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10 Things You Need in Every Sales Opportunity Plan

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Creating Sales Opportunity Plans don’t have to be time consuming or difficult. However, they are critical for winning. Here are the 10 things every plan needs and the questions to ask yourself and your team members. As a best practice, I like to have my plans reviewed by someone not connected with the opportunity. This allows for a very subjective review and great feedback. I didn’t rank them, however Customer Requirements is listed 1 for a reason. In the event, you don’t meet their requirements, focus on an opportunity where you meet and exceed customer requirements.

1. Customer Requirements

Why is the customer even talking to you?
How do your products or solutions match up against the customer requirements?
Do you even know the requirements?
Is this a winnable opportunity?

2. Partner Involvement

Who are the partners and what is the value they bring to the opportunity?
It is professional services, relationships within the opportunity or channel pricing?

3. Your Strategy Win

What is the overall team strategy to win the opportunity?
Does your strategy ensure the customer will be successful?
After all, if they are not successful, you will never win the opportunity.

4. Tactics

Do the tactics support your strategy to win?
Does every team member know, agree and understand the tactics?

5. Value Proposition

What is your value proposition to the customer?
Can every member of your team clearly articulate it?
What sets you apart from your competition?

6. Sales Coaching

Are you leveraging the knowledge of your ‘A-Players’ in every opportunity?
Are you providing ‘Best Practices’ in the opportunity?
Are you providing critical guidance without being present?

7. Customer Selection Process

What is the process the customer will go through to make a decision?
Who at the customer is responsible for each process?
Is your selling stage matching up with the customer selection process, are you in sync?

8. Red Flags

What can go wrong in this opportunity?
Have you mapped out all possible potential issues to winning the opportunity?
Do you have a mitigation plan for each Red Flag?

9. Opportunity Milestones

What are the milestones that must be accomplished and by what date to keep the opportunity on track?
Who on your team is responsible for a particular milestone?
Are there milestones that are more important than others (a Gate)?
What if a gate is not completed, do you continue?

10. Key Players

Who is your Champion?
Who is/are the Buyer(s) and what is each ones Stance?
Who are Decision Makers and what is each ones Stance?
Who are Evaluator(s) and what is each ones Stance?
Do you have any relationships in the customer?
Has anyone on the customer team ever used our products or solutions?

I hope these 10 things and the questions assist you in building and maintaining your sales opportunity plan. Good selling!

6 Traits I Learned From Being a Scout in the Army

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Once people find out I was in the Army, I always get the same question what did I do in the Army and how did it prepare me for business. My response is, I was a Scout. So what exactly is a Scout? I explain, that Scouts are the eyes and ears of a unit; the information Scouts gather is sent up the chain of command so commanders can make tactical and strategic decisions. For many years I was stationed in Amberg and Schweinfurt, Germany and our mission was to patrol the East/West German border. The observations and information we gathered allowed commanders to understand what was happening in almost real-time and create or modify plans. Best job ever!

So as you can see, being a Scout really does not have any civilian related jobs. However, it did prepare me for business/corporate life.

At the ripe old age of 17, as I arrived at Boot Camp in Fort Knox, KY I learned some valuable lessons that have rang true throughout my entire life. I learned a few things quickly and these traits are how I still conduct myself and why I have been successful in my life and business career.

1. Respect Everyone

Treat everyone how you wanted to be treated. The private you’re giving orders to now, may be your Platoon Leader in a few short years. When you treat people regardless of where they come from and their background, good things will happen. Saying ‘Yes Sir’, ‘Yes Mam’, ‘No Sir’ and ‘No Mam’, these simple phrases will get you further than anything.

2. Be on Time

Trust me, being a Scout and being too early or too late to a designated location can get you and your team in a very bad situation, very quickly. As trivial as this sounds, being on time not only demonstrates you’re ready, but you are respecting the people you are meeting with. Being late shows either you’re not dependable, you don’t know how to manage your time, or your planning process might be flawed. My rule is be at least 10 minutes early, so I can ensure I set everything up and ready to go.

3. Pay Attention and Listen

Spend more time listening and less time talking. When you’re talking, you miss the conversations around you. I want to understand their challenges, pain points and what they need in order to be successful. After all, when they are successful, you will be successful.

4. Be Observant

Know your surroundings and pay attention to things that either look out of place or different, since the last time you were there. If something doesn’t feel right, 9 times out of 10 it’s not right and you may need to regroup and reevaluate your plans.

