Hit Me With Your Best Shot

February 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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oHit Me With Your Best Shot

We’ve all had some sort of experience that bears resemblance to what I’m saying here:

  • You’re doing some prospecting and have gotten into the rut of thinking that every phone call is going to end in voice mail. You go on auto pilot and then oh no, the prospect answers their phone. Yu’re not really prepared and fumble through your intro losing their attention and your confidence as they politely disengage.
  • Your phone rings and you answer while looking at the computer screen and not really paying attention, only to find out that the caller is someone that you’ve been trying to reach forever.
  • You have a new business pitch and don’t have the time to prepare and practice.
  • Your new hires are handling inquiries but aren’t trained well enough to do it effectively.
  • Your social media campaign has gotten the phone to ring but alas, you don’t know what to do with the inquiries

And on and on…the examples are plentiful.

Hit me with your best shot because sometimes that’s your only shot.

Practice make perfect or almost perfect anyway. Don’t begin to think about pitching a new client or reaching out to a long desired prospect without being prepared to handle every aspect of the communication.

Train your staff. Who is the first impressionist on your team?  Are they trained and skilled to do the job? Do you pay them enough?!

Don’t be foolish enough to engage in any lead generating tactics without being 100% certain that you know what to do with the leads.

Remember that there is no ROI from any of your marketing endeavors if you don’t plan in advance. Now, hit me with your best shot.

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Looking Ahead to 2012 and Wishing and Hoping that it Will Be Better

December 13, 2011 at 8:28 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As befits this time of year I am working with several clients that are interested in putting together their sales plans for 2012.  This includes taking a close look at 2011 and seeing what worked, what didn’t, understanding why, looking at the financial ramifications of it all and then devising a comprehensive plan to address the shortfalls and maximize the positives. We look at where they can be better, faster or even newer and understand how they can be an improvement over the competition.

It’s an in-depth activity and requires an ability to honestly face the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not always pretty and it’s never easy.

But there are some clients that refuse to engage in this effort. They’re “busy” and can’t get to doing it just yet, better to wait till after the holiday season.

And so we schedule a date for sometime in January when I know they’ll put it off again.

Might I even be speaking about you?

Nope, it isn’t necessarily a fun task especially after this rather disquieting year when most everyone experienced some sort of business downturn.  It’s definitely easier to just close the pages and move on to the next year.

But frankly, that’s not smart and in the long run, will simply cost you time and money.

You need to stop and take stock of your business development initiatives and assess what you need to do more of and less of in the coming year. Where do you add value and how can you convey that to your prospects? And who are those prospects…do you need more of the same or should you be looking at different markets?  How do you fare in the face of competition? What changes are indicated and what sales processes must be initiated or changed?  And on…and on!

Wishing and hoping that 2012 will be better is just plain wrong. It might be a groovy song from the 60’s but it certainly won’t make you successful in the coming year.

Start today.

How To Be Persistent (Without Feeling Like a Stalker)

November 23, 2011 at 9:25 am | Posted in sales, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Being persistent is a good thing right?

Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and the list goes on and on of people that kept working at something until they achieved success.  So we agree…persistence is an important and positive quality!

But it’s also important to recognize that being persistent will often be received /perceived quite negatively and what you assume is a success tactic can be viewed as merely bothersome.

So, how might we make certain to not alienate our prospects by our (positive) persistence:

  • Remember that although it is extremely important for you to make contact with your prospect it just might not be that important for them! Timing is everything and your attempts might be coming to them at an extremely bad time when they have other, more mission critical events taking place. (Mellow out!)
  • Are you remembering to “add value” to the relationship even before there is a relationship?! “Checking in” and touching base” in  your attempts to get through are usually perceived by prospects as a waste of their time and ultimately self-serving. Rather than approaching your prospects in this manner, endeavor to use the three I’s (information, invitations and introductions) when attempting to get in touch. You’ll be amazed at how much more responsive your prospects will be if they see that there is “something in it for them.” (Call me if you want more details on the 3 I’s.)
  • Try to find out to which means of communication your prospect is most responsive. Phone? Email? Text? For example, don’t waste your time calling someone if they are totally phone adverse and respond most readily to text or email.
  • Lastly…always use the phrase “I hope you can appreciate my persistence.”  This statement positions your positive follow-up (yes, persistence)  in a very positive light and helps to ensure that you don’t sound apologetic or belligerent.

Any questions?  Call me and I’ll be happy to give you some more tips on how to be effective with your continued and ongoing follow-ups.

How to Overcome Objections & Stalls

November 11, 2011 at 8:15 am | Posted in Sales Training | 1 Comment
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Let’s face the facts. If you’re involved in sales, objections and stalls are simply a fact of life. While you can’t avoid these inherent frustrations altogether, you definitely have options on how to deal with them. And, it’s truly how you deal with them that will ultimately determine your success as a salesperson.

Objections and stalls can undeniably throw you off of your course and make you want to pack up and head home. However, it’s solely up to you to view them either as permanent stops or detours on the road to making a sale.

