• When Should We Respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs)?

    The RFP from a whale prospect lands in your in-box. What do you do next?

    Most salespeople get excited, tell their boss that all their hard work cosying up to this company’s middle management and procurement team has paid off. They’d spend a day or two reading through the tome that reminds them of War and Peace, written by an 8-year old lawyer. Then they’d get the team together to plan who was going to do what. Much resource would be thrown at meeting the unreasonable deadline set by the “prospect” … but not much actual thought.

    They wouldn’t ask some fundamentally important questions; questions to which answers are imperative to decide what we do next, because  NOT ALL RFPs ARE LEGITIMATE! In fact, most aren’t. Most are an attempt to get free consulting from vendors too scared, excited, lazy or stupid to check if the RFP is even real.

    Consider these questions…

    • How did we make the list for receiving this RFP?
    • How many RFPs were sent?
    • What do we know about the prospect’s history surrounding RFPs?
    • Do they have a preferred supplier list (PSL) and are we on it?
    • If not, do they always give the business to someone on the PSL?
    • If we decide to participate, what happens next?
    • What role, if any, will their incumbent supplier play?
    • Will the low bid be the one that wins?
    • What results is the prospect company hoping to achieve by implementing the contents of the RFP?
    • Why aren’t they doing it in-house?
    • Is the timescale realistic?
    • Do we understand what caused them to go to market with this RFP? DO we understand the different drivers and centres of dissatisfaction?
    • Do we have a sponsor, coach or advocate in the prospect company to whom we can submit a rough draft, have it critiqued to make sure we have identified their priorities and covered all the issues they consider most important?
    • Are they high enough in the company to be able to provide us with the answers we need or just the ones they are willing to give any vendor?
    • Should we involved our senior management?
    • Have we identified to whom the prospect’s decision-making committee already has allegiances by suing our personal networks, trawling through LinkedIn and the internet to see what connections they have to our competitors and the incumbent?
    • What is the likely cost of sale to participate in this bid, win or lose?
    • Is this even legitimate?
    • Can we win it?
    • Are there any conditions that we do not qualify against that will preclude us from winning this e.g not ISO9000 compliant, no sector experience and sector experience is a must have, we don’t have 3-years accounts, they want to use their T&Cs not ours, our non-negotiable payment terms are unacceptable to them?
    • Do we want to win it?
    • What opportunity cost will we incur if we plough time, money and resources into this bid and is there a better way to invest our scarce and valuable resources?
    • Is this RFP going to be profitable if we win it? By when?

    Once you have your questions clear in your mind, are you allowed to speak to someone, not in procurement or a technical buying capacity, at a high enough level to understand the business drivers behind this RFP invitation?

    Given that RFP responses are usually the second highest hidden cost in any selling organisation after wrong hires the killer question you need to answer for yourselves is:

    • What are our chances of winning it?
    • Should we participate in this RFP process?

    Take the emotion out of RFPs and never lift a finger until you have done your research and picked up the phone.

    A simple rule of thumb for management to eliminate wasted effort and falling into the free consulting trap is that selling the opportunity internally should be twice as hard as selling it to the prospect.

    Live by the principle that you should do less but better on purpose.

  • Who Is Wrecking Your Business Now?

    Who is wrecking your business now

    Recently, you probably invested a lot of time and energy putting together a presentation of your product or service. You crafted your presentation, dotted all the “i”s, crossed all the “t”s, covered all the bases, and answered all of the prospect’s questions. But, instead of a buying decision, you only received a stall, a put-off, or a request for some concession. At whom do you point the finger of blame?

    You could blame the prospect for being indecisive or dragging his or her feet. You could surmise that a competitor made an eleventh-hour concession that undercut your offering. You might even suspect that the prospect used you to gather current information to use as leverage with his or her existing supplier.

    Any one of those situations might have occurred. But, isn’t that what buyers are supposed to do…negotiate or hold out for what they believe to be the best deal?

    Rather than assigning blame, take responsibility for determining exactly what the prospect needs to see or hear to be comfortable to give you the business before you even begin to work on your presentation. Get the prospect to paint a picture of the “best” deal. Then get a commitment as to exactly what will happen when you come back with a presentation that exactly matches the picture. If the prospect is unwilling to commit to a buying decision, then it’s most likely not in your best interest to pursue the opportunity.

