My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Monday 23 July 2012

Purpose Outcome Structure Timing

Having a plan for sales meetings, before the actual meeting will improve your chances of success.

Winging it is not a good strategy. You really need to think in advance what is the Purpose of the meeting and what is the Outcome of the meeting.  You want the Purchase Order (PO) so think about the Purpose and the Outcome.

Be realistic about what can be achieved in the meeting.  Ideally think about what  the customer wants from the meeting - not just what you want. If you draw an analogy with dating - you might want sex on the first date but is it realistic?  Having a clear view on small incremental steps forward towards the end goal is important otherwise you can end up in a protracted Engagement and never get Married (get the sale) or worse still turn the sale off by being too pushy!

Using the POST (Purpose Outcome Structure Timing) tool will help you have more effective sales meetings.
Purpose - what is the reason for the meeting.  If it's a first meeting the purpose might be to introduce yourself and the company and what's in it for them. 

Outcome - the outcome from a first meeting might be to confirm there is an opportunity for what you are selling and agree to further meetings

Structure - might be a face-to-face informal meeting over a coffee

Timing - a 20 minute information sharing session.

Thursday 19 July 2012


This is an interesting article.

The jist of the article is that glass half full people are more successful than glass half empty.. If you think about what things you have done well it will lead to success whereas if you dwell on the things that went wrong (even if they were a success) then it breeds internal resentment.

Certainly the brain can be conditioned and build negative emotions so there is no reason it cant build positive emotions.

My personal take on this is that  there are some people who are perfection driven and they are quite clearly glass half empty people. These people tend to be "away from" motivated - their drive for perfection is they want to get away from imperfection.

This article is more about self gratitude however I think an interesting side effect of glass half empty mentality is that generally if they feel unhappy about their own progress they are probably going to feel unhappy about other people's progress.  Showing gratitude to other people and recognising and rewarding effort, particularly when the person doesn’t feel confident of their abilities can be a powerful motivator.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Truthful selling

Selling  does have a bit of a reputation for being dishonest. Not necessarily lying but then again not fully exposing the full facts.

If I contrast that with relationships - trusted relationships require a good degree of honesty and truthfulness.

So does being completely open and honest win you more business than being selective with the truth? Whilst researching this, I found several articles suggesting this tactic works well, there was however little empirical evidence to show that is that case.

Exposing the truth can clearly  un-sell something - I've had direct experience of this myself but I've also had situations where the sales person helped convince me by divulging short-comings.  So what was different? Why did one sale progress and the other not?

In the first case I can barely remember the sales person yet in the second, I can recall them quite well and their approach helped me feel that they were trustworthy.

Clearly my analysis here is based on a sample size of two but I think the difference here is where the truthfulness was in the sales cycle.  In the first sale, I was not sold and therefore not yet convinced I wanted to buy. Exposing negatives just helped me to convince myself  that I didn't want to buy.

 In the second example I was sold on the product.  Reflecting back on this, the sales person new what was important to me and the product fitted those requirements.   I'm pretty sure he knew the volunteered down-sides were not important issues for me, so in reality volunteering the information didn't detriment the sale of the product - it improved my perception of him as being a truthful person.

So contrasting that with relationships I came up with the following.  Lying on a first date will probably not win you long term success with a relationship since you will be probably found out - the same must be true in sales. Exposing all the negatives about you on a first date will not help you win the heart of your date.  Do you  think they really want to know about your bad habits?  As a relationship matures, the dark secrets of your bad habits can be leaked out and provided they are not show stoppers (for example you killed your whole family) they can probably be accepted and will not detriment the relationship/sale.

So does it pay to be honest and transparent early in the sale?  This week I did an experiment to find out. It was a very first sales engagement for a new technology.  The prospect was aware of the competition but hadn't done any evaluation.  In this case there are about 5 companies in the world to choose from - each one is different and because it is a new area, there is a lack of clarity about which product is the "right tool for the job". Although I am representing one of these 5 companies, the approach I took was to act like a consultant.  By helping the prospect understand the strengths and weaknesses of each product, it lead to a more open discussion - much quicker than I would have expected. Again this is a sample size of one and maybe the rapport would have built up quickly anyway without this approach.  Although I am not telling the warts and all situation at this stage, comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses was a useful approach since it helped flush out what was important to the prospect. This is a new area so he didn't really have a good picture of what his needs are.

As this sale progresses, I provide updates on any insights I glean from this approach.

I would conclude being truthful in sales is a good strategy but timing the whole truth requires judgement. No product is 100% perfect so the trick is to make sure the negatives for your offer don't take your product from 90% to 0%.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Relationship Selling

I read this blog post How to Turn a Relationship Into a Sale.

It raised some interesting points so I felt compelled to write a blog post. The essence of the blog is that if you have a strong relationship within an account it can be high value.  I think it's worth focusing in on the word 'relationship'.  I'm busy writing a book on selling drawing comparison between selling and dating (romance). Not all sales warrant a relationship.  You'd think it a bit freaky if the person selling you a pair of jeans wanted to hang out and be friends.  Complex sales require an on-going relationship since there is an on-going need after the initial sale for example product support, maintenance and enhancement. Ultimately it is like a marriage.

