Ditch the Sales Pitch and Put Customers’ Needs First

Ditch the Sales Pitch and Put Customers’ Needs First

Think about ditching the sales pitch. It’s not merely an important profession. Sales is an honorable field, too. But there’s a part of sales that feels undignified to me, something the industry could do without. I’m talking about the pitch.

Ethics is defined as a system of moral principles concerned with what is good for individuals and society. If that is true, how can a pitch be ethics-based when the effort is focused on trying to get you to buy something before I know whether you need it or want it or whether it would even be of benefit to you? It can’t, so drop the sales pitch. A pitch is a self-centered technique that isn’t focused on helping other people. In my estimation, it violates what is ethical because it focuses only on the salesperson without taking into account how a prospective customer might benefit, too.

People like to buy, but they don’t like to be sold to. A pitch is an example of focusing solely on the latter. If you start with a pitch, you have no idea what the prospective customer wants or needs or what would be a good fit for that person.

Focus on What Fits

I arrived at this stance early in my consulting career. Corporate life can often force you to focus on quotas and targets. Leadership, meanwhile, might dictate that hitting your numbers — regardless of whether the product or service fits the client’s wants and needs — is more important than anything else.

To be clear, this approach doesn’t make it harder to hit your quota or target; it makes it easier. You now spend time with prospective customers who might actually buy from you rather than trying to force people to buy from you when have no intention to do so.

The problem with the pitch became clear to me when I sold a client only to later realize that the company had been a bad fit for what I could deliver. The client wasn’t ready to make the necessary changes to the company. I was left trying to help make it work, but the client wouldn’t let me. Now, we teach our advisors that both parties get to make a decision regarding whether they’ll work together. Focusing on a mutual fit rather than what can be sold is one of the most crucial lessons a salesperson can learn.

Being a good salesperson is about helping a prospective customer satisfy a need or a want. It is, after all, the honorable thing to do. The problem is that too few salespeople take this approach. Don’t just take it from me. Consider the evidence.

While less than 20% of salespeople think they are being pushy to drive a transaction, half of all buyers feel like they are being pushed too hard toward a sale. To improve relationships, ditch the pitch. Without pitches, your people can have more effective sales conversations with prospective customers because they don’t have to try so hard to make a sale. They only have to determine whether there’s a mutual fit.

Make It a Two-Way Conversation

To do so, start by asking plenty of pointed questions that get to the heart of the customer’s wants and needs. By taking this approach, your prospective customer conversations are all going to be different, so start by focusing on what is important to the client. This will make your prospective customer conversations much more collaborative because you are focusing on helping someone buy rather than convincing someone to buy. From these conversations, you can determine whether your product or service actually fills your customer’s desires. If not, walk away or refer the customer to someone else.

The best businesses focus on putting customers first. Salespeople ought to do the same. By prioritizing a customer’s wants and needs, salespeople can see whether their product or service aligns well. It also shows customers that they are more than just a number. So drop the sales pitch and start making customers feel important.

If you’re interested in learning more from Mark Thacker, join the SMEI webinar on December 3, 2019.

Mark Thacker is the president of Sales Xceleration, a firm specializing in sales strategy, sales process, and sales execution. Mark has a 33-year history of sales leadership and success in diverse industries.

A natural leader and motivator, Mark has led sales teams with annual revenue responsibility from $1 million to in excess of $800 million. Prior to the founding of Sales Xceleration, he personally worked with more than 50 companies in the small business community, serving as an outsourced VP of sales, helping many to record-breaking results. As the leader of Sales Xceleration, he has overseen the growth of over $1 billion in revenue from Sales Xceleration clients since 2011.

Mark is the author of “Hope Realized: Finding the Path to Sales Success.”

4 industry sectors that use blockchain

4 industry sectors that use blockchain

” Blockchain is making waves and is the new change on the horizon. This novel technology is not only affecting the financial world but also many other sectors. The four industry sectors that currently blockchain are supply chain, corporate responsibility, fashion designing and digital advertising. “

1) Supply chain sector

The problem that large food companies face is trust issue because their customers are skeptical of many things such as where their food comes from and the factory conditions. It is the job of the marketer to build trust to be able to sell the product successfully. Above all, transparency about the product is the quickest and the surest way to gain that trust. For example, Walmart used a strategy to bring a certain level of transparency in their logistics and supply chain. They enabled their customers to track digitally from where the products came. By doing so, the goal was to boost the trust of Walmart consumers in their products. This strategy of storing products through blockchain makes room for transparency and prevents tampering. Some services such as Metamask and Keybase already offer the user control of their transaction history and identity.

