3 B2B Negotiation tips for Millennials


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If you are in B2B sales and you’re a Millennial then the odds are you are selling to someone who is older. This is especially true if your product requires that you interact with the potential customer in person and also has a long sales cycle.

Having been on the receiving end of this process, I want to give you a personal list of  three things that can help or hurt you when you’re trying to get the “Close”.

  1. Patience

Make a point to establish a personal rapport and understand your customer as a person, not a LinkedIn profile, even if it takes more than one meeting. Unfortunately many of the Millennials I’ve met have been conditioned by their upbringing to expect immediate gratification. There is a subconscious urge to get from introduction to purchase order in one meeting.  Slow down!

Many years ago I read Harvey Mackay’s SWIM WITH THE SHARKS WITHOUT BEING EATEN ALIVE , his first book about the 66 things a salesperson must know about their prospect. It stressed both the importance of building a relationship and the real information needed to make that effort a success! This was way before CRM software and smart phones and I took it to heart. It has helped me to create profitable business relationships that have lasted more than two decades.

2. Value over Price

Selling B2B means that you are either competing against another seller or the customer is already using a product from your competitor.  I worked for a company that had Caterpillar® dealerships in several developing countries. Our main competitor was the Japanese-made Komatsu®. zn blog millennials komatsuWhile these two brands are traditional competitors, Caterpillar® always sold its equipment at a premium, even in countries where hard currency was difficult to find, because the value of its brand was worth more than the price of the machine. The bulldozer or front loader critical to a business’s survival came not only with better engineering but was accompanied by the best service and parts availability in the world.

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In my example the manufacturer over many years had built a brand that was iconic and backed it with a network of the world’s best dealerships. Customers knew that the product’s value was not what it could do when operating, but how quickly it could be fixed and running if something broke.

While you may not be selling Caterpillar® equipment, you are still selling a product against one or more competitors. Consequently it is your job to communicate the “real” value to the potential customer. In order to do that, you have to find out what your customer values in your product and the need it fills.

3. Language

While hanging out with your peers or on social media, you will subconsciously adopt certain phrases and expressions that might enter into your sales pitch. The problem is your buyer may not be familiar with the phrases or perceive them in a different context (one that may not be a positive one). For example, if I hear the phrases “Circle-back, Re-visit, or  in the wheelhouse”, the credibility of the sales person goes down. My suggestion is: Continue using professional terms and descriptions when making your pitch. Your buyer is not your peer. Using slang is a sign of disrespect or worse, you have not made the effort to successfully communicate with them. That does not mean that you should not be unique and memorable, but you want to be most remembered for your empathy in understanding what your buyer is really looking for and your ability to come up with a solution for them. But knowing what their hobby or favorite sports team is, does not hurt!

A final thought:

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Running a food company? – taste your product!

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday, food was a much more popular topic than politics. As you can imagine those discussions were also a lot more pleasant. We are a food family that also happens to have been involved in both cooking food and manufacturing food. Many of our conversations start with: “This tastes like…” and end with suggestions on what beverage would pair well with the dish.

Beer or Wine with that? Duck raw TG 2018

That choice will depend on how you are genetically wired – how your taste buds interact with your brain.

At its most basic, the 5 tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) signal our bodies what to get ready for.

But it’s far more complicated than that!

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For many years science used a simple map of our tongue to show the areas specializing in specific tastes. We are now realizing that it involves not just the taste buds in our mouth but in the throat and down to the stomach. In addition taste involves smell, texture and nerve endings. For example, research has also shown how certain foods can send signals to our brains that distort normal data. For example, capsaicin directly activates our tongue’s touch rather than taste-bud receptors. For more detail you can read Tip of the Tongue: Humans May Taste at Least 6 Flavors .

How does that tie into running a food manufacturing company?

When I first got involved in manufacturing foods, the Chairman of our parent company had an example he liked to use whenever he visited one of the plants and requested a tasting of the products that were being made.

His opening line was: “If the dog does not eat the food…”. It was the story of a European dog food manufacturing start-up that made the best dog food in the world. Unfortunately, they went out of business in 3 months. They forgot to test if dogs would eat it!

I took that story very much to heart and to this day when I am involved with a product that I can eat, wear or otherwise use personally, I insist on doing so. I should add that it may not make the product better, but it does insure that it works as intended.

Finally, a shout -out to Donald McKenzie whose blog “Dining with Donald always includes a book review or two. He is the one who recommended the book “Tasty” by John McQuaid . It was thought provoking.



Dealing with a Nuisance!

Both in your business and in your non-business life you have to deal with nuisances, some serious some not. How much time and energy you spend on them depends totally on you.

In business, nuisances have a tendency to never go away. Instead they simmer and only come to a boil when we neglect to manage them. They can range from a key employee’s bad attitude to a vendor’s misbehavior and anything in between. Because there are so many varieties of a nuisance I will use a parable from the non-business world to illustrate some of the ways I have learned to reduce their impact.

