Imagine Growth

Pre-mortem: could the victim die from too many sales?

Posted by: Mike Nathan | Posted on: March 15th, 2013 | 0 Comments

Confession:  As a sales executive over the past decade, I can say my preference is to have sales reps be action-orientated for the style and culture I have created within organizations.  It is more a “sales DNA” I am more looking for within a person.  I can’t teach a sense of urgency or give incentive for courage.  We all know business development professionals who suffer from “paralysis by over-analysis”.  They will be reluctant to engage any prospect or client without knowing absolutely everything about the situation.  This behavior is counter-productive for every meeting/interaction.  Do not mistake preparation for productivity.

With all of that being said, the need to be prepared for a business professional is critical.  I have heard it said that the keys to success are to: Show up, show up early, and show up prepared.  Seems appropriate for this conversation.  The idea of preparation plays an important role in closing or winning the business.  If you do all the hard work up front, closing for the business should be easy.  Well, the “hard work up front” is the preparation.

Preparation is not just an outward looking function.  Information in any sales process is king, especially in today’s insightful/challenger selling environment.  To know something of your prospect is good, but be careful not to lose sight of the big picture as you try to memorize the prospect’s mission statement and recall the founder’s hometown.  Preparation should also be knowing what you are doing do there.  What are you trying to accomplish…are you trying to find out the decision maker’s name or are you conducting a needs analysis?  Do you know exactly what to do or say to accomplish your goal?

PREPARTION can be to know and to be ready to answer:

  1. What is your goal for the meeting/call?
  2. Who are you meeting with? Title? Function?
  3. What does this company do? How? Differentiation? Successful?
  4. Why am I meeting with them?
  5. What can I/my company offer?
  6. What am I going to do if…? ***See pre-mortem
  7. What are the next steps in likely scenarios?

Let’s discuss an important tool or exercise in preparing for any business development meeting or call.  It is called the pre-mortem.  This is the opposite of the more familiar term, postmortem.  A postmortem is an examination of what killed a person after the fact.  A pre-mortem is an examination of all that could go wrong before the fact.  A pre-mortem will list out the things that could go wrong/objections (however unlikely or likely) and possible solutions or actions to take in that event.  Here is a quick and simple example of a pre-mortem.

Task: Call for sales appointment

Pre-mortem: 1. Phone does not work 2. Contact’s name is wrong 3. I get hung up on 4. They ask me of price over the phone

Solutions: 1. Use a different phone 2. Ask for the title (not Jon Doe) 3. Call back immediately…and apologize “for getting disconnected, but what I was saying was…” 4. Respond by asking if they will buy TODAY/RIGHT NOW if you have the best price (call their bluff)…if they will buy TODAY/RIGHT NOW…either a.) Know your best price or b.) Insist you don’t know enough to responsibly guess.

You get the idea.  A pre-mortem could be on a presentation or a proposal review…you name it.  The sales team can create their own “what could go wrongs” and answer them according to the organization and industry.  When a business development team is confident in knowing exactly what to do/say in all activities, the results will take off.  A sales team that acts without the FEAR of cold calls, big presentations, tough negotiations will rocket an organization to the next stage.

If you do the hard work ahead of time, closing should be a natural conclusion to the business conversation.  Be prepared and win the business.

The take away: Do not mistake preparation for productivity.  Preparation is not just an outward looking function.  Conduct your pre-mortems with sales teams and build confidence.  Do the work required to be successful.

Mike Nathan, MBA

Managing Partner

Next Stage Growth Partners

(651) 214-7473

You wish you could be Kevin Bacon

Posted by: Mike Nathan | Posted on: March 6th, 2013 | 0 Comments

In this blog post, I would like to discuss the importance and some pitfalls of networking.  For business development people (executives/managers/reps) networking is the “X” factor in your growth plan and can be just as important as your sales and marketing activities if done correctly and consistently.  Let’s start with the 101 version of networking.  The principle of “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is alive and well in the age of internet, lowest-cost bidder wins, social media, and e-commerce.  Perhaps more so as all channels and systems become automated, the necessity to just get a seat at the table becomes more and more important.  Networking is the activity you undertake face-to-face to increase the number of connections or to make existing connections stronger.

Tip 1: Network with everyone – A good idea is to begin networking smartly by targeting people and groups that have similar or adjacent goals, customers, and industries.  It is pretty obvious to see the direct benefit in doing that.  Be sure to also network with that person with no obvious link to a client or prospect.  You will be surprise how the 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon applies in business as well.  Older, more senior executives (decision makers) typically have a diverse range of interests that they will spend consider time and effort pursing.  So meeting with a high school music teacher, may not seem like the logical, but it may get you to the local orchestra board members.  Don’t assume too much of people’s network, it will surprise who know who.  You want to be the Kevin Bacon of your organization, your business industry, and even your regional area.

Tip 2: Purpose– Let anything in life…have purpose into what you are doing.  Apply that to networking.  When you network one-on-one sit down or at a seminar have a goal in mind before you show up.  Always explain quickly and positively what your do and what you are looking for.  I want to meet 5 people in telecommunications.  I want to learn how Jimmy finds his customers for his business.  Outside of your goals, keep in mind some standard ideas: 1. Where are they from?  2. How did they get where they are?  Lastly, but most importantly, 3. How can you help them?  You MUST offer help before you leaving the conversation or meeting.  Additionally, there are things you want/need to communicate to your networking partner.  1. Tell people quickly, positively, and easily what you do.  2. Tell people what you are looking for and how you can help.  3. Give a recent example of success (quickly…not the long version…”I recently helped a small manufacturer in town drive sales 35 %”).

Tip 3: Network is a piece of the pie (Too much/too little) – Too much:  Remember two things.  Always look for networking opportunities and be sure your job is done/on track before networking.  If you are so inclined, one could spend all week meeting people and looking for connections.  The reason you networking professionally is to do your job better/faster/more profitably.  Networking does not replace your activity, but is compliments it.  Too little:  If you did not meet anyone new in the last week.  You need to network, or least be open to networking more.  Busy weeks come and go, but take the time to expand your network by at least 50 people by the end of the year (or one a week).

Tip 4: New connections – For new people into your network try to find a mix of senior and junior people in or adjacent to your industry.  Look to chat with competitors, allies, prospects, and thought leaders.  I would reverse engineer your thinking on new connections.  Think of your goals, professionally or personally, and find those people who you do not currently know that could help you.  Get a list of those people and start connecting, today.  Emails and messaging via LinkedIn are probably the least threatening platform to start conversations.  Calls may be a bit too forward to start with.  Explain your reason for connecting.  Most people get it when it comes to networking and will accept gladly.  The ones that do not get it, probably will not be the right connection if they are too busy or focused on other projects.  It would be a waste of your time as well.

Tip 5: Old connections – As important as making new connections, is the idea of strengthening your existing connections.  People get busy with life and fall out of touch…and everyone can understand that.  The really progressive networkers know how to reach back out to old connections and pick up the conversation, despite the 4 years it has been since you had a conversation.

Now, it is true that you can’t know everyone, but your network should know most everyone.  The degrees that separate all of us are getting smaller and smaller with the use of internet, social media (Facebook and LinkedIn), and proactive networking.  Your network is bigger than you think.  Be Kevin Bacon.

The take away: Network to strengthen and increase the people you know.  Have a goal or purpose when networking, don’t just be a conversationalist.  Be sure you network in the Goldilocks frame, not too much, not too little…just the right amount, do your job first.  New and old connections are important equally.  Be Kevin Bacon.

Mike Nathan, MBA

Managing Partner

Next Stage Growth Partners

(651) 214-7473



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