Everybody Wants Change, Nobody Wants TO Change

Change Comes From ChallengeIn the words of Dilbert creator, Scott Adams, “Change is good…you go first!” For most of us, this resonates. We all want to see it, but many fewer want to do it!

In Sales & Marketing, the impact of this reality is having devastating effects as their messages fail to compel prospects to break from status quo.

Spoiler Alert: Presenting benefits does not qualify as a compelling reason to break from status quo.

The Problem…

In a recent survey from just a few years ago, CEB researched the commercial impact of the rep’s message with senior executives and decision makers from a variety of industries that regularly interact with sales representatives.

Astonishingly, the results showed that 86% of the time, the rep’s message had no commercial impact whatsoever. This meant that only 14% of the time, the rep communicated their message in a way that suggested a reason for change.

Executives and Decision Makers from this survey commented that the reps they deal with believe their biggest enemy is their competition when in actuality, their biggest competition is what prospects are currently doing.

Tim Riesterer from Corporate Visions describes it by saying, “You walk in and throw up all over me about your products and services, but I’m not ready to hear about that yet. Your trying to convince me of ‘why you’ and I’m asking myself, ‘why change at all’?”

It Happens All the Time…

Some time ago, I was working with a rep that had called in to report on his progress after meeting with an important prospect. Our coaching in the previous week stressed the importance of making the case for change with the prospect. His style as a relationship builder was to encourage prospects to buy based on benefits and opportunities, but this was failing to yield meaningful results.

The minute I answered the phone and heard his voice, I knew that he had not succeeded. He proceeded to describe how “deeply entrenched in status quo” this prospect was, and therefore how impossible it would be to get him to change.

“Bringing about change is difficult,” I said. “Tell me what you said that specifically suggested there was a detriment to his business because of a circumstance or condition he previously didn’t understand or anticipate until talking to you?”

After 5 very uncomfortable seconds for the rep, he replied, “I wasn’t really focused on that. I was trying to get him to see how much better his business could be if he used our services.” Sound familiar?

There were a number of problems that needed to be corrected in his brief reply, but I pointed him to the fact that if the prospect had no idea how bad the problem was, he had no basis from which to evaluate “how much better his business could be.”

I also refocused him on the fact that his prospect was not alone in not wanting to change. He too, was failing to make a change that would bring him better results. I reminded him that it wasn’t this ‘opportunity to do better’ that initially caused him to engage my services. It was the imminent threat of him going deeper into performance counseling followed by separation of employment if he wasn’t willing to pursue a new way. He knew this was true and assured me he was serious about pursuing a new path.

UPDATE:  To demonstrate his seriousness, the next day, he followed up with the same prospect, apologized for dancing around some things he wanted to share that concerned him about the path the prospect was on. The prospect gave him “5 minutes to make his case” over the phone.

That’s all he needed, so the rep took it, and showed the prospect how based on his current action, they were likely experiencing increased and unnecessary costs in an area that most companies don’t think to look. He gave the ranges for underperforming companies that experienced this, then directed the prospect to where he could find this data and validate for himself.

He then requested that if the prospect found his own company’s spend to be outside the acceptable range, to invite him back to make a more compelling case to the technology review board for a different way to eliminate the spend within 45 days. He received a call back that afternoon from the prospect confirming the findings [which were worse than they thought], and within 2 weeks, penned a 6-figure deal.

A Better Way…

You and I both know, not all stories like that have as happy of an ending. There are, however, three key points to doing this better and increasing your likelihood of success that apply equally to Sales AND Marketing.

  1. Reframe Thinking. For any change to occur, the prospect must think differently about their current problem or situation. Often times they’re not even aware of a problem until you present them with one. The key to effective reframes is to focus on how they should think differently about their circumstance/condition. Many make the mistake of working on getting prospects to think differently about their product or solution. Focus them on their problem, not your solution.
  2. Make a Rational Case. If you have successfully gotten your prospect to think about their circumstance, business, condition, etc. in a different way, you now must make a rational business case for why. Whether it be statistics, research, ROI calculator, or all of the above, it is critical you know the prospect’s economic drivers and make the intellectual business case for change. Identify in advance the specific outcomes they are seeking to achieve that are at risk.
  3. Make an Emotional Case. The old adage suggests, people buy emotionally, but justify the purchase logically. The previous step gave them the logical reason to rationalize their purchase, now you must connect emotionally. This is the critical place for making sure that the story your telling is the prospect’s story. One effective way to do this is to share a recent example/story based on what you’ve learned from your prospect. When done well, I often times have the prospect finish my story with their own. In other words, they are giving me the punchline for how the story ends, because it just happened to them.

