SALES STRATEGY: How Did I Help Microsoft to Overachieve Sales Target by 239% in 3 Months!
As you read on, I’ll walk you through real life examples of how I used a proven sales strategy called ‘PRINCE Method”, and enabled Microsoft inside-sales team to achieve 239% revenue target in 3 months.
Let’s jump right into it; help you get started with your startup sales strategy, and become a successful entrepreneur.
Most certainly, I’ll be holding you by hand and showing you a step by step ‘in and out’ of the most powerful sales strategy that successful startups engage in winning against competitors, thus increasing revenue.
In 2012, I was invited to become the sales coach of a group of more than 150 sales representatives and account managers that Microsoft APAC (Asia Pacific) had, both internal and outsourced resources.
In summary, our ultimate goal at the time was to nurture the team to be able to achieve 100% of their targets. What happened was quite interesting…
We surpassed our target by 239% within the space of 3 months.
What top sales strategies did we use to increase sales?
I’ve had to reach out to a few ex-colleagues in Microsoft to request their permission to publish their results in this case study. Here is one from Abir.
This result is one of the proofs that the PRINCE sales methodology works perfectly. The next question you’d probably want to ask is:
“HOW CAN I IMPLEMENT This Sales Strategy IN MY STARTUP?”
I have carefully broken down this seemingly complex startup sales strategy into easy, simplified little steps, one at a time.
Ever since I began using the amazing PRINCE sales strategy to help several startups and SME (small-to-medium enterprises), I discovered that it can be literally implemented anywhere, and be expected to produce a positive outcome all the time. You’ll see that in a moment…
Top 2 mistakes that kills a great sales strategy plan?
“THE STEP BY STEP APPROACH”
MICROSOFT’S CHALLENGE AT THE TIME?
I needed to understand where the sales team stand, in terms of sales methodology, and also enable them to realize that an effective sales strategy and sales approach is what they need in order to achieve outstanding results, even if they weren’t familiar with Microsoft products like the technological evangelists.
The first step I took was to arrange series of training for sales representatives to gauge their communication & sales competency, then upscale them. My goal was simple: “Efficient sales should not be pushy”.
Before I go ahead to eventually reveal The PRINCE Sales strategy to you, Let’s have a look at a series of “shifting mindset activities” below. You’d be amazed at what we found out.
A LITTLE PEEP INTO WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOES NOT…
We started with a role play.
In fact, I encourage you to practice this role play with your partner now.
· Step #1 Empty your pocket and Pick one item randomly.
· Step #2 Write down the 5 main selling points / features / etc about your item.
· Step #3 Sell that product to me or anyone in the room in 2 minutes.
Rather surprisingly, the session went on and on, and 2 minutes was extended to around 20 minutes with no significant closed deals.
Let me remind you that we are talking about highly experienced sales people here.
It was interesting to find out that in spite of their solid sales experience, they were making the common mistakes that almost every entrepreneur makes.
Some of these mistakes were:
1) 1. The Seller spoke too much. [It was a one-way conversation whereby the seller talked 80% and the buyer talked only 20% of the time.]
Who on earth said that sales people should talk? The Harvard Business review has in fact published an article about“high-performing sales people” , clearly stating that a seller should listen first, and only respond when required.
2) It was about the product. Your customers don’t care about your product. It’s not the 80s anymore! You have to start implementing sales strategies that works in 21st century.
3) I could clearly see that I was being sold a product to help the seller achieve his sales target. Well, this is usually the scenario in almost 80% to 90% of the cases such as SMEs, old school startups, etc.
I asked the team to leave their experience behind the door and come fresh because it does matter a lot. After the role play and of course a bit of argument, they eventually agreed to do so.
I was asked “What’s really different about your startup sales method Ehsan”? “End of the day sales is sales right?”
Let me give you a real example:
Think about a busy day that you have received a cold call from a magazine, insurance company, training provider, weight loss product promoter, etc. You were bombarded with a huge amount of information about what they had to sell… it was so much that you just wanted to hang up…
When it comes to crafting your startup sales strategy, This is the exact experience you don’t want your customers to have. if you’re planning to be in this business for a very long time, you probably hope, then forget the Touch and go Approach that many immature startups use to keep the lights on.
How to develop a sales plan?
To effectively develop your sales skill, you must remember to be flexible, and only think of developing a solution to address the customer’s problem.
