To succeed in enterprise sales, you must become your own Sales/marketing architect

Selling to large enterprise customers has unquestionably changed over the years. External forces from competition, both small and large compete with you not only for attention but to also re-establish priorities and capture a larger share of your customers/prospects wallet. Internally, there is a growing push within enterprises to reduce the number of vendors they work with to just a strategic handful.

What’s more, the traditional method of reaching customers solely through cold calling requires considerably more effort to achieve past results. For example, it now takes an average of 8 calls to reach a buyer whereas just 5 years ago the number of calls stood at less than half that number at 3.65.

It’s no surprise that this is the case, both society and work habits are changing. We used to have home telephones, a large percentage of the population subscribed to newspapers and magazines, watched scheduled tv programming for entertainment and went to malls and stores to shop. Nowadays, in this digitally connected world, if you have haven’t already cut the cord it’s not unusual to find that no-one answers that line, instead, they use that line to screen calls or take messages that they never intend to return or even listen to. After all, anyone they want to talk to has their mobile number. If you are smiling right now, it’s because you know you’ve done it!

As consumers, we want what we want when we want it; otherwise, we want to be left alone. We shop online and have it delivered to our doors within days. We are no longer content to wait for the nightly news at 6 and 11 instead we get our news in near real-time online, and we turn to Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video for entertainment. Within our professional lives, high-performance expectations, combined with an abundance of information to absorb, it’s no wonder that business professionals are applying the same filtering mechanism and habits that they employ at home within work.

Sales professionals need to both recognize and adapt to this paradigm shift by crafting a sales strategy to meet your customers/prospects wherever they may be on the buying spectrum. This information should then be broken down between existing customers and new opportunities by role/job persona.

  • What objectives do they care about?
  • How is their job success measured?
  • What association or groups do they belong to (both online and virtual)?
  • Is there a common reporting structure for that role across the industry?
  • What do their superiors care about most?

Armed with answers to this information, you can craft a multi-channel pursuit strategy consisting of phone, e-mail and social. Customize your message for each channel, and develop a cadence for mutual touches. Stick to a consistent theme since repetition will help build your reputation. Experiment with different messaging across channels, and once you find a formula that works best, your next task will be to figure out how best to automate and apply this approach at scale.

Sadly, there’s no magic bullet to enterprise sales. However, if you seek to understand your customers and prospects business needs and wants through a multi-channel communication strategy with the proper cadence, I can promise you that you will sell a whole lot more than the sales professional who isn’t making the same investment.

Happy Selling…

Step it up – A sensible approach to reducing gun violence in America

 Like most American’s I’m both tired and frightened from the gun violence occurring in our country.   We seem to be in a perpetual loop – Innocent lives are lost, the blame game begins, Democrats blame easy access to guns, Republicans blame mental health issues and the lack of enforcement of existing laws.  This goes on for weeks until the innocent victims are buried, and the perpetrator has been vilified in the press, with lots of blame to go around.   Everyone who knew someone is interviewed on the news, lots of speculation as to why and how this happened and then — nothing.  Eventually, the furor dies down, the tragic event recedes from the public conscience, and nothing changes, and we all relax a little until it happens again.  And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, it will happen again.  We just don’t know where, when or who will strike next.  We all hope that when it does happen again that it won’t personally affect them.
Given that lawmakers either lack the will or desire to provide any meaningful ideas to solve this issue, I thought I would float a plan of my own.  I’m calling it the – The Step It Up Plan.  Given that reducing gun violence is such a politically charged topic, it seems clear to me that making incremental changes – Stepping it Up, is in all likelihood a more viable approach to any sweeping reforms.  With that said, not everyone will be happy with this plan.
Let’s start with the premise that individual gun ownership is here to stay in America – the NRA will like that.  But they may not like this statement, gun ownership must be restricted to responsible sane adults.
Mental Health
Even card-carrying NRA members have to agree that some people are too unstable to own a gun.  Those of you that are smart enough to realize that, make the cut, those of you who disagree with that statement don’t.
Let’s look at both sides of the argument:
Pro Gun
  • Have a right to own and bear firearms.
  • Concerned for their safety from harm – want to feel safe.
  • Conceding any ground on the issue of gun ownership is a slippery slope – if you give an inch, it won’t be long before someone takes your guns away.
  • If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
Anti Gun
  • Guns are the root cause of violence in society and should be eliminated
  • If no one had guns the world would be a much safer place.
  • Gun ownership should be limited to law enforcement and the military, period.
  • Gun ownership in America is out of control – if we simply cut down the supply of guns in America,  society will be safer.
Given that there are legitimate concerns on both sides, and making any sweeping reforms seems unlikely, I propose that we take a stepped-up approach to change.  At a minimum, this will at least make some progress on the issue, which is a lot more than can be said about where things stand today.
So here’s my proposed 10 point plan:
  1. Step up background checks for gun purchases – no matter the source.  Commercial or private – the transfer of a gun must go through a licensed agent to verify the identity of the purchaser and an approved national background check conducted.  Of course, these checks will only be as good as the data entered into the system, which is why we need to also step-up adherence to updating this information in a timely fashion, with strong penalties for non-compliance.
  2. Step up Knowledge:   Require that gun owners pass a national test regarding the safe operation of a firearm, laws regarding admissible self-defense, penalties for misuse, and responsibilities for safely securing weapons from others.
  3. Step up competency: Concealed carry gun owners must demonstrate competency, knowledge of laws, and issues concerning the discharge of a weapon in a public place.
  4. Step up benefits for compliance: Individuals that pass all these requirements should be free to roam throughout the contiguous US without the hassle of the current patchwork of gun laws passed by the states.
  5. Step up mental health – if an individual is deemed a danger to themselves or others, their access to guns should be revoked and their guns confiscated.  Reinstatement of their gun rights has to be recertified by two qualified medical health professionals.
  6. Step up penalties and enforcement for gun misuse:  Using a gun in the commission of a crime should result in automatic jail time and immediate revocation of all guns.
  7. Existing gun ownership –  Gun owners that acquired their guns before this plan was put in place have two years to meet the requirements.  The sale of ammunition to anyone not in possession of a gun license must be outlawed and carry severe penalties.
  8. Limit access to weapons of war – Tanks, hand grenades, missile launchers, and other weapons characterized by their ability to inflict massive human casualties are restricted to the military – assault rifles should join the list.
  9. Threatening Behavior – Threatening bodily harm with a weapon is no different than mentioning bombs to a TSA agent prior to boarding a plane.  If verifiable threats are proven to be true, then such threats are tantamount an intended act of violence which should result in the forfeiture of weapons and trigger the required examination by a mental health professional.
  10. Apply Science – We should take a scientific approach to studying the issue of gun violence in America.  This issue of gun ownership is so emotionally charged that the NRA lobbied for, and obtained protections from having the issued studied by the CDC.  Let’s study the issue and come up with common sense solutions that don’t interfere with the rights of responsible gun ownership in America.