2) Corporate responsibility sector

Sustainable practice is something that customers used to take on the organisation’s word. Rather, when it comes to initiatives as corporate social responsibility, there used to be no accountability. Blockchain can generate digitized agreements, wherein the company is then held accountable by making these promises public.

3) Fashion designing sector

Innovative ideas are coming through in the fashion industry using blockchain. Shanghai-based Vechain is authenticating fashion products and providing a background of the items using blockchain technology. At Shanghai Fashion Week, Babyghost provided a link between the fashion and digital worlds. The customers can verify if a particular fashion item is genuine or not by scanning the tag using blockchain, and even see where it came from as well as who had previously modeled it. Verification of the authenticity of the products can be traceable from the point of origin. This feel to each product allows the customer to create a unique connection with the item. Thus, blockchain can tap into authentic advertising without being seen as marketing. The possibilities are endless for those marketers innovative enough to jump on the bandwagon.

4) Digital advertising sector

The advertising industry is not only dynamic but also susceptible to change. Intrinsically, it fluidly adapts to the shifting focus of consumers and new technologies. The blockchain comes into this arena by creating more value for ad campaigns. For advertisers, the future could be different on many fronts and applications. They include permanent contracts with consumers, verification of ad delivery and handling consumer data transparently. This surge shows how much commotion is happening right now in the digital marketing industry. And it all results in an increase in the profit margin and a decrease in extra costs.

Early Guerrilla Marketing Tactics of Salesforce.com

Early Guerrilla Marketing Tactics of Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com employed guerrilla marketing tactics early on. Budding entrepreneurs all over the world have elegant and innovative ideas. However, they struggle with the obstacles they face in their journey to turn their business into a commercial success. Worse still, each one thinks that they are alone in their fights. However, every entrepreneur goes through the same pain points. The story of Salesforce.com provides some valuable lessons that start-ups can learn. Although they are practical, it requires a mindset that embraces a radical approach to doing business. It that departs sharply from the more traditional one. Study them carefully and customize it for your businesses.

Stand out with a purpose

In 2000, at the salesforce.com launch party in San Francisco at the Regency Theatre, what stood out was the theme about waging war against the traditional way of delivering software services. They turned the lowest level of the theater into an inferno with actors locked up inside cages playing captured and frustrated enterprise salespeople. They were screaming, “Help, get me out,” “Sign this million-dollar license agreement. I need to make my quota!” etc. After the more than fifteen hundred attendees had worked their way through this hell, they went to the top floor. The place represented heaven where there was music, light and finally salesforce.com. There they obtain Nirvana.

The End of Software Campaign was the name of the party. On the morning of that day at the Siebel User Group Conference at the Moscone Center Salesforce.com sent hired actors. Their job was to pretend to be TV crew from a local station. They also sent protestors to picket the conference. Every person who went into the meeting were given an invitation to the salesforce.com launch party that night. Although the police arrived immediately, their presence only fanned the flames as the protestors were there legally.

PR Week recognized this End of Software Campaign as the “Hi-Tech Campaign of the Year”. Within two weeks around one thousand organizations signed up for the service. By daring to be different than the conventional way salesforce.com was able to get the much-needed press coverage at nil cost and reach out to the target market which was the end-users rather than the business enterprises and large corporations.

Aim for potential end users

Salesforce’s City Tour Program built Street Teams that got customers selling for the company on a local level. Each City Tour stop had a keynote address. Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, spoke at each event followed by a live demo. There was also some time dedicated for questions.

In every City, the customers were eager to share their stories about their experiences using the software. This City Tour frenzy morphed into a movement. Salesforce.com contacted end-users in advance of the events, and most were eager to participate. Salesforce.com started to post blown up pictures of their customers at events and other marketing materials. Their companies acknowledged these employees’ success since it contributed immensely to the bottom line and they climbed the corporate ladder faster than otherwise would have been possible. Ads started appearing on job sites and soon “implementing salesforce.com” became a differentiating skill that set the candidates apart. It became a skill that employers sought out highly in sales professionals.

Salesforce.com evolves through a process called “intelligent reaction” – a process that involves making minor upgrades every week and constant releases incorporating real-time feedback from the end-users. The phenomenon, as they put it, means going where the business takes them rather than predicting the future trends without any inputs from the customers. It is, in essence, engaging the end-user as an active participant in the evolution of the company. In their early growth, salesforce.com built an online community through forums, blogs and chat sessions that have been emulated by many other companies since then.