5. Make Decisions and be able to Delegate

Being able to make decisions is key in the Army and in business. Ask anyone that knows me, I will make a decision, I don’t over analyze, but I do understand the consequences of my decisions. If I make a bad decision, I admit to it and try to fix it. Delegating is also very important. You can’t be everywhere at once, you have to rely on your team to make decisions in your absence. If they make a bad or wrong decision, you don’t have to come down on them like a hammer. If you do, they will never make another decision or just quit. Use it as a teaching point, which is what leaders do. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

6. Plan for Everything Possible

I like to plan for every possible outcome and have for each a contingency plan in place. I don’t like surprises. I look at every opportunity as a rehearsal for the next opportunity and learn from each and every one. For example, if I have a meeting with a customer, I have met with before; I always review any notes or other information we have gathered in the previous meetings.

I hope after reading these 6 Traits, you can see how they can assist you in your day-to-day business and your professional career.

So in closing, it all comes down to treating people with respect, don’t be late, stop talking and pay attention, make a decision, be observant and plan for all possible outcomes.

Scouts Out!

6 Lessons Learned When Selling to Sales Executives and to the C-Level

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Intro

Ever since starting Point N Time Software, we’ve been selling mainly to sales executives and to the C-Level. These are the buyers of Strategy Mapper and in time become our Champions. So over the course of several years we have learned 6 lessons when selling to them.

1. They want to tell you about their business. Listen carefully.

Normally the conversations start with let me tell you about my company and what we do. Sales Executives and C-Level management love to talk about their company and their products because they want you to determine if your solution will benefit them, but I also think in the back of their minds they’re also selling their solution to you. It’s in their DNA. This introduction lays the ground work for how you can position and sell your solution.

2. They can clearly articulate their pain points. Listen carefully.

These folks lead extremely busy lives, so if you’ve gotten to the point where they’re giving you 30 minutes or more for your pitch, they’re typically going to be very clear about what they’re trying to solve. This provides more information and direction for your sales effort.

3. They want to know about your business and how you operate.

They are interested in your business and how you operate and want to know:

a. Who are your targeted customers?
b. Do you have customers similar to us?
c. What successes have your customers realized with your product?
d. How did you come up with Strategy Mapper?

During the course of this conversation, you’ll want to tailor your answers based on the careful listening you did earlier.

4. They want a demonstration on how your product or solution will address their pain points. They don’t want a presentation.

When we initially started Point N Time Software, we would always start with a presentation, but we learned very quickly a demo was much more effective. The first screen they see in a web conference is Salesforce.com. The main reasons we’ve found this effective are:

a. It provides a familiar starting point for the conversation.
b. They quickly see our solution.
c. It brings the meeting attendees into the conversation very quickly.
d. It helps to all the meeting attendees to drive the conversation and demo.

5. Pricing is always discussed in the initial meeting.

Price may not be an issue, but you’ll have no idea unless it’s discussed. If it is a potential issue, you can start working on it quickly or choose to move on. Either way, it needs to be discussed as early as possible in the opportunity.

6. They will let you know very quickly their timeline and if they intend to move forward.

I always hear, “We’re both in sales so I want to be up front on next steps”. Honestly, this is so refreshing and typically streamlines the opportunity.
Closing

Some may be uncomfortable selling to these roles, but I find it refreshing to sell to Sales Executives and C-Level management. They know what they need to accomplish and if you can show the value of your solution and how it will solve their problems, there will always be a next step. I hope the 6 lessons I have learned will help you close more business and give you a framework to prepare for your next meeting.

Great Opportunity Plan

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11 Things a Great Opportunity Plan Must Include

Planning is critical to winning and an opportunity plan is the tool that allows a sales team to do exactly that.  Contrary to the beliefs of many though, opportunity plans don’t have to be time consuming or difficult to create or maintain, and have the added benefit of providing continuity during account transitions.  They provide the new account team a history of customer interactions, opportunity and customer insights and a plan to win.

  1. Strategy to Win

A clearly defined strategy to win ensures the entire team is moving in unison towards winning the deal. To that end, the entire team must be involved in the strategy creation.

In this example the strategy is heavily tied to the initial customer meeting and their requirements.

