Eight Steps to An Effective Dunning Campaign

Welcome to 2020 everyone.

Before I share this, my first post of the year, let me, as a Forensic Audit Consultant, share with you what I got from a friend recently. It goes like this: “While writing a date on any document in this year of our Lord 2020, we should write it in its full format, e.g. 31/01/2020 and not as 31/01/20. That’s because a nefarious person can change it to 31/01/2011 or 31/01/2019 or any year in between. That can render the document invalid. Fraud is close too.”

Now to the post which comes to us thanks to our friends at Tesorio blog.

Eight Steps to An Effective Dunning Campaign

Accounts Receivable

KOBEN WILLIAMS
MAY 10, 2019

If you sell to customers on credit, you are probably already using dunning letters. These are simple notes that tell a customer “Hey, you’re overdue. Can you please pay us?” You can send a dunning letter via email or as a paper letter. Sounds simple? Actually, no. To write an effective dunning letter requires great attention to detail and often creativity. The best collections teams are constantly testing dunning campaigns and making changes to try to improve them, and they are measuring their results. While this may require more upfront time and thought, taking a more detailed and creative approach to dunning should yield significant dividends from better response rates to your dunning campaign. Here’s a quick guide to writing a rockstar dunning letter.

Determine Your Dunning Campaign Metrics
What do you want to measure to see how well your dunning campaign is working? This is a key consideration because it allows you to use data to judge your results and compare different campaigns against each other. Some basic metrics you might consider include email open rate, email response rates (meaning, they replied), clicks on links in an email (if you have sent them a payment link, ideally), and percentage of recipients who pay within 30 days or 60 days. Also, receiving your letter as well as the percentage of total invoices paid by recipients who do pay. For paper dunning campaigns, the metrics are more simple; did the customer pay? Often a company will send both, and that’s normal. Yes, the ultimate bottom line is simple: how much cash does your campaign collect? But studying these other metrics might give you directional guidance. For example, if your email open rate is better for one campaign than another, this likely indicates better payment rates and probably indicates better recipient engagement. So you may want to look at how the more successful campaign was different to apply those insights to improve other campaigns.

Email, Paper or Both?
Certainly, email is more convenient. It also allows the inclusion of links to payment options. Email is also easier to track and follow up on. That said, sometimes paper still cuts through the noise and grabs someone’s attention. It feels more serious. We wouldn’t recommend paper as a primary means of sending dunning notices, but you may want to consider sending them alongside emails for greater effect. If so, definitely refer back to the email in the letter in order to guide the recipient to quicker action. (In fact, consider that your dunning email may have been screened as spam or deposited in a low-priority inbox, a common occurrence with Google Mail).

Test the Subject Line and Copy
This goes back to the discussion above about metrics. Dunning campaigns are actually just another type of email marketing. Email marketers have long known that the subject line of their messages can strongly influence the likelihood of recipients to open that email. If you are sending a high volume of dunning emails, then it’s definitely worth your time to test different subject lines. (This is called A/B testing.) The basic rule of thumb in A/B testing is simple. Never test more than two subject lines at a given time in order to make sure you know the true impact of each change. What applies to subject lines also applies to copy in the dunning letters. Try two different versions of a letter to customers in the same segment (meaning size or days overdue or geography). (Here is a link to a good beginner article on A/B testing).

Adopt the Right Tone
Obviously, collecting money is serious business. However, bone dry or threatening dunning letters may perform worse than a dunning letter with a gentle touch or even a little bit of humor. You don’t know what’s going on inside the company; there could be major problems and a lot of stress. The accounts payable team may be under tremendous pressure. While that’s not your problem, you want to treat them with empathy. So for the first letter in a dunning campaign, consider a conciliatory and relaxed tone. For subsequent letters, you may want to adopt a more serious tone with specified negative consequences (i.e. a service cut off or submission to a collections agency) laid out very clearly. To make it clear that matters are growing more serious with each letter, you probably don’t want to use the exact same dunning letter copy for the first, second and third notices. Additionally, there may be cultural nuances for customers in different geographies or from different countries and industry sectors. So factor all of these into the tone and where you are in the collection cycle. If you are very unsure of how to write a good collections letter, you can have an attorney do it for you (or even post it on a legal site like UpCounsel where an attorney can write one for a relatively small fee).

