Are you ready to sell?

But wait, I don’t sell anything. Well, love it or hate it; you need to be ready to sell. The purest form of selling that everyone experiences at some point in life is selling your skills to get a job. The best salesperson receives the job. However, we are not here to get a new job.

Pradip Khakhar

In this article, I talk about five things you should think about as you get ready to sell. First of all, how you get prepared to sell depends on:

  • What you are selling
  • If you are selling B2C or B2B (both can be a very different experience and approach especially when selling to an enterprise which can easily take 6-8 months if not longer)

Also, let’s get this out the way:

  • User is the person who uses your product.
  • Buyer is the person who makes the purchase
  • There are times when the user is the buyer (for example in B2C)
  • There are times when the user is not the buyer (for example in B2B)

Why sales is important?

According to CB Insights the top 2 reasons why startups fail (out of the 20 reasons provided) are related to sales:

  1. 42% of startups fail because there is no market need
  2. 29% of startups fail because they run out of cash

Founders and Startups are always looking for their product-market fit and monetization, which IMO comes down to how good you are at selling and understanding the target users’ challenges and needs (and the buyer process).

Running a business comes down to simple math. If you spend more than you make you likely won’t stay in business for long (unless you raise millions of dollars, sell part of your company and then filing for an IPO will help extend your runway and stay in business longer 😉)

Strategies such as Inbound marketing does not replace the sales function. Having potential buyers approach you is a fantastic feeling, but inbound marketing is effectively a form of selling (or supporting the sales function) to increase sales.

Sure, you can use SEO and get your blog pages ranked higher in Google searches in hopes of buyers lining up to buy from you. It can happen, however, if that does it is the exception than the norm. Many founders and startups, unfortunately, realize this when it’s too late.

There are several different tools and techniques available to us to Connect and Communicate with our buyers. We do this with the end goal of Closing a deal that leads to an exchange of money for a product or service.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about “making the user successful” and briefly mentioned Product/Market fit. I plan to write more about PMF; however, for this discussion, sales numbers are an indicator of PMF. Note that a one time sale or a one month use does not indicate PMF. If the user is churning, we need to figure out why?

Don’t be a sales jerk

Regardless of your job title, which may include sales or a variation of it, or if you are a founder, sales can be fun and intellectually stimulating if done right.

I am talking about the salespeople that send constant email diarrhea that completely wastes your time, and the emails have no unsubscribe link at the bottom. Please don’t do this. Ps. if you receive unwanted email diarrhea, click and use this privacy-focused company to Unsubscribe.

Are you ready to sell?

Five things you should think about as you get ready to sell.

Pradip Khakhar

1. Know what you are selling

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised, and no, I am not talking about being able to repeat the spec sheet. Know your product or service deeply, know it inside out. By this, I don’t mean you have to know everything technical – that’s where you bring in additional help. But you should be able to discuss it comfortably.

You may have heard be ready with your 30-second elevator pitch (and if you have not, my interpretation is you should be prepared to pitch to anyone as if you were with them in an elevator for no longer than 30-seconds before they get off at their floor).

Be ready to communicate in the channel your buyer is most comfortable with. Selling is multi-channel, therefore find the channel that resonates with your target buyer and be comfortable interacting with them.

A 30-second elevator pitch should get the buyer interested in learning more, a full-day workshop (maybe an overkill in some circumstances) allows for a more tailored experience.

As you get ready to sell practice on friends and family. You don’t want to be practicing live in the field and potentially losing deals. Although once you are in the field, you will learn a lot of things that practicing with friends and family won’t teach you.

Believe in what you are selling. If you honestly do not believe in the product or service you are selling, trust me, it shows. How can you convince someone to buy from you if you can’t sell yourself?

Yes, I know some salespeople can sell exceptionally well without believing in the product. Let’s treat that as the exception.

2. Know who you are targeting

Unfortunately, user research is still a relatively new concept for organizations, and therefore, teams are not very well equipped to conduct user research effectively.

