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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?

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?

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!

I want to Change the Way We Sell. Period.

Posted on: December 3rd, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

That’s my big Why? This revelation happened during a Deepak Chopra Meditation that I observed. Deepak’s question was “What is your vision?” and all of a sudden it occurred to me.

The reason I get up in the morning and excitedly do what I do is because I have this vision of Better Sales People, especially on a consultative sales environment. Everybody who has ever listened to TED speeches knows that everybody has a Why.  The Why is a reason why we do things and in my case it is elevating the reputation of sales and its practitioners and teaching sales people to be more effective. BUT, also to be more honest, to manage expectations and to understand that a “no” is not personal and sometimes it’s better to walk away.

But Why am I so passionate about this? I believe it is because I have been stuck in so many bad sales situations over the years. It’s a really tough place to be for both sides.

The sales person, desperately trying to sell something that the customer/client might not need. And for the person who is sold to it’s really uncomfortable and unpleasant at the same time. The only thought during this process is “how can I get out of this?”

And it really doesn’t have to be like that. Once a sales person understands that they don’t need to sell to everybody, as a matter of fact they really shouldn’t – it becomes really easy. In reality, they shouldn’t sell at all, but consult and guide.

Just let go of the pressure and help the client/customer make a decision. If it’s in their best interest to buy, then it’s a win-win situation. If not, move on to a better suited audience. It will save you time, it will help your reputation as a sales person and it will make your prospect comfortable.

When I started out in sales many, many years ago all I did was avoid the situations that left a bad taste in my mouth. It was really that simple. Well, that and then a lot of process, discipline and perseverance. But basically, it was remembering what I disliked about sales people and just not making the same mistakes.

Sometimes, the offering doesn’t really fit with your prospect’s needs. Other times, the timing is off or there are other internal circumstances that keep them from buying. It really doesn’t matter either way. If it’s not supposed to happen, it won’t. You can’t force a prospect to buy. All you can do is help them understand that your product/service will be of benefit and then it’s up to them to decide.

This stress-free and mature way of doing business will create an environment where sales people can be more honest, prospects will share authentic feedback and there will be no disappointment because honesty results in good relationships and good sales relationships result in good clients.

It’s really that easy.

In Sales: There’s Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself!

Posted on: October 31st, 2013 by Monika No Comments

I sit in on many sales meetings with and for my clients and the focus is usually on numbers, prospects to pursue, accomplishments, etc. And while this is important, my belief is that it would be of additional help to management and sales teams if there were discussions about the “softer” areas of the sales process.

People buy from people and sometimes we don’t make numbers because there are deep underlying issues simmering. It’s hard to admit it, but we all have been afraid at times. Afraid to buy or afraid to sell. There is no shame in it. The sooner we understand the psychology of a process, the faster we will be able to face those feelings and to adjust our behavior. To borrow one of FDR’s most quoted statements that will forever hold true, ”There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

If you don’t overcome buyer fears, you won’t succeed.

We need to understand and acknowledge a buyer’s fears in order to help our clients and prospects overcome that feeling and move forward. The most common fears are:

Fear of Paying Too Much – It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success.  Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.

Fear of Change – The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people.

Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake – I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.

What can you do to help your prospects and customers overcome Buyer Fears?

  • Fear of Paying Too Much
    • Obviously, no one wants to pay too much for a product or service. It’s vital to understand how important a buyer’s perception is and how it can affect your success. But what does it really mean to pay too much? Clients and prospects alike want to know that they have been able to get close to your bottom line.
    • So, how do you deal with this?  How you talk about price (or their overall investment) and how you negotiate is very important. When speaking about their investment, stress the overall value that they will receive instead of the benefits or features.
    • In negotiating, make sure that the buyer will give something in return for each concession that you make. You definitely want to maintain your price integrity. This also supports your goal of the buyer realizing you don’t have a lot of leeway to radically reduce pricing.
    • Learn with our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program how to truly stand out as a top negotiator with our e-Learning Module: Negotiating For Impact
  • Fear of Change
    • The fear of change is a very real fear for many buyers.  When someone is comfortable with the product or service they have been using for years, making a change to a new product or service is threatening to most people. Change is harder for some than others.
    • So, how would you be able to deal with this? Use persuasion strategies aimed at calming fears of change. Make use of strategies to gain commitments and close the sale that match your customer’s or prospect’s buying psychology.
    • Some buyers see value in retaining a major portion of what works well and only changing minor areas that call for improvement.
    • Others prefer to see major change and improvement but wish to keep some things that do work well
  • Fear of What Others Will Say or Making a Mistake
    • I dare to say that almost all of us wish to avoid ridicule.  Most clients and prospects are going to make sure that if they move to a new product or service, there won’t be a negative focus on their decision by their peers or their boss.
    • So, how can you deal with this? Stress how your product or service has helped other similar companies enhance and/or improve their products or services. Suggest a final meeting with your contact’s associates or supervisors to reassure that everyone is on board with the change.

