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Who is Your Audience?

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Understanding who your audience is will shorten your sales cycle and make you more effective. It will also help you maximize your time and be more relevant to the people you engage.

The other day I got a connection request from LinkedIn. The person’s profile was very scarce, because the young lady had just started out in sales and the reason I accepted her request was simple.

“I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners”

so what better opportunity than being connected with a person who is starting this difficult career.

A couple of days after I connected with her she sent me a request through LinkedIn offering her service (what else is new?). The email contained the following phrase:

My guess is before you retire you’ll probably change jobs…which means you’ll go a “recruiting process” about 100 times. It’s like professional frog kissing… and there’s always one slimy one.

Who is your Audience?

Aside from the fact that the email missed a word (through), the proposition was fairly attractive. Very politely I wrote back (because I believe in business courtesy) that I was not interested, because of my background (which she should have researched before sending the email).” I am not a sales person looking for a job, but a business owner, so the offer is not relevant to me” was my response.

At that point, the only appropriate answer to me should have been a nice “Thank you for clarifying“.

BUT, there was another email that landed in my inbox just the next day, stating the following:

I understand! Thanks so much for your response, in fact “”thank you but I’m not interested”” is our most common response. When you have 90 seconds, check this video.

It’s not that I am not interested, I am not your target audience!

At that point I decided to write this blog, because there is a pattern here and readers of my articles know that I usually pick topics that showcase common mistakes or misunderstandings.

Being not interested is quite different from not being qualified.

So, what are the differences?

Sometimes, service offerings are very compelling, really suited for my business needs but I might not be interested because of budget restraints, not having enough time to look at the offering, or any other valid reason that keeps me from pursuing the offer.

It ain’t me babe!

Not being qualified for a service offering means that the person who approaches you didn’t do their research. They don’t know enough about you and/or your company, or you are not the decision maker for the product/service offering.

If you don’t do your research as a sales person, you might end up targeting people who are not qualified to begin with. This young lady was obviously trained to search out contacts on LinkedIn, using the keyword “sales” and not qualifying them any further.  Qualifying potential buyers is key when prospecting for new business.

Too many sales people spend way too much time chasing prospects that are not a good match for their service offering. That’s why some sales pipelines are dry, because too much time is spent to engaging with the wrong audiences.

Don’t be a time waster to yourself or others

When prospecting, develop a prospect avatar so you understand who is qualified for your service offering and determine who is not. This will not only help you prospect more effectively, it will also keep you from being a time waster to the people you target.

Not all Austrians yodel

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

Doing business and doing it well is challenging to begin with, but widening your company’s footprint and breaking into new markets is a whole different story. It’s almost like starting from scratch, but with a twist. It really is and that is where the biggest mistakes happen. Some companies think that they can just use their proven “template” and apply it to other markets.

I have worked in Europe for half of a lifetime and then another half here in the U.S. While there are some similarities in the way we do business, the differences are vast and ignoring them can have devastating effects.

To start with, Europe is not as uniform as the US. Don’t get me wrong, selling in the Midwest area of the US is vastly different than selling in the Tri-state, New York area. Having done both, it’s important to understand that in New York you literally have a minute (ever wonder how the “New York minute” came about?) to get your point across while in the Midwest people are a bit more patient.

Europe on the other hand not only has a large number of different countries with greatly different languages. Within those countries there are also social and linguistic nuances, and prejudices that are older than the history of the U.S. coupled with a desire to stay authentic.

Below are some tips on how to be successful when venturing abroad or communicating with internal, international audiences.

Don’t Think You Can Go It Alone

The biggest mistake would be to think that you can do business in another region without local presence or, at least advice. Hire a local business person within your industry and ask that person for advice on what to do and what NOT to do. Once you have that person on board, take their advice, understand and adjust to the cultural differences.

Geography Alone Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

My home country Austria is located in the eastern central part of Europe, but don’t make the mistake to think that we are Eastern Europeans. We are by any means of the definition culturally situated in the West because of our history. A big American company made the mistake to divide Europe by geography and put Austria in the Eastern region (along with the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, etc. – all countries with emerging economies) instead of aligning it with Germany, Italy, Switzerland where Austria has not only traditionally been part of but also has close economic ties. The results were pretty devastating. The very successful Austrian management team resented the change and it was difficult to manage Austria within a region where there was no history of an open market economy until the Iron Curtain came down in 1989. Big mistake!

