When the deal gets to legal…

Will it get signed, or go into the long grass?

Where deals to to die.

A legal black-hole. Where deals go to die.

You’ve worked with the customer for months, closed the big deal, even enjoyed the adulation and now the agreement is with legal. A month later the agreement is still with legal and you’re getting nervous. A conference call is arranged with the customer’s lawyers to go over it. Someone is off sick, so it gets postponed. You finally hold the conference call, a few amendments have to be made, nothing major. Three months later the agreement still isn’t signed, you’re worried about the deal unravelling and are losing the will to live. Oh dear!

In many companies the sales team regard the legal department as a black hole where deals go to die. This may or may not be true but there are a few reasons why it might be…

  • Sometimes legal can deliberately delay signing agreements. If you have an ongoing customer they will be buying products using your standard terms and conditions (or an old agreement) until the new one is signed. Thus the new agreement is kicked into the long grass.
  • No sense of urgency. Legal are rewarded on a completely different basis to you and have their own goals. What is a critical deal for you is just another project to process for them. Sales and legal work on completely different timescales. Sales people by their nature want results now. As anyone who has had dealings with lawyers personally or professionally know, they work on more glacial kinds of timescales.
  • Sometimes there’s something fundamental in the agreement that the legal person objects to but they have been over-ruled. They will not outright refuse to do it, but will just drag their heels every single inch of the way.

So what can you do about this? Bite your nails, lose sleep, have a screaming hissy-fit in their office. All possible, but I’d suggest the following…

  1. Firstly you need to do some inside selling here. Make sure you’ve sold to the legal person how important the deal is for her, for you, for the whole future of the company.
  2. Escalate, escalate, escalate. Not by moaning to the legal person’s boss directly, but make sure your boss is fully primed and everyone up to the very top of the organisation. Ensure that everybody at a senior level in the company knows the importance of this deal.
  3. Keep agreements that you negotiate on the company’s behalf as simple as possible. For instance a bi-lateral agreement is easier to conclude than one involving you, the customer and two other supply partners. Base any agreement on an existing one if possible. It makes things simpler and leaves less loose ends to negotiate over.
  4. If you have a legal negotiation with the customer make sure that you have some senior people in the meeting along with legal. It makes it more difficult to kick something into the long grass if a CxO has already agreed to it.
  5. If there isn’t a natural deadline on the agreement make a deadline. A good one is to tee-up a CEO-to-CEO meeting with the customer in x weeks, and make sure all parties know this is for the official signing. Even legal can be prodded into action when the CEO doesn’t want to look a fool.
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Analysis Paralysis – Part I

Analysis Paralysis

Analysis Paralysis

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The boss has to present at the board meeting and needs a special report from his managers so that he’s got something to fill his 10 minute slot. This ususally is requested with the minimum of notice, despite that fact that the board meeting has been scheduled for months. Just to add insult to injury all of the information is in the weekly reports that the team submit but he can’t be arsed to go through them, so he needs it spoon-fed to him, custom sliced & diced.
Here’s another all too common scenario. A new regular report is required. It may be that you provide monthly revenue numbers and now in the economic downturn the management team is nervous so we must have weekly revenue numbers. I’ve never met a sales person worth her salt who enjoyed doing paperwork and so this kind of request is normally met with a barrage of complaint… and what is the response?
“This should only take a few minutes…”
“You can do it at the end of the day/at the weekend/waiting at the airport  [insert your own here].”
“A good sales person should have this info at her fingertips.”
Now this is all well and good, but there is an unavoidable fact… we all only have 168 hours per week… that’s you, me and even Warren Buffett. We can’t change that, so when we have to add a new activity to our schedule there is what we call an “opportunity cost” involved, that is the value of the activity that we have to fore go to do the new one. So for instance a new monthly report that takes a couple of hours to compile will cost a sales person 1.25% of her time. Make that a weekly report and that’s 5% of her selling time eaten into. And in sales, more so than any other profession, time is money.
Times may be hard, but if we’re not careful we may end up in a “death spiral”. Management are nervous so ask for more reports, in more detail on what’s happening out there. Sales people spend more time doing this and hence less time selling. Business gets worse, this has to be analysed in even more detail… you get the picture.
So, if you’re a sales manager, what can you do about this? Here are some questions to ask yourself before spamming out that new forecast or report to your team:
Do I really need this information, or is this simply a brain-fart?
Do I have the information already? Maybe an admin can take existing data and rework it for the report I need.
What is the opportunity cost of requesting this report?
If I do need it, what can I do to make it as quick and easy as possible for the sales team to complete?
Do I need this report/forecast forever? You should review the reporting procedures for the sales team regularly to make sure they aren’t spiralling out of control.
[to be continued]

