Monday, July 31, 2023

105 Selling Days Left in 2023

A first time caller recently asked "Hey Lee, how are you calculating the number of selling days left in the year?"

I've got two answers.

First, the technical - I'm using "business days" (weekdays - US holidays) as a proxy for selling days. I acknowledge that regions other than the US will have different holidays, so you may want to calculate based on your local calendar.

Of course, most selling ends by late November or early December at the latest, with final contract work done by mid-December. That having been said, I do know of an eight figure deal that closed two minutes before a west coast company's fiscal year ended. 

Just imagine the CIO in his pajamas at 2:58 in the morning, sending his signed ULA renewal documents by fax machine, knowing that his price leverage would disappear in another two minutes, and that the sun would rise on the Connecticut shoreline in another few hours. But I digress...

Second, the functional - I'm using the "number of selling days" as an entry into the rhythm of business conversation.

If you're a key account director, your account is setting priorities and budgets for FY24 now. You need to be in conversations with your key stakeholders about their strategic initiatives and providing guidance on budgetary requirements. You should be planting seeds for next year's projects. You might be starting the process of helping them to identify how to spend excess budget at the end of the year (is that even still a thing?) You're probably planning your next QBR with the customer, and maybe a fall executive briefing.

If you're managing enterprise or commercial sales teams, many of their engagements need to be moving from discovery to solutioning and pilots (are pilots even still a thing?) so that you have sufficient runway for an FY23 close. Your reps need to be mapping out the contract and approval's late to discover quirks in a company's contract process Thanksgiving week...

If you're managing BDR/SDR teams, it's business as usual, with some slight tweaking to messaging...more guided discovery on projects that might be on track for an FY24 implementation (and a needed FY23 acquisition).

Good sales leadership understands and communicates this rhythm of business, shifting focus over the course of the year, and sales enablement shifts focus in tandem.

Oh, and SKO is in February, so you need to start planning soon. The site and date have already been selected. :)

One thing is true for all y''ve got opportunities in flight. You need greater visibility on their likelihood of closing and the additional actions needed to bring them to close.

By the way, if you don't currently conduct opportunity reviews, and want help in de-risking those opportunities, let me know!






Friday, July 28, 2023

106 Selling Days Left in 2023


A CEO recently asked me to list the most important characteristics of a successful sales person. First, I referred him to Dave Kurlan at Objective Management Group, which pioneered the Sales Assessment Industry many years ago.

Then based on my experience in selling, coaching sales teams, leading a sales organization and implementing sales effectiveness and enablement practices, I came up with the following short list:

  • strong work ethic
  • excellent organizational skills
  • high EQ
  • strategic perspective
  • curiosity

Of the five, I believe only the last can be developed. The others are either innate or they're absent.

Why is curiosity so important? Because curiosity drives success in value selling. If a sales person is curious, they will continue to gather information and develop hypotheses so that they can be more effective in engaging with customers on their terms.

They will not just scan the corporate website and maybe a LinkedIn profile or two. They won't just listen to the latest earnings call.

They will find the key stakeholder's personal blog and read it thoroughly. They will go back many quarters to see how the earnings calls change topics and tone over time, what issues the analysts continue to focus on, what initiatives are evergreen (but never actually get addressed.)

They will develop powerful hypotheses and share them from a place of curiosity and openness.

Many years ago, we landed a significant consulting contract at IDC because my curious coworker identified a personal interest of a key stakeholder at a large tech company, "bumped" into him at the punchbowl at a charitable fundraiser and exchanged business cards. That "chance" exchange helped launch our Sales Productivity consulting practice.

While facilitating an account planning session at Oracle, one of my more curious reps pointed out that we were missing a key stakeholder on the influence map. She had researched similar deals at the account and understood the internal process. She indicated that there was probably a "Jane Doe" in the loop, and if we failed to identify and include her in the process, we had little chance of closing the deal.

The task of identifying that "Jane Doe" was added to the action plan. Months later the team celebrated a substantial win. is sales rep curiosity developed? I do it through a facilitated process focusing on the behaviors that both support and drive curiosity. That repetitive behavior changes attitude, builds and reinforces curiosity.

Success breeds success...and finding interesting and useful details drives the rep to continue to dig. Then I solidify the learning with my favorite line by Michael Douglas in The Kominsky Method: "How did that feel?"

By the way, if your opportunity development and account planning processes aren't filling your pipeline and you would like assistance in implementing/facilitating/improving them, let me know!





Thursday, July 27, 2023

107 Selling Days Left in 2023


If your team is focused on greenfield, you are running out of time to move new accounts through the selling (and buying!) process.

It's also unfair to ask hunters to continue to work on accounts unlikely to close until next year, when comp and territories will be different.

Shift the team's energies from early stage opportunity pursuit to those already in discovery. You can circle back to those early stage accounts later in the year as the the volume of prospects declines, or get back to them early next year. If they had a pressing need, they'd already be in discovery!

Focus on identifying and engaging with the economic buyer, mapping the decision criteria and process, and developing a mutual action plan to accomplish all the tasks necessary to get to close/won.

Conduct opportunity reviews to de-risk deals. You'll identify what actions need to be taken on each deal, and you'll figure out which deals are solid and which reps are blowing smoke. Your forecast calls will be less painful and more fruitful.

With this focus on developing and closing in Q3 and Q4, versus hunting and finding, you are much more likely to meet/exceed quota expectations for FY23.

You can thank me later. :)

By the way, if you don't currently conduct opportunity reviews, and would like assistance in implementing/facilitating them, let me know!



Wednesday, July 26, 2023

108 Selling Days Left in 2023!

With the end of the year fast approaching, now would be an excellent time to review the influence map with the team for each important deal and to take action now on your learnings.

  • Have all the decision makers and stakeholders been identified?
  • Have all the influencers been identified, including partners and service providers (the answer is always no!)
  • For each of these individuals, how strong is the relationship? What direction is the relationship moving -- getting better, staying the same, getting worse?
  • Who can say no...and why?
  • When was the last time you significantly engaged with each of the important players on your influence map?
  • What is your plan for improving relationships where necessary and getting commitments from each of those stakeholders and decision makers?
  • If there is an incumbent to be displaced, what does their influence map look like and how much overlap is there with yours?
  • What are your coaches telling you now?

The influence map is a key tool to help de-risk opportunities. If you leverage the influence map as part of your engagement and pursuit process, you are winning at a 20 to 40% higher rate and seldom, if ever, need to discount at the eleventh hour to close/win deals.

And if you aren't yet using influence maps, and would like assistance in implementing them, let me know!

While powerful, the influence map is just one part of a professional enterprise selling toolkit. I'll cover additional high value tools in coming days.