Phill Allen is the owner of GeoSmart, which combines the God's-eye-view of GPS mapping and cartography with the thoroughly-grounded principles of business intelligence to create what the company calls "BI On A Map".
"My background comes from an IT background crossed with project management, problem solving and product development which all helps in selling solutions in our markets," says Allen.
Allen started out with a bachelor degree in surveying computer science from the University of Otago in 1975. He says that know-how and experience are really what count in building leads and making sales, as far as GeoSmart is concerned.
"A key marketing proposition is promoting our expertise, capability and knowledge," Allen says. "Therefore it is a critical pre-requisite to be seen as the expert in our fields."
Allen's experience leads him to believe in a simple bit of advice for struggling salespeople.
"Listen to the customer," he says.
What is your view of cold-calling?
I am not an advocate of cold-calling in our markets because, although you can target the right decision maker within a new organisation, you typically find that the customer is not ready, has no current resources available or has no budget for your product or service. So, if you are lucky, you may find a customer who says, "Wow, I have been searching everywhere for this service," and is actually ready to buy. But the more likely scenario is that due to poor timing they cannot commit.
But if you have to cold-call, how do you make it work?
Doing extensive research prior to your first contact to attempt to understand where the pain-points are in their business so that you can capture their immediate interest from the start.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The thrill of the chase along with the success, is the biggest buzz, and therefore the bigger the deal the bigger the motivation to succeed.
What part does personality contribute to sales success?
Your personality needs to reflect your enthusiasm and dedication to solve a client’s problem, which is further supported by the credibility of the brand that you are representing. So your personality actually sells the level of confidence that the customer is seeking in your product or service.
Does the pressure to hit targets stress you out?
I am comfortable in the markets that I am in control of, as these are your responsibility and you have a good feel for these in your budgets and forecasts. But we are also reliant on other channels to deliver and when you cannot directly influence their results, they can create some pressure.
How would you sum up the craft of sales in one sentence to an outsider?
The art of packaging a solution tailored to the customer’s brief that delivers a return on the investment.
How long does it take you to assess how you should approach your sales pitch?
Not until I have fully understood the client, their issues and what the problem is that they are trying to solve. You only have one real chance to maximise the impact of the pitch and the value proposition, so you have to have all of the facts before you can do the pitch. This may first involve doing a consultancy within one of their operations or running a workshop with key staff to gain the required knowledge which allows you to develop the best possible ROI.
How did you get past the point of struggling to make a sale to where you are today?
Clients have to have trust in you. To achieve this you need to know more than them, understand the market, the issues, the problem that they are trying to solve and the technologies to use. By achieving this you become their first point of call (their local expert that makes them look good) for a solution and this grows your credibility in the marketplace
Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?
If you cannot present a persuasive case then you are not going to do well in sales.
Has that quality ever reflected on you in a negative way?
Hopefully never. But there are cases when you may misunderstand a client’s initial requirements which could dictate you taking a different approach. The art is to recognise as you gain more knowledge of the client’s requirements to adjust your offering accordingly and to try to not solve the client’s problems until you fully understand them.
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
They can all be measured in different ways such as whether they are a long term regular income customer, one off good return customer or a good strategic brand customer to have on your books.
Would you encourage your offspring to go into sales?
A sales capability is required across most job and business roles to some degree and so it is a valuable skill set to have whether it is selling your point of view for the staff Christmas party or closing the next big business deal.
What’s the best line of jargon you’ve invented?
Probably the selling of the “Importance of Localisation” in a geospatial world which delivers on the level of detail, the depth and the quality of the information that only a real “Local” would know.
Has anyone ever made you feel intimidated?
This cannot happen if you are the expert in the field that you are selling in and you have done your research on the client properly.
How would you get over forgetting some vital information during a meeting?
Be upfront, address it immediately and move on.