Try to Understand the Way Business is Done

Go easy on the PowerPoint and have a Cappuccino instead. Many of my friends in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy tell me that to this day business is done by building relationships, taking prospects and clients out, drinking and eating. While we here in the U.S. still enjoy meeting client contacts in-person, it’s no longer essential to the success of a company. I have done business with clients that I didn’t meet until year 3 into the engagement, something that is still rare in Europe. Wining and dining are still essential ingredients to being successful in many markets. And so, if you do not or someone you hire doesn’t embrace that concept, it will be hard to build trust.

English is Standard, but Watch out for Communication Style Differences

Of course, English is the universal language and most companies that want to do business internationally will hire people who speak English quite well. That doesn’t mean that they can master all the facets of the language. Be careful in the way you communicate and make sure that what you are trying to say is something that is properly understood by your counterpart. Avoid idioms and explain your proposition in more than one way. I have sat in on many meetings with international companies and sometimes people try to translate certain terminology in a way where it doesn’t make sense in the other language. This can lead to confusion and mismanaged expectations

Be Patient, and then, Be Patient Again!

In the U.S., we are used to getting things done in a very timely manner. Either we like something and find that it makes sense or we don’t and then we are on to the next thing. In Europe people are not used to doing business that way. There is a lot more collaboration, consideration and weighing the facts. This will lead to the process taking longer, with more meetings and decision-making points. Very seldom will you walk away from a meeting with clear action points, but if you read the buying signs correctly (and culturally correctly as well) and you are patient, it will pay off. It might take a few more lunches, dinners or drinks, but then, who’s counting?

Understand Traditions and Heritage

Coming late to a meeting in Germany or Austria is really rather unacceptable. In Italy you will probably not leave a bad impression, only if you are late and a bad dresser, too! Don’t make the mistake to think that Germany, Austria and Switzerland have a lot in common just because we all speak German (at least in parts of Switzerland). While there are many similarities, the differences run deep and some animosities do as well. European countries are very proud of their heritage, their food and their traditions. When you make references, be sure that you really know what you are referring to. Austrians don’t yodel (as a matter of fact, most of us have never heard of, least of all watched “The Sound of Music”) and not all Germans are rigid.

In closing, my strongest suggestion is to keep an open mind and to not stereotype. Like in every sales situation, it’s best to observe, learn, ask questions, adjust and most importantly to listen. Humility goes a long way, especially when dealing with a different culture. Nobody likes to think that they are inferior and the best success can be achieved when we embrace rather than judge.

Sales for Twitter

Posted on: March 25th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

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Selling Twitter Advertising – Should traditional sales methods apply?

For sure!

Social media analysis or social media advertising is a service such like any other. These days, it’s probably more important to understand all the choices that we as sales people have in regard to social media, but when it comes to the sales process the same principles apply.

Your service might be “hip”, but are your audiences?

It really doesn’t matter what it is you are selling, there is still people on the other line (or across the table) who make the purchasing decision. Why is it that companies who offer what would be considered “hip” services train their sales people in a way that reflects their world rather than resonating with the buyer’s environment.

People who follow me probably know where this is going. I usually write about personal experiences and this article is not different. I had a sales experience with a Twitter ad sales person the other day………

A couple of weeks ago I got a coupon for $50 to spend on Twitter ads. So, I went on-line and created an ad that I hoped would get me some responses. It didn’t but that was probably due to my lack of expertise in that area.

So, a couple of days later I got an email from a Twitter sales representative who introduced himself as my personal guide in that area with the suggestion to schedule a call so we can optimize my Twitter advertising efforts. I gladly accepted because I always welcome best practices.

Automation is great, but only if it works

We scheduled the call. Then a couple of days later I got another email from the same person asking me to schedule an appointment. “I wanted to follow up with you to schedule some time for us to talk about optimizing your Twitter advertising”.