On the bright side, I believe organizations are realizing. User research (and competitive research – discussed in the next section) are two of the foundational areas everyone should be allocating time and resources to research.

To understand your user and buyer use the following tools to help you:

a) User Personas

A user persona is a fictional character that represents your target user.

At a high level, when creating a user persona, think about:

  • Who the user is
  • What are the user’s main goals and what does success look like to them
  • What challenges does the user face that prevents them from achieving their goal
Persona

Photo by Alex Person on Unsplash

Other things to consider to humanize the persona further:

  • Photo and Name
  • Personality
  • Behavior patterns
  • How comfortable they are using technology
  • What technology they currently use
  • Demographic
  • One sentence to describe the persona

b) User Stories

User stories are sentences that represent what the user is trying to do (what success looks like to the user) using the product or feature.

Typically there are three components to user stories:

  1. A persona
  2. The bridge that gets the user to
  3. Their goal

For example; As a remote team leader, I’d like everyone on the team to be using one collaboration tool that allows the team to collaborate in real-time with a single source of truth.

c) Customer Journey Maps

A customer journey map outlines the touchpoints a user (buyer) has with your product from the initial realization the user has a challenge (see below in buyer journey) right up to the point the challenge is solved (user success).

Creating a customer journey map will provide a view of the user. This allows you to tailor your touchpoints in a seamless way across all your channels and will help highlight:

  • When and where users are interacting with your product and company
  • Where to focus time and resources on in assisting the user better understand your product and how it can help the user solve their challenge.
  • Bring a fresh perspective to the sales process
  • Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash


User personas, user stories, and customer journey maps are each a blog post by itself which I plan to write more about in the coming weeks. If you like what you are reading considering subscribing to my newsletter.

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3. Know your competitors

This a big one, just like knowing who you are targeting, having an understanding of your competition will help you field questions such as

  • What’s the difference between your product and Company X’s product?
  • Company X is cheaper, why should we buy from you?

I cannot stress how important IMO it is not to talk trash about your competition but instead focus on why your product is a better fit for the user. Having said that, you must know your competition inside out.

I was writing this section. Then I noticed Marie Prokopets and Hiten Shah had shared an article recently titled “Why you shouldn’t ignore your competitors”? This outlines this topic very well, and I highly suggest you read it.

4. Make it easy to buy

The differences between B2C and B2B sales become more apparent

From a B2C perspective, the sales cycle is usually shorter, and users can generally speaking sign up right on the website. Think about how easy it is to sign up to Netflix or think about Amazon and how easy it is to make a purchase using one click. How many times have we bought something from Amazon because of how easy it is to buy? (as opposed to creating a new account and adding in all your details, plus the free two-day shipping can help if you are a prime member).

From a B2B perspective, there are solutions where users can sign up from a website and add your team members such as Intercom. This is where we see a transformation into a B2BC space.

However, from a traditional B2B perspective, especially those that float RFX’s, the buying process is more complex and generally can take months to close.

In the buyer journey, generally speaking, there are three stages where the buyer:

  1. Realizes that they have a challenge
  2. Researches different options and determines each solution in relation to the challenge
  3. Makes a decision to move forward with a solution

Most people don’t want to be sold things

Most people don’t want to be sold things or be added to a mailing list or be in a funnel. The buyer is looking for information to help them make an informed decision on which product is the “best” fit to solve their challenge. When the user is ready to buy, make it as easy as possible to buy.

Depending on what your goal or desired outcome is, how easy you make it for a buyer to buy can be relative. For example;

Should a free trial period require a credit card? Click To Tweet

Generally speaking, I would say no because I have not yet decided if that product is right for me, however, and I do not want to part with my credit card details.

However, some startups prefer to request a credit card as a way of reducing users who are not serious and may be interested as a result of some initial launch hype, for example. Some startups claim they ask for a credit card because they do not want a lapse in service for their users as they transition from the free trial into a paid user.

