success with stories

October 30, 2013

Want to be successful selling?  Become a better storyteller.  I’m not talking fairy tales, rather anecdotal vignettes that demonstrate how peer organizations have benefitted from your solution.

As with any good story, provide starting point or baseline and end with compelling conclusion or realized quantifiable business value.  Tell what others have learned and experienced in easy to digest language.  If you confuse your audience, you’ve lost your audience.

A few storytelling best practices include keeping it simple, but memorable.  Be concise and brief; your objective is to pique interest, establish credibility, and gain sponsored traction going forward.  As with an elevator pitch, framing with provocative question can be quite effective.  Again, your goal is to drive action. 

sales play – a definition

September 8, 2013

The word string “sales play” has been in vogue for many years.  But has it lost its meaning?

Rhetorically speaking, it certainly has; I have examples.

Years ago, technology sales organizations were transitioning from the proverbial tactical to strategic.  Everything was solution-selling this and that!  I harken back, because that is where I find the practical definition of a sales play.

You must have a solution for starters.  Otherwise, you have a deeply-defined process, but which provides weak business value.  Sounds crazy, but today many sophisticated sales organizations fail to understand that which ails potential customers and link a viable solution.

Definition of sales play: the mechanics or otherwise stated tactical steps to prosecute an opportunity-specific solution

Has your company forgot the unique solution differentiation offered its customers?

As a salesperson, do you qualify your opportunities against niche solution criteria that boast competitive advantage?

Your competitive advantage correlates with quantifiable business value received by your customer, such as:

  • migration made easier
  • implementation made affordable
  • technical resources and expertise leveraged
  • TCO lower
  • ROI faster
  • time to market

Always be qualifying and place proper onus upon developing and executing your close plan.

correlation of communication

February 21, 2013

What is the correlation between high-functioning communication skills and sales operational excellence?  In other words, are the best salespeople the best communicators?  While rarely simply stated, it does seem quite obvious.

Let’s assess this tactically per a subset of basic communication skills.  Consider the following:

  • ability to listen
  • ability to converse professionally with proper lexicon
  • ability to write, including formal proposals
  • effective email étiquette
  • ability to present, including diverse, large or small audience in-person or via web
  • ability to author presentation and organize effective agenda

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced.  An obvious correlation is often overlooked.  I’ve worked in Sales at companies such as Oracle, Microsoft, and GE and with consistency a correlation is frequently supported.

demand generation shift

January 26, 2013

Employers have become hyper-risk-adverse when it comes to hiring.  For example, a potential new hire may be asked which named accounts he/she can immediately gain access.  The attention upon demand generation and onus therein just may have shifted from the employer to the employee.

Familiarity or “course knowledge” is a differentiator for hiring managers.  You may want to triangulate when formulating your response.  Therefore, before you can answer the question you should ask your own questions to enable necessary due diligence.  Example discovery topics might include:

  • which industries and/or LOBs are best suited for the solution?
  • what size of companies represent best-fit candidates?
  • read all current testimonials and case studies

It is easy to identify big brand companies like Starbucks, Boeing, and Costco.  But, it is far more relevant to cross-reference company demographics based upon pre-qualification and probability of converting prospects to customers.  Triangulate 1) brand-companies, 2) companies-by-industry, and 3) proven size-industry-best-fit-companies and target your demand generation efforts, accordingly.

There is not a wrong answer, but there is a right fit.

In technical sales, there’s a big difference between selling applications versus technology.  In my opinion, the persona-based behavioral economics are strongly differentiated between these roles.  Ability to successfully sell application solutions requires a different (perhaps more sophisticated) set of skills.  Whereas, successfully selling technology products demands an alternative set of unique skills.

Selling application solutions requires the customer recognize quantifiable business value.  Whereas, selling technology solutions requires technology value differentiation with less emphasis upon ROI.  If you are in Sales for a technology product-based Sales organization, theoretical and practical analyses are warranted.

For example, have you triangulated market aspects of saturation, fragmentation, and commoditization?

  • How many years has competitive technology been adopted by customers?
  • What % of companies (as of today) has adopted same technology?
  • Is product’s market segment fragmented with many vendors?
  • What is vendor’s position within Gartner Magic Quadrant (if followed)
  • Is your product disruptive and unique…what is your niche?

These findings may help direct your career path or at least make an informed decision, based upon actionable insights.

What is cultural growth strategy?  While an ideology I conjured, I am confident it will resonate with  you.  Depending on your company and sales organization’s derivative cultures, you likely reconcile this philosophical dogma every day.  Consider the following questions:


  • What is your company’s growth strategy?
  • What is their current revenue ratio of new/recurring business?
  • How many new customers were added in past quarters?
  • Is # of new customers increasing or decreasing?
  • Is average sales ticket increasing or decreasing?


The answers to these questions provide powerful insights.  If your company’s growth strategy is upsell, cross-sell, annual maintenance, and/or litigate compliance you work for a company with negative cultural growth strategy.  However, if your company meets table stakes including new business growth strategy, Sales and Marketing alignment, as well as compelling solution differentiation you work for a company with positive cultural growth strategy.


For example, consider a software company that contributes open source software.  If the company concentrates on selling commercial upgrades to new customers, Marketing campaigns are aligned to identify and convert open source application/users candidates for commercial upgrades, and no other vendor can match the business and technical value proposition…that company embraces and embodies positive cultural growth strategy.


Why does this matter to you, the Sales individual?  Consider both how Sales is measured by management and how individual contributions are assigned value.  For example, a hunter of new business should be perceived differently than a farmer of recurring business.  Accordingly, quotas should be allocated and overall compensation should reflect specific individual contributions.  Unfortunately, pay-for-performance with said granularity is not the norm.


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