Do You Believe in Magic (aka best practices on how to NOT win more new business)

October 31, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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Do you believe in magic?

These last few months of 2011 are extremely important not only to scoop up every last remaining piece of business but to also lay the groundwork for 2012.  There’s lots of work to be done, magic be damned. Elves and fairies have nothing to do with it…or do they? What are YOU doing to develop the kind of revenue stream that you want? (Wishing, waiting and hoping do not count as strategies.)

Okay, now that we know that wishing on a star doesn’t mean a thing, let’s take a close look at the actions that can make a difference:

Action 1:  Go through your database with a fine toothcomb and pay critical attention to dormant accounts and proposals that were never won. Can companies in these two categories be resurrected? And what about your existing accounts? Are you getting ALL of their business or are you leaving some of their business on the table? If you are then consider yourself open and vulnerable to the competition because you can be sure they will try to come in and snatch up your share of the work as well.

Action 2:  Are you engaging in “strategic” networking or are you simply attending as many events as you can. This quantity vs. quality approach will ultimately cost you valuable time and henceforth money and can you really afford to waste either?  (I thought not.) Develop a strategic networking plan paying careful attention to the events and groups that you visit and join. Remember that “6 degrees of separation” is an important networking mantra. One or two good “people connectors” can be vastly important in your business development efforts since they can “lead” you to an infinite number of contacts and connections that may ultimately turn into business.

Action 3:  Now that you’re re-engaging with select prospects and clients in your database and are networking with care, you MUST develop an effective “touch point management” system. Business development is like a garden. You plant seeds but then you must nurture them in order to have anything grow. It’s the same with business development. Unless you are engaged in a highly transactional business, generating clients takes time.  And you MUST stay on the radar screen of everyone that you deem “worthy” whether they are a potential client or even an influential referral source. (Utilize the three I’s for the best results!)

Action 4:  Throw pennies into a fountain. Okay, not really but if you are not doing all of the above, you just might believe in magic and you never know, maybe those pennies might be just the ticket to sales success.

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Bouncing On The Marketing Mattress

October 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A great brand and superb marketing materials can really help a company to establish visibility and credibility with it’s audience. So too can PR and advertising help to pave the way to a successful service or product.

But they simply pave the way or in my mind, they are the mattress upon which sales must bounce.

A fantastic sales rep can close business without the benefit of marketing collateral and a brand promise.  Yes, they can, although they have to work harder and longer in order to do so.

Marketing helps the sales effort.

But make no mistake about it, marketing does not pull through closed business. It can help…it does help but people, processes and qualified sales reps acting on exquisitely crafted sales campaigns are what really generates most new business.

Most sales consultants know this is true and so when they meet a prospect they often (always?) inquire about the marketing campaign that is in the wings. They also review the web site, social media platforms and other such marketing initiatives that are “out there” for all to see.

But rarely, and I do mean rarely, do marketing professionals ask definitve questions about the prospect’s planned sales campaign that will integrate with their marketing program. It’s almost as if they are engaged in marketing for marketing’s sake.

How do I know this?  Simple. I’ve been a sales consultant for 24 years and I can count on one hand the number of times that our firm has been brought in by the marketers working on a program.  Yet in a large volume of our projects we make a concerted effort to identify the right marketing resources for the job and then send out RFPs to help us / our client make our selection.

I’m not sure why this schism exists but it does. I also know that clients would be better served if we all just played nicely together.

How To Overcome Objections

October 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Oh my. This oldie but goodie topic will never go away not as long as there are suspects and prospects that don’t “immediately” acquiesce and buy your product or service.

  • No need
  • All set
  • Have no money
  • Have no budget
  • Happy with whom we are currently using
  • Under contract
  • My brother takes care of that for us
  • No time to deal with that right now

And so on.  If you’re in sales you’ve heard some (or all) of these at one time or another.

So, what’s a sales person to do?

Okay, let me start by stating what not to do.  Just because a prospect has offered a bit of pushback DON’T immediately back down and assume that you should simply offer to send them information and get the hell off the phone, out the door…whatever!

Ouch.

Don’t immediately offer to be a second source or fallback supplier.

Ouch.

And don’t immediately say that you’ll “check in” with them in another few months to see if their needs have changed.

Ouch.

All of these are far too passive and unless you are fortunate enough to sustain your business with simply picking “low hanging fruit” then I suggest you consider some of these tried and true approaches:

The “We’ve Heard That Before” approach

3 simple steps but done exquisitely and you’re golden.

  • John, I can appreciate that you think that way
  • We’ve had other clients say the same thing when we initially started to speak with them
  • What they found out, however, is that we have been able to effectively reduce / enhance / increase their __________ and the results have been wonderful. How are you _________

This approach requires that you understand exactly how your product or service will equate to an improvement in the prospect’s situation and are prepared to restate this improvement in your rebuttal. You end the rebuttal with an open-ended question that allows for the dialogue to continue.