5. Celebrate the wins and Understand the reason behind the no

Every win is a success, right?. Not exactly. Here’s what I mean.

Scenario 1:

An inbound lead signs up for a free 30 day trial of your product. Depending on how you view this, you have moved a lead through to the next stage of your funnel. However, the user decides against becoming a paying member.

Let’s say during the free 30-day trial, the user contacts you, support, and the product team with questions. You need to calculate the cost of servicing this user against the number of dollars it brings in (at this time, its $0).

I think a 30-day trial is way too long for certain products IMO; however, that's a story for another day. Click To Tweet

On the flip side, understanding the reason why the user decided against becoming a paying member is valuable information that can be used to fine-tune the offering and how it is positioned.

There are so many questions that can be answered by simply asking the user why they chose not to become a paying member.

It makes me 😀 when I try a product during their trial period and don’t subscribe, and I receive an email from someone from the product team asking me why I didn’t subscribe.

Scenario 2:

The same user opts for a month to month subscription. Now hard dollars are being brought into the company; it may be time for a celebration?

From a growth perspective, it sounds like a win; however, the risk of churn is higher on monthly subscribers.

Case in point: Let’s say the user decides not to continue the subscription after three months and decides to delete the account.

During the three months, the user was a paying customer. It is likely the user moved to a tier that provides access to additional support tiers. How much time and resources (equating to money) is spent on supporting the user?

Scenario 3:

You are an account manager for a services company and responding to an RFP (or an extension). The opportunity is for back-office resources.

The total contract value is $100 M, over five years. If you can close this opportunity, you are going to be the sales superstar far exceeding your sales quota.

Sounds good, right?

What if you know from the “true” financial model that it will cost the company $115 M to deliver on the services.

Maybe the company knows this and is willing to lose $15 M and are eager to go ahead with the opportunity anyway.

While the headline will read, “Company X wins huge $100 M deal,” you will know the deal is losing the company money.

Celebrating a win is essential for the team who worked on it. However, at the same time, any customer that is costing the company effectively means the company is paying the customer to use the product (or services). Which can happen if a company wants to sign a big brand or doesn’t want to lose out to a competitor among other reasons.

Getting to the point

The point I am trying to make is we are caught up in a world of growth, and as a result, it is easy to forget:

  • Retention is just as necessary (if not slightly more IMO than growth)
  • There are valid reasons to enter into an opportunity that loses money, such as acquiring a large brand as a customer. However, not keeping an eye on the financials is a recipe for disaster.

In Closing

Selling is a combination of art and science. It can be fun and very rewarding if done right. Stick to the basics and understand:

  1. What you are selling
  2. Who you are targeting
  3. Your competition
  4. Make it easy for the buyer to buy, and,
  5. Celebrate the wins and understand the reason behind the no

Finally, something to think about:

Sales is easy (easier than delivering what you just sold). Click To Tweet

Do you agree or disagree let me know on Twitter?

How to negotiate a lemon

Recently I asked Twitter, “Two chefs in the kitchen want the last lemon. Who gets it?” In this blog post, I’ll show you how to negotiate a lemon and introduce the basics of negotiations.

Here’s the situation: Two chefs want the last lemon to complete their dishes. The problem is that only one lemon is left. Who gets it? The two chefs need to negotiate for the lemon, but the basics of how they negotiate for the lemon can be applied to almost anything.

Pradip Khakhar

Let’s look at the options and outcomes:

Option A: Chef 1

If chef 1 is able to negotiate for the lemon to finish the dish, chef 2 misses out and therefore is not be able to complete the dish.

Option B: Chef 2

Similarly to option A, if chef 2 is able to negotiate for the lemon to finish the dish, chef 1 misses out and therefore is not be able to complete the dish.

Option C: 50/50

Splitting the lemon 50/50 may seem like a good idea to please both chefs and half a lemon may seem to be better than none of the lemon. Is this a fair compromise? (maybe?)