Our strategy is to use a frontal attack since we have a superior solution based on the initial customer meeting and their stated requirements.  We will leverage the following:

We are an ideal fit based on the following customer requirements:

  • 100% integration with Salesforce
  • Ability to map to their current sales methodology
  • Mobile access from any device via native Salesforce products
  • Mobile access from iPad using Meeting Mapper mobile
  • Meeting Planning and Execution
  • Opportunity Planning – Playbook
  • Account Planning – Playbook
  • Robust Business Intelligence
  • No extensive or expensive training
  • Limited or no professional services required 
  1. Tactics to Support the Strategy

Once you have your strategy to win, you must have tactics to support the strategy. Tactics can change over the life cycle of the opportunity as new information is gathered, requirements change and the competitive landscape is identified or changes.

Example:

  • Leverage current ‘What’s Hot’ from customer meetings
  • Review Sales Empowerment Dashboards
  • Leverage relationships within accounts
  • Exploit/Highlight
    • Crawl, Walk, Run deployment method 
    • Meeting templates
    • Opportunity Mapper templates
    • One click dynamic Opportunity Playbook
    • Account Mapper templates
    • One click dynamic Account Playbook
    • One click Business Intelligence Report/Brief (BIRB)
    • No professional services required
    • No extensive expensive training required
    • Actionable Intelligence
    • Data points gathered by Meeting Mapper (KPIs)
  • Ease of installation and configuration (up and running the same day)
  • 5 Star rating on Salesforce Appexchange
  • Leverage Reference customers
  1. Value Proposition

What value do your products, solutions and/or services bring to the customer? What sets you apart from all the competitors? Can you and your team clearly articulate this value?

Example:

Strategy Mapper is the most cost effective, powerful, configurable, comprehensive and easy to use Strategic Selling solution for Salesforce! Strategy Mapper provides sales leadership unparalleled visibility and access on the progress of Accounts and Opportunities, to ensure revenue goals are met and exceeded.

Strategy Mapper is redefining how sales organizations sell by using robust and accurate information to efficiently drive revenue. Customer meetings are at the heart of the sale cycle but are the least documented in an organization’s CRM. Strategy Mapper gathers customer intelligence and turns this information and data into the building blocks or “DNA” of Account Strategy and Opportunity Planning and does it in real-time as each sales cycle progresses.

  1. Defined Customer Buying Process

Normally the customer buying process is defined at the account level in the Account Plan. Every opportunity has to include it. This will ensure your selling process is aligned with the customer’s buying process.

Example:

  1. Identify the Problem
  2. Review Options
  3. Bring in Top 3 Vendors
  4. Pilot/Trail Selected Vendor(s)
  5. Sign Contracts
  1. Customer Requirements

Knowing the customer requirements and having them in the opportunity plan is critical for winning.  This ensures the entire team understands them and how your products, solutions or services meet them resulting in a “solution score”.  An important point to make is, if your solution score is low the opportunity might be unwinnable.

  1. Stages of the opportunity

Quickly knowing what stage the opportunity is in and what meetings have been conducted in each stage ensures your opportunity is moving to closure.  As a sales leader you can easily see if the opportunity is stuck in a certain stage.  For example, there have been 3 meetings in the stage, “Identify the Decision Makers”.  To me this could indicate two possibilities:

  1. The rep is engaged with the account but not at the right level to identify the decision makers and may need assistance.
  2. The customer is resistant to identifying and having us meet with the decision makers meaning this may not be a real opportunity. So we’ll need to facilitate this identification and meeting or walk away from the deal.
  1. Competitors

Identifying competitors and knowing their strengths and weaknesses may be a key to winning. If you don’t know who you are fighting, you can’t effectively position your solution to the customer and develop the appropriate tactics on this opportunity.

  1. Meetings

As part of the opportunity plan, customer meetings with the appropriate subject matter must be scheduled, executed and documented.  As the meetings progress the customer intelligence that is gathered will be leverage to dynamically adjust the plan.

  1. Customer Team

Identifying and documenting the players in the opportunity may seem like a no-brainer, but in many cases this doesn’t get done effectively.  By documenting this aspect of the plan the entire team can see the players and their stance relative to the deal.  This can flag potential issues.  Take for example an opportunity where there are two decision makers, the CIO and an IT director.  The CIO’s stance is against the deal, while the IT director is for it.  This obviously raises a flag that must be dealt with. In this case you may alter your tactics to have an executive sponsor directly contact the CIO help drive the deal to closure.  This also provides visibility to the entire team and may lead to leveraging relationships that would otherwise be unknown.

