The Pick of the Litter

August 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment

When you go to pick out a new puppy you often look for certain attributes.

How cute are they? (Quite subjective of course.)

How active?  How friendly, how they interact with their little puppy friends.

All of these qualities are important; it’s how you base your selection.

Okay then, what criteria do your prospects use when they are selecting your product or service?

Knowledge and expertise?

Appearance?

Price?

Location?

Years in business?

Personality and how you interact with your/their staff?

Knowing what criteria are most important can help you to sell more effectively.

And how do you learn what’s important? You ask.

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The Upside of No

August 23, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, sales, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

We all hate to hear “no” but honestly, isn’t hearing a straightforward “no” better than, well, not hearing anything at all?

A definite no. Not a stall. Not a maybe. Just a no based upon a valid and definitive reason.

Frankly, at this point in the difficult economic climate in which we are mired, a no seems almost a relief.

A no allows me to move on.

A no doesn’t clutter my sales funnel. I mean, I might reconnect with my no in a few months but right now, frankly speaking, it is a no.

A no allows me the opportunity to learn how and what I need to do better to get to a yes (a maybe doesn’t really help me with that at all.)

A no can be educational and informative. A maybe is just frustrating.

I learn from my no’s. How to better present value, overcome obstacles or perhaps select my prospects a tad more carefully.

Of course I would rather hear a yes but in this age of  frozen funnels, the no’s are okay.

The View From Up Here

August 20, 2009 at 7:47 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Networking, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

Do you really know what your salespeople are up to? How closely are you following these key individuals as they navigate through the trenches to find prospects and close deals?

Oftentimes, managers and executive staff become quite detached from what is really happening on the frontlines of their business. Management’s view of a company is typically very different than those of the salespeople, and that disconnect can ultimately be quite detrimental to the overall success of a company.

Sales teams and management need to be on the same page to effectively establish expectations, goals, and strategies. It’s not always easy to accomplish this, especially for companies that have a corporate culture that is rife with poor communication. However, once everyone is working together, management is often very pleasantly surprised at the positive changes that occur. Here are five simple steps that can help management reconnect and refocus with their sales team.

Get Up Close and Personal

You’re simply not going to get all of the information you need to make effective business decisions from sales reports. To get a much broader perspective of what clients and prospects are saying, go on sales calls with your reps. Not only does this approach communicate to your team that you are able and willing to get involved, it’s absolutely necessary for seeing the big picture issues that are often not clear by simply reviewing sales numbers, graphs, and charts.

Initiate “How Are We Doing” Interactions

Besides rolling up your sleeves and getting out there in the field with your salespeople, reach out to clients on a frequent basis just to find out how the company is doing. They will provide you with honest feedback, so be prepared for not always hearing the sugar-coated answers that your sales team might be giving you. These interactions can be done via phone call, email, or by personal visit.

Conduct Informal Focus Groups

Along with one-on-one interactions, informal focus groups with clients can be extremely useful for gathering information. Invite key customers to lunch or coffee and make it worth their time to participate by offering something in return for their feedback. What they will offer you will be valuable data that will help you better understand what’s really happening.

Be Involved

Industry associations are just as important for upper-level management as for those just starting out. They should be a prime source for keeping up to date on trends and news that affect your business.

Participate in Regular Sales Meetings

Sales meetings shouldn’t be limited to once a year shindigs. They should be a regular part of operations that salespeople and management both attend. To be effective, meetings must be considered forums for open discussion about the business and industry as a whole where everyone is encouraged to participate and share their views.

Nope, These Are Not Sales Techniques for a Recession – They’re Sales Techniques for All Time!

August 17, 2009 at 7:21 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Blogroll, entrepreneurship, sales, Sales Training, small business | 1 Comment

The drawn out recession has snapped many salespeople back into reality. Regardless of the industry, the days of fast and easy sales are over. So-called sales professionals who have forgotten or never learned basic proven selling techniques are now realizing that they better ramp up their efforts if they’re going to hit their goals or even keep their jobs.

There has definitely been a shake out of ineffective salespeople in the last two years, and organizations are choosing to function with streamlined sales teams that are lean, mean, and focused on effective selling.