Lean Forward – Or Walk Away?

Posted on: September 12th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Recognizing Buying Signs & Gaining Commitments

The purpose of sales is to close business and increase revenue (and profits, too!). While this might be obvious to some, one would be surprised how many sales people actually dance around not understanding when to “lean forward” and when to move on. Many sales are lost because a salesperson has failed to recognize buying signs. Simply acting on buying signals alone will close the majority of your sales. So, what are the most common buying signs? First, let’s think about the entire selling process.

Closing a sale when engaged in a Consultative Sales Process is not a single event.  It’s a string of commitments or agreements throughout the sales process that a sales or service professional needs to recognize to ensure that the final commitment, the closing of the sale, will be a natural, easy one.

Recognizing Buying Signs

Just the other day I had a delightful conversation with one of our business partners and while chatting we were commiserating about the fact that too many sales people are afraid to gain commitments and/or to understand that sometimes the sale just won’t happen. My friend compared it with a date (which of course is a topic close to my heart as I wrote the book “Dating & Selling & Why They Are So Similar!”).

He said that after a handful of dates you should be expecting a kiss. If you don’t get it, then you need to re-assess the situation. The same holds true in selling. When you have appointment after appointment, phone calls, webinars, etc and you can’t move the needle, you are either not talking to the right people or you have misread buying (or “not-gonna-buy”) signs.

Being a salesperson can be discouraging at times, especially if you have put significant time into developing an account, preparing a proposal or working on a contract and then not closing the sale.  It’s easy to start thinking of what you could have been doing with the time you just “wasted” working on a sale that you didn’t get.  You could have been fishing or practicing Yoga.  But just as with fishing, you need to throw the line in before you can catch fish.  If you wait to throw the line in only when you think there will be a big catch, it will never happen.  Top salespeople realize this and often “pay themselves” for each sales call, knowing that they need to have sales activity in order to generate sales.  Top sales professionals know that they get paid for every NO!

Gaining Commitments

Here are some typical examples of gaining commitment during a sale straight out of our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program:

When you ask for an appointment – This may seem insignificant, yet it is often the first YES that gets the ball rolling.  A customer will not commit to you until they’ve said ‘yes’ at least twice.  Assertively asking for an appointment is the best way to start the closing process.

When you first meet with the customer and begin to uncover needs – You may simply state,

“If we can show you how we can increase your production by utilizing us as a source, will you consider switching vendors?”  You are beginning to condition your customer to say ‘Yes’.

When a customer asks you for something or has a special request– For instance, when a customer asks you to put together a quote or special pricing.  STOP! Don’t run off to purchasing or your manager just yet! Right now, this is a perfect opportunity to close by asking the customer for a commitment.

You might say, “If we put together this special pricing, what will your next steps be?”  OR

“Assuming that we are able to do what you ask, will you go ahead and switch to us as your main supplier?” 

This is extremely important for two reasons.  First, it mentally commits the customer to you.  It is very difficult for customers to back down after they have made this type of commitment.

Secondly, it will clear up any misunderstanding or missed intentions that will save you and your purchasing department or your management from wasting time.

When you’ve uncovered a need – you can simply ask a question like,

“If we can take care of that concern, you’ll want to go ahead with this, right?”

Over 18 years of research and competency modeling with over 4,500 top performers has shown again and again what top sales people think about and do:

  • Top salespeople realize they get paid for every NO.

