A Tribute to B2B Technology CEO’s Who Know That… Nothing Happens Until Something is Sold

smart sales methods

When you’re a CEO all the people around you are depending on you.  They’re your colleagues.  Your friends.  Their ability to feed their families, educate their children, cover their bills — their careers, their future — are depending on you.  Your family, your career, your future is depending on you.  And all of that, everything, hangs on one thing:  company cashflow.  On incoming revenue.  The financial bottom line.

And what does that depend on?  Sales.

Sales is cashflow.  Sales is revenue.  Sales is survival.  Sales is what makes the difference between success and bankruptcy.  Between a company that’s flourishing and a company that’s dying.  If you can’t get sales to happen, your organization and the whole life you’ve built on it is dead in the water.  If you can’t sell, your company is gone.

And that hard fact causes a great deal of stress to people who run a business.  Of course it scares us. We don’t like to dwell on something that’s that important and that frightening and above all that uncertain.

What drives business uncertainty?  Sales.  The chronic unpredictability of our sales.  You know you can deliver a good product.  You don’t know how to get that product to sell.  How to keep that product selling.  And so we draw back from taking the steps needed to make it work, and from giving sales the full attention it needs to get.

But not dealing with it doesn’t make the problem or your responsibility go away.  The fact is, companies go bankrupt every day.  That’s what happens when the money that sales are pulling in doesn’t cover the costs going out.

How often does that happen?  According to Bloomberg, eight out of ten businesses fail the first year.   During the first five years one out of twenty — 95% — of all small businesses fail.

It’s not because that don’t have something the market needs.  It’s not because of a product failure in the field.  It’s because they can’t sell.  It’s because no one is buying what they have to offer.  It’s because of poor sales.

You’d imagine that every CEO in business would make Sales their number one priority.  That makes sense, right?  The life or death of your business, your livelihood, rests on this absolutely crucial process, Sales, that can lift you up to wealth or destroy you.

But no.  We’d rather talk about business as usual.  About any business project or business problem with the exception of the one mysterious thing, sales, that makes our business live and breath.  We’d much rather spend time on branding and networking.  We’d rather avoid the issue and give our attention to other things.  The product. The marketing. Presentations and slides. What we don’t want to do is go and look at the pipeline.  Because what it may tell us terrifies us.

Well — that’s too bad.  If you’re going to make your business work, you need to look at that pipeline every single day.  You need to understand what stages your deals are at.  You need to understand who is doing them.  And you need to know when it’s going to get done, not sit there waiting for another report from Marketing.

Above all, you need to understand that you cannot be a successful CEO without building a strong, powerful, effective, results-driven sales department.  Your job is give your time and attention and best efforts to building the most important thing that’s driving your business.  Sales.  If you don’t, you won’t have a business.  It’s that simple.

Not all CEOs get it.  Some business ‘leaders’ have been avoiding sales their whole life.  Some tell you honestly that they hate sales.  It isn’t just that the uncertainty involved in sales disturbs them.  It’s not how it makes them feel.  It’s because they’re not sure of what to do.  They’re not sure what they need to do to make their sales team produce, to make their sales process work. 

This is especially so with technology business leaders.  Leaders in new technology businesses often come up from the hard disciplines.  They began as engineers or scientists.  Their peers and their colleagues and employees are engineers and scientists.  Their attention is focused on how to create a complex world-class product, not how to sell it.  A technology business leader gets used to dealing with tightly defined specs, clearly laid-out procedures, step-by-step analysis, clear and unambiguous processes and outcomes.  Every aspect of what they do is geared to maximize efficiency.

Except when it comes to sales.  When they talk to people in sales, all they seem to hear are fuzzy clichés and lame excuses.  Especially if sales are slipping.  You’ve heard them all:

“The product sells itself.” 

Is that why you’re reading this book?  I don’t think so.  No.  You’ve got the best product in the world.  It’s not succeeding the way you know it deserves to.  It’s not selling.

“Build it and they will come.”