     

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Earn Compound Interest on Every Call

    Earn compound interest on every callEveryone knows someone. Actually, everyone knows several someone’s. Your customers – as well as the prospects you call on – have some contact with, or at the very least know of, people who can benefit from your product or service. Unfortunately, they are not programmed to automatically disclose the names of those people to you. That doesn’t mean that they won’t; you must initiate the action.

    Salespeople typically “forget” to ask for referrals. Why? Some reasons are technical: it’s not part of their selling process. There is not a logical connection from one element of the process to the act of asking for referrals. And, they don’t have a strategy for asking. Other reasons are more conceptual in nature: they don’t want to appear “needy.” They relate the request to begging. Whatever the reason, they are missing out on potential business and making their jobs more difficult.

    So, to make sure you don’t “forget” to ask for referrals, make it the last step of any sales call with a prospect or customer. Imagine your sales manager standing nearby ready to ask, “Did you ask for a referral?”

    Your referral requests should be simple and to the point. To a prospect, regardless of the outcome of your meeting: “Now that you know more about what we do for our clients, I suspect that you know of a business colleague or contact who could benefit from our service. Who might that be?”

    To a customer with whom you have a good track record: “George, you’ve always been pleased with the level of service we’ve provided. I’m wondering which one of your business colleagues or contacts would also appreciate the same level of service.”

    When customers or prospects provide you with a referral, call them after you’ve made contact with the referred person to again thank them and let them know what happened. Not only is this polite, but it’s an opportunity to obtain another name.

     

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • The power of Mind-set

    Your mind-set has more to do with your success than almost any other single element. There are plenty of salespeople who possess extensive product knowledge, have numerous influential business contacts, are well-spoken and have appealing personalities, yet their sale performances are average…sometimes, only marginally acceptable.

    Then, there are salespeople who have just enough product knowledge to get by, have a few business contacts, don’t always articulate their thoughts in the most artful manner and don’t have particularly sparkling personalities, yet their sales performances rank in the top ten percent.

    How can that be?

    Success in sales, or almost any endeavour, is not simply a product of one’s talent, education, personality, or contacts (although, those elements surely help), but rather the result of one’s attitude – the natural tendency to have a positive outlook and maintain positive expectations.

    But, it’s more than just being able to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. It’s the ability to see possibilities…coupled with the resolve to take the required actions to turn those possibilities into realities.

    Some people will view a challenge, and after analysing the positive and negative aspects of it, choose to focus on the positive. They see possibilities and envision success. The more they focus on the positive aspects, the stronger their belief grows about their ability to successfully meet the challenge. And, the stronger their belief grows, the more resolute is their judgment to take the actions necessary to achieve their goals. They press on, regardless…and they succeed.

    Others will view the same challenge and focus on the negative aspects – all the reasons (real and imagined) that the challenge can’t be met successfully. They only see limitations and envision the only failure. The more they focus on the negative aspects, the stronger their beliefs grow about the improbability of successfully meeting the challenge and the futility of investing any effort in its pursuit. They give up, or at best, make a half-hearted effort…and they don’t succeed.

    Your success is nothing more (or less) than what you envision it to be, and your determination to act in a manner consistent with that picture. If success has eluded you thus far, perhaps it’s time to change your picture and then press on.

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • There’s no summer slumber people will still spend money

    Summer SlumberWe are right in the middle of summer, and I love the summer. And in the midst of this nice warm weather, it may be strange to say that I also love the winter but I do.

    That’s when the business world almost uniformly decides to go into a slumber because they believe buying slows down. That’s called a self-limiting belief. That’s when I’m at my best because this is what I have found people actually still have money and are willing to spend it if you’re good enough to find their pain.

    You see, businesses today are not spending money on pleasure and fluff. They are, however, willing to spend money at any time of the year on things they need or that are going to save them money, avoid a cost or help them increase their revenue. You have to get really good, really fast at learning how to find pain, and you need to work on having patience so you do not pull the trigger too soon, but learn how to develop the pain and find the emotional connections that will make your prospects spend their money.

    Owners, quit taking excuses that people don’t have money because they do for the things they want and the things they need to solve problems.

    Good salespeople don’t even know there is a recession because they are good at finding the pain.