  1. Account Team

The make-up of the account team can be very important to some opportunities so identifying and collaboration between the right account players is also very important to document in the opportunity plan.

  1. Playbook

Though a playbook is not technically part of the opportunity plan, it does play a vital role in the execution of the plan.  This is the summary of the plan, along with the current opportunity landscape and provides guidance for the plan’s execution.  Ideally it is easy to update so it stays relevant as the opportunity progresses.  Too many times a plan is created and documented, but never updated as the landscape changes resulting in a document that is of little value to the current opportunity and cannot be leveraged in future opportunities.

Example of an Opportunity Playbook

Though all of this can be done outside your CRM, it’s so much easier and beneficial if it’s integrated.  What I mean is the plan should reside in and leverage your CRM.   This type of integration allows you to quickly and easily build and maintain your plans with all of the data your CRM contain

 

Your New Sales Professional 9 things they must have under their belts before meeting Customers

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A speedy ramp-up of a new sales professional is critical to their ability to hit the ground running and quickly generate revenue. Having been a new sales professional as an individual contributor and sales leader, I’ve learned over the past 20 years there are 9 Things Every New Sales Professional must know and do before meeting customers.

1. Know the hot industries for your products or solutions – Knowing the hot industries in your space will allow them to plan their efforts and efficiently spend their time driving revenue.

2. Know the customer pain points and challenges based on each industry – Once hot industries have been identified, knowing the pain points and challenges of each industry will allow the sales professional to effectively plan their strategy, tactics and pitches for each customer.

3. Know the customers objections to your product or solutions – After knowing the standard customer objections will allow the sales professional to refine their sales pitch by clearly identifying mitigating responses to each of these objections.

4. Know the customers’ Obstacles – First of all it’s important to know the intentions of obstacles. They are meant to slow you down, stop you, funnel you in a certain direction or even ambush you. Knowing and understanding the obstacles allows your new hires to create a plan to mitigate them when presented.

5. Know Competitor’s Strengths and Weaknesses – These should be known and, analyzed with ready responses for each. This information is key to winning deals.

6. Your own Strengths and Weaknesses – Matching your strengths and weakness against your competitors allow the new hire to modify their tactics and discussion with the customer. They’ll know what to talk about and what to stay away from.

7. Know what is and what is not Resonating with customers – When this information is known, new hires know what aspects of your solution(s) to highlight with your customers and which they needn’t.

8. Opportunity Reports\Meeting Recap – This information allows new hires to see an opportunity (won and lost) from creation to completion. It’s more than opportunity notes, it’s the Business Intelligence gathered in all of the customer meetings for each opportunity. Understanding the actions and decisions coming out of these meetings will quickly allow them to anticipate various scenarios and adjust their tactics to win deals.

9. Review current and closed Opportunity Plans – Reviewing Opportunity Plans allows the new hire to see the winning strategies, tactics and value props your most successful teams are employing to win deals.

Here at Point N Time Software we’ve created a New Hire Sales Kit. It’s comprised of:

• Salesforce reports and dashboards of business intelligence gathered in customer meetings.
• Strategy Mapper – Salesforce integrated dynamic opportunity plans.

Since we collect this information natively in Salesforce via Meeting Mapper and Strategy Mapper, it’s quick and easy to present this information to our new hires. This allows them to see up-to-date Customer Intelligence across the entire organization and ultimately allows us to ramp a new sales professional in weeks, not the typical ramp time of 6 months. We all know the faster you can ramp a new hire, the faster they’ll make plan.

The Small Business and the Importance of Information

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Small businesses of today are much different than just a few years ago.  With the relatively easy access of information any small business can be competitive against much larger businesses.  On the flip side, the larger businesses also have access to the same information, but they have armies of people analyzing the data.  This means that for your business to compete you must have some sort of competitive advantage.  This could be better products, better pricing, better service or a better level of preparation to win the business.  One commonality between the small business and the large business is both are competing for customer face time for a presentation or demo.   In many cases the larger business may already have advocates within the customer and may even be using their products, so when you do get the opportunity to present to the customer, you better be prepared.    That said, here are some thoughts surrounding the preparation cycle of deal pursuits.

Why did we get the Meeting?

