POST-RECESSION SELLING

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Greg Anyon
Greg Anyon: no sales waste.

Will you be using SAS-style tactics or engage in the same tired old sales trench warfare, asks ?

At some point in the not-too-distant future we will get off our knees, having crawled the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar. We will officially be out of recession and, once we have liberally applied the Savlon, the happy journey back to prosperity will begin.

As is the cyclical nature of modern economics, we will rebuild our businesses and try to pick up where we left off, taking on more headcount and crack on as we did before, for another decade….

Recession lesson

But doing so would be to ignore the lesson of recession. Those companies that have survived have excelled at caution and financial prudence: drawn in horns, spirited cost control, living off fat, and riding out the storm. Those that will now thrive will not be cautious. They will be motivated and deliberate.

They will not return to mass selling. They will enjoy need-specific sales headcount and overhead. They will shun the mass-market approach, no longer satisfied with 50 calls to make 1 appointment and sales cycles from here to eternity. They will slash and burn wasted budgets and cancel orders for expensive collateral. They will specialise, refine and target.

Zero tolerance

For a fraction of the cost of flabby pre-recession sales teams, they will adopt a zero tolerance for sales waste, and develop an SAS-style approach to selling. Unable to rely on a lush Babylonian flow of sales enquiries, they will create specialised cells of highly talented sales performers who will be given the toughest of all tasking: at the greatest odds in the aftermath of the toughest times, slip under the wire and go capture high-value sales in short timescales.

In order to drive their own economic success story they will embrace what I call ‘Active Sales Recovery’, while others around them are still dawdling in survival mode. Instead of a traditional blancmange-slinging approach to creating sales opportunities, they will zero their telescopic sights on the sales they aim to win today, not hope will come in tomorrow. Active Sales Recovery – rapid recovery now – is achieved through the pinpoint targeting and rapid acquisition of high-value business using well-proven strategy, attack planning and case specific up-skilling.

To achieve it they will hone the three critical success factors, and then inextricably link them.

Slingshot strategy

We’re not talking about the big stuff here – global strategy and so on. This is much more niche. Every major prospect needs its own strategy, but not the full-fat heavily scaffolded variety that usually supports traditional key account activity, say, and underpins a sales cycle as long as your arm. We want the rapid-acting stuff that gets us in the front door in week one, not month six. And it would be nice if it worked first time, with contingency planning ready to go at a moment’s notice in case the approach goes pear-shaped.

Typically, major-scale sales take months of planning and death by research. Ask any key account manager and they’ll stifle a yawn while trying to answer you. One of the downsides of extended preparation in quicksand markets is that, by the time you fire the first shot, your quarry long since departed the crosshairs.

What we want is an accelerated approach based on slingshot strategy designed to hurl the lead sales guy over the fortress wall with a catapult, not dig in for a siege. Slingshot strategy is what SAS sellers need: focused, fast and effective, and it’s provided by ‘Cascade Selling’.

Cascade Selling

Cascade Selling has helped thousands of salespeople to be more successful, because it removes many of the sales behaviours that lead to the sale crashing and burning. And these behaviours are as common as missed targets. They kill the sale.

Cascade Selling identifies the seven critical stages in high-value selling, from short sales cycle process through rapid access techniques and accelerating the sale, to presenting and proving ‘can’t-say-no propositions’.

An example of a key behaviour it removes is that, instead of trying to sell to any prospect with a pulse, cascade sellers target high-value business based on attractiveness profiling, selecting those that provide seamless sales fit, with a substantial level of actual or potential spend, which they know they can win by presenting and proving a must-have proposition, not traditional products and services.

And let’s forget painfully unproductive ideas like that old chestnut, the decision-making unit. Actually, the whole issue of decision-makers has catastrophe written all over it. The focused, fast and effective understand the decision-process. They look for the decision-relevant and, more critically, the decision-killers, many of whom are hidden.

Along the way, the last thing we want is to end up in the sand with lots of kids laughing at us while the policeman whacks us with a big stick. Many sales are Punch and Judy shows right from the start, with the main buying contact using us like a glove puppet, controlling our every move.

We avoid the classic traps; getting locked in to selling to middle management for example, or worse… purchasing. Cascade strategy is designed to remove one of the biggest obstacles in the selling process – buyer power.

Bullseye attack planning

Once our go-get-it strategy has stretched the elastic on the slingshot, as the lead seller is climbing into the chair ready to engage, give some thought to the other players and their roles. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or a global powerhouse; if your team for major sales is one person, you’re selling yourselves short. Gaining major penetration into the prospect organisation quickly, and then accelerating the sale through the organisation like a lit fuse, is best achieved with a team approach. Everyone knows what is required of them, when and how throughout the duration of the sale.

Top-of-your-game skills

You can have the greatest plan in the world, but if all the key players don’t have the mission-specific skills necessary to pull it off right-first-time, you may as well do it the old-fashioned way: chuck blancmange at the wall and see how much of it sticks.

Here’s an example, critical to Active Sales Recovery. One of the real accelerants for creating a major sale is King Kong – the man or woman at the top of the prospect business – but getting to them is as easy as sucking a golf ball through a hosepipe. As a result, a huge percentage of salespeople would rather poke cocktail sticks in their eyes than cold-call a CEO (chief executive officer).

Cold-called a CEO

So, just to prove a point and for the edification of a sales team, in January I cold-called the CEO of a £900m global recruitment company. Surprise! I didn’t get through to him. So I left a message using ‘Cascade Selling’. 15 minutes later he rang me on my mobile ‘phone!

For the curious, the eye-wateringly productive pitch technique I used was one of three found in Cascade Selling: the ‘Name Dropper Pitch’. It is hardly a new concept, but when you have done a search of your company’s contact network and found that you and the target CEO have a third party in common, who happens to be the CEO of another major household-name organisation, it’s a good start!

Link that to a powerful pitch concept, like tangible and provable sales gain and you’re ‘cooking with gas’. What gets you giggling like a nitrous oxide salesman however, is that even though you left the message with an unspecified assistant the CEO called you back, which traditional salespeople will tell you never happens!

Fixing what’s broken

Active Sales Recovery is designed to eradicate waste and win high-value sales in the shortest timescales by refining the three critical success factors in the major sale, and then inextricably linking them. Some of the examples of refinement above will give you a taste of what’s to be gained by fixing it if it’s broken.

The inextricably linked part dictates that, while skills are critical, they are just the tip of the spear. The shaft and the power of the throw are equally important every time you pursue a major prospect and expect to catch it, kill it, cook it and eat it.

Post recession, the smart companies who want to build high-value sales that are more impervious to economic fluctuation, will embark on Active Sales Recovery. They will learn the lesson of the 2009 recession and take an SAS approach to their sales, where the focused, fast and effective thrive.

Greg Anyon is author of ‘Zero to Hero – 7 Steps to Revolutionize Your Sales’.

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