Monday, May 31, 2010

Do we need yet another sales book?

I have never made it a secret that I think there are too many books on selling which are of little help to sellers. Those written form the point of view: “This is what made me successful and I see no reason, why this should not work for you too” I find the least useful.

SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath, is definitely not of this category. It is a book on sales that is urgently needed. It provides sellers with a set of strategies and tactics enabling them to speed up sales and win more business based on a solid framework. Contrary to many other sales books I have read, SNAP Selling spells out clearly for what type of prospects/customers these strategies and rules should be applied.

In the words of the author, today's customers are frazzled. Time is their most precious commodity. They consider buying as a disruptive act eating into their most precious resource. Even if the status quo is far from optimal; they prefer to stay with it as long as they ever can. They dread the effort and time in it will take to align their organization in agreeing to do something different. They are also fearful about making risky decision that could negatively impact their career. 

We should not be mistaken in the hope that these characteristics of customers are of a temporary nature caused by the crisis for which we see signs, that the worst might now be over. The current status is the new normal and the pressure to do more with less will continue.

From the above definition of the customer, we can conclude that the book is about how to sell solutions and services considered a major purchase by the customer in the B2B context. As many sellers still have to learn to see selling from the customer' s point of view it would have been helpful if this had been spelled out clearly somewhere in the text.

Konrath predicts that sellers continuing using their dear and tried techniques such as closing and objection handling will be relegated to the D-Zone. The D-zone is   where sellers are dismissed or deleted, their sales are deferred permanently or at least delayed and where prospects disappear. Sellers getting relegated to the D-Zone have two choices, they either blame the stupid customer for their problems and thus endangering their career, or they change their approach to fit better with the needs of frazzled customers.

For those sellers wanting to change their approach to avoid the D-Zone, the four SNAP rules are proposed:
  • Making the decision process Simple for the customer
  • Become iNvaluable through value brought  to the customer relationship
  • Be Aligned with the customer's needs at all time
  • Assure that the purchase of the solutions/services remains a Priority  in the customer's mind

To apply the SNAP rules, sellers must understand what is going on in the customers head. First, one must understand who in the customer organization will make the decision.   Then the context in which the decision has to be made must be understood. To capture this knowledge the author proposes a Buyer's matrix. This matrix then is the basis to draw up customer personas which then allow mastering what is called in the book the mind meld. Mind meld can be practically applied by checking of the relevance of a message a seller wants to convey for example in a phone call or a presentation from the customer's point of view.

Sales excellence does not come from knowing why what has to be done how, all presented in the book.  Sales excellence comes from doing. To help readers getting to action, there is a companion website where templates for the tools such as the buyer's matrix can be downloaded.

The major part of the book is devoted to help the reader to understand the decision process customers go through to make major purchases. Customers:
  1. Allow access  (starting with no interest connecting, to end up agreeing to a conversation)
  2. Initiate change (after having listen to ideas, they decide that the status quo is unacceptable)
  3. Select resources (they start considering their options and end up selecting the best decision)

For each of these phases concrete guidelines are given on what needs to be done and how to adhere to the SNAP rules to help the customer to come to a decision.

To help the customer with decision 1 for example, recommendations are made how to capitalize on trigger events or how to align with the customer through winning value propositions. On the companion website, the reader can find a synopsis for a Value Proposition Generator. Some subject matter experts might wonder about the format suggested for the Value Proposition.  It is though totally adequate for the context of phase 1. The possible wondering arises from the fact that people usually use more complex value proposition schemes which would though be more appropriate for phase 3. Avoiding the over used and often misunderstood term might thus have helped to prevent potential debate and confusion.

Decision 2 is often not addressed at all by sellers. Emphasizing the need to demonstrate specific business value for a buyer to decide to leave status quo is to me the most important part of this book.  If this concept where widely understood, we would not find studies like those from CSO Insights indication a high percentage of forecast opportunities ending up with what the sellers call a 'no decision', because the customer, despite initial interest, was finally not buying from anybody. Another symptom for ignoring this phase is the asking of premature qualification questions such as “do you have budget”; a sure way to be relegated to the D-zone, due to lack of alignment.

For phase 3, there are strategies such as how to be aligned with the customer by balancing the Value-Risk Equation and how to become iNvaluable, by collaborating with hot prospects as if they where already a customer.

Evidently phase 3 is the phase of presentations and proposals. As there is a lot of literature already available on these subjects, the author just highlights how the SNAP rules apply to these items.

I think it is important that we are reminded that these 3 phases should not be mistaken for a linear process. Sellers cannot always assume to be able to capture the prospect's attention at a yet untroubled stage.( phase 1)  Sellers having done a good job in particular in phase 2 might also find that the prospect has become sufficiently comfortable with the relation to forgo phase 3. It is therefore more crucial to exactly understand in what phase the customer is and to use the strategies appropriate for the respective phase.  Failing to do so is another sure way to get relegated to the D-Zone.

Jill Konrath also gives the reader practical advice on how to implement the strategies. To do so, she not only gives examples from her own experience but also through selected quotes from practitioners and consultants. I particularly like the fact, that not all these examples are success stories. She does not shy away from also talking about failures and what lessons can be learned from them. This makes the book all that more credible to me.

For me it is now easy to answer the often recurring question about what sales book I would recommend, if I only could choose one for somebody new to sales or somebody wanting to assure to stay relevant in sales: SNAP Selling by Jill Konrath.


4 comments:

  1. It is the sellers job, more today than ever before, to become educators. We should not consider ourselves the deliverer of "value propositions" but more teachers tasked with educating our prospects as to the merit of working with us. They need to be sure that they are making the consumption of information as easy as possible---facilitating the learning that leads to an easy buying process. An easy buying process highlights the potential for improvement as well as the identification and mitigation of risks associated with doing something or doing nothing. From a prospecting point of view, Sales Reps and their leaders need to stop spending so much time trying to sell to the C Level and focus more on selling to the buyer...no matter what their level. For this, it is important to efficiently identify the buyer and find a way to engage. The value proposition alone is not sufficient enough to gain access. Reps need to leverage the internet and referral networks more now than ever to be sure they are properly aligned with the right people. This is especially true when selling an emerging or innovative product or service where the prospect may not even know they have a problem that needs to be solved. Access plus the right message/value proposition is the only way to be successful in this environment.

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  2. I fully agree with you. You will enjoy reading the book, because it will confirm your convictions.

    Thanks for reading the post and taking the time to comment it.

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  3. Thanks for this post. I couldn’t make it and this post has been useful.

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  4. Great Post!
    Thanks for the article..

    ReplyDelete

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