Curiouser and Curiouser

April 4, 2011 at 8:35 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Marketing, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business, The Blatant Truth: 50 Ways to Sales Success | Leave a comment

Curiouser and curiouser. So said Alice when she started to change shape. Yes, strange things can happen when you least expect them. But is that how you want to ensure your success…getting business when you least expect it?

One of the big issues these days seems to be the overall uncertainty about the flow of new business. Peaks and valleys can seriously impact work flow and profitability and sales reps must be mindful of the following action steps to minimize the situation.

1. Make certain that you are doing enough prospecting and that your sales pipeline is as full “as it needs to be”. Everyone has a different “close rate” and depending on what you project will come through as new business helps you to determine just how many prospects need to be in your pipeline at the same time.

2. Ask questions. Be curious! If you ask the right questions prospects will tell you what they want, when they want it and what they will pay for it. Don’t be afraid to initiate a dialogue. Uncovering exactly what a prospect WANTS can help you to close the sale.

3. If you’re not opening new accounts be certain to ask yourself if you are fishing for prospects in the correct / best pond. Do your prospects perceive your offer to be of value? Is your product or service priced appropriately?

And finally, are you patient, persistent and persuasive? If you can’t answer “yes” to each one of these qualities then you are probably leaving business behind.

Unless You’re A Cartographer, Peaks and Valleys Suck!

May 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All sales reps experience some degree of peaks and valleys from time to time. However, some breeze through them with little disruption, and for others, they can be a huge problem. Why is this so? The issue, of course, is that many start and stop their business development and don’t prospect on a steady, consistent basis. So, how can you stay motivated and make sure that you keep your business flow level and moving through the sales pipeline consistently?
Make It a Priority

First, you have to consider business development as an ongoing initiative, and not one that you do when you have no work in the door, or when you have nothing better to do.
Develop a Plan and Stick with It!

Of course, there isn’t just one way to bring in new clients. It requires a comprehensive set of strategies that work together. Start by making a plan of action. Assign a specific number of outreach efforts per day or per week. Put this task on your calendar just like an appointment and make sure that you don’t blow it off. If you truly don’t have the time, hire a lead generator or business development rep to assist you with your ongoing business development.
Realize the Importance of Existing Clients and New Prospects

You can’t afford to focus exclusively on finding new prospects, nor can you only hit up existing clients for repeat business. You need to do both to level out the peaks and valleys.
Be Clear About Who Is In Your Pipeline

Not all prospects are created equal. Some are more likely to close than others. Keep tabs on how much time and effort you are putting in. With a clear idea of where they are in your pipeline, you can strategically plan how much effort you should be making with them.
Put Out What You Need to Get Back

The most important strategy to minimizing peaks and valleys is to understand that the more effort you make, the more likely you’ll minimize the chance of having an empty pipeline or no discernible revenue flow. This is truly a qualitative and quantitative activity.

Sales 101: Just Put Away Your Smart Phones

May 16, 2010 at 10:27 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, entrepreneurship, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

You would think it wouldn’t have to go mentioned but yes, there are still people that think it is 100% okay to check email and texts, as well as send same, while they are engaged (correction, not so engaged) in a meeting or networking event.

I don’t mean that they politely excuse themselves and go off to a quiet corner or rest room to attend to their electronic communications. No, I mean that they inexcusably work their devices when sitting at a meal, at a conference table or milling about at a networking function at which one of the sole reasons for attending is to meet the attendees live and in person.

It’s just plain rude and it happens much too often.

I’ve participated in networking meetings where it seems that half of the attendees are staring at their laps with their thumbs moving feverishly over a keyboard. I’ve been at luncheons where the hum and buzz of text messages is totally distratcting and the “live” conversation seems almost “in the way”.  And, I’ve even been speaking with someone at an event who every minute or so pulled out their phone to scroll down the new incoming messages. It’s just plain rude.

I haven’t gone so far as to ask the offending person to stop. Maybe I should. Rather, I find myself glowering at them hoping they will pick up on my not-so-subtle cues. But that rarely happens.  Seems that subtly goes nowhere when dealing with a person like this.