Make It Personal (If You Can)
There is a reason why sales teams increasingly adopt tools that allow for brief personalized notes on outreach emails. Personalization works. It shows the recipient of a dunning email that you have taken the time to acknowledge them as a person. Granted, dunning and collection letters are not the happiest communication but the purpose is very similar to that of a sales email; you are trying to close the invoice, rather than the sale. Personalization is not always possible. For example, if there is high turnover at the debtor company or if all invoices and notices go through a centralized email box, personalization can be challenging. And you probably don’t want to put a personalized subject line because it may appear unprofessional in such a serious situation. But if, for instance, you have a personal contact at the customer company, even a brief mention can humanize the interaction and reframe the request as coming from one person to another. Manual personalization of dunning letters can be very time consuming so you may want to consider using a system that can automate some of the personalization or allow you to quickly add a note to the body of an otherwise standardized letter. In this same vein, if at all possible, make the dunning email come from a personal email (joe@company.com) rather than a system email address (ar@company.com). Personal emails are more likely to be read and less likely to get filtered as Spam.

Make It (Ridiculously) Easy to Pay
This sounds silly but including a link to direct payment options will radically increase the chances that you will get paid quickly. The link should take them to a payment gateway that can ideally handle credit card, ACH/EFT, and Wires. Make it stupid simple for the recipient to pay their debt. For that payment link, as well, make sure that you are sending a secure (https://) domain. With the rise in spearfishing and email fraud targeting company AP departments, it’s important to make the paying feel as secure as possible.

Speed Up the Cadence
Many companies have a practice in collections and accounts receivable management that is to send out the first collections notice when a customer is 15 to 30 days late in paying their invoice. This may be too long to wait. A good amount of research has found that the earlier you notify customers they are late, the more likely you are to get paid. In fact, as often as not, late payment isn’t a conscious decision but an oversight or a reflection of your low priority in the bulging queue of an overworked accounts payable team. With that in mind, you may want to send the first note even if the invoice is a week or even a few days late. Consider, as well, the size of the customer and past customer payment behavior. If a customer pays 30 days late like clockwork, then it may not be worth the effort to accelerate their payment because you are encountering an internal policy of 30 days late payment. (You might be able to learn this information from a quick conversation with your AP team counterpart).

Consider Whether Advanced Dunning Automation Tools Makes Sense
Most of the ERP systems, such as NetSuite, have some automated dunning campaign features. That said, collections teams may want to consider third-party solutions that give greater flexibility and control over dunning. For example, running campaign tests in many ERP dunning systems is not possible, and creating multiple templates is time-consuming and challenging. If your dunning ERP’s default automation system is boxing you in and is hard to use, you may want to consider shopping around for a collections automation product that has modern software features like team assignments, bulk actions, and multiple-templates. Dunning automation tools can also help you ensure that your emails are actually delivered: just like email marketing, blasting out 1,000 dunning emails in a short span of time will trigger Spam filters and significantly reduce the likelihood that your emails are received, let alone read. Recovering from a Spam catastrophe like this can be painful and require weeks of time working with IT teams. So consider the risk you may be taking before you push send.

Conclusion
After reading this, we hope you will have some ideas on how to think about building out a detailed and effective collections campaign structure. Most of what we talk about here can be turned into a repeatable process that your collections team and accounts receivable managers and analysts can fine tune and revise to improve results. You may want to revisit your process and look at the data a quarter or six months after you first implement. You should see positive results that will convert into improved metrics for Days Sales Outstanding, Average Days Delinquent, and Free Cash Flow.

KOBEN WILLIAMS
MAY 10, 2019
Koben is the Head of Customer Operations at Tesorio.

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Is consulting for you?

