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  • Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally?
    08/09/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Tips for Handling Gatekeepers

    Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally? Tips for handling gatekeepers


    You’re gearing up to make the phone call and you go through the scenario in your head. 


    You visualise the dream conversation that will take place with the very person that will sign the deal to edge you closer to reaching your sales quota. You can almost taste the commission payment and BOOM....denied! Someone gets in the way and tells you this is not going to happen, grrr!

    Those darn gatekeepers are ruining it!!! Sound familiar?

    So what’s your plan when it comes to dealing with gatekeepers?

    Do you even have a plan for handling gatekeepers?

    And what do you think about those people tasked to guard your prized decision maker against your advances?

    The fact that they’re referred to as gatekeepers implies the natural trepidation salespeople feel towards them.

    Since my sales career began some time ago I can still recall the amount of time and energy sales teams would invest in developing unscrupulous tactics to side step the gatekeeper and land the goal of reaching the buyer.

    Such tactics can range from mild intimidation or the use of power play to simple distortion of truths or using nuances of the english language to mislead. To cite an example I’ve come across in the recruitment industry is, “this is a personal call” for the gatekeeper, which changes to, “this is a personnel call” for the decision maker.

    By no means am I suggesting that these don’t work as I have seen them achieve their aim but it does come at a cost and that is the integrity of the business executing them. Especially as the glaringly obvious question is why would you start the relationship with a lie?

    If you’re in the luxurious position of being able to burn through leads and don’t rely on repeat business then by all means carry on but if you truly value your reputation and want to invest in a sustainable business relationship then there is a better way.

    Whatever the business one of the greatest attributes you can possess is to understand what the person you are dealing with wants. If you understand the motivation of the person you are speaking with, it will facilitate the interaction you have with them and therefore will put you in a better position to achieve your aims.

    This may require some guesswork on your part and some calculated assumptions but it is safe to say you won’t be far off the mark. That said, if in doubt then feel free to ask them questions.

    Simply put when applied to the gatekeeper it’s worth remembering they have a job to do and will act to serve the best interest of their colleague and organisation.

    Think about it, while navigating your way through Linkedin have you ever come across anyone with “Gatekeeper” as their job title? The answer will almost certainly be no and that’s because the position does not exist. So here's some tips I want to share with you when dealing with the gatekeeper.

    Be Human

    So first things first, remember that you are dealing with a person and not an obstacle so take this into consideration and apply a human approach to the interaction. Make them complicit in your request and ask for their help in taking you a step closer to that elusive conversation with your desired contact. “How do you do that?” I hear you ask, well read on...



    Develop Rapport


    If they answer the phone by mentioning their name, repeat it back to them and if you didn’t hear what they said ask them to repeat it. By doing this you can quickly gauge their tone and make that snap decision on how to best engage with them. Do they come across as matter of fact? If so then keep to the point. Or are they chattier in nature, in which case you have the opportunity to develop rapport and maybe elicit some invaluable company information or insight.



    Be careful with assumptions


    Make no assumptions about the gatekeepers role. In modern organisations it’s not unusual for senior colleagues and decision makers to take calls so how you approach the conversation can determine whether you succeed or fail in your sales interaction so try not to fall at the first hurdle. Furthermore advances in technology means your targeted organisation can block future calls and emails from you and your organisation.



    Be Prepared


    Always enter the conversation prepared to speak with a potential gatekeeper. Have your positioning statement ready in condensed form and ensure you cover the following 3 bases:

    1. The purpose of the call in brief.
    2. Outline why it’s worth your desired contact taking the call - what’s in it for them? And finally...
    3. Set expectations. Respect your contact’s time and say that you wish to be granted a couple of minutes to state your piece and if there is no perceived value in continuing the conversation then you will respectfully end the call.

    By following the steps above you are getting the gatekeeper onside by demonstrating your value and professionalism so that they are seen as credible internal referrers by their colleagues.

    If these steps don’t result in a sales conversation then and there then graciously accept the next option the gatekeeper offers.

    In these challenging economic times it’s not unusual to be offered an email address, whether that’s to a personal or group inbox as more than ever people are working remotely which limits the ability for calls to be transferred.

    And in these situations it’s increasingly important for emails to work harder to get the attention you require but let’s leave that for another time.

    Suffice to say that with due consideration and respect to the process you can indeed turn an old sales adversary that is a gatekeeper into a friendly business ally. Furthermore wouldn’t it make your working day more enjoyable having delightful, less combative conversations that ultimately put you in a better position to achieve your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?

    I would love to hear your stories on handling gatekeepers and let me know if there is anything you think I have missed.

    Whether you have any comments, observations or questions around the topic then feel free to share them in the comments section below.


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  • Humanise the sales experience for better results
    01/09/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Humanise the sales experience for better results

    Fundamental to success in any business is the ability to make sales so with this in mind just how is your business geared towards making sales?


    Thinking about this does not mean you have to break out into sweat as to how you will go about this. It will come as no surprise how many people have (sometimes justifiably) negative feelings towards sales people and therefore this extends to the feeling of dread from business owners when it comes to the act making sales...but it doesn't have to be this way.


    Having spent my entire 20+ year career in numerous sales roles it’s crazy to consider just how far we have come in terms of what it takes to become successful. We all have many stories of when selling has gone badly for us, but how about when it has gone well? As a consumer I'm always impressed by a seamless sales process whereby I've felt good about a purchase I've made and more often than not the whole sales interaction has always started way sooner than I've ever anticipated. It's with this in mind I wanted to explore the act of selling a little further and consider how the process can be made to feel more engaged, connected and human to ensure the best results for all, which will hopefully reduce anxiety that is commonly felt around the topic.


    The internet is awash with sales statistics that will stop you in your tracks to illustrate this point. For instance you will have heard that as a result of the internet anywhere between 70% and 90% of the purchase decision is made before a buyer engages with a sales person (the number varies of course according to the source of the information).

    This means that the whole process has been disrupted and never has it been more important to align the sales and marketing functions in accordance with the buyer's journey. Every touch point must be designed to create a positive experience so that customer conversions follow naturally rather than having to employ pressure tactics that cause many to baulk when they think of selling and sales people.