Z Niche Blog Nuisance squirrel 102919I live in the South and we are entering our six good weather months. As temperatures drop, the oak trees are full of luscious acorns. Unfortunately these nuts become a major culinary attraction luring squirrels to think they own not only our yard but also the interior of our attic. For further digestion, they will also chew on exposed cables of any kind and in our neighborhood, the cable guy has become more regular than the mail-woman.

In order to defend our castle, I had to spend time,energy and money, in ever increasing amounts to reduce the rodent nuisance, and yet I knew that total victory was not in the stars. Just like the gopher in the movie “Caddyshack” the squirrels were determined to outlast me.

Keep in mind, that in business, your nuisance owner does not want to leave you or loose your business – they just want to train you to accept things their way.

Phase 1

When the squirrel nuisance started a year ago, my animal loving wife insisted that we use a catch-and-release trap. SZ Niche Blog Nuisance squirrel trap 102919he volunteered to drive the captives to an uninhabited oak tree wooded area about 8 miles away and release them . We purchased a $59 trap and set it up. We averaged one captured squirrel per day for about 3 days. Then the rodents caught on and I never trapped another one. They also must have passed on their knowledge to their off-spring ( just like employees can copy bad behavior). Even with different bait set in different locations, I never caught another squirrel. Sort of like the practice of transferring a problem employee- they become a nuisance from afar.

Phase 2

Still being in a non-lethal mindset, after the failure of the trap, we tried using bio based repellents. These were totally ineffective – the squirrels partied on the treated surfaces and just multiplied in the yard.  In correlation to HR terms – verbal counseling. The next step was an escalation into high-tech. We invested in a sonic noise generator, Z Niche Blog Nuisance squirrel sound repellent 102919but low and behold, one of our neighbors started complaining that his pets were acting weird. The squirrels on the other hand acted as if the $90 gizmo was part of their home entertainment system. Zero effectiveness.

Phase 3

When non-lethal methods failed it was time to go on the offensive. We purchased the old-style, large rat-traps from Walmart and baited them with bacon or peanut butter. Success was mine for about one week.  The squirrel population shrank and I was celebrating.Z Niche Blog Nuisance squirrel rat trap 102919


Then from one day to the next, even though the traps had been set off, the rodent and bait were gone! I reset it, and in a few minutes I watched a squirrel trigger the trap by pushing it. Once the trap had sprung, the squirrel proceeded to eat the bait, all the time looking at me. The entire squirrel family adapted their behavior and the nuisance was back worse than ever.

Phase 4

I realized that I would have to be more personally involved. That meant that I had to figure out how to get to them from a distance with something that would make an impact. Being surrounded by neighbor’s homes, firearms were not a possibility and neither was Elon Musk’s flamethrower. IZ Niche Blog Nuisance squirrel flamethrower 102919 settled for a BB gun and immediately realized that actually hitting a squirrel in motion was a bit out of my area of competence; but at least I was getting close enough for them to sense actual danger. Over the span of a few weeks the squirrels learned to associate my presence combined with the sound of an air-gun being charged as “immediate danger” and they ran for the neighbor’s yards. Even better, their ability to learn danger signs resulted in our yard becoming almost squirrel free. Now, when I see the occasional nuisance showing up, all I have to do is load the air-gun and shake the pellet box and they are gone.

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The Winner

What have I learned from my battle with nuisance squirrels? When you are dealing with a nuisance, it does not pay to be laissez-faire. Escalate the battle from Phase 1 to Phase 4 immediately. In HR terms – give a nuisance employee only one warning, if the behavior repeats, terminate them. It will save you time and energy and it will help morale. The same holds for a nuisance supplier – one warning and the next time you will lose my business. That is one of the reasons why you should try to never be dependent on a single vendor, or for that matter, a key employee.

Moore’s Law meets Murphy’s Law

Fifty years after it was coined, Moore’s law (the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years, or why the cloud works) continues to amaze. Murphy’s law on the other hand has been around forever.

Unfortunately as we are approaching singularity, Murphy’s law is in full action below the surface. While reading Future Crimes by Marc Goodman, I was struck by how much our society has closed it’s eyes when it comes to: “What could possibly go wrong?”.

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Just think for a moment about your own business and how much you take it for granted that things will not go wrong – we all expect and accept glitches and soldier on. But what happens if you find your files locked by ransomware? Or you are one of the 143 Million identities released by the Equifax hack? Murphy’s law bites when you least expect it.

If you are older than 18, then I strongly suggest you make the effort to read this book. It is not an easy read, but it will make the hair on your neck stand-up when you see the implications outlined in gory detail by the author.

You will never look at a DNA test the same way again.

So you want to do an App?

Frequently we are approached by potential clients who want to build a business arround an App. While many of them know how to code, a significant number only have a concept that they want to convert to the next mega app – and cash out.

Unfortunately not many realize that most of the current market for Apps are at the long-end of the tail and very industry/user specific. Their business models are often predicated on unrealistic user acquisition  rates, and they are disappointed if not angry when we explain that their model in its current state is not functional.

The book “Machine Platform Crowd”, written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson is a must read if you are considering building an App.

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