You’ve built it.  They’re not coming.

“It’s all about price.  The lowest price always wins.” 

If everything were all about price we’d be riding to work on bikes, not BMWs.  Studies show that price is only nine percent of a buying decision. Buyers buy the items and services that best fits their overall situation.

Procurement makes the decisions.” 

Procurement executes decisions.  It doesn’t make decisions. When was the last time your procurement department bought anything on its own initiative?  Never.  Why are your sales people even talking to people who don’t make the buying decision?  They need to find a business leader to whom they can put a persuasive business case.

“It’s all about relationships.”

Sales reps who aim at building relationships are the least productive sales performers.   That’s not an assertion: that’s the finding of one of the most extensive studies in sales history. A few years ago the Sales Executive Council launched a global study of sales rep productivity that involved over 6,000 sales reps across nearly 100 companies in multiple industries.  Once they drilled down to sales transactions that involve the sort of complex sales that mark B2B technology transactions, it turned out Relationship Builders nearly vanished off the chart.  Relationship Builders accounted for only 4% of high-performing reps.  Yet most CEOs interviewed at the time regarded them at the prime sales candidates to develop!

“It’s all about personality.  Charm.  Charisma.”

Do you really think a decision maker in a competitive business is going to make a major purchasing decision, one that could seriously impact on the company’s finances, on its own sales, on his career, purely on the sales rep’s ‘charm’?  Would you?

“We need superstar performers.  We need ‘three hungry tigers’.” 

What the buyer needs is someone offering a product that gives his or her company the best competitive advantage.  If those ‘superstars’ are managing to make that case effectively, what exactly are they doing to achieve that result?  Why aren’t the rest of your sales staff learning it? Why aren’t there books and studies analyzing and describing and explaining what their methods are?

Answer: there are.  You’re reading one.  Keep going.  You’re doing fine.

“A good salesman can sell anything to anyone.” 

That’s not just untrue.  It’s insulting.  Do you really want a sales rep who goes in trying to sell your customer something they don’t want and don’t need?  There’s no better way to alienate a prospect, and to spread negative word of mouth that drives other potential prospects to avoid your sales team.

“It’s a numbers game.  A numbers game with a 1-3% success rate.  Call a hundred people and you land three sales. Simple.”

A three percent success rate?  Try a zero point three success rate.

The Keller Research Center at Baylor University in Texas, on the effectiveness of cold calling.  They made 6,264 cold calls to appropriate targets. How many appointments did that get? 19. What did that mean in terms of closed sales? Four closed sales — out of 6,264 calls. The success rate from this style of approach? 0.3%.

There are sales reps who make higher salaries than CEOs.  Are you prepared to pay someone more money than you’re making in order to pay someone to sit there and make 6,264 cold calls, knowing that 6,260of those calls are a complete waste of time?

That’s not building an effective sales force.  It’s lunacy.

Aren’t you tired of hearing these rationales — these excuses for poor performance?  You should be.  They’re myths.  Myths that have no right to continue to hang on in an age of science.

And that’s what the Smart Sales Method is here to tell you:  there’s a emerging science of sales, a way of selling that’s as data-driven and statistically supported as any other process or department in your firm.

Decades of authoritative independent research and our own study of the top 6% of successful sales performers have allowed us to build a new and very different picture of what best practices mean in a complex B2B technology selling environment.

Sales persons scheduling appointments using the Smart Sales “5 x 1” methodology report achieving success rates approaching 10% — over33 times as effective in securing results as the approach above. And once scheduled, the rate of closing using the Smart Sales approach 70%.

Smart Sales is a numbers game too.  Ten calls — one appointment.  Three appointments — one sale.  How do those numbers sound?

Credible objective third party research has been done on literally hundreds of thousands of sales practices relevant to your business.  This book will reference every source.  That research has allowed us to build a devastatingly lean and effective way of building a clear, clean, dependable sales process.  It may look counterintuitive at first.  But it has a simplicity and logic any CEO can understand, appreciate, and implement.

