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The Future of Sales and Marketing

The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Steve Marx

Recent Posts

Don't Delete Me! The Sales Email Subject Line

Sales_Email_Subject_Line

If you depend on email to grab a prospect’s attention and nail down that elusive first appointment, you should spend as much time honing the subject line of that email as you spend fine-tuning the entire body of the message.

Your competition is doing exactly that. If you do a Google search on "email subject line research" you'll find that myriad studies and tests are being done each year. And make no mistake: The big-time emailers out there may not be trying to make an appointment to sit down with your prospect, but in the email Inbox, they’re your competition. 

Some marketing gurus tell us that writing a good subject line is like—and as important as—writing a newspaper headline. Fact is, the email environment is much tougher, much bloodier. When your prospect sits down with the daily paper, he has usually committed himself to 20 minutes or more of reading, perhaps with a cup of Joe or a glass of wine readily at hand. Not so when he’s reviewing the latest avalanche of messages to arrive in his Inbox! On email, he’s in constant triage mode, ready to hit the delete button, allowing himself only 2.7 seconds to determine if there’s a good reason he shouldn’t. 

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Topics: Setting Appointments, new business development, lead generation, Sales

Could Something Be More Important to Sales Success than Having the Right Strategy?

Sales_team_culture

It turns out there’s something much more important.

Let’s start by acknowledging the essential nature of strategy to the success of any venture, old or new, commercial or non-profit. Strategy is the grand plan, how your solutions fit with the problems they’re intended to solve, your path to market, your role in the competitive landscape, and the relationship you seek with customers. Important? Heck, yes. We built the name of our company around that word. 

Too many sales organizations don’t have a strategy, don’t believe their strategy, don’t understand their strategy, and/or don’t follow their strategy. Their daily activities are a mish-mash of ill-fitting, often contradictory, tactics, programs, projects, and promotions—Band-Aids to cover the gaping hole where strategy is supposed to be. They create a “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get” environment that wears everyone out and leaves the organization well short of its dream, its potential, even its short-term goals, quotas, and budgets. No wonder Sun-Tzu, writing 3,000 years ago in The Art of War, called tactics without strategy “the noise before defeat.”

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Topics: sales strategy, sales culture, Sales

Wise Advice on Empathy in Sales—2,000 Years Before the Word Empathy Was Invented

Empathy_in_Sales

"If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words." — Marcus Tullius Cicero (c. 106-43 B.C.), Roman philosopher, lawyer, and orator

Empathy may have been too touchy-feely a concept in Cicero’s day to have been awarded its own word. In fact, the modern word empathy is a 19th century creation in German (einfühlung), migrating to English in the early 20th. 

But as soon as a concept is given its own word in Webster’s (the lexicological equivalent of a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame?), the word takes over. It can take on all sorts of meanings never intended at its creation or denoted by its creators. 

Today, for most people, empathy is pretty indistinguishable from sympathy, from the concept of wanting to comfort others in whatever distress they may be experiencing, of being, well, touchy-feely. The drive to comfort another may be useful in sales from time to time, but true empathy—the ability to project yourself into the other person’s shoes—is essential to the success of anyone who is trying to sell almost anything.

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Call Prep Beats Winging It Ten Times Out of Ten!

Preparing_for_Sales_Appointments

After 40 years of sales managing, sales consulting, and sales training, I have seen nearly everything. But I never cease to be amazed at those salespeople who pound their chest like Tarzan, have supreme confidence in their ability to wing it, and therefore don’t prepare adequately for upcoming meetings with prospects. They must think good prospects abound, that if you bust an opportunity there’ll be another one just as good right around the corner.

In the real world good prospects are precious, and blowing it because you weren’t prepared is unforgivable. A capital sin because it’s so preventable. The kind of mistake that should prompt your boss to show you the door.

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Topics: successful sales meetings, Sales

Your People Are Watching Your Every Move (and non-move)

newMy colleague Jim Hopes wrote recently about the importance of expectations, explaining our lever analogy . People learn and grow in response to the expectations set by others—parents, teachers, friends, colleagues, mentors, and in the workplace, most especially managers who know how to do their job.  Expectations are most effective when they’re individualized, tailored to the unique strengths of each person you manage and to where they are in their growth curve.

