You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

March 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
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You say goodbye and I say hello.

But here’s the thing, I’m not referring to the disconnect in our personal lives but rather the disconnect that can occur in our business relationships as well.

  • The client is pleased with the work you’re doing but you’re losing money for each hour that you work on the project.
  • You are attempting to do everything that the client asks but somehow no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to meet their demands.
  • The client is convinced that you are overcharging them despite the fact that you have kept them apprised of the hours accrued and dollars spent every step of the way.

You say goodbye and I say hello. It all boils down to simple communication. Or as it seems to be in many situations, not so simple communication.

In my almost 25 years in business I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to communicating. Everyone seems to agree that it’s critical to be on point in all business situations but just how to do so can be a bit elusive.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Document everything. Seems simple doesn’t it but how many times has there been no email trail to fall back upon when a miscommunication arises.
  • Attempt to make everything clear and concise right from the beginning. If you start with ambiguity it will only get more confusing with time.
  • Don’t let matters fester. If you feel that there is a disconnect address it immediately before it gets blown out of proportion.
  • Kiss…yup “keep it simple stupid.” Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated.
  • Agree to disagree but also agree to try and work it out if and when a problem arises.

Keeping these few rules in mind will help to ensure better communication and more smooth business relationships.

Remember, we can work it out.

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You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello

March 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Posted in sales | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

You say goodbye and I say hello.

But here’s the thing, I’m not referring to the disconnect in our personal lives but rather the disconnect that can occur in our business relationships as well.

  • The client is pleased with the work you’re doing but you’re losing money for each hour that you work on the project.
  • You are attempting to do everything that the client asks but somehow no matter how hard you try you can’t seem to meet their demands.
  • The client is convinced that you are overcharging them despite the fact that you have kept them apprised of the hours accrued and dollars spent every step of the way.

You say goodbye and I say hello. It all boils down to simple communication. Or as it seems to be in many situations, not so simple communication.

In my almost 25 years in business I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to communicating. Everyone seems to agree that it’s critical to be on point in all business situations but just how to do so can be a bit elusive.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Document everything. Seems simple doesn’t it but how many times has there been no email trail to fall back upon when a miscommunication arises.
  • Attempt to make everything clear and concise right from the beginning. If you start with ambiguity it will only get more confusing with time.
  • Don’t let matters fester. If you feel that there is a disconnect address it immediately before it gets blown out of proportion.
  • Kiss…yup “keep it simple stupid.” Don’t make things unnecessarily complicated.
  • Agree to disagree but also agree to try and work it out if and when a problem arises.

Keeping these few rules in mind will help to ensure better communication and more smooth business relationships.

Remember, we can work it out.

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.

Tips for Selecting the Right Sales Trainer or Coach

December 4, 2011 at 11:21 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s almost 2012 and many companies and individuals are starting to think about improving and increasing their sales in the upcoming year. They are also pondering the idea of bringing in a professional resource to help them get to the proverbial “next rung” and making that decision can be vexing.

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, here’s what you need to think about when selecting a sales trainer/coach for yourself or your team:

1)    Interview the person very carefully and be attuned to not only their resume of accomplishments but also to their tone, manner and conversation style.  How you communicate something is equally as important as the words and concepts being shared, and certain styles of communication are known to “turn-off” the audience. Buyer beware!

2)    Find out if you can see the trainer “in action.” No, I don’t mean a video that appears on YouTube or their website. Mostly these are edited and are also very brief snippets of the person in action. Rather, you’d like to see and hear them engaging in real-time with an audience and handling the questions and push-back as well as how they keep the attention of the crowd. (When ALL else fails, a video is better than seeing/hearing nothing. Note to trainers everywhere, now is the time to build a library of videos for your site and YouTube!)

3)    How familiar are they with your industry? While in-depth experience working in your “space” does not necessarily insure that the program will be spot-on, it does help to make the trainer / coach more conversant and comfortable with your “jargon” and the selling challenges that you encounter. (And yes, a good trainer can do the appropriate research and gather this data even if they don’t have extensive prior work experience in your space.)