Instead of dwelling on what used to be or complaining about the current tough economic climate, successful salespeople are going back to the basics of selling. These techniques work and really should have been used even when times weren’t so tough. Now, they’re not only useful, they’re absolutely essential. Here they are:

Show Value

Why should someone choose your product or service over another? More than ever, you need to be able to communicate the value in what you’re selling. No one is going to buy from you just because you’re a nice guy. However, they will buy from you if you’ve effectively communicated why and how you can save them money or time or improve their current situation.

Stay Close

In this new economy, you just can’t expect that clients or prospects will call you. It’s your job as a salesperson to stay in close contact before, during, and after a sale. And, with so many communication tools now available, there simply is no excuse for not staying connected and being accessible if they do happen to call.

Be Proactive

To be successful, you must be one step ahead of your competition, as well as your customers. There are many ways to accomplish this. Stay on the radar screens of those who are buying from you. Cross-sell, up-sell, and offer any help or assistance that you can provide. Keep current with industry happenings, and keep your eyes open for new opportunities and what your competitors are doing.

Give Something for Nothing

The art of selling requires give and take. Customers are quick to identify salespeople who are hot to make a commission and care little about offering anything in return. The best way to establish long-term relationships that will deliver repeat sales is to be generous and show appreciation. No, you don’t have to break the bank and give pricy gifts, but do take the time to offer well-thought out tokens of your appreciation. Everything from invites to industry events to sending links to articles of interest are ways to show that you care.

Be Faster

Patience for slow service has worn thin in this economy. With increasing competition and everyone stepping up their marketing efforts, there simply isn’t room for service or response times that are slower than a snail’s pace. If you want to hang on to the business you already have, it’s essential to find every way possible to be as fast as you possibly can.

Customers Come First

August 12, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Blogroll, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment
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Wow. I say these words to each and every prospect and client but Scott Hornstein (Hornstein Associates, scott@hornsteinassociates.com) says it best.

As printed in Sales & Marketing Management magazine and penned by Scott:

When customers experience a marketing message, there are three subliminal questions they ask themselves: “Who are you, and why should I care?” “What do you want from me?” and, “What’s in it for me?” If the answers aren’t apparent and compelling, the customer will be long gone.

A successful marketing effort will formulate responses to these questions by bringing prospects to the planning table early on, through “voice of customer” qualitative research, via one-on-one interviews, which can hone a company’s competitive edge, and challenge marketingassumptions. First, however, marketers have to ask themselves the following: How do customers view my company? What attributes or values do they think of? The answers will help build the most effective positioning, and will tell customers who you are and why they should care.

Take this example: A small manufacturer of printed circuit boards found a new competitor was initiating a price war. To formulate a response, he asked his best customers the basis of their loyalty. They told him: “We are your customers because of the quality and service we receive; price is meaningless without that.” They showed that there are always buyers who’ll want price first, but they aren’t the loyal market segment.

Marketers must also be knowledgeable of how the customer decides to adopt the particular product or service. Who are the influencers, and what information do they need? Marketing messages ask customers to listen, learn, and be motivated—understanding the decision-making process enables marketing to bring the right message to the right individual at the right time.

For example, when Productivity Point International (PPI), a training company based in Morrisville, North Carolina, prepared to enter a new market segment called customer education, it found that the decision-making process differed by company, and often involved non-traditional decision makers who weren’t familiar with PPI. To get acquainted with these decision makers and educated about their process, PPI implemented a focused, longer-term public relations effort that involved case histories, webinars, articles, and other materials to raise awareness and generate response—which helped them get their foot in the door.

As far as what’s in it for the customer, their reactions to your messaging provide the basis of your competitive differentiation. After Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Compaq merged, they asked customers for their reactions to their new marketing messages. Customers responded with concern that basic HP values were getting lost in what they saw as hype or spin. Representative comments include:

“HP has a good technical heritage. This should be your focus. Is this boring to you? It’s important to us!”

“The benefit to us is people and service. Keep the people partnership in your messages: HP is there for you.”

“Steer clear of competitor bashing. Play to your strengths: the breadth of quality products and robust support. HP is the standard.”