So, if you feel that something critical is happening and you must engage with your device, then play it straight and let the other people know so they won’t have the same negative impression that I have.

But if it’s just a case of an addiction to electronic communications, well maybe you ought to just plain quit. You just might be sending a text when your next new business opportunity appears, and then decides to walk by, rather than disturb you and your electronic companion.

Ya Gotta Be In It To Win It

March 26, 2010 at 7:27 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Networking, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ya gotta be in it to win it.  What a cliché. Shouted from the bleachers by over zealous parents watching their kid’s team play in a unspirited manner.

Spoken by parents when they are told that their kids don’t participate in class.

Chided by managers when their sales reps seem to be moving through their days in a sluggish and despondent manner.

Cliché, yes.

But true too.

The impetus for this post came from a recent activity in which I sorted through some of the scores of follow-up emails that I have sent to networking contacts, as well as to folks to whom I have been introduced over the last 6 months.  A review of my phone outreach was also conducted.

My process:  Sort out the contacts, screen, qualify, categorize, follow up, follow-through and use the three I’s to stay on the grid (invitations, introductions, information).

Yep. Did that.

And now as I go back through my follow-up emails and attempts to connect, I see how many people are just not “in it”. Whether there is no response to a call or an email or even to an invitation, there seem to be so many people that just aren’t playing the game. Or at least playing to win it.

And so really, why do they bother going to events, belonging to groups and participating in all of the time consuming business development activities that suck away time each and every week.

I mean, why bother if they’re not going to follow up, follow through, screen, qualify, categorize and heck…stay in touch.

Are other people thinking that about you? Time to get in it or just stop wasting your time.

How to Equip Your Sales Reps for Success

February 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | 1 Comment
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It is clearly known that high turnover in a sales-focused organization is bad.  It is not clearly known, however, why this turnover is happening.  The typical – and often, incorrect — view is that the problem lies at the recruitment or management level. In reality, the problem usually lies between the two: training.

Training sales reps is not an option; it is essential for both individual and organizational success.  When implemented effectively, it also significantly reduces turnover and improves loyalty and morale; all of which is good for the bottom-line.  Here are the five core elements of a complete sales rep training program:

Preparation

Training starts long before the workshops, the manuals and the coaching.  It starts with preparation.  Organizations must look at the office environment in which they are going to locate their new sales rep, and ensure that it is both professional and suited to the job at hand.

For example, if the sales rep will be doing a lot of telephone prospecting, then organizations must provide a space that is suitably quiet and free from distractions. Or, if the sales rep will be frequently out in the field, then a small workstation may suffice.  “Virtual” sales reps must also be provided with the necessary technology to ensure their success.

A core human need is to feel welcomed and respected.  When sales reps see that their new employer has appropriately prepared for their arrival, they feel confidently positioned to succeed.

Sales Training

Sales training is vital to sales reps’ success. Whether you hire “fresh out of college” or seasoned veterans with years of experience, sales training must be an ongoing initiative.

There are three key levels of sales training; all of them are equally important and, as mentioned, essential.  We can call the first level “Product/Service Awareness”, the second level “Competitive Advantage” and the second level “Prospecting.

Product/Service Awareness training focuses on the product, service or both that is being sold.  This training goes far beyond simply knowing details, specifications and features. Sales reps of all experience levels must clearly and deeply understand what it is that they’re selling, and just as importantly: why the sale is going to improve their customer’s life.

This latter aspect – “customer improvement” is so totally necessary for success that its importance cannot be emphasized strongly enough.  At the most fundamental level, sales is about solving problems, and making things better then they would be without the sale.  Sales reps must thoroughly understand how this fundamental fact of selling fits into their customer’s life and experience.  Having a “great” product or service is not enough!  That “greatness” must improve the customer’s situation; it must help them solve a meaningful problem.

Naturally, customers will have different situations; they will have different problems and needs.  Sales reps must be trained on how to identify and adjust their sales effort to respond to these differences.  The only way that they can make this adjustment is to have comprehensive Product/Service Awareness training.