Is consulting for you?

Here’s a phrase:

“Consultants take your watch and tell you what time it is”

Not the best of images aye?  However, the consultancy industry has not only survived despite some of these negative stereotypes – it has seriously prospered and more than that, it continues to attract the best talent across the globe!

Without any doubt, the consulting arena can offer a superb long term career but be warned, it can also ask for a significant investment of time and energy. Whilst this is not always the case, if you are considering a consulting career, here are a few things to be mindful of:

1. Travel.

Depending on which sector or discipline you are involved in, it is likely that you will travel all the time, and no, it’s not glamorous.  It can however be fun and there’s a certain amount of self-discovery that occurs when you’re eating alone in some random bar or restaurant in a town you’ve never heard of let alone visited, but do be prepared that your Monday –Thursday that can sometimes take you away from home.

You’ll find ways to make it interesting and fun, though. Frequent flyer status and Platinum status at various hotel groups? Don’t mind if I do!

2. Flexibility!

This is possibly one of the core skills/requirements of a successful consultant.

Consulting can be a great way to gain expertise in all kinds of areas—but it also means that you have to constantly adapt and be as flexible as possible with your aptitude, time, and work style.

3. The elevator pitch is a tool you will come to rely on!!

Consulting is all about making connections and this is why we built TheConsultantHub.com!  When we talk about connections we mean connections not only in terms of the actual work, but more importantly, with people. Developing solid business networks, both internally at the firm and externally at your clients is crucial.  On client sites you are constantly convincing (and proving) to new people that you are and would be a valuable asset to a project.

Because you will be working on teams with people you may not know, you must be able to show clients a united front to ensure that their projects will be executed seamlessly.  If you run into a CEO or Board Director in the elevator and s/he casually asks how your team’s recommendations are coming along, you’ll want to make sure you can calmly summarize things the same way your teammate did!

Effective communication is an absolute must in the career of a consultant.

Interested in a consulting role?
TheConsultantHub.com is a membership network of consultants/consultancy companies who are able to be searched and approached for free by firms directly.

 

Source:  TheConsultantHub.com

Starting a Virtual Assistant Business

Interested in starting one of the fastest-growing home based businesses around? These existing business owners’ advice can help you get started.

By Carolyn Moncel

Courtesy of Entrepreneur Magazine
________________________________________

When Wicked Wordcraft president Angela Allen-Parker started her online business in 1999, she admits her parents feared she’d made a horrible mistake. Allen-Parker is a virtual assistant, and her decision to become one was more than a career change – it was a lifestyle change.

A single mother of three, Allen-Parker left her marketing post at a cancer research organization to start her new venture and moved her family from the city to a 25-acre farm in rural Kentucky. “I knew I had to succeed because there was no ‘Plan B,'” says Allen-Parker. Now she serves clients in the United States, Canada and Spain. She specializes in what she knows best-marketing. Her farmhouse is paid in full, completely financed through her work as a virtual assistant.

A critically ill daughter was the reason Pamela Braue became a virtual assistant last year. Working full time in a law office was no longer feasible so Braue decided to take control of her earnings potential. The paralegal enrolled in an online training course at Virtual Assistance U. Specializing in realtor support, Braue opened PS: We Assist from Jackson, New Jersey. Before completing her course, she’d already secured six clients.
Allen-Parker and Braue are just two of an estimated 2,000 virtual assistants worldwide. Although one is a veteran and the other a newbie, both say hard work is the key to building sustainable practices. Both also agree that aligning experience with solid business plans and training are basic requirements.

Some say the virtual assistant industry has become so popular because it helps women become entrepreneurs yet also achieve a work/life balance. Business trends forecast an increase in service demands, startup costs are minimal and the profit potential is good. According a survey by the Virtual Business Alliance, a global consortium of virtual assistant trade organizations, the average full-time virtual assistant working in the United States grossed $39,452 in income last year.