What does an objection or stall mean to you? Sure, you can look at it as your cue to find a new prospect, or if you delve a little deeper, you might just discover that the person who you’re trying to sell to is attempting to gain more information, more confidence in what you’re offering, or more selling points. This is often the case when they have to present what you’re offering to other people involved in the decision making process.

In other words, their objection might be their way of asking you to better explain what makes you different and why doing business with you will equate to some sort of improvement in their situation.

By changing your mindset and rethinking objections and stalls as simply opportunities to present more information, you definitely up your chances of winning a job. Here are some basic strategies for handling these situations:

Take a Deep Breathe

Getting thrown off and discouraged by objections is often a knee-jerk reaction by many salespeople. It’s understandable and perfectly natural. We’re all taught as children to take “no” as an answer and to not nag and continue to ask for what we want again and again. Well, salespeople have to learn how to quiet those old tapes playing in their heads. A “no” might be a veiled request for more information, and if you immediately retreat, you will be shutting the door on a potential sale.

Acknowledge Their Hesitancy

You need to demonstrate that you “get” where they’re coming when it comes to an objection. By stating that you understand how they feel, you show that you are listening respectfully, not tuning them out, and can actually empathize with their hesitancy.

How can you articulate your sensitivity? Here are a few statements that will help you keep that sales door open:

1.     Mr. Prospect, I understand how you feel.

2.     I understand what you are saying

3.     We have other clients that have felt the same way.

These three statements will go a long way to making your prospect feel more comfortable and engaged with what you’re trying to say. Remember, the goal is to maintain rapport and not to alienate or cause anxiety.

Restate Your Value Proposition

Once you’ve patiently acknowledged and responded to their objection with a benefits statement, you’ve earned yourself the right to resell. This is the pivotal point and critical moment in dealing with an objection. Don’t stop and trail off after your resell statement. You’ll only confuse your prospect on what they should do next. Instead, take control of the dialog by asking a question. Word your question accordingly so that you get a positive response or at least will know what the answer will be. With this strategy, you should now have the opportunity to resell features and benefits.

So that’s it – a simple roadmap for how to handle and hopefully overcome objections. But what if you’re faced with something not as black and white? You weren’t given an objection, but you’re instead getting the sense that they’re just putting off making any decision at all.

These are the folks that are stalling and handling them effectively will also help you to close more business. When dealing with stalls, the first and most important step is to uncover its real reason. Until you know the reality of the situation behind the stall, you cannot possibly overcome it.

In order to find out the true reason for stalling, you must utilize some effective probing. Here are some questions that you should have ready to roll off of your tongue:

“Can you tell me more about …..?”

“How are you currently handling….?”

“What is your feeling about…..?”

By using open-ended questions like these, you will encourage dialogue and eliminate the shut-down that you may encounter when using closed-ended questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.

The reality is that there are many valid reasons for prospects to stall. For instance, an accounting firm might stall about making a decision for an office renovation because the decision comes smack in the middle of tax season. Their plate is full, their minds are distracted, and a stall about making a decision is entirely valid.

However, more often stalls beg for clarification. Here are some statements to watch out for:

“I have to think about it.”

“I’m not certain. Let me talk about it with ….”

“Call me in a few weeks/months.”

“Not now/maybe later.”

These “classic stall statements provide you with little or no insight into a prospect’s “real” situation and require you to probe for more insight. Here’s how to respond:

“Can you please clarify what exactly you need to think about?”

“What’s going to be different next week, next month?”

“How about you and I speak with (the decision maker) together?”

Are you thinking that these types of responses might be too aggressive? If you remember that your objective is to uncover the reason for the stall, you will clearly see that these questions are essential for finding out the information you need to do your job effectively.

A prospect’s stall might be based on the fact that they don’t see enough value, or that they’re just not really sold yet. By uncovering their need for more information, you put yourself in a better position to make the sale. Remember – you can’t lose something that you don’t have, and since you haven’t yet won the job, you can’t be at risk by probing for information.

No one likes to deal with objection and stalls, but they are a very real part of the sales dance. Get used to it, get comfortable with it, and by employing these techniques, you’ll find yourself in the driver’s seat and winning more jobs than you ever thought you could!

 

 

 

 

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November 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, New York Sales Trainer, sales, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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As we head towards the end of 2011 I’ve been starting to review my sales results for the year, the clients that I’ve won, the ones that I have lost and the prospects that are in limbo.  It’s this last category “limbo” that causes me quite a bit of angst because I simply don’t understand why it has to be.

Let me clarify.

My prospects that are in limbo (aka unresponsive) are folks that I have met with and at the conclusion of the meeting asked me to submit a proposal for services. (Key into those all-important words please…they asked me to submit a written proposal as a follow-up to the meeting).

Now before I go on please understand that I am particularly rigorous in my “screening and qualifying” of potential clients. I want to make certain that there is a good fit between the services that I provide and the requirements that they have. I’ve been known to turn down a Request for Proposal. I don’t think that it is worth anyone’s time to propose something that you know you can’t do well.

And maybe that’s why I am particularly flummoxed by the prospects in my sales funnel that are MIA.

Of course I’ve attempted to follow-up and have used all sorts of methods to get back in touch. My voice mail messages are compelling, my emails well-positioned and still, nothing.