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Call Higher or Die Slowly

    In today’s environment, we have to stop acting and looking like beggars with briefcases and begin to recognise that the name of the game is taking business away from our competitors. Let the others wrestle it out at the procurement department and with the low-level influencers.

    In today’s environment, the best salespeople call on the decision makers-presidents and CEOs. Why? Because presidents and CEOs don’t have budgets. They make budgets. To connect a president or CEO of a company, you need to present yourself as having equal business stature. You need to learn to sell the way a CEO sells. You need to read their books and use their techniques. The only way to blot out your competition for good is to be in the ear of the CEO or president and become one of their trusted advisors.

    Now stop and count. Of all of your prospects, how many are you calling on at the highest level possible? If zero, expect to fail or have an excessively long sale process.

    The two most dominating thoughts for a salesperson are:

    • I am the CEO of my business.
      • I absolutely believe my product or service, along with my expertise, can make a difference in your business.
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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Turn Bad Times to Your Benefit

    Yes, sales at the big stores are awful. The housing market in many areas is lousy. Consumer confidence is weak and may be even weaker by the time you read this. I don’t disagree with any of that. Facts are facts.

    What I do take issue with is the notion that this can’t be a time of strong productivity for the sales professional. It can be and should be a great time, no matter how discouraging the economic indicators may be.

    Pessimism may be contagious, but it shouldn’t be.

    There are at least two reasons this should be a period of profit and productivity for the savvy sales professional.

    First, most sales people are paralyzed in today’s environment. They don’t have a system for success and, facing a difficult environment, are only reactive. They’re shot-gunning their efforts. If you have a process or system, and you trust it and embrace it, you enjoy a distinct advantage over other sales people.

    Second, you need to identify the real issues facing decision makers in this environment. When you have identified those issues, you will be able to position your product or service so that your prospects must have it to resolve the problems they face. Most CEOs right now are trying to streamline processes, decrease expenses and increase revenues. So you will need to help them discover that your product or service is necessary to their success in meeting those goals. That’s how you distinguish your product or service. It goes from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.

    This is not a time to talk about your product or service’s features. This is a time for a pain-based approach. You need to identify your prospect’s pain and demonstrate how what you are selling removes that pain.

    Here’s why the prospect’s discomfort works to your benefit. A lot of expert salespeople have never learned this, but successful sales depend less on the sales professionals’ ability to talk rather than on their ability to listen. (Many sales people who rely almost exclusively on their own gift of selling tend to burn out quickly and needlessly.)

    The secret of selling lies in getting prospects to talk about their pain. That’s because the way to make a sale is to identify the prospect’s discomfort and then to show how the product or service you are selling makes that discomfort go away. Simple, isn’t it?

    And it is in down times like these that prospects are most likely to speak with the greatest honesty about the problems they face. Sometimes they will pour their hearts out to you, which is not often the case when they’re flying high.

    Plus, they’ve got the time. Now it’s up to you to seize it.

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • Manage your behaviour, not numbers

    You can’t manage what you can’t control but you can manage what will influence what you can’t control.

    You can’t manage the number of sales you’re going to make but you can manage the behaviour that will help you make those sales. It is clear that you simply can’t predict who will and won’t buy from you. It is only the prospect who knows if they really want what you’re selling but on the rare occasion. The prospect isn’t very clear on what they want specifically but they know they need a solution (Which you can give them). Whether they have the budget and if they can make the decision to move forward is completely outside of our control.

    However, there are some things in your control, such as:

    • Strategically developing a plan based on the number of calls we need to make.
    • Creating questions that qualify the prospect for need, budget and decision-making.
    • Disqualifying those prospects who won’t or aren’t ready to move forward.

    We frequently let our persistence stall our sales development and this can keep us from identifying whether a prospect qualifies or disqualifies to be a client.

    If it happens that it’s the wrong timing for the prospect. We can ask questions to discover if there is a better time to approach the topic. Whilst this may be a good use of persistence it is of no use if the prospect is not completely engaged in the agreement to regroup at another time.

    Pipeline filling behaviour will improve your chances of closing business. The reason we hang in too long or bail out too easily when prospecting or in the middle of a sale tends to centre around three things:

    • Our Attitude
    • Our Behaviour
    • Our Technique

    Managing your behaviour and attitude is all about doing the things that will result in gaining business. It’s about taking control of where and with whom you spend your time and energy. It’s ultimately about developing a plan and following it through each time, and being part of your plan rather than the prospect’s.