Before packing up the office cubicle and giving notice to your boss, know that becoming a virtual assistant isn’t an easy job that just anyone can do. Sharon B. Williams of The 24-Hour Secretary cautions, “To become successful, you need a good marketing strategy in addition to that phone, PC and Internet connection.” Many virtual assistants work between 14 and 18 hours a day during the startup phase. Even after establishing solid practices, one-third of these business owners admit to working nontraditional hours, including weekends and holidays.
Virtual assistants are independent entrepreneurs who work remotely and use technology to deliver services to clients globally. Most work from their home offices and receive their project instructions by phone, fax, e-mail or even instant message. Although many virtual assistants offer secretarial services, as more people with diverse backgrounds and skills enter the ranks, virtual assistants who specialize in such areas as marketing, graphic and Web design, IT support or even translations are becoming more common.

Clients are most likely to hire virtual assistants to save money-virtual assistants pay for their own equipment, taxes, training, healthcare and insurance-or because they need help with a temporary project. Industries most often hiring virtual assistants include the real estate, coaching, financial services, accounting and legal.
If you’re wondering how to start a business as a virtual assistant, Elite Office Support founder Susan Totman offers these tips:
1. Decide just what type of services you want to offer, and analyze your background to ensure you have adequate experience.
2. Determine your business niche-consider specializing in just two to three services.
3. Determine how much time and energy you have to commit to your venture. Do you want to work part or full time?
4. Conduct thorough industry research to determine a need for your services in your local area.
5. Outline who your clients are, where they are and how to access them.
6. Do a market analysis. Find out the needs for your niche and focus on how you’ll apply that to your business.
7. Know your budgetary constraints-projected expenses, expected income and how long you can “float” until your business is running successfully.
8. Prepare a business plan and review it often to manage growth and change.
9. Examine your equipment, software and work space to ensure they meet client needs.
10. Wrap up all legal and financial aspects of startup before securing your first client.
11. Market your services 24/7. Just because you’ve built a Web site or placed an ad in the Yellow Pages doesn’t mean clients will come knocking on your door.

You might want to consider joining a professional organization or networking group. This will give you the opportunity to network, build camaraderie and have access to a knowledge bank for solving technical problems.
Progressive Leadership’s Carole Nicolaides, a Columbus, Ohio-based business coach, has helped a number of virtual assistants match their talents with sound business planning. “Enthusiasm for your work propels you to rise early, work weird hours, and can even make you feel a tinge of guilt for getting paid for doing something you enjoy so much,” says Nicolaides. Wouldn’t we all like to have such a guilty pleasure?
To find out more about the virtual assistant industry, check out the following resources:
Worldwide Organizations
• Clayton’s Secretary
• Canadian Virtual Assistant Network
• International Association of Virtual Office Assistants (IAVOA)
• International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA)
• International Association of Virtual Assistants
Networking and Support Groups
• Virtual Assistant Networking Forum (VANF)
• Virtual Business Group
• Virtual-Professionals.com
• Real Estate Virtual Assistant (REVA) Network
• Work-the-Web
Free Worldwide Directories
• Elite Office Support
• Specialist Virtual Assistants Club
• VA4U
Certification Programs
• AssistU
• IVAA
• VA Certification
Books
• Marketing Your VA Practice by Sharon B. Williams: Order the book at http://www.the24hoursecretary.com
• Up Close & Virtual: A Practical Guide to Starting Your Own Virtual Assistant Business by Diana Ennen and Kelly Poelker
________________________________________
Carolyn Moncel is a consultant and president of Mondave Communications a global PR firm with offices in Chicago and Paris.
Article courtesy of http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/71516

How Networking Pays Faster

How Networking Pays Faster

By Phillip Chichoni

 

An Italian billionaire was asked what he would do if he lost all his money and had to start all over again. He replied, “I would take any job, save $500 and buy a nice suit. Then I would go to parties where successful people go.”

