Posts Tagged ‘sales’

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.

Make The Most Of Today

by Robert Driscoll on November 5, 2009

the-perfect-momentToday, in many organizations, more than ever, salespeople are continuously being pushed to improve and increase their contributions to the top line.  They are asked to sell more in an ever changing and challenging marketplace while at the same time their customers are asking for twice the amount of service for half the price.  Salespeople today feel like they are being pulled in many different directions and are overwhelmed.

In times like this, sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, take a step back, forget about what happened in the past, don’t worry about tomorrow and focus on what we are doing in the present.  We need to learn to seize the moment and focus on the opportunities that are in front of us. We should not be focusing on events from the past otherwise we will never be able to move forward.  When we seize the moment and live in the present, we are fully engaged and are open to new ideas.

In a book written by Joe Hyams, Zen in the Martial Arts, one of his chapters is called “Seize the Moment.”  In this chapter, he discusses the idea of living in the moment in everything one does in life.  Don’t allow concerns of the past, the future, or the concerns of others, distract you from what you are doing today to accomplish your goals and to take care of your concerns.  Learn to quit those people and tasks in your life that are creating roadblocks for you and are not helping you become successful.

If you are always worrying about concerns of the past or tomorrow, you can never truly live in the present and therefore you will never truly enjoy or make the most of what is happening in your life today.  Concentrate on what you are doing in the moment and you will find yourself making the most of today.

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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.

Your customers want more… so give them less!

by Wayne Turmel on November 2, 2009

time is moneyThe way we buy and sell our products has changed forever because of the Web. This is especially true for the B2B (business-to-business) landscape. The problem is many of us haven’t really adjusted to this change and it costs us money, which is a shame because they are really acting just like we do when we buy something… so, why the cost?

Think about the way we make a major purchase…. We investigate online, read reviews, visit websites and eliminate obvious bad choices. Then-armed with information- we march down to the car lot or the appliance store and get what we want in record time.

Now think about the way we sell to customers online. We have some information posted, the customer clicks a link or emails us and says “yes we want a demo” and we schedule a demo. But is that what the customer really wants? Probably not. They don’t want to start from scratch-  and you have to meet them where they are or risk alienating them forever.

The good news is if they’ve requested to speak to someone from your company they are a great, live prospect. The better news is that they have all the basic information they need or they wouldn’t be there… what they want is the final information necessary to make a decision (or at least pass you on to someone who can). They have very specific information they need to move the sale forward, or decide you can’t help them.

The bad news is that we often don’t know at which point in the conversation they are. Thus, we end up giving them too much (read irrelevant) detail and that does not serve them very well. This is evident by their number one complaint  about online demos … yep! you guessed it right – they have too much information and don’t get to the point.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind:  If the customer has come this far, find out where they are, currently and what they need to complete their journey. Now, you are at a point where you can then give them exactly what they need. Before even starting the presentation, ask a lot of questions and find out what information is critical to them to make a buying decision. The form they fill out won’t give you the same good quality information as a conversation. Your contact with the customer needs to give them more relevant, focused information they need to make a smart choice. It needs a lot less time and extraneous detail. You may never even demo the product- which is actually a good thing in a strange way.  Why go through all the effort if it’s not a fit, and why make them sit through it if they know enough to move you through the sales cycle?

This also means that the information on your site needs to give them as much up-front information as possible. Do you have recorded information, demos and video that helps them choose you?  Are you giving them the chance to gather information before they even talk to you? If not, why not? If you are, is it easy to use and understand?

Customers want more from us than ever before, they just want less of us in order to accomplish it.

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.

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.

Branding – Get the mix right!

by Laura Lowell on October 8, 2009

get the mix rightConstructing the optimal mix is part art and part science.  The art lies in understanding the nuances between the different marketing vehicles, how to craft copy tailored to the marketing vehicle, and how to combine copy with creative for the optimal impact. The science lies in the measurement and tracking of the effectiveness of various vehicles at delivering your message to the target audience in the context of the stated communications objectives.

There are two pieces of information that directly inform how we create the marketing mix.

  1. How does our target customer gather information? : Who do they go to for recommendations?  Do they search online or do they ask for suggestions from colleagues, friends or family?  Who influences the purchasing process?  Answers to these questions help us to target the influencers as well as the target customers.
  2. How does our target customer want to receive information? : Do they want a lot of detail but not very often?  Do they prefer to get more frequent information with less detail?  Do they like phone, email or old-fashioned paper and envelopes?  Again, this information will directly impact the types of marketing vehicles we invest in.

Marketing vehicles have a defined purpose and should be used according to the stated communication objectives.  The following is a summary of the primary marketing vehicles, definitions, purpose described in terms of awareness, demand generation or lead conversion, and examples of each.  This is not an exhaustive list, but is a great start.