Vulture and not venture capital

Raising money at the initial stage of the business evolution was no easy task for salesforce.com. It was an uphill battle. During the frothy dot-com era, Salesforce turned to the venture capitalists (VC) with their cold pitch for investment. When VC after VC turned them down, they turned to the age-old adage of 3F – friends, family, and fools – in other words, vulture-capitalists to raise capital for their start-up. This alternative financing model turned out to be a winning funding strategy that brought the investors exceptional returns in a short time. Subsequently, it attracted a steady stream of potential investors within a very short period. And the VCs regretted their decision not to believe in the company.

The journey of Salesforce thus began with a purpose to do enterprise software differently. By taking advantage of the enormous opportunities of the Internet in an industry known as Cloud Computing that was growing leaps and bounds at that time, Salesforce.com was able to deliver enterprise applications cheaply through a website. It started off in 1999 in a small rented apartment with three developers and a few computers. Ten years later the company morphed into a $1 billion company with a few thousand employees. Salesforce not only managed to survive the dot-com crash of 2001 but also grew to become the world’s largest growing software company in less than a decade.

Lessons for startups

The End of Software type of launch party may not be a possible thing for every start-up company due to many restrictions. Friends and family may not believe in and invest in a concept that resides just in the head of an aspiring business person. But the implication is that by leveraging a guerilla tactic and bringing on board well-wishers an entrepreneur with a can-do-attitude can take the company to soaring heights. The idea is not to copy and paste the ideas illustrated here but to borrow ideas and adapt them with some modifications depending on the nature of the business, the local culture and the needs of the end-users. Uniqueness within the norm is of the essence here.

Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhina

Key Messages from The Art of Leadership in Vancouver

Key Messages from The Art of Leadership in Vancouver

The Art of Leadership rolled into Vancouver on Friday featuring 5 world renowned authors giving their unique slant on the topic. Leadership means different things to different people in different situations but two common themes kept bubbling to the surface at this event: that in order to be an effective leader you need to be creative and that you should embrace your fear.

Tammy Heermann talked about strategy end effectiveness. Build your strategic muscle by asking strategic questions (building connections, impact and tension). Focus on the customer and link to broader goals that can be quantified.

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Artwork by Tristan Millar

Sir Ken Robinson pointed out that innovation and energy are key aspects of leadership. We think that life is linear (like your resume!) but it’s not. Life is composed as you live it and as a leader you don’t have to know everything to be effective but you do have to be able to think creatively. People feed off each other and effective organisations are those are able to innovate and transform.

Ron Tite pointed out that reinvention is critical for leaders. We are all artists and should be rebels with a cause. In order to succeed your personal values must align with your business values. Great leaders believe in something greater, great artists do it to do it. He reminded us to be anti establishment and not to fear failure.

Michael Bungay Stanier talked about the 3 vicious circles that leaders face: you either feel overwhelmed, or like an over dependent teen (the more advice you give the more they want), or you feel a sense of disconnect. We all do good, great or bad work – it’s the proportions that count. Great work gives us impact and meaning. He reminded us to say less and ask more.

Neil Pasricha talked about how to be happy. When we are little we’re told to work hard, be a success and happiness will follow when in fact it is the opposite. Start by being happy, do great work and then big success comes. Here’s a recipe for happiness (based on major studies done on the topic):

  1. Take 3 nature walks per week
  2. Journal the best parts of your day
  3. Do 5 conscious acts of kindness per week
  4. Meditate
  5. Be thankful for 5 things that happened each week.

Track your happiness – when our minds are focused we’re happier. We all feel fear – the key is to just do it, turn fear into bigger success.

Tom Peters with SMEI CEO WIllis Turner

Tom Peters SMEI Hall of Fame Honoree with SMEI CEO Willis Turner

Tom Peters pointed out that managing is a pain but it’s also one of the best life opportunities you can get. Excellence is not a long term achievement; it is what you do in the next 5 minutes. Whoever tries the most stuff and screws up most wins – the faster you fail the faster you will succeed. The four most important questions you can ask in a company are “What do you think.?”. Women have better leadership qualities and success rate than men, they tend to be better at taking initiative and driving results. Listening is key to respect, engagement, community and growth – we have to listen to succeed.


Get Over Yourself and Learn What You Don’t Know: Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Domino’s Pizza

Get Over Yourself and Learn What You Don’t Know: Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Domino’s Pizza

I have had many different job titles, bought and sold over 250 businesses, been the CMO of a Fortune 100 company, a best-selling author (http://www.thinkbigtour.com/), TV host and a professional speaker. People are always asking me how I do it. The answer: because I think big, and act bigger. I believe success comes from tying visions to actions, forging beyond the stories, excuses and self-imposed limitations to be the biggest and best version of you.