    The downside is that it now takes a lot more work, effort and investment to deliver these positive touch points however the upside is that once developed and embedded the business development process becomes scalable (so that you can train your team to achieve better outcomes) and the resulting revenue opportunities are sustainable. Furthermore, by taking a longer and more strategic approach the less likely your offer is to become commoditised whereby you have to discount to get the deal.

    So now instead of breaking a sweat when picking up the phone you will have confidence in the process and speaking with the buyer feels like an enjoyable conversation rather than a combative call.

    One organisation that has really indoctrinated these trends with great effect is Hubspot. On reaching the eureka state and noticing how sales interactions have evolved since I was a fledgling rep, I identified the need to partner with an organisation that would help me achieve my goals. My wishlist was to find a partner who could help me create a sustainable business development model that would enable me to better serve my clients going forward.

    If you run the clock back a few months you would have never anticipated that we would be enduring the ground swell that is the covid-19 pandemic meaning that our priorities have shifted since the year began. Simply surviving the commercial impact and keeping our heads above water means we are doing something well. Never has it been more important to reach out and make the buying experience more human and that is why I jumped at the chance to participate in Hubspot's “Lions” Pipeline Generation Programme.

    Core to the programme is how we reach out and connect with those businesses we can help. As mentioned previously our priorities have changed and the ability to get our prospects attention is becoming increasingly challenging so during the programme we were challenged to do exactly that and consider how we can cut through the noise.

    If I was to consider my key takeaways they are:

    1. Understanding the lizard brain. The one thing sales people fear is making the first call, how do you get the buyer’s attention and gain permission to proceed with the conversation? Well the first consideration is the opener and this is a key element that gets drilled into us.

    2. Not giving up too early. To cite some industry statistics:
    • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up. [Source: Scripted]
    • The average sales person only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect. [Source: Sirius Decisions]
    • 80% of sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after the meeting. [Source: The Marketing Donut]
    As we know this stuff, why are we still not adhering to these insights? Success only comes from execution - it’s not enough to simply know this stuff.


    3. Leveraging advances in technology. We know that the evolution of technology has served to increase barriers between human interaction but this does not have to be the case.

    Thanks to the opportunity to participate in the programme I now have a full kit of cool tools that will increase my levels of insight and improve productivity going forward. What’s more, I can share them with my clients and business networks.

    It’s not only that I believe that by signing up to the programme I have put myself in a great position to succeed in my business ventures going forward (which of course is my main priority). It’s also the knowledge that I am supporting my business ecosystem which is some way I can make a contribution during these challenging times thus supporting my mission to improve the prosperity of my wider community.

    After all if we create a society where everyone benefits then surely we all win! Who does not want that?


    So what steps have you put in place to enhance the sales experience? How is this helping you to get better results?

    Thanks for reading and feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.


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  • Ditch the Sales Tricks
    17/08/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Ditch the tricks and become a trusted sales advisor

    We’re in business for the long haul right? If that’s the case then why are so many sales people still employing sleazy sales tactics that prizes closing the deal over serving the customer well? It’s as if they’re competing objectives which of course they’re not, if anything these objectives should be aligned to create the longevity of success we desire. After all you’ve heard the phrase once bitten, twice shy? If you are looking to continue working with those customers then why would you start the relationship on the wrong foot?


    I’m sure you have fallen prey to some of these tactics as have I and it never feels good, the result? To effectively blacklist these organisations forever. No wonder people generally feel antipathy towards sales people and when professionals from other disciplines have to rely on selling to grow their businesses their deep rooted anxieties surface and they do everything to avoid it.

    So let’s explore these main culprits:



    1. The scarcity sell


    This is based on the principle that when a product or service is limited in availability (or perceived as being limited), it therefore becomes more attractive.

    Yes, this is a very powerful technique when it’s actually true and what you’re selling has some meaningful value to its intended audience however it has been ruthlessly hijacked by organisations when it’s not actually the case. This tactic is easy to spot, especially when promoted aggressively. The consequence of employing this tactic is that when you’ve been caught out your integrity is immediately brought into question.



    2. The pressure sell


    This is a selling approach where the salesperson attempts to control the sales interaction and pressure the customer into making a purchase.

    In addition to the standard direct approach, this comes under many other guises including time limited offers and back of the room sales. Relying on manipulative techniques this approach rarely ends well as it often uses NLP to rouse the prospects' emotions and pressures them into buying on the spot. All without consideration and the ability to conduct due diligence which opens the door to buyers’ remorse where it is unlikely you will ever see them again.



    3. The assumptive sell


    This is defined as the practice of trying to sell something by acting as though the person that you are trying to sell it to has already decided to buy it.


    This is a close relative of the alternative close, “do you want it in green or red?” Because you’ve assumed the sale you’ve fast tracked the process of building a relationship and truly understanding the customers’ situation which could result in missing out on other opportunities with them or indeed their network. Just imagine this in a dating scenario, you’d run for the hills!

    Although a non-exhaustive list (I’m sure there are many more tactics you could add which would make for interesting conversation) I want to conclude on a positive note and reassure you that there are some excellent sales practitioners out there. Simply what puts them heads and shoulders above their peers in terms of both closing business and retaining it is that they take the time to understand those that stand the best chance of benefiting from their solution.

    Selling effectively is very much a skill that can be learned but it begins with the customer so taking the time to develop the relationship and become a trusted advisor will pay you dividends which vastly outweigh the impact any outdated shady tactics will provide.

    I would love to hear your stories, experiences and insights on the topic so feel free to share your comments below.



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  • Coming out of Lockdown - Will Shifts in Consumer Buying Behaviour be cause for Optimism for UK Manufacturers?
    17/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Coming out of Lockdown - Will Shifts in Consumer Buying Behaviour be cause for Optimism for UK Manufacturers?

    It’s fair to say the game has changed beyond any recognition since February where the biggest challenge to the UK economy was coming out of the EU and many of us were coming to terms with the damaging impacts of Storm Dennis.