We’ve all been there haven’t we? The boss has to present at the board meeting and needs a special report from his managers so that he’s got something to fill his 10 minute slot. This usually is requested with the minimum of notice, despite that fact that the board meeting has been scheduled for months. Just to add insult to injury all of the information is in the weekly reports that the team diligently submit but he can’t be arsed to go through them, thus he needs it spoon-fed to him, custom sliced & diced.

Here’s another all too common scenario. A new regular report is required. It may be that you provide monthly revenue numbers and now in the economic downturn the management team is nervous, so we must have weekly revenue numbers. I’ve never met a sales person worth her salt who enjoyed doing paperwork and so this kind of request is normally met with a barrage of complaint… and what is the response?

  • “This should only take a few minutes…”
  • “You can do it at the end of the day/at the weekend/waiting at the airport  [insert your own here].”
  • “But, a good sales person should have this information at her fingertips.”

Now this is all well and good, but there is an unavoidable fact… we all only have 168 hours per week… that’s you, me and even Warren Buffett. We can’t change that, so when we have to add a new activity to our schedule there is what we call an “opportunity cost” involved, that is the value of the activity that we have to fore go to do the new one. So for instance a new monthly report that takes a couple of hours to compile will cost a sales person 1.25% of her time. Make that a weekly report and that’s 5% of her selling time eaten into. And in sales, more so than any other profession, time is money.

Times may be hard, but if we’re not careful we may end up in a “death spiral”. Management are nervous so ask for more reports, in more detail on what’s happening out there. Sales people spend more time doing this and hence less time selling. Business gets worse, this has to be analysed in even more detail… you get the picture.

So, if you’re a sales manager, what can you do about this? Here are some questions to ask yourself before spamming out that new forecast or report to your team:

  • Do I really need this information, or is this simply a brain-fart?
  • Do I have the information already? Maybe an admin can take existing data and rework it for the report I need.
  • What is the opportunity cost of requesting this report?
  • If I do need it, what can I do to make it as quick and easy as possible for the sales team to respond?
  • Do I need this report/forecast forever? You should review the reporting procedures for the sales team regularly to make sure they aren’t spiralling out of control.

[to be continued]

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It’s rude to point!

Tonight I was happening to be vegging out in front of the TV (sorry… call planning for tomorrow) with a glass of Valpolicello Repasso. The programme happened to be a thing called “Antiques Roadshow”, which I’m sure most Brits will be familiar with. The debaniar presenter was holding forth about the exquisite nature of the georgian snuffbox that he was waving before the camera. Unfortunately my attention wasn’t on the antique, but was drawn to the poor guy’s thumb nail which looked like it had been beaten repeatedly with a sledgehammer for about five hours. I think the cameraman may also have noticed because he kept trying to pan across so that the thumb was out of shot, but the presenter kept waving the snuffbox to and fro and bringing the offending digit back into focus.
One of the more prosaic sales tips that I’ve come across during the many trainings I’ve attended is that of not using your finger to point when presenting to the customer. In a similar fashion to my Antiques Roadshow friend you do not want to distract the customer’s attention from the document under discussion… so use a nice clean pen to indicate. This advice may, of course, be a bit dated nowadays when you could well be using a projector to present, however if you are one-to-one and showing something on your laptop it still applies.
It's rude to point! sales tip

It's rude to point!

Tonight I happened to be vegging out in front of the TV (sorry… call planning for tomorrow) with a glass of Valpolicella Repasso. The programme was a thing called “Antiques Roadshow”, which I’m sure most Brits will be familiar with. The debonair presenter was holding forth about the exquisite nature of the Georgian snuffbox that he was waving before the camera. Unfortunately my attention wasn’t on the antique, but was drawn to the poor guy’s thumb nail which looked like it had been beaten repeatedly with a sledgehammer for about five hours. I think the cameraman may also have noticed because he kept trying to pan across so that the thumb was out of shot, but the presenter kept waving the snuffbox to and fro and bringing the offending digit back into focus.

