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A SoftwareCEO Blog By Kristin Zhivago

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Revenue-increasing insights, strategies, and techniques for CEOs and entrepreneurs.


Why I'm Buying from John

I’m in the market for a business-to-business software product. I’m pretty far along in my buying process and I have narrowed down my choices to three vendors. I contact them all. 

Two of the three salespeople who get back to me are what I would call “typical.” They are cheerful, chatty, somewhat excitable, and they say things such as, “Let me be honest with you” and “No problem!” Half the time, I don’t feel they are really listening to what I’m saying, but instead are only thinking about what they will say next when I’m talking. I don’t have a good feeling about them being able to help me make a good decision. I can’t trust them. 

The third one, though, is different. His name is John. He’s serious. He’s thoughtful. He is strategic. He listens more than he talks. He

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How to Beat Your Enemies

In your business life, you encounter several types of enemies. 

There are competitors, who are fighting for the same customers you’re going after, coming up against you in deals, telling those customers all about your weaknesses, and doing their best to “position” themselves against you. 

 

There are bosses or other people in power (such as investors) who have decided they don’t like you, and will do what they can to replace you with one of their people.

 

There are employees who continue to work for you but who don’t enjoy doing so. They make sure everyone (except you) knows why.

 

There are bureaucrats who, for their own seemingly nonsensical reasons, take actions that could put you out of business. 

 

And yes, there are even customers who have decided that you are doing a terrible job and take it upon themselves to give you a black eye out in the marketplace.

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Managing individual salespeople

Is managing salespeople one of your most difficult tasks? If so, you’re not alone. CEOs who have few problems managing people in other positions still struggle with their sales department. 

Part of the problem is the kind of person who is put in charge of the department; I’ll cover that briefly later. It's also difficult to tell if the person running the department is doing a good job or not, because of the conflict between what that manager says (“Everything is going great! No problems!”) and disappointing sales figures. And lastly, the CEO may not know how to manage salespeople, even if he’s done a little selling himself. He’s not able to tell what’s being done right - or not. The bulk of this article will focus on solving this last problem.

 

What type of manager is running your sales now?

 

Almost all sales departments are headed by salespeople who have worked their way up through the ranks. Unfortunately, salespeople have some inherent weaknesses when it comes to management. They are not, by nature, logistically minded. They

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Is your weakness a gift to your competitors?

Everybody has their weaknesses. But when you become a leader, you really have to leave yours behind. 

The most effective, successful leaders make a point of finding out what their weaknesses are and attack them. They do everything they can to become strong where they were once weak. These people are very rare. 

 

The more usual leader avoids addressing his personal weaknesses. After all, he is the big cheese, right? Admitting the weakness would run contrary to how he likes to see himself. It’s easy enough to blame the ensuing problems on others. He doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal, and he is not willing to push himself.

 

The weakness is often rooted in a mode of behavior that worked when the person was around five years old, but has become counterproductive now that the person is an adult. These inappropriate, childish behaviors in a leader affect the performance of the entire company. Employees dread coming to work and dealing with the consequences of their boss

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5 Ways to Blow the Sale with the First Contact

I recently posted a freelance web development project on a web development job board. Most of the responses, unfortunately, were perfect examples - of what not to do. 

Since a lot of sales these days start with “virtual” contact, it’s instructional to see how these guys blew it - and what you can do to make sure you do it right. 

 

You don’t want to do these five things.

 

1) Don’t send an email filled with typos. Most of the messages were, unfortunately, filled with typos. 

 

The customer’s reaction: I’m not just looking for someone to fix one site. I’m looking for someone who can be a potential long-term vendor, someone I can refer my clients to. If you don’t even pay attention to details when you’re trying to impress, no way am I going to trust you with my own sites or refer you to my clients.

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The salesperson's first test: Making an appointment via email

We all use email to agree on a meeting time. Unfortunately it’s terribly inefficient, especially when it’s done incorrectly. A salesperson who is sloppy about it will drive the new, potential client nuts and make the client wonder if she really wants to do business with the salesperson. It is the salesperson’s first test. You’ll want to pass it.

Here’s an example of good form:

 

Hi, Judy. 

 

I understand you want to see a demo of our SuperBigProgram. 

 

I’m able to do this with you at these times - all EST. 

 

Mon April 8 from 2 - 5 EST

Wed April 10 from 11 - 3 EST

Fri         April 12 from 9 - 12 EST

 

Please let me know if anything works for you within these ranges, or suggest another day/time. I will send you an invite with a link to the WebEx meeting. [Or, if it is a phone call:

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Metrics can tell you what, who, and how, but not why. And why is all that matters.

Thanks to site tracking, cookies, and A/B testing, you can monitor and analyze what any person does on your website, and how they respond to your content. So why are companies still struggling to produce content that helps them sell? 

Because metrics can tell you what, who, and how, but not why. If you don’t know the why, you don’t know what you have to do to sell more.

I’m writing this post because I feel sorry for all the companies that waste so much time and money on websites that don’t move the revenue needle. I am saddened to see managers being misled by their tracking results. I’m tired of everyone thinking that A/B testing is the end-all, when it never tells you the all-important WHY. 

All of this weblog analysis and A/B testing, if not coupled with real-customer-interview research, falls into the same old stupid category of

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Comfort is your real product; your character is where it comes from

The entertainment industry tends to portray people in business as greedy, selfish jerks. I spent a number of years in that industry, and I can understand why they think that way. Most of the people in power in that particular industry really are greedy and selfish.

Any industry that requires you to be thinking of yourself 24/7 tends to attract a certain type of person. I decided to leave show business because I knew that if I stayed in it, I would be ruining my chances of being the kind of person I wanted to be.

But the "jerk quotient" can also increase as companies grow. I’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs, entrepreneurs and other managers running companies of all sizes. There's no question that the bigger the company gets, the greater the possibility that it will be filled with jerks, unless the founder is absolutely devoted to customers and employees.

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The single most important thing you need to focus on in 2013

What is going to matter most to all companies in 2013? Only one thing, whether you are a MomPopoly (great new term - thunk up by Carlos Dunlap et all at Colloquy) or a Fortune 50 corporation.

Not the news, the wars, the disasters. Not the constantly shifting regulations, the “cliffs,”  or the larger trends. 

Nothing matters as much as your customers' experience, every time they interact with your product, people, or processes. 

Their experience determines what they say about you to others who are considering buying from you. What they say determines if you prosper or struggle in 2013. It’s that simple. 

Even something as basic as your phone system will make them want to do business with you or want to avoid you; recommend you to others or warn them to stay away.  

Let’s look at this as if we were the customer. 

When you call a company to ask a question, you only do it AFTER you have looked online and have been unable to find the answer.

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"Why Aren't You Selling Us the Other Stuff We Need?"

I just finished interviewing a very smart customer for one of my clients. He’s a high-level manager in a tech company, a buyer of my client’s business services. 

During the interview, he explained how there were always two forces working against my client’s services: the comparable cost of accomplishing the same services in-house, and the fact that this customer is constantly pitched by competitive firms. 

Every so often, his own manager comes in and asks, “Are you still getting value for your money?” The customer is expected to have proof at his fingertips when that happens. He wants to be able to say, “Yes, they accomplished X last quarter for Y dollars. If we tried to do the same thing in-house, it would have cost us Z more.” Or, “Yes, last month they figured out how to improve on the automated portion of this process, and now we are getting that part done twice as fast, with fewer bugs. They also told us about a new tool they

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