The jist of the blog is that if you give into the sale it will be beneficial. Now contrast that with a marriage. If there is no trust then the relationship will fail. If there is no give and take in a relationship, it will lead to divisions and rifts.  It should not be a surprise that in complex sales relationship needs to be two way. It is not simply about taking the order and shipping product/service.

Strong relationships can overcome differences, challenges and the hard times.

I have come across my share of sales "professionals" that weren't bothered in helping me out unless they saw a purchase order as a result.  I may have needed them but it was not a mutual relationship. They wanted/needed my money but not necessarily me !  In the long term this relationship was at risk of suitors coming along and whisking me off my feet with their attention.

Fostering long term mutual relationships can be a powerful way to retain account loyalty.

As with real relationships, this gifting and mutual exchange needs to be real.  It can't be just going through the emotions otherwise it is like being in a marriage of convenience without love.  Simply giving because of some Machiavellian ulterior motive will come across as false. The relationship needs to be genuine.

Interestingly I've come across situations where a strong relationship can be a hinderance. When I have
tried to sell into former employers, this deep knowledge of their business can trigger defensive behaviours.
I compare this to someone of the opposite sex that you've been friends with since childhood. To suddenly be in a romantic relationship with them is a change in the relationship - it is not a straight forward transition or evolution - the roles of the relationship have changed. 

Looking at long term sales relationships, I can see some organisations reacting when they read the How to Turn a Relationship Into a Sale blog post. Any change in a relationship needs to be done carefully and evolve over time. 

I liked the "You know what I do. Is there anything we can do to help you?".  A powerful right brain question.

A good blog post which has given me some ideas for another chapter in my book.

Wednesday 11 July 2012

The 7i's of selling

You may have heard the cliché “There are no Problems only Opportunities”.  This isn't just a cliché, it is a mindset from which you can form the foundation of successful sales.   You can successfully sell solutions to problems  if you  Identify an Irritation which you can turn into a Issue which has Implications. You need to be Interested in their Issue and learn about it by Inquiry so you can Identify the Impact it has on them. By quantifying the Impact you raise the Importance and Illuminate the Issue. Do not raise the Importance of an Issue you cannot solve otherwise you will look like an Idiot. By raising the Importance, you can create an Intention to solve the Issue which you can Improve.

It took me at least 5 minutes to dream up lots of words beginning with the letter 'I' so this will now be known worldwide as the 7 I's approach to sales . I chose the letter 'I' because it's the thing you don't want to hear coming from your mouth but you do want hear from your customers.  If it's coming from your mouth it means you are talking about yourself which the customer has no interest in whereas if it's coming from their mouth they are talking about themselves which you are very interested in.

Identify → Irritation → Issue → Implications → Impact →  Importance →  Intention →  Improve

This is a good approach to build up the need for action from the buyer but the problem with implication questions is they are negative. You can make the customer feel suicidal as you expose the scale of issues that they were blissfully unaware of before you turned up.  OK you can  make them feel better by turning the situation around which your beacon of hope of a solution but being with you can feel like an emotional roller coaster.

There is another side of  “There are no Problems only Opportunities” which is rarely covered in sales books. It is preserve of the sales dream weavers. Dream weavers don't just identify issues, they appeal to the right side of the brain with Imagery and Identify the emotions such as greed, lust and power to motivate the buyer. They are selling a dream. It is a selling style which is usually only appropriate for something that is a game changer/ revolutionary.  The compact disk is an example. People didn't realise they had a problem with records or cassettes until it came along.  It will probably not surprise you that Apple use this style of selling in their advertising.

First you need to Identify an Irritation. It's likely the customer doesn’t consider the Irritation an Issue. You could go down the path of making the Irritation an Issue but instead you plan the seed of alternatives – breed discontent with the status-quo and appeal to the inner demons of greed, power, lust, Importance to get the customer hooked.  It might be to appeal to a CEO that they can dominate the competition or sell to a middle manager that this will lead to a massive promotion.  The products or services you are selling are unlikely to be taken up by the leaders in the field. It's the ambitious upstarts who want to be on the map – it's a high risk,  high reward sale.

The selling process creates Imagery about the Irritation and shows an alternative – you're planting the seeds on an Idea of an alternative future. The Inception of an idea which you are Inseminating.  You directly appeal to the right side of the brain with Imagery where they Imagine the alternative and the benefits (to them) that it can bring.  I invented a new word Inpower for this.  You are appealing to their Inner power and emotions such as Power, Greed, Lust, Importance and the feeling of being Invincible.  The outcome of this is that they are Inspired and Infused with energy. You have Ignited their desire. This can lead to Infatuation with the Idea creating an Impetus for Immediate action.

Identify → Irritation → Idea → Imagine → Inspire → Infatuation → Impetus

The positive of this approach is that it doesn't dwell on the negatives much. It is a positive, enthusiastic, forward looking approach and means you're seen as a fun enthusiastic person rather than the harbinger of doom that is always exposing internal problems.

There you have it. Two lots of 7i's to achieve sales success.