What about Sales?

What about Sales?
September 14, 2016
With Michael and Renato
Join Renato and Michael as they discuss the ins and outs of selling in the LSP space. Key topics include price vs. cost, selling to novice vs. mature buyers, how sales have changed today and, most importantly, how to sell effectively at every stage of the buyer's journey.
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Speaker Transcript
Renato Hi, this is Renato Beninatto.
Michael And this is Michael Stevens and you’re listening to Globally Speaking.
Renato Today, we’re going to talk about sales.
Michael Sales, you and I have been known to sell a few things in our career.
Renato Yes. It’s one of those topics that in every conference that you go there’s always a track around sales, about growth and about how to make your company successful. It’s one of those topics that we both love, we live off of sales.
Michael We do!
Renato And there are some things that we can share with our audience that might be useful for everybody, from a translator to a translation company owner, even for people who work in localization departments internally.
Michael Yes, what’s the old adage, I think it’s “not everyone is in sales but everyone is selling”.
Renato My first job, I worked at a company called Arthur Anderson and I went for an interview with a partner and I saw this triangle with a saying, it said in bold letters “if you don’t sell a terrible thing happens”. Then, you had to get really, really close because there was a word in point size 4 or something like that and it said “nothing”. Which is the worst thing that could happen.

So, this is a very interesting business because if you’re trying to bring sales down to a formula you’re trying to standardize and identify something that is right for everybody but sales is not a science in itself, although there are scientific elements. One of the key learnings for me, because I don’t come from a sales background, I’m actually a terrible sales person because I talk too much.
Michael You have to be able to listen!
Renato Yes. The biggest skill in selling is listening, it’s not talking; surprise, surprise! And one of the things I learned over the years was that sales is a process. It has steps; it has some rules and if you follow the process and you know where you are in the process your probability of success is much higher than if you don’t.

Michael, what was the most important sales lesson that you have learned?
Michael Well, they seem to all hit at different points in my career, lessons on sales. I think God has given us two ears and one mouth for a reason, is a big one, like you said. Probably one that I learned in my very first formal sales job that’s carried on, that I didn’t even realize I was learning is it’s not about the product you sell but it’s about how that product benefits clients towards their business goals.

So, I started selling office equipment, copiers. And instead of going in and talking about how fabulous this 35-page per-minute copier we had was and all of the benefits of it, we would go and make maps of the office floor for the clients we were looking at. We would look at how many steps the receptionist or the secretary of the CEO had to take in order to get to their current copier. We would start talking about efficiencies and all these business buzzwords. But, we were actually able to fit in how does buying a copier make a difference in your overall bottom line in your business.

It was, again, not about the product, but about what are all of the business goals it’s helping you achieve. That’s pretty big.
Renato Yes, and that’s fascinating because that carries into any business. One of the things we like to talk about is that sales is not about offering, or telling, what your product is about but creating an opportunity for the person to buy. So, there is this author, Jeffrey Gitomer I love his stuff. One of the things that I learned from him was that people hate to be sold to but they love to buy. Everybody loves to buy.

So, selling should not be so much presenting but listening and creating an environment for the buyer to feel comfortable with your product so that they want it and they want to buy from you.

So, one of the things that we talk about very often is the buyer journey. How do you see the buyer journey?
Michael The buyer journey can be very complex. That’s a broad question, how do I see the buyer journey?
Renato In the context of selling services.
Michael So, you have buyers who are starting in different places. You have buyers who are focused on growth and expansion and they’re motivated to change because they want to keep up with what’s happening in the industry, they want to keep up with the competition and they want to be using the most efficient, effective means that are out there for you.

You have other buyers who have something that’s going terribly wrong, so something is broken. So, they’re motivated because they need to fix an internal problem. That may even just be political within a company. So, you have buyers at different starting points. Other people feel like they have what they need and they’re comfortable; they’re not really on a journey but those two places, growth-motivated people or crisis-motivated people are really where the journey starts.

What I’ve seen, I’ve been doing sales, wow! about 15 years now, somewhere in that ballpark, there’s been a big change in that people would talk to you much earlier in the process, previously. So, they would come to you and say “I don’t even really know what it is I’m looking for but tell me what you have and let’s talk more about it.”
Renato The buyer today is a lot more informed because they say that once the buyer is talking to you 67% of the sale is done already because they’ve done their homework, everything is available on the web, you can search, you can get information, you can compare, you can check references, you can do a lot before you have the first conversation.
Michael Right, and they’re coming in with 67% of that information done. So, really, you’re doing things like differentiating, so you’re saying “yes, we’re the same as everything else you’ve read but this is how we’re different; these are the values that we can bring to you.”
Renato How can we talk about differentiation in a market where there is very little differentiation?
Michael Yes, that’s a million dollar question, right there.
Renato The point, I believe, is that the differentiation is in understanding the client need. So, if you break out the buying process there are essentially three phases in the buying process. There is a phase of need; the second phase is proof; and the third phase is risk. So, everybody, when they’re buying any product, they go through these three steps in the process.