Why would he do that?
So that he could meet people who can offer him business deals or share opportunities. That’s how networking pays.
When Harvey McKay wrote the book “Swim with the sharks without being eaten alive”, he knew that publishers printed not more than 10,000 copies if you are a new  and unknown author.  However, he asked his publishers to print 100,000 copies and they said he was mad.
He then pulled up a suitcase he had brought along to the meeting. Inside were cards with personal details of over 6,500 executives  of companies from all over the world. Harvey knew them all personally. These were people he had met, spoken to or done business with for the past twenty years. And they had all agreed to buy his book. And their friends and their friends’ friends were also going to buy copies of the book. The publishers were impressed and they printed the one hundred thousand copies.
“Swim with the sharks” became an instant best seller and has sold over five million copies since.
The average person knows about 250 people. The 250 people you know all know another 250 people each. If you network successfully and five people each refer another five people to your business, you have 125 customers. (you are not looking at 5×5, which is 25, but at 5 to the power of 5, which is 125). By building a larger network, the number of potential customers increases exponentially.
Business Networking is a really valuable way to expand your knowledge, learn from the success of others, attain new clients and tell others about your business.
I highly recommend business networking as a way to gain new clients and to build a sustainable business. Especially in these days where the economy is harsh and cash flows are slow does networking really help you thrive and grow.
However, it’s not just a numbers game; what matters is your effectiveness in building and maintaining a productive network. People will not give you business or refer clients to you just because they know you. As you know, we all act mostly for our own benefit first; there must be something in it for me if I am going to help you. Not necessarily money, though.
At the BusinessLink Networking breakfast meeting on Thursday 26th February, we shall discuss “6 Tactics to Get Results from Networking.” Why not join us and not only learn but actually begin building a network that will help you start accelerating  your business’  growth immediately.
The venue is The Terrace Restaurant, 3rd Floor Barbours Department Store, First Street and Jason Moyo Avenue, Harare. Time is from 0815 to 0945. The fee is $6 for BusinessLink Magazine subscribers, and $10 for non-subscribers. Call or Whatsapp Christine now to book, on 0772 854 301, before midday Wednesday.
Copyright © 2015 BUSINESSLINK MAGAZINE, All rights reserved.
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Who is Feeding the Outsourcing Movement

The Business Model as we Know it

When we talk about costs in business, we talk about fixed costs and variable costs. A fixed cost is a cost that you incur whether you conduct any business or not.

If you have rented an office, that is a fixed cost. It does not matter from the property owner’s perspective whether you do any business or not; they are going to get their rent. In traditional economic theory, when we want to find out how healthy a company is we calculate what is called the break-even point, the BEP.

Break-even is only possible if a firm’s prices are higher than its variable costs per unit. If so, then each unit of the product sold will generate some “contribution” toward covering fixed costs. A profit or a loss has not been made, although opportunity costs have been “paid,” and capital has received the risk-adjusted expected return. In short, all costs that needs to be paid are paid by the firm but the profit is equal to zero.

Here is the formula: BEP=FC/(1-VC/S)

Where, FC is Fixed Cost, VC menas Variable Cost and S stands for Sales. The break-even point is therefore equal to the fixed costs divided by 1 minus the variable costs percent divided by the sales.

Suppose we have a company that has fixed costs of $500. Now let’s say that for every dollar the company sells, they have to spend 20 cents. Therefore, their variable cost ratio is 20 percent, or to put it another way, they have a profit ratio of 80% on each sale made.

To calculate the break-even point, all we have to do is divide $500 (the amount of fixed costs) by 80% (the profit margin on each sale). The break-even point for this company is $625.00 [$500/(1-20¢/1$)=$625.00]. If this company has sales of $625.00, then they will be profitable and can pay their fixed costs and their variable costs. That is their break-even point.

Graph A

BEP

 

 

Improving Your Break-Even Point

What this formula tells us is that if you want a very good business, you want the break-even point to be very low. Then you don’t have to get that many sales before you start making money.

To achieve that, what you need to do is decrease the fixed costs. If you can take your fixed costs and turn them into variable costs, your break-even point will go down. Converting fixed costs into variable costs will improve your break-even point!