    Remember: Some will. Some won’t. Who cares? Who’s next?

    Blog Editor

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    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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  • The Success Code  

    People define success in different ways: some by money, some by job importance and others by work/life balance.  Whichever way we view it, do we have both the aptitude and the ability to succeed – ‘can’ we succeed versus ‘will’ we?  As business people, there are four key areas which must be in place to ensure that ‘can’ becomes ‘will’.

    1.Self-talk

    Opinion has it that over 70% of the thoughts in our head are negative or limiting.  Negative thoughts create fear and hesitation, which prevent us from taking the critical actions necessary for success.  Take the time to reframe your self-talk from negative to positive.  Every time you have a limiting thought, develop a positive one to neutralise it.

    2. Baggage

    We all carry baggage around with us which holds us back, such as wanting to be liked, struggling to ask for decisions or being uncomfortable talking about money.  We need to understand our own baggage and make a commitment to learn new skills which will help us overcome it.

    3. Risk

    We all have a risk quotient that guides our actions.  Somewhere between risk everything or risk nothing is the right choice for all of us.  Stretching comfort zones allows us to take appropriate risks and achieve growth as a result.  We must examine our comfort zones because they create a success trap and we must decide to take bolder actions.

    4. Beliefs

    These are thoughts that have either been programmed by others, originate from past experiences or are based on judgments made through observation.  We should regularly and systematically test our beliefs to ensure they are based in reality, not fiction.  We must challenge outdated beliefs and create higher performing ones to free ourselves from mediocrity.

    Here are some pointers to success:

    • Examine your level of self-awareness. How large is the gap between where you think you are and where you really are in terms of success? Be honest!
    • End each day with a review of lessons learned and create a plan to utilise them the following day.
    • Review your skills toolbox and make sure you have the right tools for success. Where are the gaps?
    • Understand your ‘killer’ weaknesses and make sure they’re not hiding in your blind spots.
    • Every morning, ask yourself, “What would I attempt today if I had no fear of failure?”

    Melissa Arnot- the 31 year old who has climbed Mount Everest three times said “Out here, we face the consequences of our decisions every day.”  In business, this statement is no less true.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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  • Success is Permission to Fail

    Failure is part of the human condition.

    Despite this, we understand from childhood and as we enter the world of work that it is only when we succeed at something that we are rewarded with praise or personal gain. Yet failure is something to be celebrated and should not be feared or frowned upon. I would even go as far as to say that if you’re not failing then you’re missing out.

    I was reminded of this recently when listening to the story of Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In 2002, Brunel came second in a BBC public poll to determine the ‘100 Greatest Britons’.

    Amongst Brunel’s greatest accomplishments, (the Great Western Railway to name just one) were numerous and sometimes catastrophic disasters. With each of his designs, he sought audacious solutions to long-standing engineering issues and this is what made him one of the greatest figures of the Industrial Revolution. Brunel had an unrelenting determination to step outside his comfort zone, push boundaries and conquer personal failures.

    Business owners (and sales people) can learn a lot from the likes of Brunel. Typically we live our lives in one of two ways; we are either risk adverse in the way we do business or operate within our roles (often because we worry too much about perceived consequences) or we do take risks but when the risks don’t pay off, we look to apportion blame to others or cite external factors as the cause.

    If we are not failing, we are repeating the same patterns of ‘safe’ behaviour. When you passionately champion something that stretches you, of course, mistakes are bound to happen. Accept these mistakes and take personal responsibility for them, otherwise golden opportunities are wasted.

    If we are ambitious and want to create growth or change, then we must learn to fail and accept our part in the consequences constructively, in a way that doesn’t make us risk adverse.

    Learn to see failure as a tool to improve performance. It is not our successes that help us grow and enrich our lives; it is the lessons we take from our mistakes.

    Give yourself permission to fail and you’ll feel better for it.

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie

    Andy McCreadie is a critically-acclaimed coach and facilitator who excels at identifying core sales and management challenges and implementing transformative growth strategies. Before setting up Sandler Training in 2007 in the South West, Andy spent six years as a strategy consultant for Accenture, selling and delivering high profile consulting projects to blue chip companies. He then worked in direct sales – in London and Sydney, managing business development teams across a wide range of industry sectors.

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