 

The “Maybe You Didn’t Hear Me: Restate / Rephrase Benefits” approach

I hear you. What if we could RESTATE THE CORE BENEFITS PLATFORM SPECIFIC TO THEIR REVEALED NEEDS. Would that be of value to you?

Once again you are going to take this opportunity to restate benefits but make certain to draw a line between the improvements you are offering and the current situation they are in.

 

The “Step Down But Not Away” approach

That’s understandable. We’d welcome the opportunity to show you how / what we do. How about if we work it this way…PROVIDE A DIFFERENT SOLUTION / ALTERNATIVE

No one likes change and inertia is the biggest obstacle that you will encounter. Make it easy for your prospect to buy. Be out front with them and explain you’d like the opportunity to show them what you can do (on a small project or assignment) and that you are not asking for them to change the way that they are currently doing things without doing a small trial run first.

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t simply ignore the propsect’s concerns and objections. They won’t go away and you can’t bully them into submission. You must “earn the right” to win their business and in order to do so you must be respectful and address their issues.

And of course the very best strategy is to make sure that you are probing and addressing the prospect’s concerns at every step of the selling process. Doing a “gut check” and getting a read on what they are thinking / feeling is an effective way to make certain that you are not blind-sided at the end of the sales dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Ask for Business Without Being a Pushy Salesman

October 9, 2011 at 11:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The following post was written by David Ackert, Founder of Practice Boomers.  I agree with David; as you know I preach a very consultative and solutions oriented approach to business development and sales. As a sales trainer, I know that it generates the best results!

Here’s what David has to say, especially as it relates to sales and professional services providers:

When I speak to groups, I often ask for a show of hands to this question: “How many of you regularly ask your clients or referral sources for business?” Consistently, only 10–15% of the audience raises their hands. The other 85% confess that they aren’t very proactive when it comes to growing their practice. They wait for their clients to think of them, then they react and provide service, then they wait for the next email or telephone call.

When I ask them why they proceed in this passive fashion, they ultimately give the same reason: They don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. They don’t want to come across like a pushy salesman.

Who can blame them? We’ve all had that moment just before dinner time when we answer the phone from a blocked caller only to be bombarded with a sales monologue from the local carpet cleaner or cable provider. On they drone about their unique cleaning formula, and two minutes later we’re still waiting for them to pause long enough so we can tell them we’re not interested and hang up.

The thing that irritates me most about the sales tactic isn’t the pitch itself, it’s the manipulation. If they had called and asked me if I was interested in hearing what they had to say about their services, I could have said “yes” or “no” without much inconvenience. The exchange would have taken five seconds.

But the worst of the telemarketers waste my time and leave me feeling like I’ve been forced to listen to a scripted pitch, irrespective of my interest level. My only recourse is to hang up on them. Either way, the call leaves me grumpy.

Now, you’re not a telemarketer. And the services you provide are much more sophisticated than carpet cleaning. But since there is such an overwhelming concern that any direct attempt at selling our services will be reminiscent of a hard sell, we can learn a valuable lesson from the missteps of the pushy and eliminate the risk of sounding like them.

If you force the buyer into a sales conversation about a service they don’t want, you’re sure to turn them off. But if you are respectful of their time, if you propose a dialogue that explores their needs, if you listen and respond to them rather than manipulate them through a script—you will leave the ranks of the many who wait for business, and join the 15% who know how to ask for the business they want.

So the next time you’re meeting with a client, ask them questions that will begin a business dialogue. Something along the lines of “How is business? or “How is the year going for you?” If that doesn’t work, just be honest with them. Tell them that asking for business is uncomfortable for you and inquire if they’ve ever been asked for business in a way that was natural and respectful. Their advice may illuminate the very approach you’ve been hoping to find.

 

David Ackert is the Founder of Practice Boomers®, a business development E-Learning program for professional service providers. He is also the President of The Ackert Advisory™ which provides business development coaching and training for service firms and their professionals.

Cry, Baby

October 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Cry, Baby.   Oh Janis.

The budget is frozen.

Uncertain about 2012.

No money for “discretionary” expenses.

We think you’re great BUT…

This is what lots of business owners are hearing these days and I don’t know about you but it is getting a tad more than tiresome.

But I’m not giving in…nope, not a chance.

You shouldn’t either.  Here’s some advice:

  • Demonstrate how your program, your service, your deliverable is damn well not DISCRETIONARY and, in fact, is something that goes right to the core of the client’s business. And if they don’t hear you the first time, be persistent. Remember that you can’t lose what you don’t have.
  • Expand the conversation about budget and costs and be prepared to be flexible with your terms and pricing. Can you re-engineer your offerings and negotiate a reduced rate for this contract period?
  • Everyone is uncertain about what’s ahead for 2012. Can you present enough bottom-line value that they will see you as a trusted advisor and business resource and one that they cannot afford to cut?
  • Are you doing enough networking and prospecting to ensure that your sales pipeline will support you in the potentially lean months ahead?
  • Do you have trusted advisors to whom you can turn for feedback on your business efforts? Have you considered a business coach?