One of the more prosaic sales tips that I’ve come across during the many trainings I’ve attended is that of not using your finger to point when presenting to the customer. In a similar fashion to my Antiques Roadshow friend you do not want to distract the customer’s attention from the document under discussion… so use a nice clean pen to indicate. This advice may, of course, be a bit dated nowadays when you could well be using a projector to present, however if you are one-to-one and showing something on your laptop it still applies.

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Five ways to build trust with your customers

You will always have a problem selling if your customers don’t trust you. In fact if you are selling products that have a long sales cycle or managing major accounts you will be dead in the water without trust. Here are five ways to help build trust…
Have the customers best interests at heart. If your customer can see that you truly want to achieve a win-win situation they will be far more likely to open up and work with you.
Liar liar. Don’t lie to the customer. If you don’t understand something or if there is some confidential information you can’t share say so. If you make a habit of lying to customers you will eventually get caught out, at which point you may as well give up and go home.
Warts and all. When you present your product it’s often a great credibility builder if you admit (openly and frankly) a minor weakness, or missing feature that you know isn’t too important to the customer. Customers are so used to powerpoint-jockeys coming in and claiming every single feature of their product is world beating. They know it’s unlikely your product is perfect, better that you proactively admit a minor wart and gain lots of cred in the process.
Respect her time. If you have a 30 minute slot with a prospect or customer, make sure that you stick to it. If you are still there an hour later working your way through every feature on a datasheet what do you think happens next time you try to make an appointment for “just” half an hour?

No… you’re a liar, liar. An obvious one, but don’t call the customer a liar or imply it. I once had an appalling visit with a technical marketeer who ran out of control during his presentation, making boastful comparisons between our product and the competition. The customer (who likely had the competitor’s product in his lab) helpfully tried to correct him on some of his facts and was told that “no” he was wrong. Fortunately for him, the presenter was across the table

out of my reach!

Trust

You will always have a problem selling if your customers don’t trust you. In fact if you are selling products that have a long sales cycle or are managing major accounts you will be dead in the water without trust. Here are five ways to help you build trust…

  • Have the customers best interests at heart. If your customer can see that you truly want to achieve a win-win situation they will be far more likely to open up and work with you.
  • Warts and all. When you present your product it’s often a great credibility builder if you admit (openly and frankly) a minor weakness, or missing feature that you know isn’t too important to the customer. Customers are so used to powerpoint-jockeys coming in and claiming every single feature of their product is world beating. They know it’s unlikely your product is perfect; better that you proactively admit a minor wart and gain lots of cred in the process.
  • Respect her time. If you have a 30 minute slot with a prospect or customer, make sure that you stick to it. If you are still there an hour later working your way through every feature on a datasheet what do you think happens next time you try to make an appointment for “just” half an hour?
  • Liar liar. Don’t lie to the customer. If you don’t understand something or if there is some confidential information you can’t share say so. If you make a habit of lying to customers you will eventually get caught out, at which point you may as well give up and go home.
  • No… you are a liar, liar. An obvious one, but don’t call the customer a liar or imply it. I once had an appalling customer meeting with a technical marketeer colleague who ran out of control during his presentation, making boastful comparisons between our product and the competition. The customer (who most likely had our competitor’s product in his lab) helpfully tried to correct him on some of his facts and was told that “no” he was wrong. Fortunately for him, my colleague was across the table out of my reach!
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Hunter vs. Farmer

Many years ago a colleague of mine told me that he thought I was more of a farmer than a hunter, which he said was fine. At the time I didn’t agree because being a hunter sounded a lot more macho, active and plain fun.
With the benefit of hindsight I think he was probably right. The company I was repping for had the first product of its type running on low-cost PCs instead of expensive engineering workstations, so the sales team has spent most of their time in what I spent most of their time in what I would call “rape and pillage mode”. Sales people took orders and then moved on to the next prospect, like a fox in henhouse they had so many targets they didn’t know which way to turn.
When I joined I visited some major accounts who had bought the product a year or two previously and never seen anyone again. Nobody had made sure that the tools were being used properly, nobody had asked if they needed more seats, worst of all no one had even collected any maintenance (then 15% of list price). So I did some pretty good business just fixing up the existing customers, selling them more seats, new tools and making sure the 15% was collected. Of course, I did my fair share of “hunting” as well… but not maximising your business out of existing customers is just plain dumb.
Many sales trainers stress the need to always ask satisfied customers for leads and referrals, but before you do that make sure you are maximising your sales into those existing customers. As a species we moved on from being hunter-gatherers to farmers about 10,000 years ago… there were good reasons for that!
Better to be a farmer or a hunter?