The second level of training, Competitive Advantage, focuses on how a product or service is “positioned” in the overall marketplace; and hence, where it is positioned on a customer’s “radar screen” of options.  Competitive Advantage training focuses on SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (particularly threats target market growth).  It also focuses on the various ways that value can be added to enhance a prospect’s real or perceived benefit.  Remember: these benefits need not be financial; they can be any solution, of any kind, that is relevant and meaningful to prospects.

The third level of training, Prospecting, focuses – unsurprisingly — on the prospect. Sales reps need to know how to develop an existing prospect base, and to ensure that all opportunities are exploited so that no business is left on the table – because the competition will certainly snatch that up!  Sales reps also must understand the fine art of “probing”, and to know when it is time to close the sale.  It is particularly important to note that even seasoned sales reps need “prospecting” training.  What may have worked well in one industry will not work in another industry.

Sales Technology

Sales technology training is also essential.  All sales reps should be very well versed in Contact Management software, and all mobile communication tools (such as PDA).

Also, you should expect and budget for providing extra technology training for novice sales reps. Novices may need more extensive computer training on CRM programs, using Outlook, and other types of software. Those with more experience will often join an organization with a more solid knowledge about office technology and tools. However, don’t assume that anyone, seasoned or inexperienced, knows how to use all of the technology. Offer the necessary training to everyone.

Sales Leads

As with sales training, organizations also tend to differ on how, if at all, they provide leads to new sales reps. Some organizations believe that reps should build a lead base through their own efforts, while other organizations provide tools to facilitate lead gathering.

Many larger organizations use inside sales reps or telemarketers to screen and qualify prospects. In these firms, sales reps are then often given dated and timed appointments for follow-up. These organizations also tend to promote their inside sales/telemarketing reps to entry-level salespeople.

The benefits of receiving qualified prospects instead of starting from scratch are obvious. It is certainly easier — especially if you are new to the profession — to be handed screened and qualified leads. On the other hand, there is no better way to really learn about your prospects, and what it takes to sell to them, then to do some cold prospecting yourself!

However, when it comes to sales leads, take the time to honestly assess how difficult it will be for a new sales reps to acquire leads, and get their pipeline going. Please be realistic. No one is going to work for free, or stick around very long, if they are frustrated or disappointed with their results. If you know that account development is time consuming and challenging, give your new sales reps the tools and/or compensation to develop accounts in a realistic timeframe.

Lead generation is certainly one area where novice reps are at a disadvantage over experienced professionals who have a PDA full of contacts. Most often, the inexperienced are starting “from scratch” and need extra help and training on acquiring leads and becoming successful sales professionals.

Mentoring

All new sales reps, regardless of their experience level, can benefit from being paired up with a more tenured sales rep during the initial four-to-eight weeks of employment. They can learn the ropes, participate on calls, presentations and meetings.

Novice sales reps must also be closely managed and supervised. If they are doing telephone work, their calls should be monitored, and they should receive feedback and training to turn their weaknesses into strengths.  If they are going out into the field, they should be accompanied by a sales manager or someone who can provide constructive feedback on their performance.

Next Steps

Yes, it may seem like training is a large, challenging investment – but it is essential for everyone’s success!  The more involved and hands-on a company is with a sales rep’s success, the greater the chance that he or she will succeed. In the long run, the time and money spent on training will minimize the turnover rate, and strengthen a company’s overall sales ability.

When You See What Isn’t There

January 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, entrepreneurship, Marketing, Networking, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

We’re all guilty of this situation. We see something that just isn’t there.

I’m not referring to those possible circumstances when you might have, well, imbibed too much. Or, your glasses are cloudy or maybe you don’t have them on at all, and the squinting has caused you to experience some sort of visual hallucination.

Nope, that’s not what I am talking about.

I’m referring to those times when we hang on to a prospect — and then hang on some more—simply because we’re seeing something that just isn’t there.

We’re seeing hope and possibilities, business opportunities and potential.

But it just isn’t there.

Our boundless energy and enthusiasm can occasionally color our vision so instead of seeing reality we see what we want to see.

Now I’m not saying that we should “pull the plug” on our prospects if they don’t move through the sales funnel in record time.