All of these examples show how important it is to get customer input early in the marketing process. Gordon Johnson, former director of marketing at PPI, sums it up by saying: “Listening to and incorporating customers’ views is our reality check. It helped us to make some very important and successful marketing decisions.”

Scott Hornstein is principal at Hornstein Associates, a direct marketing consultancy in Redding, Conn. Clients include Microsoft, HP, The Phoenician. He is the co-author of Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing (McGraw-Hill, 2004). Contact: (203) 938-8715; scott@hornsteinassociates.com.

How to Get ROI From Your Networking Efforts

August 12, 2009 at 7:04 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Networking, sales, small business | Leave a comment

Have you noticed the ever-growing number of networking groups? While there was once only a handful of opportunities to network at Chamber of Commerce breakfasts and local trade association get-togethers, you know have to decide among the thousands of online and offline groups that seem to be sprouting up on a daily basis.

The problem is that you only have so much time in the day. If you joined every networking group out there, you’d inevitably be meeting some useful contacts, but you’d have little time for anything else. To effectively make connections and save your sanity in this age of hyper-networking, you need to be selective. The following five tips will help you filter through the vast and sometimes murky world of business networking to find the groups that can offer you the greatest ROI from your networking efforts.

Define Your Networking Style

With countless networking events, you have the ability to choose what type works best for you. Speed networking, cocktail parties, conferences, informative seminars, online get-togethers – each format has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. You most likely will gravitate to one or two types of events. That’s ok. You’re better off sticking with attending only the activities in which you have the highest comfort level.

Do Your Homework before You Commit

Once you’ve found a handful of groups that are in line with your networking style, research the types of members, their companies, and the focus of the group. Don’t be afraid to attend a group’s events two or three times to get a feel for their dynamics. You may love it, or you might find that it’s not in synch with your goals, interests, or personality. The key is not to commit yourself to anything until you are confident that it’s a good fit for you.

Stay Focused on What You Can Give

Many networkers leave groups frustrated because they feel that they are not getting enough. Yet, they haven’t put any effort into giving. As in the famous words of the Beatles, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.” This certainly applies to networking. Always think about what you can give and offer to your contacts before you ask for or expect anything from them. Once you begin to focus your energy on helping others, you’ll quickly find that they are enthusiastic about helping you!

Follow Up and Follow Through

Interestingly, it may seem like you’re networking at the events you attend, but in reality, the true networking doesn’t actually begin until afterwards. If you neglect to follow up or connect with the contacts you’ve made, you’re merely socializing and not networking at all. It’s 100% about how you maintain those connections that will determine your level of success.

Be Realistic

The reality is that not every networking connection you make will be able to produce leads and referrals to you. Yes, you need to be helping others, but you also have to devote the bulk of your energy to cultivating your most valuable resources. Assess each contact and determine how you can work together. If there just isn’t a great deal of potential with a particular connection, it’s ok to minimize your dealings with him or her. Both of you will be better off shifting energies to others who will be more beneficial.

Efficient Networking: Six in the City

August 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, entrepreneurship, Networking, sales, Sales Training | Leave a comment

Do you participate in networking breakfasts or lunches? I don’t necessarily mean group meetings but rather those one-on-ones that you set up in order to get to know a person better, to learn about their business and how you might be able to leverage introductions and connections.

Does it seem like you’re spending an inordinate amount of time setting up and attending these get-togethers and are you even finding it difficult to fit all of these networking “appointments” into an already crowded schedule?

If so, you’re not alone.  Networking is extremely time-consuming and when you factor in the sheer quantity of individual meetings that you must do, it’s no wonder that you might be getting burned out.

If I’ve described your state of mind (um, over-scheduled calendar), well then how about this?

Six in the city.

Let’s take that idea of one-to-one networking engagements and expand them just a bit.

How about if you and your networking contact each invite two other people to the breakfast or lunch. With a little planning and the establishment of some parameters or categories, you can craft a very worthwhile mini networking activity, in which each person in this group of six has the opportunity to make some contacts.

Of course six is not feasible if the networking meeting has to be highly confidential or exclusive, but most often theses breakfasts and lunches are scheduled purely in order for the two people to get to know one another better.

Think about it. You can expand your contacts while managing and using your time in the most efficient manner.

So, who can we invite to lunch?

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