cycle reveals this point.  Furthermore, the specific person that appears at the lead stage is rarely the person of influence, and almost never the actual signer of the contract.

Traditional lead scoring and buyer profiling is valuable to marketing, and sales stage definition is equally useful to sales.  The missing link between the two?  Something I call, “Exit Criteria.”  Specific, measurable actions by the prospect that indicate that they may be willing to “cross the chasm” from lead to sales opportunity.

Once a lead is scored (title, industry, customer history, lead source, etc.), we then attempt to measure the “health” of that lead dependent on their specific level of engagement.  Activity, like webinar registration and attendance, is captured. Participation in the same seminar (i.e. Q&A; polling) is a higher level of engagement, and advances the lead even more. And each of these activities becomes the requirement to “exit” the previous lead stage.

By making the prospect’s specific engagement the predominate determination for lead health, marketing can then create new types of campaigns that inspire the behavior that yield better leads.

Now sales takes over. The rep pounces on highly qualified deals that have momentum, and can use these same tactics marketing just used when reaching out to the prospect.  Knowing that action is the most important qualification for deal advancement, the rep continues to close for more activity. Will the prospect share an org chart? Or offer an executive- level referral?  If so, the prospect then “exits” the current stage, and enters the next one that is assigned a higher likelihood of closing.

The use of exit criteria can accomplish many goals. Marketing can focus on the close as part of their campaigns, and they can quickly measure the success of their lead generation efforts. Sales can leverage that activity to continue the closing process, and take the subjective nature out of their pipeline.  Both sides can enjoy a common language, and can collaborate on activities that appear to have the best results.  The secret is not in defining a shared scale for both sales and marketing to use, it is about creating a bridge that links our unique objective and mission.  And what better bridge than the customer.

I look forward to sharing more on Exit Criteria at Eloqua Experience 2013 in San Francisco, Friday Oct 25th. Hope to see you there!

Happy Selling!
Jeff

The Deal Doctor Recommends Buffer's Leo Widrich on Language

Jeff Hoffman - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Deal Doctor recommends:

Buffer cofounder Leo Widrich’s recent post “The Psychology of Language: Why Are Some Words More Persuasive Than Others?

Those of you familiar with my prospecting technique, “Why You? Why You Now?” (don’t accept substitutions!) are also aware of my insistence on keeping your message brief.  I am excited by the support of the notion that our pitch should be "limited to 30 seconds, and that we should reduce the number of adjectives and adverbs."

When I was in junior high, my English teacher was Ms McNabb.  And of all the teachers I had growing up, she is the one I remember most.  One day, she kept me after school for some “constructive feedback” on my Billy Budd essay.  As her lone comment was a simple, “See me!” in bold red Sharpie, I approached her desk with trepidation.

“Mr. Hoffman,” she started, peering over her half-rim glasses. “Do you know how many words there are in the English language?”

“No, Ms. McNabb.”

“Over 800,000.  Suffice it to say, that if you would like to make your point, you can choose a suitable noun or verb.  Kindly do so on your revision, and please remove all adjectives and adverbs.  They are distracting and annoying.”  She highlighted this point by crossing out said adjectives and adverbs with that same Sharpie. Her philosophy has served me well through the years and is reinforced in Widrich's article, specifically addressing the importance of brevity and avoiding adjectives. 

I once heard a sales rep say, “I would be very interested in setting up a brief phone conversation with you at your earliest convenience.”  Only a salesperson can turn  “Let’s talk” into 18 words.  And we wonder why some people don’t like us very much.  Simple and direct language communicates honesty, strength, and purpose.  It’s not just good sales.  It’s also good science.

Happy Selling!

Jeff

Sales Is Just A "Fantasy"

Jeff Hoffman - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

For many winters I've ventured south, leaving cold and snowy Boston behind for a much-anticipated guys weekend. And where do I go, you ask?  The warm golf courses of sunny Hilton Head, SC?  No thanks.  The sun and fun of Miami’s South Beach?  Pass.  Then surely you must go to that adult playland known as Las Vegas, right?  Nope - Vegas is for suckers.  I prefer to do something completely different when I want to escape.  For me, nothing says “spring break” more than going to Atlantic City in the dead of winter.