While filming C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite TV, (http://c-suitetv.com/video/why-dominos-spent-millions-to-fix-its-pizza/), I sat down with big thinking companies to learn more about their strategies. One of the companies I visited was Domino’s Pizza. At the time, they were in the midst of a huge advertising campaign and rebrand. In 2010, Domino’s Pizza announced in a major advertisement that their product sucked. What kind of company would do that? Was this a marketing campaign gone wrong? Did this commercial somehow slip past the lawyers and the PR team? No.

In fact, this was a campaign Domino’s launched to show they heard their customers and wanted to respond to their complaints. Domino’s is the world leader in pizza delivery and a large publicly traded company with annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion. So why take the risk?

When I visited Domino’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I learned it was because it didn’t know what it didn’t know. Meaning times were changing and consumers no longer just wanted fast food. They wanted quality fast food. Research showed that this change in consumer palates was not going away, and the company needed to adjust. Domino’s started re-making and re-baking everything, and when the company was ready, they decided to do something really radical: tell the truth.

While Domino’s actions were radical, they underscored essential lessons in genuine leadership when it comes to learning what you don’t know and thinking big and acting bigger. Here are some of my favorite tips.

Listen to Your Customers

“If you want to speak to a representative…good luck.” Stop hiding behind e-mails and 800 numbers and start speaking with and listening to your customers. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Respond to Your Customers  

Once you have decided to listen to your customers, you need to respond to them. Domino’s heard the complaints about their pizza for a long time, but once they decided to listen, it was time to change.

Listen to Your People, Too

Your employees are your best assets; so don’t forget to listen to them too. Ask them, without consequences, to tell you what they really think and then offer ideas to solve the issues.

Take a Risk

 One of the questions my employees hear me ask a lot is: “did anyone die?” In marketing, the answer is always no. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  Taking risks can be great for everyone if everyone taking the risk is aware of where you want to go and is genuinely 100 percent committed. Remember: No one is going to die!

Be “Radical” by Being Transparent, Open and Honest

Never underestimate the value of honest, open communication and radical transparency to address and find out what you don’t know. Whether it takes a serious crisis or a moment of self-scrutiny, the most important thing is to be honest.

Anyone can apply these tactics to their own businesses or marketing campaigns. What I learned from Domino’s was not to get too confident or complacent. As leaders, we know a lot about our business, but we don’t know everything. Avoid tunnel vision, learn what you don’t know and get over yourself!

Tune in for my Webinar with SMEI on October 7 at 2:00 ET to hear this story and more of my tips for thinking big and acting bigger.

Blogging To Build Your Personal Brand

Blogging To Build Your Personal Brand

As sales and marketing professionals, we’re always looking for tried and tested ways to extend our reach and influence more prospects. Blogging can be a great way to do just that.

What Exactly is a Blog?

A blog is a place online where you can easily share your content and allow others to view, comment on it and share it with others via social networks. A blog can be textual or visual (video or photo) or both and it can a strong tool to build your brand, share your knowledge and establish your expertise, if you do it right. You can choose to set up your own blog or you can contribute to an established industry blog.

Here are some notable blog facts to inspire you:

  • B2B Marketers that use blogs receive 67% more leads than those that do not. – Hubspot
  • Companies that blog get 97% links to their website. – Hubspot
  • There are over 250 million blogs on practically every topic you can imagine.

Blogging As a Thought Leadership Tool

I started the Out-Smarts blog back in 2007 as a way to establish my expertise in a new marketing field, I’d recently decided that my fledgling marketing company was only going to focus on online marketing (social media and blogging), a risky move at a time when most hadn’t heard of blogging let alone Facebook. I wanted to find a medium to share my online marketing knowledge to help other businesses grow and to showcase the fact that I knew a lot about digital marketing so I set up a WordPress blog as a component of my company website.

I recently posted my 600th blog post and I can attest to the fact that blogging can be a great vehicle thought leadership tool. Over the years I’ve contributed and been quoted in industry blogs too.

The Out-Smarts blog grew from having no followers to having hundreds in the first few years. Traffic to the blog brought thousands of visits to the website every month and subscribers grew too. My blogging style has evolved over the years but to this day I regularly meet people in my business community who know and respect the work I do, people who have never met me in person but have read the blog. I know for a fact that the blog has been instrumental in helping convert leads into sales.

How To Write a Blog

Writing a blog can be a lot of fun and it’s a great way to share your knowledge and showcase your experience but it can also be time consuming so it’s a good idea to get to know what blogging is all about and to learn how to do it effectively before you jump in with both feet. After all, a blog that has been neglected or abandoned can be as damaging to your reputation as one that is updated regularly with great content can build your brand.

On August 5th at 11am Pacific Time (2pm Central). I will be sharing my blog knowledge with the SMEI community so that you can hit the ground running and build your own brand using blogging. Join me then.