    With a mix of good old fashioned British stoicism and denial, who could have ever imagined a health crisis taking place on the other side of the world would ever hit our shores and confine us to our homes?

    And confined to our homes a great many of us were so how were we going to navigate our way through the lockdown in what has so frequently been defined as the “new normal”?

    Three months on and we now know the answer to that with a great many heroes stepping up to the challenge whether employed within the public sector or business, of course we mustn’t forget members of the local community who rose to the challenge the pandemic thrust upon us. Indeed we should also acknowledge the fiscal support many (not all) have benefitted from so that now as we come out of lockdown our attention is turning to the state of the nation going forward.

    Manufacturing is often cited as an indicator of the health of a nation economically meaning much has been made of their response to the covid-19 challenge and as always there will be those who have fared better than others.

    Referencing the Make UK & BDO Manufacturing Outlook 2020 Q2 Report the key findings are:

    • Output plunges to lowest level in 30 year survey history
    • UK and export orders at lows comparable to financial crisis
    • Employment and investment suffer significant cutbacks
    • Just over 10% of companies operating at full capacity
    • Industry forecast to contract by almost 10% in 2020

    As bleak as these figures are there are some sectors that have at least performed well considering these conditions which include (but are not limited to):


    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Medical Equipment Manufacturers and Supplies
    • Logistics & Delivery
    • Streaming Services
    • Supermarkets
    • Food & Drink

    On the flip side industries such as automotive, petrochemicals and those relying on the hospitality sector have seen a serious decline in performance which may affect their ability to come out of the lockdown on the other side.

    Although this is not uniquely a British problem it will acutely be felt here due to our disproportionate reliance on global supply chains in terms of both imported components and finished products as well as exported goods.

    So what now?

    As always there are two schools of thought in terms of the UK’s recovery from lockdown with the optimistic camp predicting a “V-shaped” recovery at best or a perceptively pragmatic “U-shaped” recovery meaning we should exit the situation at a similar pace to how we entered it. Conversely the pessimistic camp foresees many bumps in the road with us only getting back to something resonating normal deep into 2021, therefore an elongated “U-shaped” recovery.

    This should not come as a surprise but the real telling factors come from how this has impacted consumer behaviours and whether there will be any lasting impacts as a result.

    A recent survey commissioned by the Manufacturer on the attitudes of UK adults show that:
    • 75% now believe more strongly in the importance of UK manufacturing
    • 71% believe that manufacturing has risen to the challenge of Covid-19
    • 76% are concerned about the UK's reliance on cheap imported goods
    • 74% now believe that a strategic long-term plan to support the sector to become more productive and competitive will help insulate the UK economy from future shocks

    Therefore this presents a real opportunity for UK producers to promote the benefits of localised production across the supply chain and review their internal structures to optimise ways of working with key business partners.

    Over the past few years there has been a shift in mind-set whereby consumers are buying into the concept of localisation and provenance evidenced by the championing of product quality that we have come to expect from buying goods made in the UK. Furthermore a particular driver in terms of consumer behaviour has been triggered by our increasing concerns for the environment as well as employee and animal welfare.

    This is now ramping up to another level by us demanding that we protect the industries that contribute significantly to the economic health of the nation. We’ve been overwhelmingly impressed by how these businesses have responded to the crisis and transformed their operations to accommodate changing demands. This ranges from hearing stories about how one company shifted focus (albeit temporarily) from gin production to producing sanitisers and how a luxury handbag manufacturer supplied much needed PPE to the health service. This is all just as well given recent events show that in times of crisis our reliance on getting hold of much needed equipment from overseas has not served us well and understandably many countries put their own needs first, leaving the UK exposed.

    It is this realisation that may well drive consumer tastes away from cheaper foreign imports and take a more responsible approach to consumerism, adopting the less is more philosophy or rather substitute quantity for quality, buying the best the budget allows.

    Over the past few years we have demanded convenience from our retailers, developing a want it cheap - want it now culture from where behemoths like Amazon have risen to shape consumer habits and why we see our high street shops on their knees. Yet as our lives have been massively disrupted we are taking stock to reevaluate our priorities, reviewing our relationships manifesting in how we interact within our environment going forward. This is why although globalisation may never be over, our over reliance on it may well be.


    Just a thought....a feel free to leave yours in the comments section below.


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  • Sales Strategy, Sales Process & Building Sales Teams
    08/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    3 Key Problems Business Owners Must Overcome to Scale their Businesses to the Next Level

    Whatever industry you’re in there are some very common threads as to why some businesses have not got into their stride and developed any momentum in their growth journey and this is indeed a huge source of frustration which can lead to some questioning the wisdom on their venture.


    This is acutely felt when we hear so many stories of businesses seemingly coming out of nowhere and are well on their way along the growth trajectory which begs the question - “why is this not happening to us?”

    Don’t be disheartened, many business owners share similar doubts and it’s easy to benchmark ourselves based on what we read without truly scratching the surface. Put it this way, you will mostly hear about the success stories and positive outcomes rather than the ugly truths behind the outcomes which can only distort the reality.

    The overriding myth we fall prey to is the narrative of overnight success. The truth is that 99.9% of these businesses will have undergone a long process of development to fine tune their offer before getting on the radar and public consciousness.

    Anyway once in the public domain, just what should we be doing to optimise our chance of success? Or to put it another way, what major problems do we need to overcome that get in the way of our growth?

    They are generally covered in the following three areas:
    1. Having little or no sales strategy
    2. Having too much, too little or no sales process 
    3. Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles


    1. Little or No Sales Strategy


    You have invested a lot of time and money in setting up your business and having validated your offer which is generating some revenue so now what? How are you going to ramp up your efforts to increase your customer base and market reach?

    What sales and marketing strategies have you put in place to enable? What stage of the business lifecycle do you currently occupy?

    One of the biggest obstacles to growth is that many business owners don’t factor their business lifecycle stage into their planning and often adopt strategies that don’t work given their current context. Whether you are a start-up, going through a growth phase, mature and so on, the strategies you adopt will have to reflect the stage you’ve identified as occupying as by opting for the wrong ones can lead to costly mistakes that are completely ineffective and offer little value in terms of insights.