Yes, many months before extras from the "Jersey Shore" descend on its famed boardwalk, you will find yours truly landing at the Philadelphia airport, driving a rental car to the last stop on the Atlantic City Parkway, passing the Borgata and the Taj Majal, crossing the lonely and shuttered Brigantine highway, and finally rolling up the driveway of the same vacant, summer rental triple-decker that I have enjoyed for many years.  No golf.  No beach.  That's right friends, it's my long anticipated, annual Fantasy Baseball draft weekend.

You all know I love sales.  But you see, I also love baseball.  And numbers.  So it shouldn't be surprising to learn that fantasy baseball is my holy trifecta of awesomeness.   (Nor is it surprising that I am a complete nerd.)  But I really do love it.  It allows me the freedom to indulge in the belief that, if not for life’s cruel twist of fate, I would have certainly become one of baseball’s premier GMs.  So once a year, I gather with the same group of 11 other nerds (made up of friends, relatives, friends of friends, friends of relatives…you get the idea) from all over the country to enjoy a weekend of gambling, drinking, childish competition, and ultimate bragging rights.  One friend comes every year and doesn't even draft a team!  He can’t:  he is our auctioneer.  Hell, we even give out trophies.

Upon my return home, anxious to share the spotless execution of my brilliant strategy, I boasted my conquests to my wife.  She listened for a bit, then suddenly said, with only the slightest hint of sarcasm, “Glad to hear you are putting your innate selling skills to good use.”

Point taken.  But it got me thinking.  In a curious way, fantasy baseball is a lot like sales.  So here are six strategies that have served me well in both fantasy baseball and sales. Humor me.

1.  Have a plan

Our league is of the “auction” variety, which means that any player in major league baseball is available to the highest bidder.  But just as a sales rep is limited to the finite selling days of the quarter and year to make quota, our league is also limited by a $260 salary cap.  Not every opportunity, lead, and market should demand equal attention.  Build upon your strengths first to insure that you have a proper foundation to weather the entire year.  And make sure it’s an actionable one that you can quantify.  “Network more” is not a plan.  “Network for 3 referral leads per partner, per quarter” is.

Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Spend at least 75% of my efforts on attracting new business within markets where I A) have industry experience and B) have proximity to existing clients. 

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Middle infield is thin; so don’t waste time on 2B and SS.  Strengthen my team with speed and power throughout my OF. 

Result:  Jay Bruce ($32,) Desmond Jennings ($22,) Starling Marte ($9.)

but…

2. Be flexible

Things change.  What you believe in March may look different in June, and is probably unrecognizable in September.  Start with a thoughtful plan, then adapt accordingly.  As a rule your revenue goals shouldn't change. But a good plan should be able to accomodate real world challenges along the way.  Rigid plans are bound to snap under pressure.

Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Pay attention to what is trending in the news and on Twitter, and adapt my Public Workshop series to reflect current topics and curiosities.

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Early on, I lost out on many of the starting pitchers I was targeting.  So mid-auction, I changed course and bid more aggressively than I had planned on some of the high-upside players that were still left. 

Results:  Yovani Gallardo ($14,) Lance Lynn ($9.)

3. Always be closing

At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters in sales is closing.  From the first call, to the signed contract, our job demands that we always bring the best closing techniques to bear.  Those who possess them will prosper.  Everything else is simply window dressing.

Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Focus on shrinking the gap between touches after initial meetings.  Create mini-events (ie – executive interviews) that I can ask for post-meeting to accelerate the deal toward closure.

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy… I hate players that can’t “finish.”  For my required staff of 9 pitchers, I will target 3 really good closers.  And I also want the best closer, regardless of cost. 

Result:  Craig Kimbrel ($15.)

4. Stay away from “fool's gold”

I know many reps believe that the best lead sources can be found within financial reports and recent announcements of management changes.  Although this may appear promising on its surface, it doesn't always work.  The truth is, the author of that financial data (namely the CFO,) will rarely meet with a salesperson.   And as for management changes, when a new manager comes onboard, they often invite the vendors that they already know and trust.  Sometimes, its simply too good to be true.

Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Avoid engaging with prospects that have never previously invested in outside sales and marketing consultants.  I’d rather deal head-to-head with a competitor than be all alone in an account that needs to be sold on both the service in general, as well as my specific offering.

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Sometimes it is the players you don’t bid on that make your team.  I get nervous with guys coming off their “career” year, and I don’t want to pay a premium for the privilege. 

Results:  I didn’t draft Josh Hamilton ($28,) R.A. Dickey ($17,) or Mike Moustakas ($8.)

5. Value the undervalued

The road to greatness includes a lot of singles and doubles.  And all hits count.   Spend considerable time on the blocking and tackling aspects of your pipeline.   

Jeff’s 2013 SALES strategy…Continue to communicate daily through social media, and launch a free newsletter subscription as a way to stay engaged with my entire client and student database.

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Look for those players that can quietly get me great stats with little investment required. 

Results:  Coco Crisp ($6,) Grant Balfour ($4.)

6. Go big or go home

There is a time to play it safe, and there is a time to roll the dice.  At some point, you have to take some chances, and zig where others zag.  It’s not about risk-taking.  It’s about demonstrating courage.  Doing things better may get you to quota, but doing things different may get you to President’s Club. 

Jeff’s 2013 sales strategy…Each Quarter, target 2 high-profile enterprise accounts where I have little presence.  Works those accounts for a minimum of six months, regardless of success.

Jeff’s 2013 FB strategy…Trust the leading indicators, and find a young power hitter on the verge of their breakout season.  No one will remember that you overpaid a few bucks early if it’s on next year’s superstar. 

Result:  Chris Davis ($20.)

Much like my fantasy team, my sales approach reflects my personality.  I value power, speed, and predictability.  I like to build a trusted core of business and activity, which then affords me the freedom to take a chance or two.  Fortunately for my family, I have enjoyed far more success in my sales career than the lone fantasy championship I hoisted back in 2008.  But every year we start anew. And as they say, hope springs eternal.

Play ball!  (And of course, Happy Selling!)>

Want more?  Join Jeff for the next Your SalesMBA™ workshop in your area.

--M. Jeffrey Hoffman is an educator, consultant, and trainer on all things sales.  Go to www.mjhoffman.com for program and contact information.  At the time of writing this piece, his beloved fantasy team is in 4th place.

What "Kids" Can Teach Marketers About Networking

Jen Hoffman - Thursday, April 11, 2013

As marketers we are natural networkers.  We create, seek and covet chances to connect.  Because doing so feeds our insatiable need to engage, sometimes we lose sight of why we are trying to connect in the first place.  Guaranteed to win at least an Open or even a Click, self described "networking" invitations are plentiful these days.  Unfortunately, since we are all there for the same reason, it creates a room full of people who are there to push their own personal agenda. Everyone's talking but who's listening?  If you are lucky, you'll walk away with a handful of business cards from people trying to sell you something instead of pocketing meaningful connections and commitments for future conversations.  It looks a little something like this.

Does that mean there aren’t real opportunities to network?  Of course not.  It does, however, require a plan.  Knowing what to say and do when you get there can make the difference between a successful engagement and a colossal waste of time.  With Content2Conversionaround the corner I thought it would be prudent to brush up on some of the old tried and true skills I've learned from The Deal Doctor™ himself.  Here are some of my favorite “networking Jeff-isms”.   

1. “Embrace the awkwardness!!!”

By far my favorite “networking Jeff-ism”.  Even for the most skilled networker, participating in networking events can be uncomfortable.  I equate it to organized speed-dating in which people are forced to spend hurried time with strangers, while trying to present their best qualities in 8 minutes or less. The only thing more awkward might be oh, I don't know, an organized networking event???  I wonder how many participants actually find their Mr. or Mrs. Right before their precious time is up. Probably very few. And what about those of us who weren't born with that innate, uber-connector personality? There are plenty of smart, inventive, business savvy professionals out there who dread the thought of having to endure such events.  Does the term, “deer in the headlights” sound familiar? 