Why is that?

  • Are these folks feeling shy because they asked for a proposal for services but knew they didn’t have the budget? (I always inquire about budget before submitting a plan.)
  • Did they suddenly lose their decision-making power or did they fool me all along into thinking that they had that responsibility?
  • Are they particularly adverse to any sort of confrontation and do they perhaps think that by rejecting the proposal they might prompt a hostile response from me?

It seems that falling off the prospect grid happens a bit more often now even when I pay scrupulous attention to making certain that the proposals are truly desired.

And it’s not just me. I’m hearing this from more and more of my business colleagues and from my own clients as well.

Yes, there seems to be an increase in “no reply” and all we salespeople can do is just keep trying.

So remember that you can’t lose what you don’t have. Be persistent in your follow-up and don’t automatically “assume” that the prospect isn’t interested.

No reply isn’t no. You deserve an answer.

No Reply!

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.

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.

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, Please

September 13, 2011 at 7:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I take many subway rides each day as I navigate through the city heading to meetings, lunch appointments, networking events and the like. Uptown, downtown, the New York City subway is the fastest and most efficient way to get from one place to another.

And at each stop: “Stand clear of the closing doors please.”

Yes, over and over again at each stop, “stand clear of the closing doors please.”

And do you know what…the repetition works! The ongoing (taped) reminder seems to help us all step out of the way when the doors open thereby letting our fellow riders get on and get off at their stop. Yes indeed, stand clear of the closing doors please.

(Would we stand out of the way without the constant reminder? Mmm, not certain, but I rather think not. And anyway, why take that chance; it’s easy enough to remind us!)

Now think about your business. How often do you remind your clients and prospects of your key deliverables, repeat your value proposition and key points of differentiation and reiterate exactly how your business improves their personal or business lives?

Are you reminding them enough or do you think that because you told them once or even twice you just don’t have to say it again?

Are you leaving business on the table because your clients and prospects simply don’t “recall” exactly what you provide, or ALL of the things that you can do for them?

Stand clear of the closing doors please indeed.

Why Social Media is Ruining Your Business

August 25, 2011 at 11:15 am | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, sales | 8 Comments
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I love social media and have a solid appreciation for all of the marvelous things that it does for our businesses including the following:

  • Helps to build awareness of our company and brand
  • Creates visibility and can generate and register attendees for events
  • Provides a (free!) tool for the gathering of business/marketing intelligence
  • Offers access to prospects and reconnection with dormant accounts

And yes more.

But, can social media do it ALL and by all, I mean bring in business. Now lots of you are shaking your heads and thinking that I am a bit nuts for even thinking that there are companies out there that believe that social media can save the day in their acquisition of new clients.  But here’s the truth…I am saying this because I hear it and see it each and every day as I go about meeting new prospects, working with clients and speaking with business people at networking events.

Business people are doing their status updates, scrolling through the news feed, engaging in “conversations” with Linkedin contacts and are actually neglecting things like picking up the phone and calling, yes calling, prospects and dormant accounts alike. Rather, they’re using social media and email (hey, it’s fast and convenient, right?) and forgetting the personal touch points that really do matter.

People like to buy, they don’t like to be sold and they like to buy when they have a relationship built on trust and respect. Social media can help lay the foundation but that’s all.

At the end, social media is part of an INTEGRATED marketing plan. It doesn’t stand-alone, it won’t save the day and it won’t close business. That’s sales. You close sales and unless you’re an internet business with no brick and mortar and not a human to be seen on the org chart, then you need to take a look at your marketing and sales programs for the remainder of 2011 and make sure they’re positioned correctly to bring in the business you want.

Ain’t Too Proud to Beg (Mmm, Perhaps)

August 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training | 1 Comment
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Ain’t too proud to beg.

Times are tough and there’s no need to belabor the point. We get it.

Our clients (and potential clients) get it too and so we’re all in this together, trying to keep our collective heads above water, go about our business and do what it is we do to keep our businesses afloat (dare I even say profitable!).

So if we’re all in this together then why is that some clients keep trying to extract that extra ounce of blood, get their project implemented at an even lower price, going over and beyond in all of their wants and needs and insisting that we simply acquiesce to their demands.

It’s difficult to be an agreeable sort, to provide extra value and be proactive when you feel battered and bruised when winning the business.

It sometimes seems that they want us to beg.

Note to clients everywhere:  Play fair. Provide fair compensation for worthy work, be honest and forthcoming and don’t try to get something for nothing. (Maybe I should write that into every client’s playbook!).

Unfortunately that isn’t the case and again, since times are difficult many companies have to cave in to the demands of their clients.

But I ask you to consider this when dealing with “these” clients:

–Are you LOSING money for every hour that you work on that client’s program?
–Is executing the project causing a major drain on morale?
–Is the client causing your staff to burn-out?

Can you even AFFORD to take on this project?

Sometimes we have to just say “no” and turn-down and walk away from a client, and it’s a tough thing to do, especially when winning new business is as difficult as it is. You want to win and retain business based on mutual benefits. Begging, caving in and being beaten down by a client’s unreasonable demands should not be acceptable.

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