What I am referring to is the useful technique known as “screening and qualifying”. By consciously engaging in this step in the sales process, you can be more certain that the very prospect you are so eagerly pursuing actually has the sales potential and worthiness you so crave.

In a lengthy sales cycle, things change, priorities shift, budgets get readjusted and what was once a truly viable prospect has just become untenable.

Once again please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that you pull the plug prematurely.

What I am recommending is that you take a long hard look at your prospect database. Make certain that your pipeline is screened and has been put into categories based upon their potential sales worthiness.

Once you do that you can follow-up, follow-through and work your pipeline very efficiently.

You minimize the possibility that you will see what isn’t there, not because you are tipsy or having troubles with your eyes but because you are living in an enchanted land where all prospects are qualified, interested and created equal.

What I Learned From Watching “The Boss”

November 25, 2009 at 8:43 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | 3 Comments
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No, this isn’t another article about observing your management team. It’s about what you can learn from the “BossBruce Springsteen. Yep, that’s right. There are a handful of extremely helpful takeaways that all of us business people can learn from this veteran rock and roller.

Connect with Your Audience in a BIG Way

A Bruce Springsteen concert is never a quiet, low-key show. He works the crowd and plays his band like an orchestra. You can’t help but feel as if he’s singing straight to you, even in a sold-out stadium. Bruce gets it. Without his legions of devoted fans, he’d be just another guy from New Jersey.

In business, it’s just as important to make the connection with those around you. To grow long-term success, you, too, need devotees that truly believe that you’re working just for them. Build your fan base just like Bruce.

Be Real, Not Superficial

Even though Bruce probably has more money than some small nations, he still successfully projects an image of blue-collar, straightforwardness that you rarely see in other rock stars.

You just can’t envision him lip-synching a song on stage, nor wearing a sequined, glam get-up. Because he’s so good at what he does, there’s no need for distracting background dancers, dizzying light displays, or overly-synthesized songs. That’s just not Bruce. He writes and performs real music that’s straight from the heart. He wears jeans and a t-shirt and plays his guitar. No muss, no fuss!

 

Being down-to-earth is a good strategy for business, too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to spot the salesperson who is better at show-boating than really selling or the marketing director who has a knack for making a sub-standard product look very appealing in a presentation. Instead, the best approach is always honest and real. Having a reputation as someone who isn’t full of B.S. will always work to your benefit in the long run.

Work Hard

Anyone who has ever been to a Bruce Springsteen concert knows that they can be long. While most performers tire and quit after an hour and a half, Bruce can go on for hours and hours. During one tour in the early 80s, his band consistently played nearly 40 songs over four hours each night. His tireless work ethic has definitely added to his popularity and mystique. When you buy a ticket to one of his concerts, you know you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.

Bruce has found success through hard work, and so can you. By putting your hours in, you’ll not only improve your skills, you’ll establish yourself as a roll-your-sleeves-up type who is willing to do what’s necessary to get a job done.

Be a Perfectionist

Like all rock and roll stars with staying power, Bruce Springsteen makes performing look easy. He just picks up a guitar and plays, right? Not hardly! His “E Street Band” has up to nine performers on stage that all must work in synch to create the incredible music that they’re known for. This requires tremendous amounts of time rehearsing, practicing, and fine-tuning. Want to be a business rock star? Perfect what you do and then make it look easy.

Over Deliver

At the core of every performance is Bruce’s desire to do anything and everything to make his crowd happy. Even now at 60 years old, he works the stage and makes his way into the audience just as he has done for decades. He takes audience requests for songs and belts out each tune with the enthusiasm and vigor of someone half his age. Of course, he rarely ends any show with less than a five song encore. Why do many fans almost consider his concerts “pilgrimages” that they couldn’t dare miss? It’s because he consistently over delivers, always leaving them feeling like they’re truly appreciated.

Are you going over and above the call of duty and providing more than expected with your prospects, clients, and colleagues? Take it from “The Boss”, if you’re really “Born to Run”, you’ll make it your passion to over deliver, too!