“We already scheduled time for tomorrow”, was my response. Obviously a glitch in their “lead generation” which doesn’t make you feel special as a person when you find out that the person you will be talking to doesn’t send their own emails it’s obviously generated by a system. Oh well, I thought. Welcome to our new world.

The appointment was scheduled for 4 pm to 4:25, which I thought was oddly specific, only to find out that my representative called 6 minutes after 4 pm. When I pointed it out (as I am a stickler for punctuality, honoring other people’s time) he casually said “Yes, I am late because I am running over from a previous call”. Doesn’t exactly give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

I don’t really understand the business value of Twitter, yet

We started the call and overall it was OK, nothing outstanding but a few nuggets of insight. I told the representative bluntly that while I was really knowledgeable on LinkedIn I was still struggling to fully understand the business value of Twitter. “That’s OK”, he replied without further going into it. Is it really, was my first reaction.

We finished the call 6 minutes early (maybe there is some method to this) and the sales person promised to follow up with an email recapping everything that we had discussed. This was a week ago and I am still waiting.

Maybe I should tweet him?

Why should CEOs be involved in developing a sales culture?

Posted on: December 3rd, 2014 by Monika No Comments

Remember, the fish starts stinking at the top

That’s right, it always does. And when it comes to the sales process it’s not different. CEOs need to understand, embrace and support the sales process. If your CEO expects immediate results and you are stuck in a sales cycle that takes 3-6 months, guess what will happen? Your CEO will question you, your boss, your team and that’s usually where the panic starts.

Always get buy-in from your CEO

Why? So there is no surprises. While I preach that CEOs should not meddle with the sales process once it is established, I also feel that the process needs to be developed, agreed upon and fine tuned with the CEO in the room. It’s a cultural shift that will build a trusting environment where everybody involved in sales knows the parameters and the name of the game.

Everybody is in sales

Everybody within your organization should have a sales mindset. Why? Because you are constantly selling and building trust. Everybody who is client facing, and I mean everybody is responsible for the reputation of your company. It’s hard to sell when people don’t trust. If I visit a client and the receptionist is not friendly, that leaves a negative impression.

If I then talk to a customer representative and they are not knowledgeable. Guess how that will impact my decision to buy?

And if I then get referred to a sales person who pitches something that I don’t need, because they don’t listen, they just “sell” it will probably make me think about buying anything from that company. Right?

Your people are selling all the time, in a direct or indirect way. So, they need to understand that their livelihood is directly tied to their demeanor, mindset and behavior. Our training program helps companies to establish a common Sales & Service language. No matter who you encounter within the organization, they should all speak the “same” language.

Train your account people

When we think about the sales, we think about sales people, database management, phone calls, etc.

But, if your account people are charged with growing revenue within existing accounts and they are not trained to do that, they will most likely resist it.  Most opportunities are right under our noses. It’s the trusted clients we work with who are most receptive to our new service offerings. But if your account people feel that they are only responsible for account management and they are uncomfortable talking about new business, the up-selling will be difficult.

Help your CEO with driving directions

CEOs are visionaries, they know where they want to end up, but it is up to his people to provide the map. CEOs often don’t want to be bothered with details, but if they are presented with a concept that helps everybody within the organization to become more focused on new business development (which will result in additional revenue), they will open up their ears. Our most successful training programs are the ones where the CEO agrees with the philosophy and his/her leaders drive the direction.

5 Basics for Prospecting Fortune 1000 Companies

Posted on: November 21st, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In a consultative sales environment, companies that target Fortune 1000 prospects all struggle to stand out from the crowd. How will my sales people get the attention from these prospects? That’s really the big question that keeps all sales managers awake at night.

Some companies think that hiring as many sales people as possible, having them hit the phones and “dialing for dollars” will be the answer. At times they end up hiring “telemarketing” people or sales people who only work on a commission basis to play the numbers game.

But honestly, in today’s ever more competitive environment, do you want your sales efforts to be all about quantity? If you’re looking to stand out and embrace a consultative approach, you’ll agree with me that it’s really all about quality. Once you know who to target and what your unique positioning is, then you can ramp up the call/e-mail volume. But first you need to know how you can serve your prospects best and who your target is.

