Posts Tagged ‘Sales and Marketing’

Developing Opportunities

by Robert Driscoll on December 3, 2009

76092355On October 29th, the US Department of Commerce stated that the US economy grew in the third quarter for the first time in over a year, signaling the end of the worst recession in over 70 years.    Even though we are “out” of the recession, do you still feel like your customers are not buying and hesitant to move forward on projects?  Do you feel more and more pressure to bring in new opportunities for your company?  Unfortunately, regardless of the economic condition of the marketplace, as salespeople, we are required to perform as our company’s success is directly tied to our individual success.

In a previous post (What I Wish I Knew More About In Sales #2: Know What To Quit), I discussed how it’s important to learn when to quit opportunities so that you can focus more time on those that have a higher probability of closing.  Following this process in today’s difficult marketplace is more important than ever as it’s more difficult today to find qualified and real opportunities, but just as important to focus more on those opportunities that are realistic. 

In today’s post, I will discuss some basic steps that you can use to develop an ideal customer profile which are the business characteristics that your organization looks for in your customers to sell your products and services and to drive them to do so now. 

In developing the ideal customer profile, go through your list of accounts and try to answer the following questions for each one:

  1. What does your product/service do?
  2. What do your customers do in lieu of your product or service? 
  3. If they are using a competitor’s product or service, what marginal value does your product/service offer that the competitor’s does not?
  4. With your product/service, how would it improve your customers’ productivity, efficiency, security, etc…?
  5. What characteristics would cause your customer to have/care about your product/service?
  6. Without your product/service, who in the organization is likely to benefit if they were to have it (individual contributor through CEO)?

Going through your list of customers and being able to answer these questions results in:

  1. A list of information to gather to determine where we have opportunities
  2. Targeted contacts who will be interested in solving the problem

The next step is to gather information about your customers.  Decision makers are not necessarily the right contacts for gathering information.  In addition to looking at any sales history you might have and any research you can gather via the internet about your customer(s), you can also gather information from secretaries, receptionists, their sales people and their customers.

Once you have answered the questions above and gathered information about your customer(s), you are now ready to sell the appointment with a targeted executive and to truly start developing your opportunities.

Notice the Exit as an Entrepreneur

by Guy Ralfe on December 2, 2009

exitHave you noticed how you live life and then suddenly one day you notice “something”, seemingly for the first time? Then after noticing that “something”, it seems to be hounding you – they just suddenly appear everywhere?

One of the best examples is the emergency exit sign at the movies. Amazing how an illuminated red/green sign in a dark room just goes unnoticed. Think back to the last film you watched and see if you recall  where the emergency exit was? Yes it was there, law requires it be there and clearly visible too!! You probably even left through the emergency door afterwards.

So what does this have to do with business? It occurred to me that many entrepreneurs start something that they identify as missing, flawed or incomplete. The fact that they are able to vision this means that they have a concern for this need and that is why they can notice it. This is good from the point of visioning, but it will also prove very difficult to get investors, partners and consumers interested until they too can see the need.

For big organizations they put their new products in front of us through marketing and advertising and telling us the story of the possibilities the new product will create for us. This gets it quickly adopted and widely noticed. For the entrepreneur it is a far longer and slower process. In the same way a salesman looks at his prospects and tries to convert as many to sales, the entrepreneur must maximize every interaction to ensure that the listener leaves with a clear vision of this product’s need, and the space of possibilities it will create once  in the world.

Once your listener can notice, they too will suddenly feel like they are being hounded by the opportunities for your product – and they too will then unconsciously become your speaker. This is important from a promotional point of view but more important in drawing in interested parties to build your products network.