A happy farmer?

Many years ago a colleague of mine told me that he thought I was more of a farmer than a hunter, which he said was fine. At the time I didn’t agree because being a hunter sounded a lot more macho, active and plain fun.

With the benefit of hindsight I think he was probably right. The company I was repping for had the first product of its type running on low-cost PCs instead of expensive engineering workstations, so the sales team had spent most of their time in what I would call “rape and pillage mode”. Sales people took orders and then moved on to the next prospect, like foxes in a henhouse they had so many targets they didn’t know which way to turn.

When I joined I visited some major accounts who had bought the product a year or two previously and had never seen anyone again. Nobody had made sure that the tools were being used properly, nobody had asked if they needed more seats, worst of all no one had even collected any maintenance (then 15% of list price). So I did some pretty good business just fixing up the existing customers, selling them more seats, new tools and making sure the 15% was collected. Of course, I did my fair share of “hunting” as well… but not maximising your business out of existing customers is just plain dumb.

Many sales trainers stress the need to always ask satisfied customers for leads and referrals, but before you do that make sure you are maximising your sales into those existing customers. As a species we moved on from being hunter-gatherers to farmers about 10,000 years ago… there were good reasons for that!

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What’s in a title?

What’s in a title?
For those who may not have noticed my peculiar spelling, I happen to be English and live in England (and yes it is raining). A number of my bosses over the years have been American and when one of them joined the company he asked me what was going on with all of the Business Development Managers in the org chart. What were they and what did they do? To which I replied… “they’re sales guys”. To which he replied (not unreasonably), “well why the hell are they called Business Development Managers?” Good question.
What we have here is a cultural dissonance. In the US with it’s immigrant, enterprise-led culture sales people are seen to represent all that is good about the American Dream. They are self-reliant, entrepreneurial and pretty much get rewarded in direct proportion to how hard they work. Historically in Europe (and particularly the UK) we have things such as the class system and the old-boy network with sales being pretty low in the hierarchy of professions. In fact probably the only lower status professions are journalism and politics. So over here we go out of our way to hide the fact that someone is a sales person. This is done by giving them titles such as business development manager, account executive and commercial manager… anything that doesn’t mention the “s” word.
On a more serious note what does your title matter? I would say that we have to separate out two things here – What your position is within your company and what title do you present to the outside world (particularly customers). Your internal position may be “sales engineer” with a job grade, clear reporting lines in the org chart and relevant pay scale. However, if you are dealing with CxO level contacts at customers it might make sense that your business card says “VP Northern Region”… whatever gives you the credibility to get the job done.
What shall we call him?

What shall we call him?

For those who may not have noticed my peculiar spelling, I happen to be English and live in England (and yes it is raining). A number of my bosses over the years have been American and when one of them joined the company he asked me what was going on with all of the Business Development Managers in the org chart. What were they and what did they do? To which I replied… “they’re sales guys”. To which he replied (not unreasonably), “well why the hell are they called Business Development Managers?” Good question.

What we have here is a cultural dissonance. In the USA with its immigrant, enterprise-led culture sales people are seen to represent all that is good about the American Dream. They are self-reliant, entrepreneurial and pretty much get rewarded in direct proportion to how hard they work. Historically in Europe (and particularly the UK) we have things such as the class system and the old-boy network with sales being pretty low in the hierarchy of professions. In fact probably the only lower status professions are journalism and politics. So over here we go out of our way to hide the fact that someone is a sales person. This is done by giving them titles such as business development manager, account executive and commercial manager… anything that doesn’t mention the “s” word.

On a more serious note what does your title matter? I would say that we have to separate out two things here – What your position is within your company and what title you present to the outside world (particularly customers). Your internal position may be “sales engineer” with a job grade, clear reporting lines in the org chart and relevant pay scale. However, if you are dealing with CxO level contacts at customers it might make sense that your business card says “VP – Northern Region”… whatever gives you the credibility to get the job done.

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