Be Consultative, Mindful and Relevant

A consultative sales approach starts with understanding what you want to say to your prospects.  Did you develop a message that will resonate with your audiences? Remember, in order for people to buy, your solution has to help them make money, save money or time, maximize their potential and achieve their goals or elevate their company’s or their own reputation.

Focus on Value, not Features and Benefits

Therefore a message focusing on the greatness of your product or service will most likely not be as effective. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and try to find out why you would buy your service. Your message needs to focus on the value to your decision maker. Most sales people lead with features or benefits and forget that their counterparts do the same. For example, good customer service is essential but hardly unique and certainly not a differentiator. Good customer service is also something that people take for granted. Every company with a service offering will claim to have good customer service, they certainly wouldn’t mention it if it sucked, would they?

A global presence on the other hand can be a differentiator, as long as it is important to your prospects.

In the End – People Buy from People

The next step is to develop a message or script that you as the sales person can own. If sales people don’t believe in the message they are communicating, they will come across as inauthentic. Prospects will feel that they being “sold to” rather than advised. As soon as a sales person sounds scripted, people will most likely lose interest. Even when you prospect Fortune 1000 companies you shouldn’t forget that it is people who are making decisions. People don’t like to be sold to, but they appreciate help. If you can offer something of value to them, it will help you build rapport and trust. Trust is essential in building relationships, on a personal and on a business level. Remember the old adage? Know – Like – Trust. Never forget that it is people you are targeting.

Who Are the Decision-Makers?

And then comes the really, really hard part. Who within the organization should you call on? In using a consultative sales approach, it is essential to be clear about and establish who the final decision-maker is or, more likely, who the decision-makers are.

In prospecting Fortune 1000 companies you will need to approach and build relationships with multiple decision-makers, or perhaps a committee making the decisions together. There will be different levels of decision-makers or buyer influencers. And if you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll work to understand what is of value and relevance to each of these different influencers. Will they actually be using your solution? Will they be passing on recommendations to use your solution? Or, will they be making the final decision? – In other words, can they say “no”, when all others say yes?

Do Your Research & Be Relevant

A CFO will most likely respond to a message that will help him save money. A COO will be interested in optimizing workflow and a CTO will want to hear about the latest and best technology solutions. A CMO on the other hand will want to hear about the benefits that a technology solution will bring to optimizing marketing efforts and not the benefits of the technology itself.

Knowing who your decision maker is will help you customize your message and it will enable you to speak directly to their needs and the industry challenges. That is why research is essential when it comes to good prospecting.

We have documented time and again when applying a consultative sales approach, how important it is to be relevant (mention industry challenges) mindful (remember, it’s people we are targeting) and to do your research so you come across as a knowledgeable and professional advisor – not as some unqualified sales person trying to sell something.

Don’t Sell me This Pen

Posted on: October 17th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

    Sell Me This Pen – Really?

On occasion I’ve come across the “Sell Me This Pen” concept. The first time I actually heard somebody use the phrase was in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”, and since then I pay attention when I hear it. Just recently I read a post on LinkedIn explaining that apparently this challenge is part of some sales interviews. The article also stated that this sales interview question (and other similar questions which seem easy enough to answer) has been around for quite some. So, what do you?

Don’t Sell the Pen, Build a Relationship

When companies hire sales people who can answer such a question easily pointing out how great the pen is, they shouldn’t be surprised if they get practitioners who focus on selling the features of their offering rather than adding value to their clients. In my years consulting with Fortune 1000 companies, and small businesses alike, their sales people who live in the B2B world have always performed better when identifying client needs rather than simply selling their product or solution on its features and benefits. When sales people are trained to sell the features of their service/product, rather than being a resource to their clients, they forget about the needs and the business goals of their prospects. This can also lead to talking themselves out of a sale.

There Will Always Be a Cheaper Pen, Won’t There?