Option D: Other

There is only one lemon, what are the other options I hear you ask? This is where you can get creative.

How to negotiate a lemon?

And this is where *some* people start dropping off when the word *negotiation* is mentioned. It doesn’t have to be that way. We all negotiate in some way every day, from simple things to choosing who decides what to watch on TV or negotiating large complex business deals.

In one of my favorite books Bargaining for advantage by G. Richard Shell, he explains:

Negotiation is an interactive communication process that may take place whenever we want something from someone else or another person wants something from us.

So instead of thinking of it as a negotiation start to think of it as a communication process. Anyway, let’s get back to our question.

Two chefs want the last lemon. Who gets it?

Results from Twitter

When I asked this question on Twitter. The results were interesting. 👇
Pradip Khakhar

Nobody selected option A, therefore, appears that nobody wants chef 1 to have the lemon and 6% of the respondents chose option B.

The question does not differentiate between option A (chef 1) and option A (chef 2). Options A and B mean that one chef will be able to finish the dish (and therefore be happy) while the other chef doesn’t finish the dish (and therefore be unhappy). This is a terrible outcome and negotiations should not be a zero-sum situation.

6% of the responses chose Chef 2. Without talking to the 6% we don’t really know why they chose Chef 2. A couple of thoughts come to mind that they potentially randomly picked between the two chefs or that they see negotiation and in particular this lemon situation as a zero-sum event. This is a common fallacy

The majority of people who responded (70%) chose 50/50, this could suggest an appeal to their compromising personality. Your personality is linked to your negotiating style While it may seem to be the *fair* thing to do it may not be the *right* thing to do.

The remaining 24% chose “other”.

Summary of the results from the Twitter Poll

Chef 1: 0%

Chef 2: 6%

50/50: 70%

Other: 24%

Some of the comments were interesting:

🙏 Thank You, to everyone that commented and voted. I really appreciate you engaging.

OK, so how do I negotiate this lemon

What if there was a way in which both chef 1 and chef 2 are able to finish their dishes?

As we saw from the twitter comments understanding why each chef needs the lemon is fundamentally the key to solving this challenge.

Let’s say that chef 1 wanted the lemon for the juice and chef 2 wanted the lemon for the peel (AKA rind or zest). A little communication and understanding the interest behind why chef 1 and chef 2 want the last lemon helps create a solution in this situation where both chefs get what they want.

One size does NOT fit all

Clearly this may not happen all the time, however the moral of the story here is:

1. Negotiation doesn’t have to be terrifying.
2. Think of it as a discussion and ask questions.

Every negotiation is different and has its own nuances. I’m planning to write more about negotiation in the future however, below are 4 things to think about as you negotiate virtually anything (yes, IMO you can negotiate almost anything).

(Please note that negotiation is not a one size fits all and the following is my POV. It is NOT the only way. If you are currently negotiating something important to you seek personalized advice from a professional.)

It’s about talking to people

This means that you need to understand people, how they think, act and react. However, before you look at other people (the people you negotiate with) you first need to take a look at yourself in the mirror and be self-aware. Think about:

1. What kind of person are you?
2. What are you partial to?
3. Do you think with your brain or your heart?

How to find out your personality

I am not a big believer in standardized tests, however, if you are curious what your personality type is – take a look at 16 Personalities and take their free personality test as that is one of the better personality tests out there (in my opinion – no affiliation).

If you took the 16 Personalities test let me know what your personality type is:

I took the 16 Personalities test and I am an Enter personality type here Click To Tweet

Does your personality influence how you negotiate?

Your personality can influence how you think, act and react in a negotiation. I’ve seen personality shine through in a positive and negative way.

For example,

1. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable pause. It’s human nature to be uncomfortable after asking a question and then just staying quiet. Yeah, you know what I am talking about that uncomfortable silence. Staying quiet comes naturally to some people and it can be very difficult for some people.
2. Knowing when you stop talking. If you are uncomfortable with the pause and the person you are negotiating with is not, you may end up talking during that pause to avoid that awkward silence. I’ve seen prices change drastically during this pause the salesperson wanted the sale and the potential client just stayed quiet.