This is our time to lay the groundwork for 2012.

No tears.

Maximize Your One-to-One Communication

October 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My guest blogger Diane Diresta is a speaking strategist, professional speaker and consultant and I think that her insights here are incredibly important and relevant to salespeople in EVERY industry.

Here’s what Diane has to say about one-to-one communication (because after all, isn’t that how we sell!)

One-on-one conversations happen more frequently than any other kind of communication. One of the biggest mistakes people make when speaking one-to-one, is not treating it as a presentation.  While people prepare extensively for group presentations, when it comes to one-to-one, they wing it. Even the most casual conversation benefits from preparation.

Speaking to an individual is different from the group experience. Whether you’re training someone, selling, coaching, or asking for a raise, here are some tips for speaking one-to-one.

Eliminate distractions. Choose a comfortable setting-perhaps your office or a conference room with good lighting. Block off distracting window views and minimize interruptions. Clear the table of clutter.

Sit next to the person at eye level. Sit side by side rather than across a desk from each other. This has psychological and physical effects. It creates a feeling of being on the same side and allows both people to look at materials from the same perspective.

Maintain good eye contact but don’t stare. In a group, you make eye contact with everyone. With individuals, you don’t want to lock eyes. Break eye contact from time to time. A good guide is to look at the person 70% of the time.

Use visual aids. Props, pictures, and objects can serve as effective visual aids. Visuals are important learning tools, and you shouldn’t overlook them in a one-to-one situation. Be sure your visuals are appropriate to the situation. A few carefully placed props and occasional use of a table easel can enhance your presentation.

Clarify but don’t repeat questions. In a large group, you repeat the question so that everyone can hear it. But in one-to-one settings, the same technique would be silly. You may ask for clarification: “Are you saying that you need more practice?” Or you may restate the question in your answer: “The procedure for this project is…”

Maintain a comfortable physical distance. Don’t invade the other person’s space. When sitting side by side, don’t lean in or take over the person’s materials. Ask permission to demonstrate with or alter their materials.

Pause. The brain needs a few seconds to process information. Don’t overload the learner with too much data. Pause between thoughts to let the information sink in.

Use smaller gestures. Show enthusiasm and get involved with the learner. Allow yourself to be natural and expressive. But contain your gestures, because the physical space is smaller in one-to-one situations. Wide, sweeping movements will seem out of place.

Prepare and organize. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re working with only one person. Whether you train one person or a hundred, the preparation is the same. Without adequate preparation, you’ll seem disorganized and unprofessional. Prepare an outline and establish time frames.

Watch for nonverbal cues. In a group, different personalities react in diverse ways. Someone in the group will often say what others are thinking. In a one-to-one situation, however, the person may feel reluctant to tell you that he or she needs a break or doesn’t understand. Watch for body language and continually check back: “You look like you disagree.” “Are you ready for a break?” “Is this something you can use on the job?”

Whether you’re speaking to one person or a thousand, communication happens one- to- one.  It’s all public speaking.

3 Tips to Make Your Marketing (More) Effective

October 1, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Posted in sales, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Great Brand?  Check!

Awesome website?  Check!

Robust involvement with social media?  Check!

Marketing initiatives galore?  Check!

Yep, sometimes you have it “all” covered but don’t seem to be opening enough doors and winning enough new business. What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, there’s everything wrong if you’re not paying equal attention to your sales process, pipeline management and persuasive selling skills.

Yes, these 3 P’s are critical for your sales success.

Process:  What are you doing with the leads that are generated by your marketing efforts? Are you following up with them in a timely manner and do you have your sales team ready for action? (And if your sales team is..well..just you, are YOU ready to get into the ring and start selling?) A structured sales process can mean the difference between success and failure and getting ROI from your marketing efforts or not. Take the time to develop or refine your process BEFORE you start marketing. If you market first you just might not be ready to handle the inquiries, or to proactively reach out and connect with segments of non-responders.

Pipeline Management:  Unless you are involved in a very transactional business, most leads need to be nurtured and your sales cycle can be months and even years. You must keep your sales pipeline filled with leads that are in various stages of being “worked.” A skimpy pipeline means that at some point in the future you might not have enough active business to keep you afloat. Look at your pipeline on a monthly basis and if you see that the volume of prospects is skimpy, make certain to get proactive and start to prospect for new business.  And, most important, don’t allow your existing prospects to forget about you. Practice exquisite touch point management (connect with me and I’ll share the “3 I’s,” a strategy that works every time!) so that you stay on the grid.

Persuasive Selling Skills: Are your sales competencies as sharp as they need to be?  Are you confident that you and/or your team are skilled in presenting value and benefits, effective probing, overcoming objections, closing…and more? If you have even a smidgen of a doubt then I highly suggest that you make the effort to refresh or enhance those skills so that you are certain to get a return on your marketing investment.

A great brand and marketing program are just the beginning. It’s important to know how to execute on the marketing strategy. Do it ineffectively and your marketing is for naught.

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