Your Sales Objective should be very clear:
Here is a proven fact about successful sales strategy:
Your sales strategy should be about connecting with your customers with the aim of adding value to their lives.
“Active Listening” and “Genuinely Caring About Customers”
From observation, and by listening to hundreds of recorded sales calls, “Active Listening” and “Genuinely Caring About Customers” are known to be the two most significant skills that differentiate outstanding sales approaches from others.
Like I earlier mentioned, to be able to effectively promote your products or services, you’d need to have a proven sales framework. It’s time to reveal that sales methodology “The PRINCE method”.
It is a 5 (+1) phase framework which stands for:
The PRINCE Sales Methodology:
Phase 1 – “Profiling”
“The Onion Technique”
The PRINCE Method is simple, yet profound. Let’s examine the first “P”, Profile.
This first sales technique encapsulates two significant entrepreneurship skills that every startup need to focus as part of their ales strategy:
· Understanding your customer requirements
· How to Profile your prospective customers.
The onion technique is in fact is very important. It’s exactly like chopping an Onion and peeling it off. But what is the Onion Technique sales strategy is?
Your customers, in general humans, are like Onions.
They have different layers of needs, desire, complexes, etc. As a sales person or entrepreneur, you’d need to explore their ‘different layers’ one at a time, as you would, the onion layers.
Your startup sales strategy is all about getting to know your customer in a completely different way and address their needs. The Onion Technique helps you get to know your customer in a completely different way.
At this stage, which I call ‘P-profiling’ or ‘the Onion technique’, you won’t be making any call or contact for sales purposes. Rather, you’d be profiling your startup customers.
Start ‘peeling off the first layer of onion’, in other words your prospect, and write down every detail, including the details you think aren’t relevant.
You’d soon find out that the more you know about your customers, the better positioned your startup will be.
What isn’t immediately obvious is the fact that when profiling your customer, you are like a Miner in a strange Minefield. It is imperative that you take note of every information you can find, however irrelevant they may seem to what you sell or offer. You will need it in next steps.
Here are a few examples:
- What’s the customer’s dog’s name?
- What does s/he do in the evenings? Weekends?
- When was the last time s/he went for a holiday?
- What type of character is s/he?
- What causes s/he stand for in life?
If you are in online business, try to find out the online behavior of your customers.
Where do they drink? What page do they follow in their preferred social network? What are their interest and what do they post about on Facebook, twitter, etc.
First task was assigned to the profiling team. The team managed to get the accurate data, additional added value data such as the customer’s personal interest and most importantly, the BANT criteria.
Bear in mind that selecting your target accurately is equally as important as approaching them .
As you profile them, be sure to ask questions that helps you understand the customer’s status-quo. You can use a Microsoft Excel worksheet, if you don’t have a Customer Relationship Management software like HubSpot, Dynamics CRM, Zoho, etc.In any case, be sure to keep all information up to date.
We are still under “P-Profiling”. Having done the ‘onion-peeling’ on your prospects in an attempt to getting to know them better, the next thing in your startup sales strategy is do a BANT analysis on them.
Using the BANT criteria, which is a global and well known term to sales people, helps you minimize the risk of not wasting your time targeting a potential lead that is never going to be your customer. When mining the customer for information MAKE SURE YOU FIND the BANT.
Since PRINCE method is a practical approach, we started to apply the technique on the floor.
By the way, for a while you would have to play all different roles in your startup.
Just a reminder: the role of a “Profiler” is to mine data and get as much information about the customer through direct or indirect contact.
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with the first two members of the ‘PRINCE’ method, let’s speed up a little, in understanding PRINCE in detail
6 Golden Steps o PRINCE Sales Strategy.
Sales Strategy PHASE 2
“Get to know your competitors”
After P-Profiling, comes R-Research… Research is about getting to know the character of your competitors.
Let me share another amazing sales result I received from Arqum,
In stage two, the team and I focused on the key advantages that Microsoft Products had in comparison with other competitor’s products.
Before you initiate any contact to promote your product or service, you should take necessary steps to know the key advantages that you have, and prepare yourself to handle objections from those areas your prospective customers might want to question or critique you.
Simply Create a worksheet and compare the following factors:
- What do your competitors highlight about their products/services? • What do you consider as the competitive advantage of your products/services? • What’s your position in the market? Use the market research approach I described inEntrepreneurship skills – Part 1and gauge both scenarios to compare market responses.