(Some sales professionals even pay themselves for each NO.)

  • There are fears of closing both from the buyer and seller (yes, you!) perspective.  Knowing your sales numbers helps to alleviate these. (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Don’t change voice modulation when closing the sale.
  • That you should lean forward before asking for a commitment.
  • To eliminate words that make customers feel uncomfortable (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Pepper statements with glamour words to create interest.
  • Simply acting on buying signs will close the majority of sales.

Closing signs that your customers may demonstrate include:  When the buyer leans forward, or when the buyer asks specific questions, or your customer gives you a verbal or visual acceptance signs (such as asking you to explain something again, or nodding in agreement).

And finally, here are some Facts About Closing: Can you Fill In the Correct Answers?

Use these percentages:   10%    80%      52%      80%      50%

v             % of all sales are closed after the fifth closing attempt.

v             % of all sales calls end without the salesperson trying to close once.

v             % of all purchases from a new supplier take place after the fifth call.

v    Only        % of salespeople make more than five calls on a given prospect.

v    More than          % of salespeople make only one call & then give up.

If you are interested in the answers, Click Here! 

You will be surprised!

Adjust your Treadmill Once in a While & Improve Your Sales

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by Monika No Comments

  I don’t like going to the gym, I really don’t. Lifting weights is OK, but going on the treadmill is almost punishment for me. I have to distract myself with music, conversations (if I have enough breath to come up for air) or just thinking about certain things that keep my mind occupied. For the longest time I was focusing on the speed and trying to make sure that I would increase my tempo in order to have the greatest impact. Then, a couple of years after torturous walks and runs, a very smart fitness trainer told me that it’s not all about speed, but also about the incline. He advised me to go slower and to steadily increase the incline. It builds muscle and stamina, he told me.

That’s when the light bulb went off for me. How often in life do we just run and run without adjusting and changing course?  I immediately thought of sales, especially consultative selling and how so many sales people run on flat surfaces, as fast as they can without ever adjusting the incline. What exactly do I mean by that?

When Prospecting Choose Quality over Quantity

It’s not about the number of calls – it’s about the quality. Think about it. What if sales people would take a step back and do their research before picking up the phone? They would be more effective, wouldn’t they? Utilizing LinkedIn and all other available on- and off-line sources is a great way to optimize your sales prospecting – or “adjust your incline”!

Sometimes making fewer calls can lead to better results. First off, you don’t sound like a broken record to yourself by the end of the day. More importantly though, when you are prepared you are in a better, position to actually have a conversation with your prospect – should you be so lucky that they pick up the phone. If not, just leave a meaningful voicemail instead of a particular script that is so often used.

When Presenting Use Engagement Rather than PowerPoint

There are still too many sales people who are trained and taught to rely solely on PowerPoint slide presentations. While a good presentation can certainly be of added value, very often it is an obstacle to engaging with your prospects. PowerPoint presentations are generally effective and I’d suggest using them when you have more than 4 people in a room. For smaller groups, or 1-on-1, I’ve experienced that it’s more effective to start a conversation, to engage and ask questions – and then LISTEN! If you still feel that a presentation or demo is necessary, you can always pull it up at a later point, just try a different route and see what the results are. You will be amazed how many “selling” opportunities you will find by just listening.

Be Natural Rather than Scripted

We all like people who are funny and natural. There is nothing wrong with making little mistakes, stumbling over your words or forgetting something as long as we catch ourselves and make reference to it. Nobody expects you to be “perfect” every single day and as long as the overall experience is professional, engaging and client-centered, there is nothing wrong with flaws. Quite honestly, I really appreciate people who admit that their technology isn’t working properly that very moment, or when they mention that the spot on their shirt or blouse is a result of their three year old spilling juice on them that morning. Professionalism doesn’t equal boring or stiff. Be yourself when reaching out to prospects or presenting, and people will gravitate towards you.

Change Things Up a Bit Once in a While

In closing, I find it’s really healthy and necessary to look at the way we do things on a daily basis and adjust course when necessary. Eating oatmeal instead of a bagel for breakfast could have an impact on your health and your waist line. Adjusting the incline on your treadmill will help you build muscles without being out of breath. Making smarter choices in sales will eventually result in increased revenue and it will also result in you having more fun which, in turn, will help your outlook on life in general.