If you have no fixed costs, what is your break-even point? Zero! So that makes it very simple. If you do not have any fixed costs, you can’t lose any money. Check Graph A above: When fixed cost is zero, the total cost curve pivots to coincide with the revenue curve. If you just sit there and do not do anything, you are not losing any money. Now that is why everybody is thinking about outsourcing.

Outsourcing converts fixed costs to variable costs, improving your company’s break-even point.

When you outsource rather than pay somebody in-house to do it, which is a fixed cost, it now becomes a variable cost. Therefore, if your sales go down, you are still profitable.

Put simply; the lower your fixed costs, the higher your profitability. Therefore, you want to start thinking about ways to decrease your fixed costs.

Fixed costs going down is a good thing. It lowers your break-even point and improves profitability. The trend of the economic world today is that fixed costs are out.

Getting Rid of Fixed Costs

Let’s do some thinking exercise. How can we get rid of your fixed costs? What can we do? Outsource, of course.

I want you to write down on paper, “Outsource everything, including yourself.” You think I am joking. How do you outsource yourself? You can become a vendor that provides services to your company on a contract basis instead of being an employee.

It is not just other people who can be vendors; you can be a vendor. I believe that in the future, everyone will be an independent vendor. We are moving from a dependent paradigm to an independent and interdependent paradigm.

In the future, every individual will be their own business!

The dependent paradigm is the paradigm of parent and child, which says, “I will take care of you, but you must do what I say.”

This is the traditional paradigm of the employee/employer relationship. Do you know what they call the employee/employer relationship in the law? The law of masters and servants. Yes. Until very recently we had a statute styled Masters and Servants Act in Zimbabwe! Is that shocking? Reserve your shudders for the future. We are moving away from a masters-and-servants paradigm. The reason is that companies can no longer be the parent, because of global competition.

The fact is technology is advancing so rapidly that entire industries now become irrelevant and can no longer guarantee they can take care of you forever. Industry says, “You know we can work together while it is profitable to do so, but I don’t know what is going to happen three years from now. I really don’t. We could be in the business of making telephone handsets, and somebody could invent a cell phone. We could become completely irrelevant, and in this case I can’t take care of you. Peter Drucker, the renowned management guru, surmised that the average life span of the modern business corporation is 30 years.

So we now need to be independent. You need to be able to take care of yourself. But we can work together, which is called interdependency. We can work together while it is profitable for us to do so. We are moving to a different paradigm.” So we are all outsourced.

You need to be independent, because now we are all outsourced!

Now, if the company is the parent and the parent is becoming less stable, then the child cannot depend on the parent, so the child must quickly become independent, meaning that they can provide for themselves. The company is required to outsource, and the child must become independent. Yes, we all must become adults very, very quickly now. We must become economic adults who are able to be responsible and work together in a responsible manner. The social contract has shifted, for better or worse. I am merely describing the world as we work and live in it.

We all must become economic adults!

Now what other ways can you reduce your fixed costs? Outsourcing is not the only way. Think hard. You can reduce your rent, downgrade your offices. You know, Peter Lynch, one of the greatest US stock investors, says that when he goes to visit a company and it is in very flashy offices, he runs for the door. Why? Because they have got to work really hard just to pay the rent. You are not in the business of making your landlord wealthy. You are in the business of making you and your shareholders and your employees wealthy. That is another way to decrease fixed cost. How else can you do it?

How many copiers do you have in your company? How much is your monthly spend on tonner, on servicing, on the copying staff? You get my drift: Outsource equipment use or use equipment that is used only on a when-needed basis. That is variable cost.

How else can you get rid of your fixed costs? You can downsize and get rid of all your fixed costs entirely. Which fixed costs? Salaries. So what is a way you can take a fixed salary cost and turn it into a variable cost? You can pay your people in stock options—which are only going to be valuable if your people make you a bunch of money. Or you can give them a commission or a percentage of profits. You can create a larger bonus pool and a lesser salary, but then the bonus pool depends on the profits. So unless you are profitable, you don’t have to pay them. Would that increase your profitability, yes or no? Yes. You have to have many ways to do it.