The first element, they need to know “can you fulfil my need?” That’s the first question. “Do you do translations?” “Do you remove carpets?” “Do you wash windows?” The first question that the client has is they want to assert that they’re talking to the right person and somebody that can understand and solve their problem.

The second step is they want, usually there is an element, it’s not a stage in itself, it’s the element of cost. So, very early on in the conversation the client wants to know how much does your service cost? Cost is very different from price, and this is a very common mistake that people make in this phase is that when the client wants to know how much does it cost, he doesn’t want to know price per word. Do you know what they want to know? They want to know if it is affordable…
Michael Yes, you’ve asked the question before, is $10,000 a lot or a little?
Renato Exactly.
Michael That all depends on the context.
Renato It depends on the context. If it is $10,000 for something that is going to generate $11,000 for you, that’s a lot of money. If it is $10,000 for something that is going to generate $2 million for you, that’s dirt cheap. So, price is very, very relative; and cost is something that people in the beginning want essentially to gauge where they are in the conversation. “Is this something that I really need; is this something that I have to pay?” So, your conversation needs to adapt to that. Then, they go into this proof phase.
Michael Before we get into the proof phase, oftentimes, I find people are saying “are you in the ballpark of other people?” So, that way, it kind of reconfirms the previous step of “are you offering the same thing?” Usually, if you’re five times more if I’m talking to someone else, you are probably not offering me the same service, there is probably a disconnect there, possibly.
Renato Price, quality, service, these are extremely relative concepts. So, the most important concept of all these is value. So, once you can establish value, and value is not something that you can establish, value is something that the client assigns to the relationship, to the discussion that is going on. So, there is a big difference between a transactional relationship where people just buy thousands of words or a document “I need a driver’s license and a passport translated”. This is very transactional, you can pay with a credit card, it’s very simple. But, when you talk about large volumes, long- term relationships, processes like a product release that includes the marketing element, the product element, the support element, this is a much more complex sale and the conversation takes longer and includes other elements.
Michael And, when you’re in this place of cost, value and those conversations, it’s helpful for the sales person because, oftentimes, it can bring about the number of the budget or the size of the engagement that you’re in. It’s not just about the buyer getting information they need, actually, the person who’s selling can go “oh, okay, now I understand a little more about what you’re looking for; this is what we can do…” because it’s helping provide parameters even if you’re not talking hourly rates or cost per word. You are establishing parameters that will allow you to move into the next phase, which you were talking about.
Renato The proof phase. Once you establish that you can do what I need and I have money to pay for the services that you’re going to provide me the conversation morphs into references or tests or “is there a way for me to know that you are as good as you say? Can I talk to another client that did the same services; what are the connections; what other clients in my industry have you worked with; how can I know that you know the terminology in my space?” So, the conversation in this second phase of the relationship goes around elements that make the buyer feel comfortable with the services that you’re offering.

So, this is a very interesting phase, there are some techniques that you can use during the proof phase to establish yourself as a credible partner towards the buyer.

Then, after you’ve determined that you can do the job, that the client can pay for the job, that you have the skills that are required to do it, we go into the final, decision phase, it’s usually called the risk phase. The interesting thing here is that once you reach the risk phase logical arguments tend to have less importance than emotional arguments.
Michael Yes. That’s where they’re looking for someone that they can trust. The old adage “no-one ever got fired for buying IBM.”
Renato Exactly. There is an element of safety, of being in a position that “okay, now I have to make a decision, this might influence my career, my standing inside my company as a decision-maker; I will involve other people in the organization helping in making that decision.” And this is where, very often, translation companies don’t understand and lose business in this phase because this phase is not logical, it’s not the lowest price is going to win; it’s not the best quality is going to take the relationship. Sometimes your worst enemy here is the buyer’s fear to change, to make a decision, to go with an unknown. If there is an incumbent, they’re not very happy and then this is the moment where they say “oh, okay…they’re not excellent…”
Michael “Maybe we can give them one more chance. Maybe we can see…Let’s see where it goes.”
Renato So, if you’re prepared to deal with this last phase and a really good sales executive will prepare for this phase from the first phase, from the need phase, you’re already addressing the risks from the beginning of the process.

So, what is important in this buyer journey is understanding that in a transaction that can last five minutes to a process that can last over a year, and a multimillion-dollar sale, you don’t make decisions in weeks, you make decisions in months. So, you have to be aware of where in these three different steps, three different phases in the buying process the client is so that you can align your communication to those phases.
Michael Yes. So, related to sales, specifically in localization, if you have to categorize overall sales maturity of the industry, how would you rate that? It would vary company to company and things like that, for sure, product to product.
Renato Absolutely, yes, but I don’t think that we can talk about sales maturity of the industry because the reality is that sales maturity doesn’t matter. The most important role and the most important thing to understand is the buyer maturity. So, where is the buyer in the process, how well do they know? So, you will see LSPs all over the world whose main job, and they see this as their main job, is to educate the buyer; to provide information about the language business risks and challenges because the buyer is very immature.