 

My Sales Pipeline is Constipated

September 10, 2009 at 7:51 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, entrepreneurship, Marketing, Networking, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | 3 Comments

The analysts are, in increasing numbers, starting to tout the end of the recession, but for most of us, it still seems quite slow out there. Even if you’re the most talented salesperson, you probably have noticed that an annoying number of your prospects are stuck in your pipeline. Ok, it’s not the most polite way to phrase this, but you could be suffering from a case of sales constipation. No, a swig of milk of magnesia isn’t going to do the job here, but there are strategies to get you moving along again. Here’s how:

Keep Filling and Replenishing Your Pipeline

You want to make sure that your pipeline is continuously being filled and replenished with qualified prospects. By always having individuals at different stages of the sales process, you’ll consistently have some that are coming through as new business.

Stay On Their Grid

The sales cycle has become much longer for almost everyone. It can be easy to drop off of a prospect’s radar if you’re not diligent about your touch-point management. Fine-tune a program that utilizes phone, email, snail mail, as well as the three I’s – invitations, introductions, and information.

Don’t Give Up

Patience is needed more than ever right now. Yes, you might feel like throwing in the towel with a prospect who seems to relish sitting on the fence and stringing you along. You might even feel like expressing your personal opinion to them about their inability to make a decision. However, keep this in mind. You will never reclaim any of your return on time if you give up. So, hang in there. You’ll be glad that you did.

Realize That It Might Not Be the Economy

The recession has become a great excuse for prospects who just don’t want to tell you that they didn’t see value in what you were offering. Find out if this is what’s causing the stall. If it is a cash flow issue, you might need to hang on a little longer. If it’s really a problem with how you presented your product or service, you might need to refine your own strategies and techniques.

Don’t fall into the trap of blaming everything on the economy. There are salespeople who are successfully acquiring new business each and every day. By following these four steps, you’ll help jumpstart your pipeline to get you back on track as the recession subsides.

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.

The I’s Have It

July 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, Branding, entrepreneurship, Marketing, sales, Sales & Technology, Sales Training, small business | Leave a comment

Staying on the radar screens of clients and prospects is more important than ever for salespeople.  With demand for products and services only now beginning to pick up as the worst recession in decades slowly dissipates, it has become absolutely necessary for anyone involved in sales to be persistent, proactive, and patient.  How can this best be achieved without also looking desperate?

Remember the following three “I” words as you navigate through the sales process to walk that fine line between pushiness and persistence. They will keep you on the radar in a way that positions you as a valuable ally and resource – exactly who you want to be now and as the economy begins to improve.

Invitations

If you’re like most sales professionals, you probably receive more invitations to tradeshows, industry and charity events, seminars, and get-togethers than you could ever possible attend. Don’t let them go to waste! Instead of “circular filing” them, dole them out to prospects and clients.

Of course, they have to be relevant to their particular industry or interests. But, by being generous with your invitations, you’re using a very non-obtrusive tactic to position yourself as someone who will go the extra mile to establish and grow a business relationship.

Don’t stop with the invitations that you’re not using. If you’re planning to attend an event or show, why not ask a potential or current client to join you? It’s the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time together, build the relationship, and learn more about their business needs.

Introductions

One of the most valuable tools in any salesperson’s arsenal is their Rolodex. If you’ve built up an impressive list of contacts, you should be facilitating introductions – either cyber or in-person. You’re golden in the eyes of those you’re selling to if you’re introducing them to someone of value. If you want to garner some positive attention – give a referral. No one deletes an email or ignores a voice mail from a person who sends introductions!

Information

We undoubtedly live in the information age. If you can be a true resource for information that is timely, interesting, and of value, you will not be forgotten. Utilize Google Alerts, and other online tools to stay as current as possible. Sign up for newsletters, journals, and blogs. And, generously pass along information that can help others with their businesses.

As you develop a reputation as a knowledgeable “go to” person, consider starting your own blog or signing up with Twitter where others can check in with what you’re deeming interesting and worth writing about.

What’s interesting about these three I’s is that they are free and readily available to each and every salesperson who is interested in maximizing their ability to provide great service. However, they require the ability to be engaged and interested in partnering with prospects and clients. At the end of the day, it’s not just about making a sale; it’s truly about forming a long-term relationship that is mutually beneficial.

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