A Message for Marketers…

It is common for Marketers to dismiss this approach as there can be a real reticence to create too much negativity or concern in the Marketing. Following are two different visual examples of companies that aren’t afraid to go there, and as a result, are causing people to think differently about the problem their products/services solve.

Example 1: Ameriprise Financial

Example 2: TaylorMade Golf

In the Ameriprise example, they ask a simple question that terrifies many people – those that are nearing retirement…and those that weren’t thinking about it at all.

The TaylorMade example does a great job of showing how everybody, including themselves got it wrong when trying to solve the problem of more distance off the tee.

In Conclusion…

While there is certainly more to the process, the key for this article is to call attention to the often overlooked cause for reps failure to progress in the sales cycle.

If you don’t challenge the status quo and make a case for change, the prospect’s dollars will be spent later with the competitor that actually does make a case for change.

To prevent this, it is critical that you learn to bankrupt their status quo account. Doing so will bring about very different results in intentional, predictable and repeatable ways.

For more articles on similar topics, follow me on Twitter 

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance

Challenger Marketing: TaylorMade

Following is an excellent Challenger marketing example from TaylorMade, that takes the conventional wisdom and turns it on its head. Of course, this is requisite for disrupting the status quo.

I’d be remiss in not calling out Corporate Visions who first brought this example to my attention in their post titled A story “TaylorMade” to win.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

5 Misconceptions of the Challenger Sale

Misconceptions, Myths, True or FalseI interact and participate in a variety of Sales & Marketing forums and events, and inevitably, when the topic of the Challenger Sale comes up, I hear one of five [often misinformed] points of view on the Challenger Sale.

While I am a huge fan of the research and principles of the Challenger Sale, I never take issue with those that disagree with the research and behaviors when they are based upon facts, not misinformation, and understanding, not ignorance. In short, disagreement is fine provided you truly understand what you disagree with and why.

Five Common Misconceptions of Challenger Sale:

Following are the five most common beliefs I hear from those who support and those who reject the Challenger Sale’s research, behaviors, and/or principles.

  1. Challengers don’t build relationships. The premise of this belief is that CEB’s research showed this to be the least effective selling profile, therefore Challengers don’t do it. To dispel this belief, I will simply quote Neil Rackham’s comment from the Foreword of the book, as he has got it right—”Personally, I believe that a customer relationship is the result and not the cause of successful selling. It is a reward that the salesperson earns by creating customer value.”
  2. Challenger is too aggressive/too pushy. This one is really common, and when discussing in-depth with anyone holding this belief, inevitably I find that they merely skimmed through the book, or heard someone else’s opinion which became their own. CEB admittedly calls out that they have “heard every manner of pushback here you can imagine.” The belief is that the Challenger engages in confrontations while proverbially getting in their face. The truth is that Challengers are quite elegantly challenging their beliefs of remaining in their current circumstances, but aren’t challenging people. They aim at the behavior, not the person.
  3. Challenger is just another sales system. The belief is that this is a different selling system, leading people to believe that whatever their current system is, they must abandon if they want to become a Challenger organization. The truth is best explained by sharing Brent Adamson’s comments on the topic. “The Challenger Sale isn’t so much a ‘selling system,’  as it is a way to think differently about how to approach customer interactions.” He goes on to talk about how it is much more of a commercial strategy. Bottom line is that CEB’s research did not reveal Challengers all using the same sales training and system. They concentrated on the behaviors, not the system.
  4. Challenger claims to be new, and it’s not. I am still perplexed by this one as I hear it so often in Sales circles and on LinkedIn forums. I must have missed the sentence in the book that said these were all new behaviors. The reality is that the behaviors existed, but had not been organized and reported in the manner that CEB had done through its research. What was new with the unveiling of their research, was their findings and nomenclature (e.g., “The Challenger).
  5. Challenger is for Sales. Finally, this last one is misunderstood by both, dissenters and supporters of the Challenger Sale. It’s understandable given the title of the book and Rackham’s endorsement on the cover. Any conversation with authors, Matt and Brent, will quickly dispel the belief that this is meant for Sales alone. For those that read the book, and closely follow CEB’s conversations on the topic, you will already know this as they talk at length about building organizational competencies and alignment to these behaviors with messaging, marketing, etc.
Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

6 Causes for Marketing Misses

Marketing missed target marketing

Are you finding that hitting your target market is increasingly more difficult? Especially in the age where so many aspects of marketing are changing and evolving such as content management strategies, SEO and social media.

Marketing is playing an increasingly critical role in organizations these days for a variety of reasons, one of which, as Sirius Decisions describes is that “67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

This puts even more pressure for marketers to be well-branded and ever-present in the places where prospects are looking, then the top choice when they click thru.