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Topics: sales management, Sales

Add One Word to Your Definition of Prospecting and See What Happens

prospectingSince the first salesperson roamed the earth in prehistoric times (yes, we know what she was selling, but that’s not the focus of this article!), prospecting has been defined as looking for people who might become customers, or simply, looking for customers.

There’s a slightly different definition, not nearly as well known, that opens up a whole new vista of opportunity: Looking for customer needs. Just one word is different, but it changes the entire meaning.

What this New Definition Does to You

The first thing that happens when you add that word is that you automatically—instantaneously! —start focusing on customer needs instead of the products and services you handle. Your empathy, expertise, and problem-solving capabilities take center stage, making you more interesting, more useful, and more likely to be viewed as a trusted and valued source.

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Topics: Sales, sales process

The Lone-Wolf Sales Model is Making Your Life Tougher than It Needs to Be

lone-wolfWe’re big believers in talent. And nothing confirms our trust in talent more than when we witness a direct connection between the talent level of a given salesperson and the success they achieve. When highly talented, that success happens more quickly and it lasts over the long haul—and when talent is softer, success is modest at best.  Same is true for highly talented sales staffs versus those less talented. 

But our confidence in the predictable relationship between strong sales talent and strong sales performance has confirmed something else: Talent is rare and precious. Talented salespeople are worth their weight in gold not only because they produce prodigious returns on the investment employers make in them, but also because they’re so darn hard to find. And a staff full of such salespeople? A sales manager should count him/herself an unusually outstanding recruiter and manager if half the staff is highly talented. 

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Topics: Management

Derail the Sale? Five Sure-Fire Ways

Now, be warned. Each of these methods for undermining success is potent. If your purpose is to ensure that the prospect doesn’t buy, all you need is one of these five. Any one will do.

1. Fail to Qualify the Prospect

failure-to-qualify-the-prospect

Since this is the first significant step in any professional B2B selling process, it’s your first opportunity to mess up. And this mistake has become harder to make in recent years, but if you go out of your way, you can do it. Harder to make? Yes. Qualifying the prospect requires information, and information is abundant these days. You can search for information about a company and find buckets full. In some cases, you can learn about specific challenges they’re facing or opportunities they’re chasing. And information about specific people at the company that you might approach? If you want to stay in the dark about them, be sure to steer clear of LinkedIn. Not only is it easier than ever to qualify a prospect, but these days many of the best prospects are raising their hands and qualifying themselves. But never mind all that: Derail your sale by investing gobs of time in an unqualified prospect.

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Topics: Sales, sales process

Checklists Save Lives. They Can Save Sales, Too.

checklists-save-livesA decade ago, a group of hospitals in Michigan implemented a procedure in their ICUs that reduced the infection rate by 66%, cut expense by $75 million, and saved an estimated 1,500 lives. Some new technology? A wonder drug? Nope. 

It was a checklist, used when inserting an intravenous line into a patient. Author James Clear calls this the power of never skipping steps, and he wrote about in a recent blog post at JamesClear.com. Surgeon and best-selling author Atul Gawande wrote a very strong-selling book about the extraordinary impact of the simple checklist, The Checklist Manifesto

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Topics: Sales, sales process

What Redemption Looks Like for the Beleaguered Sales Manager

what-redemption-looks-like-for-a-sales-managerWith the great religious holidays about redemption—Easter and Passover—both happening this weekend, we thought it would be fun to think about what redemption might be like for an earnest, hard-working sales manager. This is the manager who works his or her butt off to get it right, but life being what it is, still has plenty of near-misses and disappointing outcomes.

When that redemption day finally arrives at the sales manager’s office, it might look like this:

  1. Staff turnover is reduced to zero for one full year. No one quit, and no one needed to be sacked.
  2. An entire week goes by with no emergency emails after 6pm that “absolutely have to be dealt with right now.”
  3. A year of bliss in which the sales team makes budget in every category and on every line the company measures.
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Topics: Management, leadership