    Other key considerations of an effective sales strategy include:
    • The Business Vision
    • The Business Mission
    • The Key Stakeholders including Target Audience
    • The Business Purpose
    • The Conversion Plan
    • The Sales Playbook
    • The Customer Success Roadmap
    • The Available Resources
    This is a useful framework to focus your efforts on to provide direction and track your progress against. Without it the foundations will not be strong enough to support your growth aspirations going forward as it’s very easy to get distracted with other initiatives that delay your progress.


    2. Too Much, Too Little or No Sales Structure


    Once you’ve worked on your sales strategy how will you execute it? It is surprising the amount of businesses that do not even have a rudimentary system in place to organise their activities let alone track what is working or not working.

    The central question here is to identify your objectives and design a process around delivering them. Clearly your requirements will evolve but the key here is to have something in place that you can build on.

    The advantages to developing a sales process is that they:
    • Provide a scalable structure to grow your business by ensuring consistency of approach
    • Are a great way to identify how your route to market channels engage with you so you can map out a process that is designed around them as after all having a process that puts your customer at the centre is the best way to succeed in an ever increasing competitive environment
    • Enable tracking of progress so that you can figure out what is working and what is not working. In the case of the latter you can work out what:
      • can be modified and implemented with success
      • cannot be modified and therefore consign to history
    • Empower your sales operations to work efficiently as you implement your learnings and become better at engaging with your customers therefore potentially shortening deal cycles
    • Can encourage the development of the right sales habits. You will be able to identify what activities your team are undertaking and use this to strip out the activities that don’t deliver value to your sales conversations. Did you know that most sales professionals are only spending a third of their time actually selling?
    The purpose of the sales process is to support the growth of the business and not detract from it as the flipside of not having a process is to become enslaved by it.

    All too often over zealous business owners driven by data implement tools to measure KPIs (key performance indicators) and other metrics that can often misfire and can lead to the wrong types of behaviours.

    This is where you have to come back to your objective and understand what activities can add to and detract from the sales conversation and then develop the process around what will promote the desired outcomes.


    3. Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles


    Finally and all too often an overlooked problem faced by business owners is how to get the best from the resources you have available.

    This relates to the resource you allocate to your sales efforts whether that is the systems you adopt, the team you employ, the functions they perform and the structure they fit into.

    Again this depends on where you fit in your business lifecycle as the options available will differ.

    All too often when starting out you have to be a generalist in terms of the sales roles you undertake as you will not only be responsible for generating leads and converting them, you will also have to ensure that you keep your new customers happy so they keep on coming back.

    These roles actually require different skill sets which when you don’t have the luxury of a sales team you have to ensure that whoever is accountable for sales wears each hat with reasonable competence. If you’re at the stage where you can outsource your sales, it is crucial to have an understanding of what and who you are looking for. You only have to go on any freelance sites to understand how many business owners have given this little thought and post three sentence job ads with the expectation of finding a sales superstar that will provide a silver bullet on a shoestring.

    Even larger, more established businesses have not always got this figured out, often promoting top sales performers into sales managers with little support or training to help them become effective sales leaders. That’s on the assumption that sales management is a progressive route for them in the first place.

    Aside from the specific skills required to meet the demands of the differing sales functions, there’s always the question of how you can leverage technology to support your sales team and business to operate successfully and efficiently.

    While technology serves a purpose and can be a great tool in facilitating sales conversations there are many examples where their overzealous adoption can be sussed out in sales platforms and potentially risks the integrity of those conversations. I am sure many of us have examples of this like receiving a message on Linkedin which is clearly a sales “bot” which is no way to begin a relationship with a prospective client. This along with other cynical tactics contribute to why sales people in general are perceived in negative terms.

    As with all things in business these key problems do not exist in isolation so any successful enterprise will have to factor in the development of a sales strategy, what process will support it and who will be involved in its implementation in order to take the business to the next level.

    Indeed it would be fair to say that many of the businesses that suddenly come on our radar as performing strongly have been working on these very areas long before we knew they existed.

    And I want to leave this on the point that it’s not beyond anyone's imagination that this can’t be what you achieve for your business too!

    Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.

    Thank you for reading.


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  • ​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners
    01/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    ​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners

    With the continual lifting of lockdown restrictions many businesses are initiating a return to work for those who were unable carry out their responsibilities at home meaning they are having to pick up from where they left off when they do eventually make it back.

    Whether there were any elements of business continuity in terms of setting up remote working or not one thing is clear, there is no getting away from the stark reality that this situation has hit many of us hard and will continue to do so for some time to come.

    As reported in the Guardian, “A survey by the manufacturers’ lobby group, Make UK, found that 25% of companies are already drawing up plans to cut jobs in the next six months. A further 45% say they are considering redundancies. Only 30% said they expect to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with all their staff on the payroll.”

    It will come as no surprise that the industries hit hardest are hospitality, retail and leisure but the impacts felt will not stop there. Although there are a great many factors we cannot control there are some we can influence to limit the extent of the damage endured.

    Below I’ve listed the predominant mistakes being made by many manufacturing businesses. Not all will apply but by addressing them we can take action to turn our businesses around.

    1. No customer persona

    • Why it’s a mistake
    You know the saying? “If you try to be all things to everyone then you end up being nothing to no one.”

    By not fully understanding the customer you serve you will fail to communicate why your product will either remove a pain they are experiencing or enhance their lives in some way so your messaging will be lost. This means whatever you invest in your sales or marketing efforts will at worst be wasted and at best not reach its full potential.
    • What to do about it?
    Do some soul searching and develop insights about your customers. At least engage in conversation with those representing your market and / or conduct some observational research.

    Look beyond the obvious and focus on the “job” your product performs. The answers may surprise you and therefore you may well find ways to open your market up. You could potentially find multiple personas your product serves which will inform your outreach strategy going forward. This nicely leads us on to the following mistake which is...


    2. A uniform business development approach

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Now that we have developed some customer insights or at least a best guess we can now go out and start having conversations. The problem is that many businesses seem to think that one size fits all.

