Selling Microsoft

Ratcheting Down the Fear in Scary Times

We don't need the approach of Halloween to realize that it's a scary world out there.

We don't need the approach of Halloween to realize that it's a scary world out there. The business environment remains highly uncertain, the tax situation may change in 2011, consumers are worried about their livelihoods and sales teams face another challenging year. All these fears impact your planning.

Emotion has always been a major element in sales, but buyers today are more risk-averse, salespeople are more cautious and relationships between buyers and sellers are caught up in cost versus value. A Walmart mentality has taken hold: For years, Walmart has pressured vendors for the low-cost option.

The good news is, in the technology sector, two factors separate us from the Walmart mentality. In selling Microsoft solutions, partners can sell productivity enhancements, business efficiency and cost effectiveness. And if you do it right, you can sell all of it at the same time! I challenge you to consider what other industries address these most-important business challenges.

The question is: As an owner or sales leader, how are you lowering the fear in your sales teams -- and how are they approaching their prospects and clients to lower their fears?

Here are some concrete steps to reduce the fear and finish 2010 strong.

1. Create a sales theme. Most would consider this a weak action. But if you spend time creating a mantra or maxim that you believe in and you focus your energies on reinforcing it with your sales team, you'll build the desired attitude. On display at the University of Tennessee are former coach Robert Neyland's 7 Maxims. His first is: "The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win." I've used, "Be brilliant on the basics," or "We will dominate our market and take an assertive sales approach." Each of these is designed to build a certain sales mentality.

2. Focus your sales team on selling to the business challenges of non-IT decision makers. This requires sales training that includes adding role play in your sales meetings. The issues your team must understand are: operational efficiency, cost containment, customer responsiveness, revenue growth and increase market share. What issues do the CEO, COO, CFO, VP of Sales/Marketing, VP of HR or VP of manufacturing care about? How do SharePoint, Office, Dynamics CRM or Dynamics applications address these kinds of business challenges? Remember, IT departments have budgets to spend -- but those budgets aren't unlimited. If you make the business case to the COO, the company can find the money. Make your sales team more confident; give them the knowledge to hold their own in tough sales situations. Mental toughness is critical.

3. Re-evaluate your marketing and your messaging. To gain attention you need to consider being "edgy" and standing out in the market. The important element is to create multiple messages that address the business challenges from Step 2. Campaigns should be focused to the specific job title you're attempting to address. Most partners use the same messaging to address all job titles -- or, worse, they use a technology message expecting business decision makers to understand or translate the technology pitch into valid business benefits. Run your Business Breakfasts or Executive Forums' campaigns aimed specifically to a job title with the appropriate message for that title. "Drive an Increase in Customer Satisfaction and Lower Your Costs" certainly would get the attention of the VP of Marketing or COO.

For more assistance, utilize the Business Builder Series that links business planning, marketing strategy and sales training for the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite, SharePoint, Office and UC with Acumen's best practices: MsftIWBusinessBuilder.com.

Don't be scared -- be aware. The important action is to take action. Sales leaders must recognize their environment and build a culture of success with an organized plan of attack.

Next Time: Look for Thoreson in December

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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