It’s not the time-consuming brute force ‘Era 1’ approach of relentless cold calling and numbing repetitive follow-ups.  It’s not the slow consultative touchy-feely ‘Era 2’ relationship-building approach.  It’s a new benchmark-driven Era 3 model that uncovers and presents objective and independent competitive business advantages to the prospective buyer.  It’s not a hard-to-track tough-to-grasp ‘art’ of sales.  It’s a science of sales.

This book is a blueprint of that process.  It’ll walk you through it in less than an hour.  We believe it will show you, maybe for the first time, what you need to do to push your sales force up into the ranks of the top sales performers and your company to market leaders

But there’s one thing it won’t do.  It won’t put it into effect for you.  That’s your job.  That’s your duty as a responsible CEO.

Some executive leaders leave that to others.  Often they leave it to the sales department.  And yet they don’t even bother to hold that department up to the same standards as other departments.  No company lets its accountants stand around saying, “It’s all about our personalities.”  No technology business has engineers going, “We’re really all about building up relationships.” Every other department has procedure, systems, guidelines.  Where’s the procedure for sales?  And yet sales is the life or death factor that decides whether or not a company lives.

Executives who let this happen need to realize that the company itself is the sales department. That everything a company does either helps build sales up or tears sales down.  That everything a company becomes, or whether it continues to exist at all or not, rests on sales.

But business leaders who know that are a minority.  That’s why the failure rates in the world of business are what they are. Too many business ‘leaders’ let things slide, hoping that things will take care of themselves.

Maybe you’re one of them.  Maybe you’ve been avoiding the scary, uncomfortable job of coming to grips with sales for years.  You’ve hoped that the product would sell all by itself.  You’ve hoped you’ve managed to pull in a team of sales superstars that can pull you.  Someone said to you, “Build it and they will come,” and you’ve built it, and now you’re hoping, you’re praying, that they’ll come.

You’ve hoped, you’ve hoped, you’ve hoped.  

We have news for you.  Maybe it’s news you’ve already found out the hard way.  Hope is not a strategy.

You have got to take control.  You can’t outsource it, you can’t daydream about hiring “three hungry tigers,” or inheriting a dream team, or having a resume superstar with big accounts in hand walk through the door.  You’re the one who’s got to take charge of your sales process and your sales team.  You’ve got to stop hoping and deal with it.  You’ve got to understand and implement a tight, strong, winning sales process.  You’ve got to get personally involved and get a solid practical fact-driven methodology set up, because nothing happens until something is sold. 

And nothing is sold till you put an effective sales team and sales process in place to sell it.

But guess what?  Setting up an strong, powerful, effective sales process has never been clearer.  Or easier.

The good news — the great news — is that more and more, we do know what works.  Every day we accumulate more and more evidence, more and more hard data, that shows us what we need to do to get those sales numbers moving up. We know enough already to have developed a methodology that has gotten results in the field that leave earlier approaches far behind.  We call it the Smart Sales Method.  Take an hour and read through the rest of this book and we believe it will transform your understanding of sales — and your business.

Make no mistake.  When revenues are streaming in and profits are high, it feels good.  Very good.  Sales cures all ills.  Sales provides the cashflow that supports new products, that attracts top-performing talent, that expands production, that provides bonuses all around, that can enhance every aspect of a growing thriving business.  If your sales are performing better than expectations, if your cashflow is coming in rich and strong, everything is possible.  Never let any struggle or hesitation distract you from all the possibilities and rewards waiting for you when at last you get it right at selling.  When sales works, everything works.

We’re not here to sugar coat the pill for you.  Turning your sales process around takes study and takes work.  But it’s the most important and rewarding work you can do if you want your business to survive and be a success. Yes, there are a hundred other things to do if you’re running a business.  But some are crucial to your survival.  Other aren’t.  Sales is the most important of all.  Period.  It needs your full attention and your total commitment.

Just read this book, you will learn how to get your sales process in order, then get it in order.

Make it work — and go take on the world.




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