    With an ever more competitive commercial environment we are now all competing for a limited amount of attention that’s available so when we actually get it we may not prize it highly enough. If the framing does not align with the buyers’ situation the outreach misfires and therefore the opportunity is wasted.
    • What to do about it?
    There is no silver bullet to this so testing different approaches may be required to find a winning formula.

    To enable this, implementing some form of business development process will help. There are many great free and inexpensive CRM tools to support you so you can cluster your buyers into groups based on common behaviours. From there you can design a campaign around each.

    Analyse performance and measure what works and more importantly what does not. This is a great way to build a scalable sales engine for your business.


    3. Deal Structure - No transparency or consistency

    • Why it’s a mistake
    We’ve all been there, made a purchase and felt great about it to then discover a friend or neighbour got a much better deal. We’re not feeling so great about it now!

    Buyers remorse is commonly felt post purchase and it increases significantly the more expensive the purchase is. The manner the vendor behaves post sale will impact on the level of buyer remorse experienced. At best this could block any potential of repeat purchases being made and at worst could damage the reputation of the vendor from the resulting negative word of mouth. 


    Put this in a B2B context, the problems are amplified with there typically being a narrower customer base (depending on industry). Make no mistake, businesses talk and contacts move around so if someone feels unfairly treated then it is unlikely you will ever do business with them again.
    • What to do about it?
    Put a pricing structure in place that is consistent according to the size and market your business operates in. Of course there will always be elements of negotiation but as long as there is a framework in place then it can be defended.

    This can factor in the different channels you support but avoid scenarios where you compete with your customers for a similar market. Believe it or not, I have heard many stories where that has happened and it does not end well for either business or their channel partners.

    Finally be in a position to advise on RRPs (recommended retail price) to ensure that consistency and transparency applies throughout the whole supply chain.


    4. Little post sale customer support

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Ok, you got the deal and are very excited which is understandable but that is not the end point...in fact it’s just the beginning.

    The work is not complete once the order has been shipped and invoice paid. The reality is that you’ve actually created a new problem for your channel partner. How are they supported in reselling your product?

    This ties in with another commonly made mistake which is to focus too much on new business at the detriment of existing clients. We have all heard countless times that retaining customers is less expensive than finding new ones yet many businesses are not addressing this in any meaningful way.

    You want your hard won customers to come back so what are you doing about it?
    • What to do about it?
    So what does your sales infrastructure look like? Actually what does your business infrastructure look like? Everyone within an organisation has a role to play here so what systems are in place to ensure the whole business is pulling in the same direction?

    Have you appointed any customer success specialists to hand over new clients to? Even in small businesses where resources are limited there are measures that can be taken to deliver a programme of customer onboarding and development to get the relationship on the right foot from the very start.

    Is there a marketing pack in place to support your channel partners in selling your product? What merchandising support can you implement? The levels of sophistication will vary according to the resources available but every business should at least have some rudimentary process in place.


    5. Disregard of industry standards

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Ignore innovations to your industry at your peril.

    History is a wash with examples of businesses that have closed their doors permanently due to failure in identifying trends, remember Blockbuster Videos? Kodak? The culmination of not understanding the customer along with developments in technology has effectively sealed their fate.

    Ensure this does not happen to you.
    • What to do about it?
    Keep innovating! This does not have to be in terms of huge game changing developments but rather looking for opportunities to better serve your customer.

    A great rule of thumb is to be easy to do business with. Can any points of friction in terms of trading be removed?

    What is your competition doing? If everyone else is doing same day delivery then can you? Think about how you can disrupt disruption from your business. Engage with your community and especially your team who speak to your customers regularly to develop initiatives that not only reverse the negative impacts of the current situation but can put you in the driving seat going forward. Consider what will not only put you on the road to recovery but more importantly will increase your chance of future prosperity in business.


    I hope this gives you some food for thought and a level of optimism to keep you going through the challenging times ahead.


    If there is anything I have missed, you would like to add or other general observations then please share them.

    Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.


    Thank you for reading.

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  • Adapt, innovate or reframe your way through the pandemic
    11/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Adapt, innovate or reframe your way through the pandemic

    It’s fair to say that this year has been like no other experienced in the lifetime of the vast majority of us (barring some centenarians of course) and it is clear to see that the impact of the pandemic has completely blind sided everyone to differing degrees. After all, who could have seen this coming?


    We have been told by our elected administration that we have passed through the worst of the pandemic and are now on the other side of the proverbial mountain but must still tread carefully as, to continue the analogy, the descent can be more dangerous than the climb.

    So it is surely to be expected that we would now be receiving guidance from the government as to how we will navigate our way out of the situation and at the weekend we were given the framework of a plan as to how this would unfold but suffice to say there has been a lot of criticism to the government's response about lack of clarity.

    It’s not my aim to scrutinise those plans here but rather try and draw some conclusions as to how this will impact my business community going forward.

    As a deviation from the themes I would normally cover I want to explore the roadmap from an innovation point of view inspired not only by the constant advice we are seeing on social media as to how we pivot our businesses to turnaround the economic impact of Covid-19 but also following an excellent Enterprise Nation webinar I attended earlier today covering the topic of innovation based on the needs of your customers.

    As with most good practical advice for seasoned business professionals nothing really should come as a surprise and no ideas will be completely new or revolutionary here as the real value of sharing comes from serving as reminders and to vindicate your actions or decision making going forward.

    So let’s start with the situation that’s right in front of us. From this week construction companies and manufacturers have been told that they can return to their commercial activities however to quote James Durie from Business West, the Bristol Chambers of Commerce, what about those businesses that have experienced a complete drop in demand? Many businesses have lost their customer base so what do they do?

    It’s very easy to promote the idea of innovation but just how easy is it to implement?

    So getting back to the webinar, what is clear is that we need to find ways to meet the needs of your customers which given how things have shifted could mean how do we find new customers and fast.

    To address this challenge, I will outline three possible options which can reassuringly run alongside each other or alternatively can be your central focus depending on your situation and the resources you have available. Please note that this is on the assumption that your current customers have pressed the pause button.