It’s possible that you may not know who you are negotiating with especially in business deals where you are invited to negotiate face to face. However, you can learn to quickly read the room and understand the dynamics. For everything else, well there is the internet. LinkedIn, Twitter and even personal blogs, etc. can show likes/ dislikes/ potential similarities, etc. The goal is to try and understand who you negotiating with to find some common ground and make a positive impact.

Should you always be nice?

IMO I think is more important to be known for someone who can get the job done than to be nice. (Obviously, there are exceptions to this such as making sure it’s legal and working with family etc.) There is a saying: if you want to please everyone “sell ice cream” I don’t recall where I saw this saying, I did not create it.

A few things to consider:

1. Is the negotiation a one-time transaction or a relationship?
2. Does your personality make you compromise or be accommodating?
3. Short term goals vs. long term goals
4. How much leverage do you have?

For another POV read this article: How being nice in a negotiation can backfire.

Prepare

This is a step that I cannot stress enough. When someone has done their homework and prepared they know the deal better than the person they are negotiating with.

Things to think about as you prepare:

1. What is your goal or outcome? (or put another way what do you want out of the negotiation)
2. What are the alternatives (in the event a deal doesn’t happen)
3. What is your walk-away point (you are not getting the value out of the deal anymore)
4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 for the person (or people) you are negotiating with

Look for solutions where both parties find value

Repeat after me: Negotiation is not a zero-sum outcome.

In our lemon question above, I told you that chef 1 wanted the juice and chef 2 wanted the peel, this means that both chefs were able to create a win-win situation. However, let’s say that I told you the chef 1 wanted a couple of slices of the lemon to add on the side of the chef’s taco dish and chef 2 also wanted the same thing. In this case, a 50/50 split would make sense and still create a win-win situation.

If you are the type of person that “demands” things you may get what you want in the current deal, however, you may end up losing the relationship.

If you are the type of person that “gives aways” things you may not get what you want in the current deal and may be seen as a pushover in future deals.

Usually, the best deals are:

1. Efficient (I have seen a sales deal take over two years and still has not closed. I think by now the salesperson needs to cut the losses and move on).
2. Maintains a relationship (Remember its all about people instead of showing pipeline that really doesn’t exist)

Always, Always focus on the goal or outcome. The minute you start focusing on positions you are asking for trouble and the negotiation may come to a standstill.

Practice

Product Managers and Salespeople are negotiating all the time and to an extent, we all are negotiators in some form. Negotiation is a skill and can be improved like any skill. I’ve shared some basics in the blog post, however, there is so much more I’d like to share and will do so in the coming months.

If you’d like to see more content around negotiations and persuasion let me know:

Hey Pradip - I'd love to learn more about improving my negotiations and persuasion skills. Click To Tweet

I cannot stress how important it is to practice. I ran several negotiation classes at Long Island University and for private companies and the feedback was that they all enjoyed practicing in the mock negotiation.

It’s one thing to sit and read, but if you *Learn By Doing* you will improve your negotiation skills. After all, you cannot learn basketball by reading – you need to get out on the court and play.

The more you practice the more you start seeing negotiations through a different perspective. Its a blessing and a curse (in the nicest possible way) as you start seeing when people BS you (yes, it’s true). Not everyone but there are several people who will use underhanded tactics and leverage to force you into a deal that may not be in your best interests.

On the other hand, you also start seeing people who are genuinely interested in creating value for both (or all) parties and are sincere and upfront.

How to negotiate a lemon – closing

As with anything preparation is the key. Know what you want out of the negotiation (be very clear about that) as well as what the other person what’s out of the negotiation (I will concede that finding this out can be difficult and take additional work). Be self-aware and know the importance of interpersonal skills. And finally, self-integrity (I’ll just leave it at that).

Read something else

Pradip Khakhar