Another challenge with the concept of selling on features is that it commoditizes your offering. If you focus on your product/service without regard of your prospect’s situation, the next question will be about price and then (in most cases) the price shopping starts. Selling only on the features of a product/service means you are disregarding your audience’s true needs. And you might be forcing what could turn out to not be a good fit. But let’s assume it is a good fit. Remember, there will always be somebody who will offer the same or similar product/service cheaper.

Help Your Prospect Grow Their Business

In a consultative sales environment you’ll want to move away from a tactical approach of “selling” something, and instead become a trusted advisor. There are no long term prospects for a tactical approach. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being “sold to”!

If you start building a relationship instead, uncovering your prospect’s needs beyond the obvious, and providing a solution that is relevant to their business goals, you will not be as easily replaced by someone who just sells stuff – cheaper!

Once you focus on your prospect’s business needs and how you can help them grow their business, you will not only get their attention, you will also develop longer lasting relationships. Your sales will be more profitable. And as a result, your business will grow, too!

Less Talking & Selling, More Listening

Sales people who are in “selling” mode, simply don’t ask enough questions. And the questions they do ask do not motivate their prospects/clients to speak openly and freely about their true needs. With this approach, sales people are far too focused on the features and benefits of their offering rather than uncovering the needs of their prospect/client. You want to truly be a resource to your prospects, don’t you?

Slow down, listen, ask open-ended questions, and invite your prospect to open up about their business challenges. Then, determine if your offering is a good fit.

If it is, move ahead, make your case and focus on how you can add value.

If it’s not a good fit, explain why, leave a good impression, and perhaps refer a resource and move on to the next prospect. At least you were able to build an honest relationship. If the prospect’s situation changes in the future, they will certainly think of you as a good advisor.

Hire the Right People-Ask the Right Questions

Maybe “Sell Me a Pen” is a funky or challenging way to interview, but it doesn’t reflect what constitutes best practice in a solution-oriented or consultative selling environment. Look instead, when hiring, for sales people who are capable of building long-term relationships and providing value in the eyes of your customers.

It might seem easier to train sales people on using a script and selling a “pen”. But when you consider the costs of on-boarding, training, etc., you don’t want to have them leave and end up at your competition. Especially in industries where sales people are almost a commodity, only management can change the conversation.

I deeply believe selling cannot be about convincing people to buy something that they don’t need, but rather, adding value to your client by providing solutions to help them be more successful. In my opinion, smart managers looking for valuable sales people will be asking different questions, like “How can you help your client grow their business?” What do you think?

Courtesy in Sales Out the Window?!

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

In sales, should courtesy be tossed out the window?

Recently, I have been following a LinkedIn discussion where the following question was posed?

When calling, should you ask a prospect whether it’s a good time to speak?
Living in a consultative sales world, and teaching the principles of a consultative sales process, to me the answer was simple. Yes. Being mindful is one of the core principles of consultative selling and it should be the core principle when doing business. Where do you stand?

Courtesy Rules
In my opinion, courtesy should never be ignored just to get to results. As a matter of fact, I would argue that the results could be short lived if you just want to get your point across at all costs.
We live in a world where people are looking at different indicators and measures, not only monetary gain and that’s a good thing in my view. Companies are starting to embrace business practices that show that they care. And it has been proven to help the bottom line whether it’s genuine or not.

Is Sales the Exception?
So, why do some people think sales should be the exception? What is the basis of their assumption that in the sales world we can ignore practices that have been proven to work in other business disciplines?
Nobody Wants to be Interrupted (or do you?)

In my many years of calling on C-Level executives, I firmly believe that when you interrupt somebody’s work day, you should always be courteous and professional – first and foremost. Asking your prospect if it’s a good time to speak and giving the person an option will not only leave a good impression, it will lead to a good conversation. If sales people just start off with a generic pitch – and “fast-talking” – they most likely won’t get the attention of the person they are actually trying to connect with. I know for myself that when people call me and start reeling off their pitch, I’m mainly annoyed. For the most part I don’t even listen to what they are saying. My goal is to get them off the phone.

