Death of the Year End Discount

I read Carole Mahoney’s great article called Discounts must die, and thought of a recent experience of my own.
I got the following email a few weeks ago.  I get a lot of bad sales emails but this one really left me dumbfounded.  I won’t shame the offender, but let’s just say this is probably the largest SaaS company in the world.
Hi Michael,
I hope you are off to a great 2017! The reason for my outreach is to reconnect about your previous interest in marketing automation. Additionally, January is BigCo’s year-end. This month is the most opportune time to take advantage of some incredible incentives and promotions not otherwise available.
If this interests you please let me know and we can setup time to put together a project plan that works for you and your team.
What are you really telling me?  It appears that every one of your customers that chooses to do business with you February through December is overpaying.  But it’s worse than this.  Because I haven’t talked to these people in over a year.  It’s not as if they have reconnected, talked to me about how the past year has gone, what’s worked, what hasn’t, if my boss has changed, if we’ve hired, if we hit our goals, if we took VC money, nada.  The assumption was made that price was my only criteria.  Obviously they never read this article.
This might as well be cold.  And the lead is price?
My advice?  Don’t do that.  Don’t discount.  And if you do, get something in return before agreeing.  Multi-year terms.  Up front cash on multiple years.  Something.  Definitely, don’t do it over email.  I don’t feel special at all.  Had this person called me with this, “hey, I really want to earn your business, I got special approval from our VP of sales to do this.”  Then I might actually believe it.  Might.  What I do know is this, should I ever decide to do anything with this company; I will wait until the end of the year.
Now, let’s not JUST criticize.  How could this person have handled it differently?  Well for starters, try starting a conversation with me before starting a sales conversation.
How about:
I came across this old exchange from last year. (Forward the last email you’ve got from me)  Looks like there was some conversation and then things stopped.  Any idea what happened?
I send emails like that all the time.  And I get responses.  It’s short and sweet.  It doesn’t contain a lot of flowery language like salutations and “i hope you are having a good week.”  Look, you probably don’t care if I am having a good week so don’t pretend.  I’m not selling anything, just trying to start the conversation again.  Had I received this email, I might have replied with what happened, why we stopped talking.  Now the door is opened to re-engage.  “Any of those issues we discussed still going on?”  Or even better, just get the response and then pick up the phone!
Try the above approach on a couple of your stalled deals and let me know what happens.

Why Do You Care?

I was on the weekly #livesaleslab hosted by Carole Mahoney and Rick Roberge of Unbound Growth. Have you joined yet? It’s essentially a mastermind group where salespeople can call in with scenarios that are stumping them, or they are just looking for a different perspective on how to handle, and you get coaching. Not just from Carole and Rick but from each other. If you are interested in joining us sometime, here’s more info.

Today, a Sales VP joined to listen in.

At the end, he had a question. He wanted to know why we cared so much about closing the one opportunity that each of us brought to the call. He said the answers that he got were ones he didn’t expect. His thought, was that salespeople care about individual opportunities because they have nothing else going on in their pipeline. A mindset like this means every opportunity is like life or death, figuratively speaking of course.

Don’t you think a potential customer knows when this is the case? Can’t they smell your desperation?

There’s something to be said for showing a bit of indifference. Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how badly I think they have the problem if they don’t. It doesn’t matter how badly I think I can help them if they don’t have a problem worth fixing.

Money and authority are great, but business pain trumps both.

So if someone doesn’t think they have a problem and/or they don’t think that I can help or want my help, then I move on.

Don’t mistake that though for not caring. I care deeply.

But here’s why.

If someone:

Has a problem that I can fix…
…and they know it…
…and they want it fixed….
…and they can tell me to fix it…
…and they want my help fixing it…

Then I have a responsibility to them, my company and myself to do everything in my power to help them do it.

Do you see the difference?

It’s not about you. You owe it to other people to care. And when you care like that, then everything else will fall into place.

And your VP might not be thinking what this VP was thinking about his team.

Don’t Sweat the Technique

A Sales Lesson from Rakim and Mahan Khalsa

I’ve wanted to write this article for a while.  I’ve had it in my head but have convinced myself it will be a flop.  But I’ve decided it’s better out of my head and into the world.  So here goes.

Sales and Hip Hop. Two of my favorite things to talk about.  Not necessarily together, but there is a first for everything.  Although, I would argue that many of the musicians in this genre are among the best salespeople on the planet.  They sell stories.  A lifestyle that in many cases, they have not actually lived, but they have perfected the art of telling a story.  I digress…

I read a book, Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, in 2008 that has had one of the biggest influences on my sales mindset, second only to The Greatest Salesman in the World.  In particular, the concept that Intent Counts More than Technique has always stuck with me.  How important is authenticity in sales?  Oftentimes we get so hung up on our sales process or handling objections or missing closing cues we don’t stop and think, why are we here?  Is your goal to help your customer find a solution that exactly meets their needs?  If that is truly your intent, the person at the other end of the table will sense it and they will tell you what you need to know to help.  But if your intent is only to sell something, whether or not it’s a good fit, they will sense that too.  And you will fail.

Rakim is arguably the most important emcees of all time in hip hop, dead or alive.  Maybe not the most popular, but most important.  He made his mark during what most fans would say was the golden era of hip hop.  His early success was as the frontman for hip hop super duo, Eric B & Rakim.  Not exactly the most creative name, but nonetheless, critics in the know, have named them one of the most influential duos, not just in hip hop, but pop music period.  Their fourth and final effort, Don’t Sweat the Technique, was released in 1992, almost 20 years before I read Mahan Khalsa’s book.  This is where one of my favorite tracks, the title track, lives.

“I speak in discreet cause talk is cheap
Then I get deep in the beat then completes
Compose with physique never weak or obsolete
They never grow old technique’s become antique
Better then something brand new cause it’s original
In a while the style, I have much more value
Classical to intelligent to be radical
Masterful never irrelevant mathematical”

To read this doesn’t do it justice.  To hear it, you can appreciate Rakim’s technical skill.  He is credited with pioneering both multisyllabic rhymes (known colloquially as “multis”) and internal rhymes. Internal rhymes are rhymes that occur within a single line, while multis, as their name suggest require you to rhyme multiple syllables.  See the last two lines above: classical/masterful, intelligent/irrelevant, radical/mathematical.  I snicker when people say “that’s not music.” Sonnets, couplets, alliteration, literate imagery, text painting, syncopation–it’s all there.  And it’s done to a beat and sometimes off beat, the latter has earned him comparisons to Thelonius Monk.  Even the background music includes a saxophone and upright bass, an obvious nod to his proclaimed jazz influences.

Now you are googling like crazy if you haven’t heard of him.

Let me tie this together for you.  Why would one of the most technical, most influential and arguably most important emcees in hip hop write a song called, Don’t Sweat the Technique?  The largely accepted meaning of the song is that he saw as his popularity rise that other emcees were copying his style.  This was a warning to them.  I will offer an alternative.

Rakim did an interview in 2016 by Howls and Echos.

Here’s an excerpt:

H&E: For nearly three decades your voice has not only set an incredible rhythmic and lyrical standard, but you have spread important message…

Rakim: The audience is the only thing…

So maybe we should keep this in mind?  It’s not about your sales process.  Isn’t it about understanding if someone has a problem you can solve?  If they do and you can, then can you help them move through their buying process?

Don’t sweat the technique.  Intent counts more than technique.  It’s not about you.  It’s about them.