  1. The customer is not completely satisfied with the competitor’s product, service, etc.
  2. They believe you have a better product.
  3. They are using you for pricing negotiations. (figure this out quick)
  4. They are just kicking the tires. (figure this out quick)

Meeting Secured

Ok, so you have secured your meeting, now what? Some of the basic To Do’s:

  1. Check out their web site and try to determine the key players.
  2. Check out your competitor’s web site.  I always review the customer and success stories pages.
  3. Check out LinkedIn to gather pre-meeting intelligence on the customer players as well as your connections that may have insight into the customer (The KiteDesk product works well for this).
  4. Since I use Salesforce I manage all my meetings and customer interactions natively using Meeting Mapper for Salesforce.
    1. I create the meeting.
    2. I schedule the meeting.
    3. I add meeting attendees (if a meeting attendee is not a contact in Salesforce I can add them to the meeting and Meeting Mapper will add them as a contact in Salesforce).
    4. I send out meeting invites.
    5. In the event one of the meeting attendees is a VP or C level, I will assign an executive sponsor to him or her so a relationship can be built outside of the opportunity with someone who can influence it.
    6. I create and send the meeting agenda.
    7. I modify the meeting attendee’s details (add their role if I know it, any notes about the person, initial Stance (For, Against, etc.).
    8. I add any notes and/or questions I want to cover in the meeting before hand in Meeting Mapper.
    9. Once this is completed, I’m ready to go and can move on to work more leads and opportunities.

Meeting Day

With all the preparation you completed it gives you the competitive advantage or at least puts you on a level playing field. Here is what the prep work does for you:

  1. Salesforce is updated just in case you can’t make the meeting and a replacement has to take over.  You should Never lose a deal because of personnel changes!
  2. You have agreement of the Goals and Objectives of the meeting – remember the invite and agenda you sent? The Goal and Objectives were included in both of them.
  3. You know the meeting attendees and have some basic knowledge of them (role, initial Stance, Social information).
  4. You already know some of the questions you want to ask to ensure you meet the Goal and Objectives of the meeting.
  5. You assigned an Executive Sponsor, so you are not going to be a complete stranger to any VP or C level execs.  The relationship has already started to build.
  6. The customer will notice and appreciate the preparation.   You won’t be the small competitor; you’ll be the prepared, nimble competitor who will do what it takes to win their business.

Post Meeting

Once the meeting is over all you have to do is update Salesforce with all of the important information that was gleaned from the meeting and send out the meeting notes to everyone.  By the way, this is the hardest part for any Sales Executive and this is why Salesforce is not used to its fullest potential.  Because I use Meeting Mapper, I just take notes as I would in any meeting, but I use the Meeting Mapper interface either natively in Salesforce or Salesforce1 or Meeting Mapper Mobile on my tablet.   This single input automatically feeds the entire Salesforce ecosystem.  From my meeting notes here is some of what is documented and stored in Salesforce.  This is the information that will give you the competitive advantage.

  1. Meeting Attendee information:
    1. Role – If you have a Champion role in the meeting – justify that role assignment based on your sales methodology.
    2. Stance – For, Against, Neutral:  If they are for, justify that designation.  “Happy Ears” is not a strategy.  This ensures your sales team is using your sales methodology consistently.
    3. Level of Participation (e.g. It’s not a good sign if the Decision Maker is Distracted)
    4. Next Steps or Action Items assigned
    5. Any individual Notes about this meeting attendee
    6. Were the Goal and Objectives Met?
    7. Public Notes – not all the notes in a meeting should be shared with the customer.  How many times have you sent meeting notes, just to say “I should have taken out that sentence”?
    8. Private Notes – Some notes are for the internal team’s consumption.
    9. Assigned Next Steps or Action Items.
    10. Specific subject matter is identified as hot or not for this customer.   This can be used to drive further focused conversations with the customer as well as providing relevant information to your marketing and product teams.
    11. All of this structured data is used to generate reports and dashboards that can be used not only by the individual responsible for the deal pursuit, but also by Sales Management to drive tactics and strategy.

Armed with this information, I can do Sales Forensics and build my strategy to win more deals and drive increased revenue. If you are interested I would be more than happy to show you the level of data and information I gather in all my meetings. In closing it’s not the size of your company, it’s the amount of information and data you have to build strategy.  I think you would be surprise just how big Point N Time Software is.

Your thoughts and feedback would be great.