Make sure you produce the vision every time in your listener, because that is where you will get the most powerful interaction, these listeners will see the exit signs like the fire alarm was ringing. If the listener leaves with a blurred vision, they will not notice that exit sign but take the exit!

social-mediaWe all agree that social media is really effective in discovering people who have similar passions. Still, being in sites like Linkedin and Facebook, where people are connecting randomly it is hard to understand the value of these relationships you are building. It is possible, there isn’t any… But we will never be able to build deep relationships without one on one interaction or meetings in person… So, here are some steps to take virtual social interactions into real world:

1) Be present in community networks

Meet people in community forums that share your common interests. This way you can build relationships with people who live close to you and so you have access to them… In case of social media, these relationships can be in different parts of the world and not be as meaningful for your work or personal interests…

2) Take your business cards to these events

Don’t underestimate the value of business cards…it is great to have blogs, twitter accounts – but there is just a simple problem – to find you in cyberspace, one needs to know your full name….what if they got the wrong spellings or wrong name. With a business card, one can always Google your name…

3) Build Relationships

Yes, you can ReTweet posts and help other elevate their profiles…Still, there is value in sharing other gifts than RTs. Try calling some people you haven’t spoken in a while…you will be surprised how much more pleasure it is to talk to people than to DM or Email.

4) Understand social

Historically, social has been associated with people meeting, talking, exchanging ideas in person. These conversations have led to many innovations, wars and even consensus…the MasterMind thoery dictates that it requires people to exchange ideas that create possibilities they could not see for themselves… Humans will always be Social Animals…Long way before we become Cyber Beasts. So, engage in brainstorming ideas in a conversation….

5) Pleasant Personality

There is a advantage if people see you as having a pleasant personality…that is never visible on social media channels. Some people put pictures that are not true to their real selves…Don’t miss out on being generous to other with your pleasant personality….This will help you surround yourself with people who might potentially become friends, business associates or life partners… So, build connections with social media but power your relationships with personal interactions…

Even In Tough Times, Sometimes It’s Best To Move On

by Robert Driscoll on November 11, 2009

dv537022“The same man cannot be skilled in everything; each has his special excellence.” – Euripides, 480-406 B.C.

Today, more than ever, employers are asking their employees to do more.  From a short-term cost-savings perspective, this is great for companies looking to make it through these difficult times in the marketplace.  In the long-term, companies might actually be de-motivating their employees as they feel overwhelmed.  People can be great at one or more things in their professional life, but as their employers start adding more responsibilities to their plate, they could very well just become mediocre as they are spread too thin.

It is understandable for companies to react to changes in the marketplace, whether it’s adding or removing services, consolidating or expanding departments, and so forth.  Too often though, when employers are making these decisions, they forget about their most important asset:  their employees.  A lot of companies state that their people are their best assets, yet more often than not, companies do not look at the person.  Instead, they look at the job to be done and don’t properly match their employees to jobs that optimize their strengths.

In times like this, it is more important than ever for management and their employees to work together and find out what is not only best for the company, but for their employees as well.  Management needs to engage their employees, get their feedback and put them in areas and positions within the company where they can excel and where they want to be.  Nothing demotivates an employee faster and can have a more drastic effect to top line revenues than putting them in to a position that they are not passionate about.  Instead, imagine re-focusing your greatest assets (your people) in areas where they feel they can make the biggest contributions.

In Gini Graham Scott’s book A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses: Dealing with Bullies, Idiots, Back-stabbers, and Other Managers from Hell, she states:

“As they say, you can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. If your boss is like that round hole and you are that square peg, you aren’t going to fit in unless you re-shape your edges.”

For employees, while we all know that the unemployment rates is above 10% nationally and are continually reminded that there are many highly qualified individuals who would love to have your job, don’t let this bring you down.  If you have brought to your employers attention that your skills could be better utilized in another area and they ignore your request, don’t give in and become complacent.  Employers are always looking for top talent and instead of re-shaping your edges, sometimes it’s best for you to move on and find a place where your talents fit.

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This is the final in the 5 part series of What I Wish I Knew More About…Sales.  A recap of the series is:

I.  Inspiring Your Customers and Creating Loyalty

II.  Know What To Quit In Sales

III. Managing Your Time

IV.  Just Pick Up The Phone

In this final part of the series we discuss how in sales, you shouldn’t take rejections personally.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this short journey.  More to come…

In sales, we get rejected most of the time.  Customers are telling us they cannot or will not do business with us; for a myriad of reasons.  I now know to not take these rejections personally, because when I do, they have a direct negative impact on my mood and energy, which in turn reduces my ability to perform powerfully moving forward.  The faster I can get over a rejection, the faster I can get into the game of being productive and effective.”