4)    What’s included in the program? Will the trainer / coach be accessible to you after the training for follow-up questions or challenges? Do they have handouts and / or workbooks to share with the group?  Bottom-line, do you get anything other than their time / expertise!

5)    Yes, fees count. Do you feel that their fee structure is fair and in-line with the training / coaching industry? Remember that training is an investment and done effectively, you WILL see ROI from the efforts.

6)    Do you like the trainer? Will your staff like the trainer? Personality and “platform/presentation skills” play a very strong role in being an effective trainer. Don’t ignore likeability!

7)    What other credentials do they have?  Author? Speaker? Columnist?  Many trainers can bring a broad perspective and additional skills to your unique situation. These other skills can be highly beneficial and provide you with added value.

8)    If the trainer / coach has published a book on sales, make certain to get a copy for each of the participants. Authors tend to have quite a bit of well-deserved credibility and this will help you to obtain buy-in from the trainees.

And of course, trust your gut instincts but don’t rely on them exclusively. Engaging with a sales trainer or coach should be an extremely beneficial and rewarding experience.  Any questions, ask me…no obligation, of course!

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.

Patting the Baby

November 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I recently watched a sneaky little 4 year old girl cuddle and pat her baby brother. As you can imagine, when her mom was watching she was extremely gentle and sweet, but when her mom turned away, even for just an instant, her pats became increasingly more rough and the look on her face changed form adoration to one of disgust.

Recognize the behavior?

Yep, sure you do. It happens in offices all the time.

Sales teams can almost always play well together when mom (aka the sales manager) is watching. But watch out when management turns away for the bonhomie can turn ugly real fast.

So what’s a sales manager to do because just like mom you often need to “look away”.

  1. Lead by example and treat everyone on your sales team with respect and courtesy. If you display poor behavior your sales reps will also and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
  2. Provide timely hands-on coaching and feedback when team members are not “behaving” as expected. Don’t allow a lack of teamwork to become patterned behavior.
  3. Even though sales reps are intrinsically competitive, help them to focus on team accomplishments as well as individual. Provide individual as well as group incentives and motivate accordingly.

It’s easy for the “kids” to play nicely in the sandbox when you are standing guard. It’s more difficult and truly the job of the sales manager to make certain that this nice behavior is carried forward even when “parental eyes” are elsewhere.

 

 

 

 

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.

The Importance of Selling

September 26, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Posted in sales, Sales Training | 3 Comments
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I never thought that it would get to this.

No, I never thought that I would be propelled to write a post about the importance of selling.

After all, it’s pretty obvious, right? If you’re in business, if you have a trade or a profession you must try to win new customers and retain and grow your existing ones.

Simple.  You…sell.

Fact: you shouldn’t develop a groovy new logo, create a brochure, procure some promotional items or dive deep into social media without thinking about your ultimate goal, the acquisition of new business.

And regardless of whether you have a transactional type of business or one that is very consultative, the desired end result is the same: increased business.

So before you march into the land of marketing make certain that you have:

  • Established a well-oiled sales process
  • Created your follow-up and touch point management program (for long-term ROI on the marketing initiatives)
  • Fine-tuned your sales strategies and techniques

Marketing is great but it’s not a stand-alone. It must be tightly integrated with your sales efforts and if it isn’t, all of your marketing efforts will simply cost you time, money and momentum.

It’s September: Do You Need A Wake-Up Call?

September 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training | 1 Comment
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Wake Me Up When September Ends.

With all due respect to Green Day I hope that you’re not singing this song: wake me up when September ends.

September. It’s here now.

We’re in that last push for business so that we might end 2011 in as good a position as possible.

Flaky economy be damned.

No time to sleep.

–Network more and do it in a more strategic manner.

–Connect with clients.

–Reconnect with dormant accounts.

–Invest in some refresher training.

–Start to use social media exquisitely (Don’t know how? Reach out and get some help. There are scads of resources to contact.)

–Not getting the results that you want? Think creatively and do things differently…now

–Explore strategic alliances.

–Divorce “bad” clients.

–Stop blaming the economy, your employees, your bad luck.

–Think positively.

–Get/be healthy. You can’t work hard if you don’t feel good.

Got it? Do it…Now.

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