What is it all about?

What I am saying is that the Adam Smith economic model which has shaped the world as we know it is on its way. So, next time you here a politician talk about “full employment”, please just do look him/her straight in the eye.

 

7 Strategies for Identifying Hidden Buyer Requirements – by Ray Collis

These interview strategies that I lifted of a RainToday article can be applied to any interview process where the aim is to identify hidden meanings.

Enjoy

7 Strategies for Identifying Hidden Buyer Requirements

You have read the buyer’s requirements. At first they appear thorough and detailed, but what has been left out? What hasn’t the buyer said that you need to know?

Here are some strategies you can employ to powerfully connect with the buyer’s hidden agenda. These are the unwritten buyer requirements and their more fundamental underlying motivations that can make the difference between sales success and failure.

1. Keep Asking Why

Focus relentlessly on the why of the decision. For every requirement identified by the customer, ask why?

Example:

The salesperson says, “The software language used is important to you. Can I ask why?”

The prospect says there is a need for inter-operability. The salesperson asks, “Why is that particularly important to you?”

The prospect says because in the past, systems have been implemented that don’t talk to each other. The salesperson asks, “Why has that happened in the past?”

The prospect says it’s because IT has their own way of doing things.

And suddenly a glimpse into the hidden agenda between stakeholders starts to be illuminated.

2. Build Trust—Show Empathy

The seller needs to make a special effort to uncover the buyer’s underlying motivations. They won’t be found in secondary research in business library reports. They emerge only in personal communication within an environment of trust.

The buyer’s core underlying motivations may not be uncovered by fact-finds or interrogative techniques. Understanding what really makes somebody tick requires an element of empathy, as well as the ability to see the situation from the buyer’s perspective. It requires some of the skills of a counselor or therapist.

3. Make It Personal

Even when we sell to large corporations there can be a very personal dimension to the sale. The same applies for pragmatic and economic business decisions. The buyer often has an emotional reason for buying something:

  • It’s something the buyer cares about
  • The buyer identifies personally with it
  • The buyer’s ego is bound up with the outcome
  • It affects how the buyer is seen or evaluated by others
  • It involves personal or professional risk or reward

Therefore, the seller must make the process personal and connect with the buyer’s sense of self—his self-image and self-concept.

4. Shed Light on Hidden Motivations

Help stakeholders reveal their hopes and fears. Bring them out into the open.

Bring logic and analysis to bear on the buyer’s hidden agenda. For example, a past negative experience with a technology of the type you are selling may impede his decision. As a salesperson, you might help him rationalize the fear by applying numbers and logic to it. For example, in the above situation, you might say:

“The failure rates today are less than 2%, compared to 20% in the early days of this technology. That makes it five times more successful than the other alternatives. We provide a pilot to demonstrate how successfully it can be implemented and a full guarantee, so risk is minimal.”

You must take care in adopting this approach, however, because:

  • The seller can easily come across as insensitive, a poor listener, or even arrogant.
  • Applying logic to emotion can be like mixing oil and water. Underlying beliefs and motivations may be impervious to reason and resistant to change.

5. Look Out for the Messy Stuff

Hidden motivations can sometimes be contradictory and confusing. They may even conflict with the buyer’s stated or on-surface requirements. They may be counter-productive and not in the buyer’s long-term best interests. In particular, this can happen when there is:

  • Un-thinking acquiescence, compliance, or conformity
  • Political tension
  • Unspoken risk
  • Self-defeating behavior
  • A skewed version of history or misinterpretation of reality
  • An unaccepted responsibility
  • A blind shot—an element of self-deception or denial
  • An elephant in the room—an unspoken issue or challenge
  • A previous bad experience or an unaddressed wound
  • Flawed logic
  • Paralyzing fear or limiting belief
  • Complacency or lethargy
  • A short-term mindset

You may or may not be able to change these things. In some cases, you may consider it prudent to “let sleeping dogs lie.” While in other cases, these factors, if left unaddressed, may impact on the potential of the sale or the account. But you need to be aware of them so you can decide how to proceed.

