Archive for July, 2011

What Does a Homework Assignment Look Like?

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

by Susan Novicki

As soon as a seller gets back from an initial sales call his/her manager asks “Did you get a homework assignment?” – and many times the answer is yes but often the seller has a tough time creating solid ideas that sell in the end. So the question arises – did they get a homework assignment? Most of the time the answer is no, they did not. Many times it is because the seller assumes instead of preparing to ask the right questions.

So, what makes a good homework assignment and how do we know when we have one? Why do we need a homework assignment if we have something to pitch a prospect that we know is perfect for them? The answer is that a great homework assignment helps the seller focus on the true needs of the client in developing a strong concept that closes because the client sees how it positively will affect their bottom line. Just pitching an event or idea because we think it makes sense based on what we deem is the direction of the company has a limited chance of success. In addition, a good homework assignment builds additional credibility with the decision-maker that you can help them achieve their objectives so they are excited for the next meeting to see the ideas you have created or a full blown proposal.

When meeting with a prospect, it is important to start off the conversation with them establishing credibility and building rapport. No one is going to start answering questions unless the person asking the questions has set up the framework – with a warm introduction, by doing research on the company and the decision-maker, by building a crescendo of comments and questions to build confidence, by creating a series of questions to ask to understand what needs are in play, and by listening to what is being said instead of just pitching their “wares”.

A homework assignment enables the seller to understand what makes both the company and the decision-maker tick: What is the product focus? Who is the key customer? When does the client need to do something? Who they want to do it with? What is a budget number to make it all work? Ideally you need to know what the decision-maker values as a success and what is deemed a failure. How will they measure what they will do? With all of this you have a start of a good homework assignment and many times you have an idea or proposal in mind when you finish the conversation. That is what a homework assignment looks like. How many of you get this from every single meeting?

Relationships or Relatedness?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

by Julie CaldwellJulie caldwell

We all know that our clients have different motivations for doing business with us.  Mostly they want to grow their business, and as long as we do our job putting together the right developmental plan, they will end up with that result.  Some of them simply like our stations or our newscasters.  Some love free tickets.  And yes, even some of them just like us!

But we can’t build our business and make more money depending on people who like us and all of our freebies.  We have to become “related” to exactly what the issues are with our client’s business in order to truly understand what motivates them.  The distinction between “relatedness” and “relationships” is a term I learned in a training session with Michael Corbett who is the co-author of  The 33 Ruthless Rules of Advertising.  Michael explains that having “relatedness” with your client means you have studied their business and asked them enough meaningful and pointed questions so that they feel you are a true business partner to them.  Having “relationships” with your clients means they know who you are when you call or visit and you probably enjoy a nice lunch with them once a quarter.  They are decidedly different.  While having good relationships with clients is important, being related to their business is how we determine their true motivation.

I think the most valuable part of your M&A training is learning to ask the questions that actually determine what motivates your client.  I remember vividly a call I made with an AE in Dallas to Southeastern Toyota.  We called the Sales and Marketing Manager for Trucks and SUVs because we THOUGHT we had a Nascar package that he was bound to be interested in.  Toyota had just gotten into Nascar, so we thought this was a no-brainer.  As we rattled on with our agenda, the client got a little snarky and short with us.  He unloaded on how he has more Nascar opportunities than he can handle with their new role in the sport, and that there was no way we could sell him anything related to racing.   Sensing quickly that we were close to a dead end, I asked him my final question, “So if there was one thing I could do for you in this market, what would it be?”  And after a long pause he revealed that he needed for his dealers to “buy in” to the Nascar partnership, and truly understand the power of the fan-base. He told us that he was really frustrated because most of them didn’t “get” racing and how there were many upscale fans who are potential Toyota buyers.  Ahhh….there it was.  I had gotten him to uncover his pain.  Now we had a real chance to sell him.  We put together a hospitality event at the Texas Motor Speedway for his dealers so that they could experience the sport and our client was thrilled!  We became related to his real issues only by asking the right questions.

How do you learn to ask the right questions?  PRACTICE!  Sign up for telecoaching and use the M&A website to review questions for every type of decision maker in every category.  Make it your goal to work on becoming more “related” to all of your clients.   Understand their real objectives.  Know how many incremental cars or cases or widgets they need to sell to justify spending money with you.  It will distinguish you from your competitors in a meaningful way.  And you won’t have to spend so much time taking clients to lunch!

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