    They are:


    1. Repositioning or reframing the application of your current offer

    Are you able to fulfil the evolving requirements of your existing customer base? Are you able to fulfil the current requirements of a new customer base? Are there any conversations you can revisit to position your offer as the best viable option given your potential buyer's evolving situation?Are you able to fast track conversations with those prospects in new markets?

    This is the best possible case scenario as to your current situation and something that can be acted upon instantly to yield quicker results in the short term with the right strategies in place.

    2. Complete product innovation

    This is your opportunity to revolutionise your offer and get your new ideas to market. Do you dare trade off your current customers that are potentially on hold or look for new ones to serve with vastly different requirements?

    Clearly this is a high risk, high reward strategy. It could be the most radical thing you do to completely turn around your fortunes however it is an extremely time consuming tact to implement. It would also require a completely new levels of research to develop true insights to provide any information of value. So just how ready and able are you to follow in the footsteps of notable industrialists and business disruptors namechecked in daily parlance?

    And finally the halfway house option which sits between the previous two.

    3. Adaptation of an idea


    This is not as powerful as option 2, as it’s considerably easier and quicker to implement with less associated risks.

    Simply take time to pause and reflect on what is happening in the market. Can you adapt ideas from other industries and apply them to your market? Can you collaborate with other businesses to develop a more complete solution to address a wider problem?

    Look at the bigger picture as to what is happening within your business community and develop an ecosystem to solve it. Most seasoned business professionals will already have the infrastructure in place to enable so it’s just a case of leveraging it to reach your lightbulb moment.

    Ok, I accept the answer is not as easy to achieve as the previous options suggest as there may well be pitfalls in terms of the execution. That said unless the first move is made then the most inevitable scenario is to remain stuck and put it this way that is a challenge in itself as momentum is with us, after all, we are in the process of climbing down the mountain.

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic so feel free to share your comments below and if you would like to chat about your business in the context of the current situation then click on this link to initiate a conversation.

    Thanks for reading.


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  • Selling to Resellers
    06/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    ​What to Consider when Selling to Resellers

    A mantra you will hear time and again in business is that without sales there is no business and that's so true. However it's understandable for business owners and entrepeneurs to get exacerbated by this stating if only it was that simple. Well, it’s certainly not my purpose to over complicate matters and blindside professionals into working with me, that said it's not as straightforward as some suggest either as due consideration needs to be made to ensure your approach is fit for purpose.


    Yes there are simple tools and techniques that can yield quick wins and inspire the salesperson into replicating them with the intent of repeating this success thus generating more sales, however to leave it there could quite easily lead you to a false dawn in the longer term as you may well not understand what you are getting right and why that is. Like many in business will agree, you learn more through making mistakes and “validated learning” rather than hitting the right mark in the first instance. Take this for example, ever tried a new sport or leisure activity to discover that you get a great result initially and then on further attempts your ability wanes and you struggle to understand what made you successful in the first place? That can pretty much apply to sales and indeed sales is about confidence but you must develop the right mindset to build that confidence, note that there are some great books out there which can delve deeper into this topic for you. I also want to add that during this blog I will be referencing some great sales resources which I will flag up to you to enable you to read further should you wish.


    At this point I am going to make a confession, I've not always been the best sales person in my previous roles and unlike some of my sales peers in other published material I will declare that I have on occasion struggled in some sales environments. You know those ones you see parodied in the media, “hit those phones” “have you made your 100 dials for the day?” “smile while you dial.” It’s no wonder why many hard-selling companies have high staff churn and us sales professionals get a bad name.


    Suffice to say, having been inspired by Frank Bettger’s awesomely titled, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” I wanted to share that it’s really ok to admit that this might not be your strength - yet, but with the determination to succeed and a willingness to learn it may well become the greatest tool you possess in your entrepeneurial arsenal. Like those who do come to master their art, it takes discipline and commitment to get you there.

    So let's cut to the chase, what I will outline going forward is how to get resellers on board. Addressing questions like, how can you get your product on the shelves of those companies supplying your market? What you need to consider and how do you get buy in from those who decide what they put in front of your target customer?


    To answer those questions, I will share tips and insights gained from my career in sales going way back from when I was selling automotive lubricants (or engine oil in laymen terms) to automotive dealerships (the people servicing your cars) whilst at Shell UK to a more recent campaign of selling pollution masks into distributors from around the world.


    For simplicity I am going to break this down into 3 main areas:
    1. The Sales Plan: You need a strategy to get started if you really want to create a sustainable business development model. This is crucial no matter what size the company is or lifecycle stage they operate in.
    2. The Sales Process you will adopt to deliver the sales plan you wish to follow.
    3. The Sales Campaign and its execution. By giving careful consideration to steps 1 and 2 this is where the activity comes into play to achieve your revenue results and growth goals. Some authors will take it a step further by detailing how to engage with personality types according to various tools like DISC profiling, although worth consideration there are others better positioned to explain this then me.


    The Sales Plan

    So looking at the strategy part, we have all heard the saying, “Fail to prepare then prepare to fail.” As true as this is, it is amazing to consider how many organisations do not do this.


    Here is where you start creating your sales playbook. Yes, this is the bones of a document you will use as your bible for business growth. This business manual will be refined over time as you develop your processes, tools and templates for success and the way to do that is to get started.


    Important components of a sales plan are:
    • Your Ideal Customer Profile. Take the time to develop your customer profiles, understand the people who will benefit most from your product or service. 
    • When selling to distributors and resellers there is an additional complexity involved. You have another layer to consider and that is not only the prospective end user of your product but also those in the buying team. This would require some research as to the composition of the roles involved in purchasing your classification of product and the challenges faced within those individual roles. To learn more about this I would recommend the following post: https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/ideal-customer-...
    • Your Offer in context of the customer profiles you have just identified.
    • Your Selected Sales Channels. This is where you decide whether to follow a direct or indirect sales channel. If you have opted for a distributor or reseller channel then you are following an indirect business development model and it is from here your process may vary which will influence…
    • Your Key Messages to the customer (both the indirect channel partner and their customers as identified in the profile analysis above)
    • Your Sales Team. Who will you assign to each channel? This can either be internal if you have the infrastructure to support it or external / outsourced, if not.
    • Your Sales Process. This covers the whole spectrum of the systems you select to enable your business development to take place to the tools and techniques required to guide your sales team to deliver it.
    For further reading on the topic I recommend the chapter on Building Out Your Sales Capability in Automate & Grow by Michael Devellano.