Teach Your People Well, But Not to be Rude
One of the LinkedIn discussion participants even said that he is teaching his people to never ask that question because they then can’t get their point across and it only invites a “No, I don’t have time”. Making that point just leads me to believe this person has no confidence in the people she/he hires to present themselves confidently on the phone.
Of course it depends on the situation and maybe your introduction could start with a simple way of saying, “Hi, I won’t take much of your time. Would you mind listening to my short business introduction if this is a good time for you?” Wording, timing and applying common sense is essential, in life as well as in business. Teaching your salespeople to basically be rude certainly wouldn’t attract me to work for or with a company embracing that sales approach.

Desperation is a Bad Motivator
Salespeople who start off with a pitch in the fear they won’t gain attention can come across as desperate. And that’s one of the reasons why salespeople often have a bad reputation. One person in the LinkedIn discussion said that people should screen their calls and use caller ID to decide if they’ll take the call. Well, many unsolicited calls come in as “Unknown” on my caller ID, so do some calls from Europe. So I am always tempted to answer the phone because I wouldn’t want to miss a call from family or friends in Vienna, Austria, for example. Does that mean I should be punished with rude sales behavior for picking up?

Do Your Research & People will Listen
If you do your research and you know something about the company and the person that you are calling on, you will always be in a better position to open a dialogue. Also, if you introduce yourself via email and then call to follow up, your “cold call” won’t come across as completely out of the blue.

In closing, there are many ways to prospect effectively. I prospect every day on behalf of my clients with huge success. But ignoring courtesy is definitely not part of my recipe.

Empower your CEO when it comes to sales

Posted on: April 11th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

Readers who have been following my blogs know that I am very cautious when it comes to C-Level involvement and sales, but that only pertains to day-to-day operations and not the conceptual involvement. Your sales process, your sales training or any other sales related areas will not be successful if the CEO feels that it’s not in line with her/his philosophy or thinking.

The most successful sales training programs we have experienced are the ones where the CEO spear-headed, promoted or at the very least approved and supported the program. Sales and sales training cannot be successful if the CEO is not on board.

1) Socialize your CEO with sales

In my experience, most CEOs are strong leaders and are passionate about their company.  That’s also a good reason why they are in the position they are in. Being strong leaders and passionate about what their company can do, many also think they are as good at sales as at leading an organization.  Though they may be quite skilled at promoting their business to investors, understanding Sales as a discipline is a very different cup of tea. We’ve found that the best way to get buy-in on your sales process is to invite your CEO to a meeting where you present the philosophy (consultative selling, customer-centric selling, etc.) and why you have chosen that approach, along with goals and outlines to support company objectives and goals.

2) Be prepared to answer questions

Preparation is everything and you need to be in a position where you can support your strategy (if necessary) with case studies (from previous experiences) or data that you have collected. Just to say that you believe in a consultative approach to selling without knowing why will probably not leave the best impression.

3) Be specific, or not – depending on your CEO’s personality

Graduates of our Consultative Sales Certification Program possess the knowledge and skills to identify personality styles, understand how people digest information and most importantly, how to adjust to most effectively communicate. If your CEO is a strong “D” or Director type, someone very results-oriented, a quick decision-maker, you’ll want to provide top level information, cut to the chase and show how the bottom line will be affected.

If your CEO however is more of a “C” or Cautious and analytical, you need to go into more detail, using data to support your claim as to why you want to do things the way you present them.

4) Build trust

By providing information to your CEO, helping her/him understand the sales process you are a step ahead and more in control. If your CEO has doubts about your sales process, you can talk about it, make adjustments and so you get her/his buy-in. This will help you build trust and allocate budgets and you and your team will share responsibility with your CEO for the outcomes.

5) Be honest

If your sales cycle is lengthy, make sure your CEO fully understands why. Now is your time to be honest and straightforward. It helps you to build rapport, gain trust and to manage expectations. Don’t paint a rosy picture if there are serious obstacles you are facing. If you have built a collaborative environment and your CEO understands the obstacles and the sales process, you will be more successful working towards your goals together.

Oval Callout: I want it, and I want it now!