Awkwardness is the big, giant, unsociable elephant in the room.   Trust me, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) is feeling it.  So why not reveal its presence?  Call it out from the shadows so everyone can relax.  Something like...

“I’m all about connecting with my peers but I find these events a bit awkward.  Don’t you?” 

It tells your fellow networkee that you are in the trenches with them.  Be the brave soul that gets it out in the open where it belongs.  It’s a natural conversation starter too.  Whether you get a, “Totally!” or a “Not really,” some dialog is happening.  Mission accomplished.

2. Preselect your introduction

Of course now that you’ve got a discussion going you need to be clear on what you want to say.  If the conversation ends here, well then that was kind of a waste of time.   So be prepared.  Decide how you want to introduce yourself before you walk in.  Try to avoid non-impactful or apologetic questions like, “How are you today?” or “I’m sorry to bother you but…” Rather, be specific and transparent.

“Why did you come to the event?” or “The reason I approached you is…”

And close with something like…

“What is the best way to reach you after the event?” 

Being direct, honest and to the point will be well received.  You all know why you are there.  Pretending it’s about making small talk and sharing a snack or two is a waste of everyone’s valuable time.

3.  Prepare your “Personal Commercial”

If you are lucky, you and your new friend will begin to engage in some meaningful conversation.  Now’s the time to present your very own “Personal Commercial”.  It should be delivered quickly and with confidence.  It’s kind of like an elevator pitch.  Short, rehearsed and tight… inspiring interest and curiosity in your listener.  

Don’t underestimate the strength of practicing and rehearsing.  I have this discussion with my 8-year old constantly.  Part of his daily homework assignment is to practice math facts.  Despite trying to make it fun by playing games like rolling dice and quickly calculating the totals or reenacting his favorite shopping experience (Nintendo 3DS games at Target or Game Stop of course), I can expect a heated negotiation every afternoon. Max's defense usually sounds something like this. "Mom.  I already know my math facts.  I don't need to practice them any more."   

Refusing to chase him down that rabbit hole of logic into wonderland or rather, neverland (as in, "this conversation is never going to end is it?"), I reply with something my go-to response.  "It's not up for discussion.  It's homework.  You have to do it every night.  Your teacher said so."  A few more exchanges later and we are finally able to muscle through a game or two before he out-wills me and gets that valued screen time he’s been waiting so long for.  

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.  I say to myself, “He’s a smart, creative kid.  Why push him?  He’ll learn them when he learns them.  What’s the big deal?”

Then one day while playing Monopoly I noticed that he was calculating values quickly in his head, making deals and rattling off dollar amounts like crazy.  “I’ll take Boardwalk for $400 please.  Here’s a $500 bill Dad, can you give me $100 back?”  Ok so maybe that is a simplified example but you get the point.  Proof that the practice was working!   And so, much to Max's dismay, our daily ritual continues.

The point is this.  If you spend the time reciting your Personal Commercial over and over again, out loud, it will become as deeply embedded in your brain as 2+2=4.  You will then be able to swiftly drop it into any conversation with confidence and ease when the time is right.  

4. Ask for something specific and easy (“OPEN-ended” only!)

As the event starts to come to a close ask yourself if you are leaving empty handed or, are you loaded up with scheduled follow up calls, deliverables and referrals?  To avoid the former, task yourself with asking each connection for something specific before you disengage.  Make it an easy, open-ended request.  Something they are likely to agree to. 

“When can I call next week to walk you through that demo we talked about?” or  “Who is the best person in your company to follow up with?” 

Avoid questions that require “yes” or “no” answers.   Keep it simple, shake hands and say goodbye. 

I hope to make some real connections at Content2Conversion on April 22 & 23. Will you be there? If so, share your own special techniques that help you “work the room” in a natural and effective way so we can "uber-connect" together.  

Jen Hoffman strives to be an "Uber-Connector" one day. In the meantime, she manages the marketing initiatives for MJ Hoffman and Associates.  Follow Jen at @JenLeHoffman.

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