    The Sales Process

    This is when you get into the nitty gritty and add further detail to the sales playbook. It's such a huge area that it has become a sales specialism in its own right. You may have heard about Sales Enablement but not truly understood what it meant or maybe recognise it under another name such as the newly in vogue portmanteau “Smarketing.” Put simply, it is the infrastructure, tools and techniques used to generate Sales Revenue. That is the process of creating alignment between sales and marketing for the purpose of achieving your revenue aspirations with the goal of producing predictable and sustainable revenue being paramount.The sales process can vary in complexity depending on the requirements of your business with many starting out on spreadsheets. Although sufficient when starting out, please consider that there are some great software and CRM (customer relationship management) tools available that support a rudimentary sales process enabling you to scale as your proposition develops. Starting from free versions they at least can map out a basic process that monitors progress from generating leads and starting conversations to closing deals and retaining custom. Once in place you can begin refining and adding tools and materials to improve momentum and sales performance.

    In addition to your process further consideration must be given to the sales team infrastructure, whether internal or external, basically those adopting these processes. The best visual reference comes in the form of Aaron Ross’s infographic below articulated in his book, “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” whereby he is an advocate of splitting out sales functions into 4 core roles which is achievable no matter what size the business is.




    So having completed a lot of work to get this far, now for the fun part (depending on your point of view, of course).


    Sales Implementation and Campaign Execution

    Without taking time to go through the steps outlined above then the implementation and actual business development part becomes tricky. That said, this is a process in itself which will be refined, developed and improved the more iterations you undertake. The aim at this stage is not to make it perfect but rather have a framework that develops and scales along with your business.

    Once you have organised your sales resource as per the previous sections you will find yourself in a good position to reach out to those qualified prospects you have identified as a good fit for your business. This structure can best be illustrated by referencing Hubspot’s inbound methodology highlighted below:


    Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Methodology



    Once you have identified which prospects are a good fit for your offer and having then connected with them via your sales development team resulting in a meeting, you now have an opportunity to develop a relationship with them. You will be in a position to really get to know your prospects to further confirm if a good fit exists between your businesses.

    To better position yourself as a credible supply partner it is always worth adopting a framework that enables the conversation to take place that adds value to the interaction going forward. The best example of this I have seen again borrows from Hubspot in the form of their CGP, TCI, BA exploratory call framework. Simply put it covers the following elements which is key to aligning your offer to your prospects buying situation.


    C = The CHALLENGE your prospect is trying to overcome

    G = The GOAL your prospect is trying to achieve

    P = The prospect’s PLAN for overcoming their challenge


    T = The prospect’s TIMELINE for achieving their goal

    C = The negative CONSEQUENCE of failure

    I = The positive IMPLICATIONS of success


    B = The prospect’s BUDGET

    A = The AUTHORITY required to move forward with your solution


    Taking time to go through this process better equips the sales person to advise on a solution (their solution) going forward. Whether that’s via a demo or an on / offline presentation and it is here where sales people normally come unstuck. How else would you know if they are going to be a good customer if you don’t take the time to learn more about them?

    Furthermore, by taking the time to go through this step better equips the sales person to handle objections as they can reference their prospects previous comments and demonstrate alignment so therefore the value of their proposition which makes the process of closing far simpler.

    You may think this is pretty generic stuff and what has it got to do with resellers specifically. The truth is resellers share the CGP, TCI, BA characteristics outlined above but the answers they provide may differ.

    The main point of difference I can share in my experience of selling to resellers is in terms of how to retain them as customers. This is where it is worth assigning a customer success or “account manager” to champion them within your business. Providing them with the support required for them to succeed. That can be done by developing marketing collateral to share with their customers, providing them with staff training (on or offsite, maybe even via a webinar) or simply using crib sheets.

    Put it this way by being strategic in your approach to this specific market and thinking through each individual step into delivering success for them is the best way to ensure a great commercial relationship that is sustainable going forward.

    So to reiterate my earlier comments, as someone who cannot profess to being a naturally talented sales person who never really had “the gift of the gab” it was always my intention to develop a business development framework or approach to support me in becoming effective in sales which it has done. Moreover, it has supported my mission to enable others in similar positions to become successful in sales too. I hope this has provided some useful insights that can be applied to deliver success in sales for your venture going forward too!


    So what do you think? Feel free to leave your comments below.


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  • 5 Key Considerations to Power up Your Sales Engine during Lockdown
    04/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    5 Key Considerations to Power up Your Sales Engine during Lockdown

    So we are into week seven of the lockdown and it looks like some of the restrictions we’ve become accustomed to may be lifted in the coming days which surely is welcome news to many businesses whilst at the same time presenting logistical and operational challenges.


    Suffice to say there are going to be more questions than answers with the most significant being how are we going to come out of this with our business intact?

    It’s been widely reported that many manufacturers have been successful in reframing their offer and finding new channels to reach new consumers but at the same time a survey carried out by Make UK, the body that represents manufacturers, show that a many of its members have experienced dramatic fall in sales and question whether they can recover to pre-pandemic levels. Its survey showed:


    • Over three-quarters of companies said sales have decreased.
    • Four-fifths of companies have reported a decrease in orders.
    • One in five companies said their orders have fallen by more than half.
    • One in five companies have furloughed up to a quarter of staff, 15% by up to half.
    • One-third of companies will wait for an increase in orders before taking staff off furlough
    Unfortunately I cannot predict what will happen to these businesses post lockdown but having been actively involved in sales during the pandemic one thing is clear and that is there are still opportunities for those businesses supplying great products.