Paul D’Souza

Entrepreneur, Consultant, Author

http://www.pauldsouza.com/wordpress/

No one likes to lose an opportunity in sales.  Closing opportunities is what drives us in sales, increases our earnings and helps to take care of our concerns.  Unfortunately, more often than not, our offers are rejected.  Rejection is part of sales.  The last thing you should do, however, is take these rejections personally as it could hurt your relationship with your customers and do more damage than good.  Instead, how you handle rejection with your customers can either open the door to future opportunities or close it for a long period of time, if not forever.

In sales, you need to put your emotions aside, especially if you’ve lost an opportunity.  If you’ve lost a sale, you need to learn from your losses and ask your customers what you could have done to get the sale.  Always try to uncover why your offer was rejected.  If done right, criticism from your client on why you lost the opportunity can be a great tool to help you improve your offer in the marketplace while possibly assiting in improving your sales technique with your clients.  This can, in turn, help increase your revenues.

Getting rejected by your clients may not always be a setback.  If you start having conversations with your clients on problems that you can help them solve instead of just doing a “sales pitch” every time you meet with them, you will find that they will actually bring you in to their buying process.  The value of your offers will increase to your customers, not necessarily in a monetary value, but in the importance to their business.  Having these conversations with your clients may actually lead to conversations that open the space of possibilities for you to make them new offers.

Winning in sales is not just about how much you know about your offer, but how you present yourself to your customers and the relationships you build with them.  Create offers that take care of their concerns and in time you will become their trusted advisor.  As you travel down this new path, remember do not take rejection in sales personally.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

What I Wish I Knew More About in Sales #3: Managing Your Time

by Robert Driscoll on October 29, 2009

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I wish I would have taken more sales training classes that focused on time management and sell cycle control.”

Joe Shea

Founder, Shea & Associates

http://www.jshea.com/

Time is limited and scarce.  It is something that you cannot save for a later date.  Once time is lost, you can never make up for it.  Everyone has the same amount of time in the day to make offers, but it’s what you do with your time and how you maximize your efforts that will separate you from others.

Most people feel they have too much on their plate and therefore not enough time.  They’re too busy.  You have to make the most out of your time and therefore you need to learn to quit those things that are taking up too much time and start acting on those offers that can produce results.  You need to learn to prioritize your concerns.  Bad time management skills can overwhelm you as you try to take on too much and you start getting backlogged.  Overdue work starts interfering with current work and the snowball starts getting bigger and bigger as new work continues to be given to you.  Lack of time is blamed for too much stress, not being able to complete tasks or achieve your personal and professional goals.  The reality is that poor time management skills are most likely what has created your stress.

Time management is also important in your sell cycle control.  Not only should you prioritize your work “tasks”, but your sales opportunities as well.  Being too optimistic in sales can hurt you more than you think as you go after every opportunity.  You need to learn to quit opportunities that are taking up too much of your time and focus more on those that have a higher probability of closing.  You will find yourself becoming more productive using time management skills, tools and proper sales cycle control, as well as accomplishing more with less effort.

Proper time management will help you prioritize your day, your career and create harmony in your life.  Eliminating those things in your life and career that are not that important to you and planning your time wisely will allow you to do more things and have more time in your day.  So get rid of the feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time and start thinking that you have all the time in the world to focus on those things that are the most important to you.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

What I Wish I Knew More About in Sales #2: Know What To Quit

by Robert Driscoll on October 28, 2009

PrintWhen I first started in sales, I wish I had the courage to more effectively weed people out.  I was so eager to just have anyone talk to me, that I didn’t really have an effective filter (or the courage) to qualify people OUT of my process.  I needed to be clear about who is and who is not a good fit and to be willing to walk away from bad business.  I wish when I was starting out I had the mindset and the process to be more selective about where and with whom I spent time and energy.”

Tom Batchelder

Founder, Perficency – A National Sales Coaching Organization

http://www.perficency.com/

Anyone who has been in sales knows that this job is the easiest one to measure.  You either hit your quota target or you don’t.  Even when you hit your quota one month, it’s quickly forgotten as the business moves forward to the next month.  In a sales organization, it’s, “What have you sold today.”  As every salesperson knows, if you don’t convert your opportunities in to closed sales, it is just a matter of time before you’re let go.  Plain and simple.