We don’t have time for … (sales training)

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

http://www.thewoodshop.20m.com/graphics/clockface2.jpgThe phrase “We don’t have time for …” is very often used to stall and/or avoid responsibility or just as an excuse to do nothing. There really is never a lack of time. Rather, it’s really a matter of setting priorities. If you feel that you don’t have time to do something important, I invite to re-consider.

Are you trying to avoid doing something, or do you feel that the task is not important enough to make it on top of your priority list? This is a really important exercise. In business and in life.

Everyone I know suffers from time deficiency. Our busy schedules, cluttered with appointments and obligations and getting inundated with information through voice mails, emails, social media alerts, Twitter feeds, Instagram, you name it – we’re in overload!

Today, for example I decided to clean out my Inbox and unsubscribe from many mailings. Not because the information was useless, but it wasn’t of value to me personally and professionally any longer. Freeing up my time and clearing my schedule gives me an opportunity to add things that matter to me personally or to my professional education.

But, let’s get back to the phrase of “We don’t have time for sales training” – this is something we occasionally hear from our prospects when we discuss our Strategic Consultative Sales Certification Training Program.

Business Development Is A Priority, Is It Not?

I am a deep believer that Business Development should be a top priority for every single organization. Without it, your company won’t grow. But even more importantly for me, is that it should be mindful business development – not just making numbers. Your company should have a growth plan and a goal to gain more profitable customers. I’ve experienced more companies than I’d like to just adding numbers to their revenue stream without looking hard at profitability.

No Sales Training = Status Quo, or does it?

Our clients are always amazed at how even their top producing business development people develop new and updated insights and get great value from our Training Programs. There is always room for improvement and if we don’t learn, we stagnate, or even worse we regress. Sales is process and it’s hard. We are in the trenches every single day trying to achieve our sales goals. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern without looking up and looking around for new techniques and refining one’s skills. Decidedly, an on-going sales training program gives you an opportunity to regroup, to challenge your thinking, adjust your behavior and develop new skills.

Why is it Always the Top Performing Companies Who Get It?

Interestingly enough, most of our clients are the ones who are already successful. They don’t really have a problem with business development, but they do want to do better. They continuously seek out solutions that can help them to be more strategic and to grow revenue in a more effective way. They also know that by helping their business development staff be more effective, it will lead to a win-win situation. Their people will earn more and it will lead to more revenue and higher profit margins.

Still No Time for Training? Think Again.

What people don’t realize is that not doing anything doesn’t necessarily mean that everything stays the same. It means that you are not progressing but your competition might very well be. While your sales people are doing things the way they were done 5, 10, sometimes 15 years ago, the competition is learning to plan strategically, to overcome objections with real value solutions and to close business with clients who fit in with their strategic objectives. Sales and business development has changed in many ways in the last 5 years due to all the social media channels. If your sales people are not kept fresh and up to speed, they will be left behind. Nobody would think that using fax machines to get new business is a State of the Art practice, would they?

What is Your Business Growth Worth to You?

My health and sanity is worth 6 hours a month to me. That’s the time that I take away from my busy schedule to practice Yoga. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me sane.

My business growth is worth 20 hours a week, that’s the amount of time I spend on prospecting, writing articles such as this one and learning about new best practices.

Our clients have their sales and account management people spend 4-5 hours a month on learning to become more strategic business development people embracing and utilizing a consultative approach. When they graduate from our program (which usually takes 6-8 months, remember – sales is a process and so is learning) they have grown their business by over 30% on average. A small time investment if you think about it in terms of ROI.

So, really, it’s all about priorities. Business Development needs to be a priority, whether it comes to cold calling (schedule time every day), or staying in touch with your customers (plan to do that on a regular schedule) or learning new practices.

Not having time means that growing your company is not a priority. And that’s surely not what you are aiming for, is it?

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.”
– Coleman Cox

As you know, we deeply believe that our Consultative Sales Certification Program provides so many benefits and value to a sales organization. Interestingly enough we share this conviction with a Sales Consultant whose blog you can read here.

Three Ways to Increase Sales Training Adoption: Tom Maloney

http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/bid/104882/Three-Ways-to-Increase-Sales-Training-Adoption

 

Are you selling Value or “Stuff”?