So, the immature buyer needs a lot of hand-holding and that’s one type of sale. On the other end of the spectrum you have the very mature buyer, the large corporations that buy millions of dollars a year in translation and localization services into dozens of languages. And they have a procurement department to support them; they have market research; they have a network of peers that they can reach out to and find references and things like that.

So, the maturity of the sales person is only as good as the maturity of the buyer. You don’t want to have a sales person that is too smart because they will…
Michael I don’t that’s the problem those companies have! And there is a relationship, too, between the transactional nature—the more transactional a sale is, oftentimes, the faster it can go; people can make decisions about buying gum in the grocery line really, really quickly. There are 50 types of gum, they grab one, they buy it.
Renato I have known companies, I’ve met and visited companies around the world, I do this regularly on my consulting practice and I found out that sales for some of these people is just writing proposals, templates, and sending them by email, by fax even sometimes still, and expecting the client to say yes or no. So, every single opportunity has a 50% chance of closing.
Michael Yes, which is one approach and then it’s the old style of then I get as many opportunities as I can into the funnel and then I just keep that transaction going back and forth and, eventually, I’ll win a percentage of those just because… what do they say in the Hunger Games “may the odds be in your favor”. The odds are in your favor but you are playing a *Hunger Game*s type of mentality; you’re going to need to go low on cost in order to win those; there is very little way to distinguish yourself if you look at it that way.
Renato One of the things that we have to keep in mind is that building a sales force and selling takes time. It’s an investment, it’s not something that you hire a sales person, you expect that within a couple of months, six months, you’re going to start seeing results. Usually, my recommendation to companies that are starting on the sales journey is that you have to be prepared to invest for a year, a year and a half before you start seeing the results. And, sometimes it’s more important to invest in the right sales management before you invest in the sales people because sales people, by themselves without proper management, are not necessarily going to yield the results that you expect.
Michael Yes. There have been in some of my experiences in the industry, some really out of touch expectations for sales people. $2 million of new business in their first year is the expectation.
Renato The expectation is that they’re going to be very lucky.
Michael Yes, that’s going to be very lucky. Or, there’s this other perception that I think is not true in sales, is that sales people can bring clients along with them. Perhaps that’s true of some smaller clients but, in general, large enterprise companies are not following sales people. They may trust a sales person, that may get the company into that client but…
Renato You will get a meeting but you will not necessarily get a sale.
Michael You’re not going to get the sale and it rarely transfers over. Whether the person is working for an LSP or a translator, what are some things people can do to improve their sales acumen, what advice would you have?
Renato Sales is a skill; a skill is something that you develop. There is very good material available, very good literature around sales. I always recommend The Sales Bible, by Jeffrey Gitomer, it’s a very simple book and you have the traditional consultative sales methodologies, customer-centric selling, solution selling, spin selling…

These are sales methodologies that have principles around them that you can use on the day-to-day activity. After many years in this business, one of the things that I learned is that you have certain principles that you can always go back to. So, whatever sales problem you have, you can always go back to one of the sales principles. One of my favorites is that people buy from people. So, are you talking to people or are you thinking all your strategy around companies? Companies don’t buy anything; it’s people who buy from people.
Michael Yes. One of my favorite books, and like you said, the Sales Bible that’s an investment of less than $20 that can yield some fruit. One that really struck me is called *New Sales Simplified*…the author is Mike Weinberg. It has those building blocks, sort of all the best, the MHIs, the CSS and all those other acronyms in sales that people do.

Something as simple as developing your elevator speech. Once you get something like that down it’s about getting in front of people, whether they are buyers or not; going to cocktail parties and answering that question “what do you do?” trying out a couple of different things. “Well, we provide companies this…” or “I make magic happen by…” blah, blah, blah. And seeing what people respond to and just starting to incorporate that into your common spiel, how you relate to people. So, practice people buy from people.
Renato Yes, it’s interesting that you bring that up because one of the funny things for me are sales people who don’t go out, sales people who don’t network, sales people who don’t participate in events, there’s no way that you’re going to sell sitting on your couch. And if you’re going to do some kind of sales from your couch, better be the time that you’re spending there is setting appointments to see people face-to-face.

The funny thing that I’ve learned over the years is that once we have a face-to-face meeting, the probability of closing a sale goes up by more than 50%. It’s that simple.

So, I think our time is up. Let us leave with a little tidbit that I worked for many years as one of the founders of Common Sense Advisory and I joke that in seven years working in market research my biggest learning was that the companies that have the most sales people have the highest revenue. So, keep that in mind! If you want to grow…
Michael Hire some sales people. Great. Thanks for listening.

End of conversation

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