Now sales is even being encouraged, appropriately so, to engage in more top of funnel (ToFu) activities in the form of micro-marketing due to this very same phenomena with the buyer’s digital journey.

As if navigating these new times wasn’t difficult enough, CMOs must be also able to demonstrate tangible, positive returns on their marketing efforts. That alone is enough to send some CMOs over the edge.

While these challenges are certainly real and legitimate, there are some more basic areas of marketing that are falling short, perhaps due to the reasons aforementioned. It’s understandable for marketers with tight budgets to cut some corners while navigating new areas like Social Media…but it is certainly not acceptable. The consequences can be quite substantial.

Therefore, let’s look at six filters that marketing tends to overlook or ignore in its marketing efforts when pressures on their time and budget mount:

6 Overlooked Causes of Marketing Misses

Regardless of your marketing vehicle, whether direct mail, email, web or other, grab a recent campaign piece and evaluate according to the following six filters or litmus tests:

  1. Clarity Test. Your marketing piece should be clearly targeted at a specific segment or customer as time pressed marketers can fall into the trap of generalizing who the marketing is aimed at versus narrowing the focus (e.g., IT versus System Administrators). Test: Can any person readily identify the intended audience of your marketing?
  2. Resonance Test. Your marketing piece will resonate more with customers when it identifies their pain points and quantifies the risk of not solving the problem or pain points. Test: Will the customer know after reading your marketing piece, the risk or cost of their inaction?
  3. Differentiation Test. The marketing piece should tap into the customer’s felt pain points by focusing on benefits or outcomes, not product features, and lead uniquely to your own solution. Test: If your logo were removed from the marketing, would the solution still point distinctly to your organization?
  4. Insight Test. Engaging marketing should grab the reader’s attention with an insight about their industry, category or business. Test: Does the marketing piece provide an insight and if so, is the insight one which could only be obtained by your experience working with many other customers like the target of your marketing?
  5. Teaching Test. Whether email, direct mail or other, the best marketing exposes or teaches the customer something about their business that they didn’t understand or had underestimated before, thus leading them to your solution. Test: Can you clearly identify the teaching point in your marketing piece? More importantly, can your customer?
  6. Advocate Test. Finally, one overlooked area of marketing is that in an era where more buying is done by committee or consensus, the marketing piece should easily enable the advocate to share internally. Test: Does your marketing evoke a desire to share with internal influencers and decision makers without explanation?

Failing in any one of these areas will have some level of impact to your marketing effectiveness. Failing across two or more of these areas will guarantee suboptimal returns.

Time and budget constraints are real for most marketers. What many fail to realize is that the shortcuts taken to get marketing out more quickly without applying these filters and tests to the piece first, has a compounding effect on marketer’s time and budgets. The ineffectiveness of any campaign requires more to be done to make up for what the last campaign failed to produce.

Conversely, putting these six filters to every one of your marketing campaigns will take major steps towards your marketing effectiveness. Greater effectiveness leads to less pressure on time and marketing spend.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Challenger Sale: Change Your Trajectory

Challenger Sale Choreography

Sales growth begins at the root and is unseen

Have you ever experienced planting your lawn by seed rather than laying sod?

If so, you are likely familiar with the concern you feel after seeing no growth nor signs of life after the first week. This leads to subsequent doubts, which come to you in the form of questions such as, “Is this working?” or “Did I do it right?”

Without visible signs of growth, you are left with doubt…that is, unless you know what to expect!

We have become more of a ‘sod culture’ in which one minute we have dirt, the next, green grass. We love the simplicity of processes like ‘First, lay sod with green-side up, then water daily until lawn is established.’ Easy!

No Root, No Fruit!
For the experienced lawn professional, whether laying sod or seeding, they understand that the most important step is in the preparation of the soil. Once seeds have been appropriately planted, the lawn pro is not distracted nor deterred by lack of initial growth above the soil. That is not expected at this stage.

The professional recognizes the most critical growth is that which is unseen…below the surface. Therefore, they are committed to the right process and follow a certain choreography, which allows the roots to be established and eventually leads to a beautiful, lush lawn.

For growth to happen above the soil, it must first happen below the soil

When it comes to sales professionals, there often times is a lack of commitment to follow the choreography, which intentionally penetrates the surface to establish roots, resulting in break-through growth. The Challenger Sale choreography aims squarely at doing this, getting well beneath the surface from the Reframe straight down through Emotional Impact.

Not so for the Relationship Seller as their interpretation of the Challenger choreography treats the Warmer as bonding and rapport, which leads to their Solution as the rapport builds. For these reps, their natural tendency will be to keep conversations at or above the surface as if to maintain a conversational stasis or equilibrium.