As salespeople, we are also very familiar with the “infamous sales funnel” which is used to measure all of the opportunities you are working on and what stage they are at in the sales process.   Wikipedia provides a great example of the layers within the sales funnel process:

Sales-funnel

It’s simple, the goal is to move as many of your new opportunities down the funnel layers towards the purchase order and account maintenance stage.  The more opportunities you close, the higher your chances will be of hitting your quota numbers, making money and succeeding within your company.

During this on-going sales process, a good sales management team will generally look at the following (4) sales funnel metrics:

  1. Funnel  Value:  the potential value of all the deals in the funnel
  2. Arrival Rate:  the number of deals being qualified in to the funnel in a given period
  3. Conversion Rate:  the ratio of deals that were converted into sales
  4. Flow Rate:  the time that deals are sitting in the funnel

A salesperson, on the other hand, will generally only focus on their funnel value and their conversion rate, and too often, forget about their flow rate.  As a sales person myself, I am also guilty of this.  Why do we salespeople do this?  In my opinion, it’s much easier to have a conversation with your boss about a “fat” funnel full of “opportunities” because we’re generally optimistic about our opportunities as we believe they all have the potential of becoming a sale.  In reality, we’re too afraid to quit opportunities in our funnel by pushing them out.

It might seem strange when you first consider “quitting” in sales, but if you think about it, if you eliminate those opportunities (and yes, customers) in your funnels that are not realistic, you are able to spend your time on those that are.  Quitting isn’t always a bad thing in sales.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

Why Isn’t Anyone Listening To Your Presentations?

by Robert Driscoll on October 28, 2009

untitledHow often have you made a presentation or given a webinar and felt like no one was paying attention to you or that you weren’t connecting with your audience?  Was it your material or your presentation skills?  Or both?  In my opinion, no one is a really bad presenter, but rather you might be using really bad presentation techniques.  Here are some techniques that I hope will help you connect more with your audience.

The slide presentation should not be the presentation

Too often people simply regurgitate what is in their presentation instead of engaging with the audience.  You need to learn to work with the presentation in the background and not have it be the focus of your presentation.  Some presenters think that overloading their slides with information will compensate for poor communication skills, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The information in your presentation is like a book and you should simply be summarizing it for the audience.  If you connect with them and they see marginal value in your offer, then they will want to read your “book”.

Don’t overdo your presentation.

Don’t be THAT presenter who has the 100 slide presentation unless you’re presenting to an audience that is suffering from sleep deprivation.  Limit the number of slides that you are presenting and the number of bullet points or information otherwise your message will be lost during the presentation.  If you feel that there is detailed information that your audience might find of interest, feel free to provide them with hardcopy printouts or email them a softcopy after you have finished your presentation.

Don’t memorize it.  Understand the material you’re presenting.

Simply memorizing your presentation material will not make you connect with your audience.  You need to be knowledgeable about what you are presenting so that you can interact with them and let them participate and apply the concepts from your presentation as this will give them the opportunity to put in to practice what they are learning.  If you memorize your materials without having a good understanding of it, you will have a harder time connecting with your audience and gaining their trust.

Prep your audience and be respectful of their time.

The fastest way to lose the attention of your audience is to not have the right people in attendance.  Make sure your audience understands not only why you’re there but what you will be presenting as well.  You only have a limited amount of time to get their attention and to get them to gain interest in your offer.

While you primarily learn good presentation skills through trial and error and constructive criticism from your peers, having the right techniques in your arsenal will keep your audience engaged and increase the value of your offer.  Before you know it, your audience will start paying more attention.

PrintThis is the first part of a 5 part series about What I Wish I Knew More About…Sales.  I will cover 5 different areas that we all confront in sales.  I hope you enjoy the journey.

Sales is not an attempt to convince someone of something. It has nothing to do with trying to talk someone into something. You are not even trying to get someone to agree to something.  Sales is about causing a new possibility to be present for another, such that they are touched, moved and inspired by that possibility. If the new possibility occurs this way, then the sale is made.”

