Interview with Leading Sales Expert: Jim Keenan

I had a chance to interview Jim Keenan, the author of the blog A Sales Guy – specifically to get his take on what marketers need to be doing to help sales more. Here is his take …

1) Why do you think it so hard for marketers to tune into what is effective at the sales level?

Marketing is “passive selling”. I think the problem is execution and rests in two places. The first is with corporate structure. Companies can do a better job at integrating the two functions. Marketing and Sales need to be tightly integrated with the same incentive and management plans. I don’t see this enough. I don’t know too many companies where the marketing people are on the same quota plan as the sales people. Marketing supports sales, if sales fails, not sure how marketing can be successful. The creative component is the other problem. I get the need the need for creativity in marketing, however all too often the creativity gets in the way of the message. If it looks cool, is hip, and wins awards for creativity, but doesn’t increase sales isn’t worth anything.

2) What do you think is the most important thing a marketer can do for you to help you sell?

Create a compelling story. I think marketing forgets this sometimes. I see a lot of slick, aesthetically appealing campaigns, but they lack a story. Marketing has an interesting, and I’ll admit, difficult job. They have to connect with their audience through indirect, passive mediums. As sales people we get to talk to folks directly. Sales has the benefit of engagement. If we say the wrong thing, miss the mark with a point, we usually get a second chance to correct it and get back on track. Marketers don’t have that. If their campaign misses the mark they’re in trouble. This is why marketers HAVE to be compelling story tellers. If they miss the mark they don’t get a second chance.

It reminds me of the failed Nissan campaign in the early 90’s, when Nissan launched the Acura Brand. They didn’t show the car for the first few weeks. They ran ads talking about it coming, and how great it was going to be. But they never showed it. It was a cool campaign; it had intrigue, and was hip. But it didn’t work. People couldn’t act. The story wasn’t compelling. People love cars for what they look like. And until Nissan showed you the car, it didn’t matter what else they said.

Compelling stories gives sales a hook. Think of fishing; Marketing baits the hook, finds the best fishing grounds and sets the hook. They then pass the rod to sales to real it in. A compelling story is the bait. Sales needs good bait.

3) What 3 pieces of advice would you give anyone in Sales?

Sales comprises of three simple things: Access, Influence and Delivery. Anything a sales person does MUST impact one of those. It must get them access to their customers, the people buying what they are selling. It must help them influence those they get access to, if you have access, yet can’t influence you’re dead. It must help you deliver on what you say. If you get access, wield great influence, but can’t deliver, it will be a one time sale. Knowing this the advice I give is;

1) You better know your customers business and industry as good if not better than they do. Sales people are business enablers. They provide companies with the tools and information necessary to run their business. Extensive knowledge of your customers business and industry or market gets you access AND allows you to develop tremendous influence. 2) Be an analyst. When it comes to your customer analyze EVERYTHING, their markets, their strategy, their competition, their reasons for doing what they do, the solutions, the timing, the results, the plans, the people, the motives and then ask WHY, why are they doing it that way, why that approach, why that strategy, why that person WHY . . . ask it of yourself, and your customer. Learn how to get to why. The answer is in the why. 3) Believe in what you sell. Ya, I know it’s trite, but it’s true. When someone believes to the fiber of their bones their solution, product can make a difference, it shows. 3 1/2 Be creative. Do things differently. Look at them from a different lens. Push back on the status quo. Be as creative as you can be. 3 3/4 – Bust your hump. No one is coming. Out work everyone else!

4) How has the Sales function changed as a result of the economy?

It’s pretty simple. Budgets are tighter and sales take more justification. It’s become harder. It’s simple supply and demand. Less money is being spent on fewer things therefore the competition is greater. The sales function itself hasn’t change. It’s the execution of the function that has been impacted. Those that can execute better at Access, Influence, and Deliver will be successful. I don’t think it’s anything earth shattering. The economy is just forcing people to be better at what they were doing in the first place.

5) What impact do you think Social will have on the Sales function?

Social media IS having a huge impact on sales today and will continue to have an even greater impact as it matures. Social Media is changing the game when it comes to access and influence. SM is providing new opportunities for sales people to exponentially grow their sphere of influence. Social Sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook give sales people unprecedented access to potential clients at all levels. The ability to connect and establish relationships with clients has never been easier. A new form of access is being created. This new access provides sales people with leads and opportunities once hidden from the world in person to person verbal conversations or the invisible conversation. Access to these “invisible conversations” is game changing. My favorite example of this happened back in April where an executive Tweeted about her “over the top” pushy sales rep and then tweeted 2 hours after about the pushy sales rep competitor seeing the tweet finding her number and calls to “pitch.” Get the full story here. I see cold calling also becoming an antiquated way to connect in the not to distant future. SM is also providing sales people with tremendous information about the customers, and their companies. Tools like Gist will change the information game, providing sales people with real-time, relevant information about their buyers, their companies and their competitors increasing their influence.

Sales is all about Access, Influence and Delivery and social media is changing the access and influence game.

Jim Keenan is a Sr. Sales Executive, Enterprise 2.0/Web 2.0 Connector, an Entrepreneur still trying to get it right, and a PSIA Certified Ski Instructor for Vail Resorts. Husband to the Big E and 4 great kids. In a nut shell, he’s a Sales Guy and life is good!

1 comment to Interview with Leading Sales Expert: Jim Keenan

  • Steve Fair

    What a cracking post. We're a new business agency and some of this is very familiar to us, but there are some really useful reminders for any sales pro.

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