The problem?
If they never get to the root, there will most certainly be no fruit yielded from the conversation. Instead, count on a long, fruitless, sales cycle and a rep that mistakenly believes that, “It’s just a matter of time before they are ready to buy. After all, our conversation went very well.”

Conversation Choreography

“I have the solution to your problem! By the way, what is your problem?”
Another common [but highly ineffective] approach reps use to maintain this pleasant equilibrium is to introduce the product or solution immediately into the conversation. Prospects are often quick to get to product as well, especially when the reason for your call to them stemmed from a lead.

A couple of years ago, I was brought in to improve a team’s ineffectiveness with conversions. I did a time study to evaluate how soon  into the call they brought up their own solution. 83% of their calls introduced their solution within a minute or less of the prospect answering the phone. 14% of the calls had solutions introduced within 2 minutes of answer. The remaining 3% were generally customer service calls.

While the problem above may seem severe, it is not unique to this team. In fact, a cursory review of some of today’s most popular sales forums reinforces how often this does happen.

Therefore, to help sales and marketing teams better understand the problem, I created the visual above based upon CEB’s framework for The Challenger Sale Choreography. This visually illustrates the foolishness of expecting the growth seen at the Solution stage, despite skipping over the Reframe through Emotional Impact where the seeds are just beginning their growth.  By overshooting this and going straight to solution, the rep has significantly lowered [if not eliminated] their chance of conversion apart from luck.

In Summary…

For the Sales Leaders or Reps that are already familiar with The Challenger Sale, this is a reminder to stay committed and disciplined to the well-defined choreography that CEB’s research turned up.

For those unfamiliar with the specifics of The Challenger Sale, but have merely heard about the research, I highly recommend you buy the book to better understand how to create intentional, predictable and repeatable results.”

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.

Challenger Marketing Increases Sales 91%

Challenger Marketing Success StoryThere has been a lot of talk about Challenger selling, with repeated points made that The Challenger Sale has equally as much to do with Marketing as it does with Sales.

Following is an example from Group after trying the Challenger approach in its marketing messaging on a direct mail piece.

Challenging the Status Quo

In interviewing the marketing team, they shared that the aim was to disrupt the status quo for women’s ministry directors doing retreats the same old way that they have done for years. To be more specific the status quo for directors was to hire an inspirational keynote speaker for the weekend in order to help enable more women to connect with one another and carry on in weekly women’s bible studies and groups. The problem was that women would come away from the retreats inspired, but still not connected to a larger body of women in their church.

Group Publishing recognized that while their customer’s (Women’s Ministry Directors) chief aim was to create connections between multi-generational women, the churches current method of doing a ‘speaker-based’ retreat actually created the problem, instead of solving the problem of women connecting.

Why? Consider the room setup when you go to hear a keynote speaker. Which way are the chairs facing? They are all facing forward, of course…towards the speaker, not towards each other. Therefore, at best, one could hope to relate to what the speaker was talking about, but no real connections were formed with one another.

Women’s Ministry Directors continued to see lack of connections between the attendees and subsequently felt that they needed to hire a more expensive, ‘inspirational speaker’ next year in order to get women to connect with one another. But that wasn’t their problem. The true problem is they are using the wrong format to make that happen.

Group’s solution was to provide a retreat kit that not only saved the expense of a costly speaker, but more importantly was designed to create intentional interactions between women by focusing on the dialogue between women, not on the speaker. Group understood that even a perfect product would not do anything unless they started ‘unteaching’ what women had learned and thought for years about how retreats should be done.

Group Reframes the Problem

Following is one of the initial marketing pieces designed to get women thinking differently about the retreats they have been doing for years.

Challenger Marketing Example

Challenger Marketing Example

The Results

Not only did the marketing team see a 94% improvement in response rates, but the Group Sales Consultants were inundated with immediate responses and repeated references to the marketing pieces themselves. This led to a 91% sales increase over prior year.

One of the sales consultants commented…

“Thanks to the marketing team, they have provoked customer’s thinking about what is wrong with the way women have been doing retreats. This allows sales to get deeper in conversations with customers more quickly to teach them a different way of thinking about the problem they are trying to solve.”

In fact, Women’s Ministry Directors were even calling Group to get more copies of the direct mail piece to use as invitations after they purchased the Group Retreat Kit.

The campaign was followed up by matching the website to the style and messaging of the direct mail piece. Is it a perfect Challenger marketing piece? Probably not, but it challenged the status quo in a way that women in ministry could relate to, so I would call that a success.

Jeff Michaels | Repeatable SuccessJeff Michaels is a Sales & Marketing Executive that has worked with executives, leaders, & teams for 25 years to create repeatable success regardless of industry, economy or circumstance.