Just think about the way you do things and mix it up once in a while.

Sales, Social Media & You

Posted on: May 30th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

More and more sales people are using social media to help them prospect and develop new business. It’s certainly an avenue that I use for my client development. Used wisely and effectively it’s a great tool to enhance your business development efforts. Below is an article that was featured in Forbes on how sales people outsell their peers by using social media channels.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2013/05/19/study-78-of-salespeople-using-social-media-outsell-their-peers/

This is a quote from the article: “But as he’s(Jim Keenan) shown, those who have been using it(social media) are quickly gaining a competitive advantage.” The issue that I see in the long run is that once everybody adopts that technique (and everybody can and should), we are back to square one where sales people need to find ways to stand out from their peers.

Standing Out From the Crowd?

Last week we had a meeting with a logistics firm in Seattle and our prospect confirmed that sentiment. He mentioned that everybody now knows who your clients are, because it’s readily available information and while social media is a wonderful and easy way to find decision makers, it’s not something that is exclusive to any one person.

So, what’s a sales person to do? Think about these ideas. Once you have the decision maker identified you can try to connect with them on LinkedIn, add them as a friend on Facebook, follow that person on Twitter, use Google Alerts to follow their company, or perhaps advertise on any of the social media channels to reach the right audience. But once you do connect and start building a relationship you will need to understand consultative selling to effectively understand your client’s needs.

Social media should be used to create awareness, build thought leadership and inform your prospect but it shouldn’t be applied when actually selling to your prospects.  I would actually argue that sales people don’t outsell their peers using social media, but, on a level playing field, they out-prospect them, they out-perform them on their pre-call intelligence.

Selling Thru Social Media Our Main Focus?

We provide a good portion of our consulting and training in the logistics field, and for marketing and research agencies. And though you might say we have come to know these industries well, there are still vast differences in the way each company is structured, and in the way in which we serve them. The inner workings of an organization cannot be discovered through social media. Once interest is established, you need to ask the right questions to gain a deep understanding of your prospect’s needs and then develop a solution that brings real value to your prospect.

In another quote from the article it states that there is a direct correlation between social media and sales success. “Social media users have also exceeded quota (exceeded quota by 10% of more) at higher rate than non-social media users every year since 2010. That means more social media users are at Presidents Club than non-social media users.” Allow me to propose this: Are sales people who utilize social media more successful than others, OR is it that consistently successful sales people almost always use the smartest techniques and are ahead of the curve?

In essence, social media is the phone book, yellow pages, conference center and water cooler combined. The question is not whether to use it or not, but how. People who hang at the water cooler for hours and bore by-passers with their stories were as ineffective as sales people who invade your space on social media. I love LinkedIn and use it all the time, but am starting to get too many senseless business requests, which will result in me being even more careful who I allow into my network.

Where To Go From Here?

Facebook has been effective for B2C, but I have yet to see the value in a B2B environment. Blogging, Twitter and all the other micro-blogs are great for information sharing and thought leadership, but should we really put aside the basics of consultative business development in favor of social media centric selling?

I propose we be wise in the way we use social media as an indispensible aid in developing and maintaining business. Never forget that it’s human interaction, relationship building and truly understanding your prospect’s needs that are the foundation blocks of a healthy business relationship.

Get Prepared Before You Pick Up The Phone

Posted on: November 15th, 2012 by Monika No Comments

Let me start with a question: Have you ever received a phone call from a sales person who stutters around, doesn’t really know who you are, what your company does and starts rambling about some product/service offering that is not at all relevant to your needs?

I’m sure you have, and that can certainly be annoying! That sales person didn’t do her/his “homework”!

In a consultative sales environment, doing your research and getting prepared for a call is as essential as actually picking up the phone and dialing. The first step in a consultative sales approach is the “Pre-Call”, in other words, doing your “homework”. Well planned and executed preparation will help you once the person you are calling on picks up the phone.