Naveen Lakkur

President & CEO, Compassites

http://www.compassites.net/

Too often in today’s marketplace salespeople are too focused on making the sale solely on price.  Too often sales managers stress the importance of selling the value of their product or service and how they differentiate from the competition when they don’t really understand their marketplace.  Too often though, no one is listening to what the customers concerns are and creating an offer that inspires them to not only accept your product or service, but to continue to accept your offers in the future.

In today’s tough marketplace, many companies are taking the approach of gaining revenue and customer share by lowering their prices.  This might get customers in the door as you manipulate them with marketing blitzes and discount offers, but it won’t get them to stay.  The only way to build customer loyalty is through inspiration and the way to create inspiration is by involving your customers in how you do business.  The key in building and growing this relationship is by listening to your customers.  We salespeople tend to push our products or services to customers without first listening to what our customers concerns are.  By opening yourself up and allowing your customer visibility in to your business and simply listening to them will set you apart from your competition in the marketplace.  You have to learn to step back every now and then and take off our blinders so that you can create offers that are unique and specific to your client’s needs.  This in turn will create marginal value in your offer as it will be uncommon and more powerful than what is being provided by your competitors.

These types of interactions with your customers can spawn creative ideas within your organization in turn keeping you ahead of your competition and in turn growing your company.  Having open dialogues with your customers not only inspires them but it can also inspire those within your own organization as you work to create these new offers.  Over time, as you continue to have these dialogues with your customers and they begin noticing that you continually are able to take care of their concerns, you will start to build loyalty with your customers as they begin to see you as their trusted advisor.  This is when you know you’ve inspired your customers.  Inspiration coupled with customer loyalty is what makes small companies in to big ones.

Note:

Logo was created by Stacy Driscoll who is a freelance designer based in South Florida where she continues to provide her clients with innovative design solutions while continuing to grow her client base and skill set.  More of her work can be found at her website www.stacydriscolldesign.com.

The Balancing Act of Innovation and Revenue Growth

by Robert Driscoll on October 15, 2009

KuhnBalancingActWhat’s better?  Metered or flat-rate billing?  This question has been asked for as long as people have been transacting.  Do you charge on a per transaction basis or a simple flat monthly rate that allows your customers to use your services all they want?  Do you continue to innovate and possibly affect revenue growth?  Telecommunication service providers have been struggling with these questions for quite some time as they fight to gain market share.  There’s pros and cons for both businesses and customers.

Flat rate billing made it easier for the end user as it eliminated confusion every month on what they would be charged.  Remember how great it was when your local ISP offered a flat monthly rate for their broadband services or when your cell phone provider offered unlimited monthly calling and data plans?  No longer were you worried about overage charges. 

Now look at it from the standpoint of the provider, at&t for example.  While at&t’s  wireless revenue was up 15.8% for the second quarter in 2009 versus the second quarter in 2008, data services surged.  This month, at&t’s CTO, John Donovan, announced at the CTIA IT & Entertainment conference how their mobile data traffic has increased over 5,000 percent on the at&t network over the past three years with the introduction of the iPhone, netbooks and e-readers to name a few.  Most of these devices access the internet with unlimited data plans offered by the service providers.  Using the example of at&t’s iPhone, these customers tend to use 400 Mb of wireless capacity per month versus 40 to 80 Mb of wireless capacity per month with a typical smartphone user.  This surge in data traffic has overwhelmed the at&t network in certain parts of the country as was reported in a recent Los Angeles Times article even though at&t states that the network is “ample and sufficient”. 

What happens when you neglect your service for the sake of growing revenues?  Eventually it will lead to a defection of customers as some analysts are stating will happen to at&t if or when it looses its exclusivity agreement with Apple to carry the iPhone.  If you neglect your service and your customers, as AOL did when it failed to upgrade its dial-up customers to broadband during the tech boom, it’s just a matter of time before your business erodes as providers who continue to innovate and listen to their customers will not only grow their customer base but their revenues as well.  It’s a fine balancing act for businesses to continue to innovate and grow its revenues, but one that should be managed properly and not overlooked.