Posted on: January 16th, 2014 by Monika 1 Comment

Happy 2014! Let’s make it count. I hope that you had a relaxing holiday season and you’re off to a great start.

Last December we had a prospect meeting and the discussion was about shifting from a commodity sale to becoming more value oriented. It’s a really important shift in today’s business environment where the consumers/customers are more informed than ever and almost everything can be researched online.

Are you selling “Stuff” or Value?

How to Shift from Commodity Sales to Value Selling

Many of our clients face the challenge of being in a market where their product or service is considered a commodity. The challenge there is that it is usually a price driven discussion and sales people are trained to commoditize their sales approach rather than selling value.

Focus on Value Rather than Features

When a company offers a product that is viewed as a commodity, very often sales people feel they need to focus on the features of their service or product only to find out that their prices are undercut by the competition. Somebody, somewhere can always do something similar cheaper. But think about yourself:  Most people generally don’t buy features. They buy what they feel gives them the most value for a specific solution. Let me give you a couple of examples.

Is It the Way Coffee Tastes, or the Way You Feel When You Drink It?

I would consider coffee a commodity. And of course it is when you buy coffee bean futures, but I am talking about buying a cup of coffee and enjoying it. Starbucks, before they broke into the American market figured out that Europeans enjoy their coffee experience. It wasn’t only about the quality of the coffee (although also very important), but everything around it. The smell, when you walk into a Cafe, the way your waiter/barista remembers how you like it, the fact that you can sit and enjoy while you are sipping it.

All of a sudden, America went from percolators (so 1950’s!) to signature drinks where it sometimes takes as long to order a coffee (tall, skinny, dry Hazelnut Cappuccino?!) than a meal in a restaurant. What happened? Starbucks changed the way Americans look at drinking coffee. It’s no longer about a brown drink, it’s about relaxing, gathering, enjoying- the VALUE of the entire experience.

This approach can be used for every sales process, even when the process has traditionally been viewed as a commodity sale. And your customers will change the way they think about your product/service.

It’s Not About the Features of Your Product, but the Value

One of our clients sells very high-performance tooling equipment. Their products are more expensive than those offered by the competition but the quality of their tools is unmatched. We’re helping their sales people focus on the peace of mind they are selling, the long-term savings in labor and replacement costs, as well as higher production rather than the product features. Their sales people now focus on the value rather than the product features. Quality products don’t break as often, they are reliable and long lasting. When you buy and use them, you don’t have to think about getting a new one for a really long time, sometimes for a lifetime.

If your sales people focus on that peace of mind, on long-term savings, talk about the quality and the reliability, then discussions on price will become secondary. Once you lead with features, your prospects will start comparing and then price is the top of mind discussion.

Freight is Freight, or Is It?

One could argue that freight is freight and market research is market research. Yes, of course it is, but once you launch this tactical approach, talking about the speed of your freight delivery or the accuracy of your market research results, what do you think will happen? People will start comparing your offering with that of the competition and they will start price shopping.

If your sales people however focus on the fact that your freight will be in good hands, that once you hand off a project, you don’t have to think about it anymore and all the details will be taken care of, then you are selling peace of mind. The same holds true in the market research/agency world. People are not looking for numbers, as they assume that they are accurate. They are looking for ways to use those numbers to understand their customers better, or to grow their market share.

It’s About a Mindset Shift

I, for example don’t sell consultative sales training, I sell the way our participants feel about business development. Our graduates look at business development in a completely different way. They learn the skills and concepts to genuinely understand their customer’s needs, gaining more confidence which in turn results in more profitable accounts. We provide our clients with a training program that keeps their employees accountable. They no longer feel that they are sales people trying to get business, but they know that they are consultants who help their prospects be more successful. They add value and when adding value sales professionals are more comfortable asking for business.

Be Proud of Your Price Tag

There is nothing wrong with being more expensive, as long as you have sales people who understand the real value that their customers and prospects are looking for and can communicate it. Own your price tag. As a matter of fact, when I sold services that were more expensive than the competition, I would proudly say. “Yes, we are more expensive, and here is why”.

And once again, I wish everyone a great 2014 and GOOD SELLING!