Being informed means adding value to a conversation. Whether it’s your first conversation with a prospect, or a follow-up call with a long-time client. It also puts you, the sales person, in a position where you don’t sound like you’re dialing for dollars.

Whether you’re calling on a new prospect or trying to expand your business with existing clients, research and preparation are key.

 Prospecting For New Business

At the core of successful consultative selling is developing a customer-centric sales process and being diligent. Not pushy, not aggressive, but consistent and strategic. You will need to identify exactly what you are selling and what value it brings to your prospects.

Successful consultative sales professionals take time to understand what truly differentiates their service from their competitors’ similar products or services. They do their research. They also make sure they know their own strengths and opportunities for improvement and growth.

Once you have established what you are selling, and how the features and benefits can be of value, then you can begin to do your research to find out who your “ideal prospects” are.

Don’t try to boil the ocean! Be targeted in your approach and choose your prospects accordingly!”

While it is important to own your story, to understand the product/service that you offer and being able to communicate the value, it is also just as important to make sure that your offering fits with your prospect’s objectives. And that you will need to find out. When it comes to prospecting, we usually have to come from a place of assumption because we normally don’t really know the inner workings of a prospect’s organization. In today’s business environment, it’s a lot easier to prepare than it used to be. In the past we had to rely on hearsay or recommendations. Today, we can research companies and people using all the tools available in the on-line world.

This makes it easier for us to prepare but we also want to be careful so as not to assume too much. What might appear to be true could turn out to have changed because on-line data is not always up to date. It still gives us a general reference and guidelines to work off, a starting point for conversation and exploration, and asking questions.

The more research we do before picking up the phone, or writing an e-mail, the easier it will be to start a dialogue. Why? Because people want to feel special, no matter what their title or position is.

In a consultative sales environment, we don’t need to reach out to every single company in the universe. Usually, our universe is a lot smaller than we think once we start researching our ideal prospects.

How can we identify whether a prospect is suitable or not?

Do Your Research, Research, Research, and Some More Research

  1. Make sure you know and fully understand what your offering entails, and in what ways it might be beneficial to your prospective clients.
  2. Identify why your service or product is unique, or superior.
  3. Research and locate companies that would potentially benefit from your offering and where you see a possible fit.

 

For example, if you own a small law firm in Pennsylvania specializing in contract and trademark law, and you are not licensed outside of the state, it will be easier to determine who your prospects could be.

If, however, you are a service provider and your offering could be sold without geographic limitations, you will need to find other qualifiers to sharpen your efforts. Here are some qualifiers that can be used:

  • Industry
  • Geography (you may not want your sales people flying all over the country)
  • Revenue/Size
  • # of employees
  • Public vs. Private sector
  • Website presence (websites are the store fronts of any organization and a lot can be learned from the way a company presents itself on-line)

 

One common mistake in sales is to play the numbers game. Many sales people think (encouraged by their leaders) that more sales calls equals more revenue. It really doesn’t. The more focused you are as a sales person, the more you will find out about your prospects and the higher the likelihood is that you will have meaningful conversations to get you closer to your goal. And your goal is always either closing a sale or, if it’s not a fit, leaving a good impression.

Get Ready to Pick Up the Phone

Once you identified 15-20 companies (as a starting point) that could be a good fit for your product/service offering based on your research, it’s time to prepare what you’re going to say and even more importantly, what questions you’re going to ask. What kind of questions do you ask? Use open-ended questions to give the person you are speaking with the opportunity to explain their situation, their potential needs in their own words. Practice what you could say, how your prospects might react. Prepare a “Prospect Analysis Form” or open a CRM file so you can enter all the information you will be receiving. Then it’s time to pick up the phone. Be personal and engaging in your conversations with the presumed decision makers and they will provide you with insights on whether your initial assumption was correct. As a result you could find out that the marketing team is not the department that will buy your service, but perhaps a newly developed consumer insights team. If you are knowledgeable, courteous and respectful, people will guide and help you to find the correct path. It will also help you collect valuable market research and sharpen your message going forward.

Get in Another Person’s Shoes

In the end, make sure you visualize that you have a person on the other end of the line. Someone possibly a lot like you. You’ll do yourself a great service and be able to offer something of value by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.

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