Society can definitely tolerate responsible gun ownership from sane adults.  Provided gun owners take appropriate measures to ensure their guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.

This plan is not perfect, nor is it entirely comprehensive, but I suspect that both sides will complain that it either goes too far. or not far enough. Come to think of it, that’s a good thing, it’s called compromise, which is something our legislature has long forgotten.

How NOT to handle a customer service complaint

I rented an automobile from a large, seemingly reputable company, who’s name will remain anonymous to protect the guilty.  I picked-up the car from the MD airport, and given schedules, costs, etc., I opted to drive home to PA, which required me to return the car to a different location  Before renting the automobile, I confirmed the billing charges with an agent over the telephone – I was quoted a two-day, one-way rate, that was exorbitantly high.  I then explained that I only needed the car for one day, and would return it promptly the following morning.   The closest return center was 15 minutes from my home, which opened at 8:30 am, but I had the option of returning the car at the Philadelphia Airport (1 hour and 10 minutes away from my home), which was open 24 hours – REALLY?

I picked the car up in the morning, went to my meeting, and drove home that evening, dutifully returning the automobile the following morning at the local center.  I showed up at 8:15 waiting for the return counter to open.  Once the agent arrived, I gave them my keys, a copy of the rental agreement, noting the mileage, and that I had filled the tank.  They logged the car in and presented me with a bill that was twice what I was quoted – charging me for two days instead on one.   Apparently, I either picked the car up 15 minutes early, or was ultimately logged in 15 minutes late, but the said unnamed company charged me for an entire extra day.  When I complained, I was told by the agent that I should contact customer service, and I was assured that they’ll take care of it and make an adjustment.  This explanation sounded quire reasonable and rational to me.

So that same morning I called the customer service department.  After waiting 20 minutes on hold, I finally spoke to an agent who reviewed the case and said, I was wrong and they were correct in charging me for an extra day.  Unsatisfied, perhaps because the agent never really listened to anything I said, I asked to speak with a manager.  The agent responded with “You want to speak to a manager? “ Yes, I replied.  ”Okay, I’ll put it in the system and someone will get back to you.”  24 hours passed, and no call – I again called customer service, provided them with my case number, and asked to speak to a manager, again I was told, “I’ve put you in the system and a manager will get back to you.”  I just assumed that it was an honest mistake and I thanked them and went about my day.  Two days passed, and still no call back from a manager.  Again, I called back to customer service, asking to speak with a manager. I was told, “Sir, I’ll have a manager call you back.”  “No,” I said, “I have already gone through this process several times now and haven’t received a single call back, may I please hold for a manager?”  Please Hold.” After another 20 minutes, another agent got on the phone, saying: “Sir we’ve reviewed your case, and the charges are correct, so there’s no reason to speak to a manager.”  “Oh Really?” I replied, “May I please speak with one anyway?” “No sir, they don’t want to talk with you, “ I was told.  REALLY?  “All-righty then, in that case, may I please speak with the manager’s, manager instead then?”  ”No sir, no one is willing to speak to you about this.”  WOW – Needless to say, I was one pissed off customer, and vowed never to use this company ever again.  I filed a complaint with the BBB, which has had Zero Impact.  Ever since this incident, I strongly encourage others to steer clear of this company – which isn’t the purpose of this article, but boy am I ever tempted. The point that I’m trying to make is this: a quick 10 minute phone call by someone in management could have changed everything – even if the outcome hadn’t changed.  To be honest, I’m more angered by their unwillingness to speak with me – their loyal (up until this incident customer). In retrospect, this was a very shortsighted approach by this company, very short sighted approach by this company – read on to find out why.

Let’s do some quick math to calculate the impact to this rental company.  I typically rent 3-4 cars a month at a going rate of $68 per day.  Therefore, on average I spend $210-$280 per month (That’s over $3,300 a year!).  I have told three other road warriors like myself about the rude customer service, and their unwillingness to even listen to me (their customer), and each of them have said they wouldn’t want to find themselves in a similar situation like that, and have voluntarily switched to other agencies for their rentals as well.  Over the next 5 years, this company will miss out on approximately $60,000 in business, (more if my friends also spread the word) all as a result of poor customer service practices.

The key take away from this experience is this, as you put together your support policies, please remember to put escalation policies in place that will, at a minimum not alienate your customers.