6. Listen to the Language Used

The words the buyer uses may offer a window into his hidden agenda. But more important than the words is the tone of voice, so really listen. Also, pay attention to what they talk about the most—or the least. It may provide a cue to their hidden agenda.

You should also use the buyer’s words in your pitches and proposals. If you take the buyer’s requirements and put them into your own language, something can get lost.

7. Use Projective Techniques

Projective techniques can shed light on hidden motivations. These include asking the person to answer certain questions in stream-of-consciousness mode—without deliberating on the answer.

Perhaps the most effective technique is to help the buyer visualize and imagine the results or the future that he wants to achieve. For example, you could ask, “What does success in respect of this purchase or project look like?”

Other techniques include:

Word associations—For example, “What three words would you use to describe this part of your business?”

Metaphors—For example, “If this project were a sports car, what kind of car would it be? Would it be a Ferrari or a Honda? Would it be going at full speed? Who would be driving it?”

Sentence completion—Some sentences you could ask them to complete:

  • I’d be delighted if…
  • A fantastic outcome would be…
  • When others talk about this decision—project—purchase, they…
  • The worst thing that could happen is…
  • If there is one goal I could achieve this year, it would be…
  • If something were to go wrong, it…
  • In an ideal world…

Unless you uncover your buyer’s true needs and requirements, you are making assumptions that may not be correct. And incorrect assumptions lead to lost business. Use these strategies to make sure you know exactly what your buyer’s wants and concerns are so you can offer the best solution possible.


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Few people know or care as much as Ray Collis about the trends in buying and their implications for deal success. Ray heads up The ASG Group’s Buyer Research practice. He is also co-author of The B2B Sales Revolution™ and QuickWin B2B Sales, and he is editor of Buyer Insights. He is writing a new book (and seminar series) that reveals the latest trends in buying that determine win rates.

The 5WH Technique for Brainstorming and Research

The 5WH Technique for Brainstorming and Research

What?         Where?        Who?        When?     Why ?       How?

You can use the 5 WH technique to form questions using the words above and key words from your readings or lectures. These questions will help you to brainstorm ideas for your assignment questions and guide your research. This technique is a way of  ‘getting into the topic’ and finding out what aspects of the topic you need to research.

There are two types of information that 5WH questions can help draw out:

Type 1.          Facts

Questions that ask for facts may start with What, When, Who, and  Where.
Examples:
What  is the subject of the chapter?
Where can I find more information about this topic?
Who has written the chapter?
When was it written?

Type 2.          Critical Thinking

Questions that require critical  thinking may start with Why  and
How. These questions help you to build answers to a topic and they
help you to formulate reasons for your answers.
Examples:
Why has the author written this?
How does this information relate to what I already know or to my personal experience?

5WH Topic Example

Below is an example to show you how to form questions from key words.  The topic is in the form of an assignment question.  Key words have been underlined.

Eco-tourism and adventure tourism are growing sectors of the New Zealand tourism industry.  Discuss regulation of these sectors with particular regard to safety and environmental issues.

1.     Fact Finding Questions

What is eco-tourism/adventure tourism?

Who participates in eco-tourism/adventure tourism?

Where does eco-tourism/adventure tourism happen?

When  did eco-tourism/adventure tourism begin?

What are the safety issues in the regulations?

What are the environmental issues in the regulations?

2.    Critical Questions

Why are the regulation safety issues important?

Why are the regulation environmental issues important?

How do the safety issues affect adventure tourism?

How do the environmental issues affect eco-tourism?

You may find that some questions don’t make sense with some topics or that some questions ask the same thing as an earlier question that you have made up.  In these circumstances only use the questions which help you to explore the topic and understand its main aspects. Some questions will also be more important than others.

Last modified: Sunday, 8 July 2012, 02:46 AM.