    I want to share with you some of what I have learnt firsthand and as a result of conversations with industry peers over the past few weeks. Please note that none of the suggestions should be anything new to seasoned sales and marketing professionals but sometimes we need to go back to basics and reflect on these especially during unprecedented times.


    1. Take Action


    The one thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain. Uncertainty usually brings about two kinds of behaviours: A complete standstill or some knee jerk response that can lead you down a rabbit hole.


    The businesses I have seen that are faring better are the ones that are taking stock with view to finding a path through this. I cannot recall the number of times I have heard business owners concerned about engaging with prospects and clients alike through fear of coming across as opportunistic but this thinking could be doing yourself and your market a massive disservice.

    The real opportunity here is to recalibrate and find a better way to engage with your audience, you never know you could come out the other end with a better offer that really addresses what your market wants and is fit for purpose going forward. So take the opportunity to:


    2. Understand your customer

    There is much being said about pivoting your business so by taking the time to observe what is happening in the economy and engaging with your market you may find that your offer serves alternative applications which you never previously considered. This could then appeal to a new audience or your existing audience in a different way. For example, customer A may have not placed an order recently as it is not a priority for them but could think differently if it serves another purpose that they consider is more critical to them at this moment in time.

    3. Review your outreach strategy

    The past few weeks have affected people in vastly different ways so factor this into how you approach conversations with your clients and prospects alike. Think about the tone you are setting during these conversations. Like I said, there is still an active market for great products but give thought as to how you communicate as you want to invite the opportunity for dialogue rather than diminish it.

    4. Refine your conversion process

    We are all working differently so the way you convert opportunities into clients need to reflect that. How easy is it to do business with you in the current climate? This is a great time to review your conversion process to determine whether it is still fit for purpose given the many restrictions we are currently under. Does your process present any obstacles or friction points which could impede progress? Adversity brings about creativity and there is an abundance of technology solutions which could make doing business with you far easier and therefore increasing your chances of bringing on new business.

    5. Implement a programme for delivering customer success

    Of all the suggestions provided in this article this one should surely be the most obvious but for some reason it’s the one that is most frequently overlooked. It’s simply a case of looking after your customer, offering the best service and experience you can and thinking about how you can support them make a success of doing business with you.

    After all (as it is proclaimed with frequent abandon) we are all in this together so how can you work together to come out of this at worst, still operational but at best in better shape than you were in before?

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the article so feel free to comment below however if you want to discuss any of the strategies above in context of your business then message me here.


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  • Outsourced Sales Teams
    23/01/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How to Engage with Outsourced Sales Teams

    Never has it been a better time to set up in business.

    With the combination of low cost technology platforms, the numerous communication channels giving you direct access to your market and increasing deployment of remote teams whether direct or indirect means that any business that addresses the needs of the market and delivers it well stands every chance of success.

    Well okay, I acknowledge that in reality it’s not that simple. Choosing the best systems that scale can be daunting, the ever increasing number of communication channels available make the task of deciding where to focus your time overwhelming and selecting who will help you achieve your mission...well, it can really question whether all these considerations are worth it.

    Business is not for the faint hearted but for those who want to venture out and at least start realising a dream then note, it is a path well trodden and can be extremely rewarding.

    Having spoken with many business owners and entrepeneurs it’s surprising how much oversight has been made in terms of their infrastructure going forward. Here I have outlined 4 considerations to make note of in terms of working with an outsourced sales agency.

    Good outsourced sales businesses really want to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you but they need your help so:

    1. Know Your Business (and Your Market)

    This may seem dumb but it’s surpring how many businesses are unable to articulate this. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about the problem you solve. So to adopt a well used mantra, you are not selling the drill but rather the hole. This effectively comes under jobs theory, think about the job your solution is being employed to do.

    If this is challenging to do then ask around, send a survey to your customers to find out how they get the best from what you do for them.

    As regards your market, it can’t be everyone. Look at your data to understand who gets the best from what you supply. And if you don’t have data then create a hypothesis and test. Effectively there will be trial and error but until you get started and test it out you will never be any the wiser.

    2. Decide on Your Goals

    Unless you have thought about what you want to achieve then how will you know if a campaign has been successful? Again, when working with a client I have often asked what they are looking to achieve and have been met with “some sales.” This is not going to get you anywhere.
    It is best to be as clear as possible here to stand a chance of achieving your goal whether that is number of appointments made, demos completed, attendees on a training course or simply revenue created.

    Also be clear on the qualification requirements to ensure the numbers reflect a good fit between what you sell and what they need to not only stand a better chance of conversion but retention too! And if you miss the mark then you are more likely to get genuine insights when conducting the campaign post mortem.

    The main objection external sales teams get from prospects is whether they will get a decent ROI. Well, by giving due consideration to the above points you should be halfway there.

    3. When Engaging with an External Agency...

    ...whether you have searched them on Google, Linkedin, a freelance site or asked for a referral my top tip is to observe how they interact with you as a prospective client. Do they look after you and offer you reassurance in a way that you want to translate to your prospects?

    How prepared have they come to the conversation? Are they asking you questions that are enabling them to learn enough about your business that fulfils the brief whether that’s at the lead generation / prospecting end of the conversation to closing the deal?

    Are they presenting themselves in a way that you can see yourself or your team working with them? To be successful this must be an effective working relationship.

    Are they setting expectations in line with the brief? Are there SLAs in place?

    If all looks good here then at least you’re starting out on the front foot.

    4. Ensure You Follow up

    You have invested a lot of time and money in the process so don’t fall down here. Ensure there is a system and process in place to continue from what your outsourced service provider has achieved. Whether that is to keep the appointment made, call as promised or ensuring they are properly taken care of once they have made their purchase as that is really when they do become valuable and should be valued in turn.

    So how have you got on with these musings? I am conscious I’ve skirted over a few details but only intended to give you enough food for thought while keeping it relatively light.

    I would love you to share your thoughts on this or let me know if you have other similar topics you would like me to cover. Equally if you want to find out more or arrange a call to see whether I can offer help to your business then click on the following link. https://www.integrowsalesbristol.co.uk/contact-bri...

    Thank you for reading.



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