Then based on the available data, develop a portfolio, or product guide. This is where Sales and marketing may meet each other, otherwise BELIEVE ME sales and marketing are 2 different skills. You can use the Business model canvas to define your offering and your revenue stream.
Execute your Sales Strategy Properly “Focus on relationship”
The next step was to engage the front team. The sales/account managers in Microsoft were in charge of making daily sales calls, meeting customers and and getting in touch with leads. Each individual should select the customers from CRM and plan the call.
Here is exactly how you implement The PRINCE Method, Step By Step.
Step One: P-PROFILEthe customer by learning about their background
- a)Take note of details such as customer’s age, gender, where s/he lives, what does s/he do
b)Adjust your sales pitch to the information
- c)Talk to your customers naturally, and Never read a script
d)Be genuine and show that you care about your customer. You can always start with a genuine smile, even over the phone
Step Two:Do your R-RESEARCH by making a call or sending an email to ask for permission to have a few moments with them.
- a)Make sure it is the right timing otherwise, reschedule the sales call or sales meeting.
- b)If it’s the right time, proceed by asking open ended questions
- c)Let the Customer talk, as much as s/he want.
- d)Do not pitch any product or service YET.
Step Three:When the customer speaks, jot down their high level pain points.
In the meantime, ask specific questions to I-IMPLY or find a product or service you have that could potentially benefit the customer, then pen it down.
- a)Guide the customer with open-ended questions to talk about their challenges.
- b)Use your market research data to show your customer that others in their industry have the same pain point. show empathy and Listen.
- c)Manage your time carefully, if time allows provide a few example about those companies / cases that have had similar pain points and are now improving by using your product.
- d)Ask if s/he is interested to read a case study or white paper about the challenge and how your company have helped others.
- e)Resist to make any offer yet.
Step Four:Ask more specific questions with regards to the identified challenges N-NEEDS.
- a)Simply ask them to share the effect of their challenges on their business outcome, revenue, productivity, etc. Be specific but never get trapped in a technical conversation.
- b)Find out how long is s/he dealing with that challenge.
- c)Make sure you are not pushy and always respond by signals such as nodding your head, making sounds like ‘Aha’, acknowledge and say ‘I can understand’ or ‘Interesting’ or ‘I couldn’t have thought of that’, etc.
- d)Ask them about their strategy to address their challenge, and jot down everything. At this point you may hear some competitors name too,
Do not talk bad about the competitors and maintain your professional attitude and stick to the plan.
Golden Step:ask about the impact of that challenge on (if personal – his/her daily life) – (If company – Business Productivity); C-CLOSE the deal.
- a)Guide the conversation towards the (Revenue they could save)-(Productivity ratio they could increase) – (more pleasure personal time s/he could have) when they address the issue.
- b)You are politely reminding them that they need to do something about their pain points, you may hear back what do you have to offer but it all depends on the level of rapport you have built at the beginning
- c)Use some trends to relate to the white paper that you have shared about how your company have helped others achieve better results and offer them a proof of concept test.
- d)Offer them an extra hand and see if they are interested in knowing how you can help them solve and improve their (Revenue), (Productivity), (Lifestyle), etc.
Final Step: It’s time to E-ESTABLISH a relationship that shows them how they could benefit from working with you.
- a)Never start by talking about details of your service or product features, instead begin with connecting their challenges and your product features.
- b)Go through the list of pinpoints you have prepared earlier, and walk them through their top 3 challenges and connect your product to those issues. The difference between what you do now and the previous steps is that you should now focus on showing the values that you can add to their business by addressing their challenges.
- c)Be careful, if your customer is introvert, talk about the details. If s/he is extrovert, speak high level. Tailor your pitch and manage time and rapport smartly.
- d)Ask for a follow up session to show the proof of concept or send them the quote.
- e)Close the deal but maintain the relationship.
- f)Ensure you deliver what you offered.
Always remember your customer want to have genuine and tangible answers to “What is in it for me?” Include it right at the beginning.
Post close Step: Make sure the solution is completely implemented, or the service is rendered completely, and your customer is absolutely happy. Don’t compromise that experience for money.
Your aim should not be a one-time deal a.k.a “touch and go”. Your startup sales strategy should be based on your business model pattern and align with your marketing strategy to develop relationship with customers and keep them in business for long haul.