Awareness:  Ensure that customers know you exist – eyes and ears

Demand Generation:  Attracting customers to your products/services – call, click or visit

Lead Conversion:  Converting prospects to revenue – customers

Marketing Vehicle Definition Purpose Examples
Advertising Mass communications that broaden perceptions. Awareness

Lead Generation

Broadcast (TV, radio), Print  (newspaper, magazine), Online (banner ads, site ads)
Collateral &  Sales Tools Material describing a product, service, or solution used to support sales and marketing efforts. Demand Generation Brochure, card/flyer, catalog, cover letter, envelope, datasheet, folder, binder, video, presentation, promotional item, poster, banner, magazine, newsletter, competitive brief, instant reference guide, order and configuration guide.
Customer Testimonials Customer endorsements illustrating the impact of the company product, service or solution. Demand Generation

Lead Conversion

Quotes, case studies, success stories, references, speaking engagements.
Direct Marketing A method of contacting individual customers directly and obtaining their responses. Lead Conversion Direct mail, telemarketing, addressable media.
Event An in-person or online occurrence designed to increase awareness, accelerate sales, and build relationships. Awareness Tradeshow, road show, seminar, conference, hospitality, executive briefing, webinar, online seminar.
Incentives Providing equipment, discount or rebates to entice customers to try and/or purchase products, services or solutions. Lead Conversion Demo equipment, evaluation and trade-in, free sample or trial, mail-in or instant rebate or gift with purchase.
Internal Communications Use of any marketing vehicle to keep employees informed. Awareness Broadcast/webcast, leadership meetings, internal websites, newsletters, webinars, etc.
Internet Marketing The use of the internet to promote, advertise and sell goods and services. Awareness

Demand Generation

Lead Conversion

Websites, pay-per-click advertising, banners, e-mail marketing, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, blogs, webcasts, podcasts.
Co-Marketing Funds and tools provided to partners to enable them to execute specific marketing strategies and tactics on behalf of the company. Awareness

Demand Generation

Affinity marketing, affiliate marketing, lead generation, co-op marketing, channel incentives, partner compensation (SPIF)
Market Research Research undertaken with the purpose on increasing understanding of markets, customers, competition, design and positioning of products, services, or solutions. Demand Generation Primary, secondary, syndicated, campaign testing, ad testing, competitive benchmarking.
Merchandising Materials created and displayed in retail locations for the purpose of affecting product selection and purchase. Lead Conversion Brochure, demo, samples, lugon, highlighter, posters, banners, rebate, selection guides, tear pads.
Packaging The physical material used to contain product including materials on-box or in-box designed to improve the customer experience. Lead Conversion Physical packages, inserts, literature, software, stickers, illustrations, installation guides, user manuals.
Public Relations Activities that focus on industry influencers to establish the public image of the company and its products, services or solutions. Awareness

Demand Generation

Press releases, endorsements, article placement, interviews, news conference, press tour, press kits, media briefings, product reviews, 3rd party releases, speaker’s bureau, white paper placement.
Viral Marketing Activities that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness, through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. Awareness

Demand Generation

Word-of-mouth with online enhancements, blogs, audio and/or video clips, flash, games, advergames, etc.

whisperAll companies have politics, but how you handle them can make or break your career.  In a sales organization where the atmosphere can be intense and stressful, politics within this segment can make or break a company if not handled properly.

There are the “How To Play Office Politics” rules, such as:

  • Surround yourself with other ambitious colleagues in your organization and build a strong network of help.
  • Find a good mentor.
  • Ask for help and reciprocate.
  • Perception is more important than reality.

And the list goes on.  Politics is something we can’t avoid, but in a sales organization, it is important to minimize it and instead work on having your sales professionals foster and build not only their relationships within your organization, but more importantly, their relationships with their customers to help grow the business.  Office politics can distract your sales professionals from focusing on their goals when they should instead be making offers in the marketplace to your customers.  Reducing politics within a sales organization and creating a clear vision for your salespeople can be done by:

–          Setting goals for your sales teams in a timely manner

There is nothing worse for salespeople to sell in to a marketplace without understanding what their goals are.  If you want salespeople to be productive, give them their sales goals sooner than later and have them be realistic.  Include them in this decision making process and get their input as well to help provide a line of sight that they understand and believe in.  If you’re late in providing sales goals to your team, you will quickly de-motivate them and they will lose trust in you as you are unable to keep your commitments to them.

–          Be clear on your compensation plan

Don’t complicate the compensation plan for your salespeople.  Unless you have multiple products and/or services with different margins that require a different payout for each, try to keep your compensation plan as simple as possible.  Salespeople should be focused on selling and not on trying to decipher their compensation plan.  If you have to change your sales goals or your compensation plan, reveal the reasons for the decision.  If you hide the reasons why their compensation plan has changed or you are unable to provide a clear understanding as to why  it changed you will start creating an us versus them environment.  Be open and honest.

–          Measure and publicize performance data

Salespeople tend to respect what is being measured and publicized for their peers to see.  Not only is it important to measure and publicize it, but meet with your salespeople on a regular basis and tell them how they are performing against their goals.  Provide constructive criticism that will help them grow.  Beat them down and disrespect them and they will not respect you or their goals.

–          Eliminate back-office tasks for your salespeople and let them focus more on selling

Sounds  obvious, but a report done by the The Dartnell Group in 1992 showed that salespeople only spent 50% of their time selling with the remainder of their time traveling and/or waiting for and doing paperwork.  In 2007, a survey done by Robert Nadeau of Industrial Performance Group found that this figure had dropped to 38 percent.  Granted some of the other 62 percent is spent on account management and relationship building with their existing customers, but too often it’s dealing with internal processes and procedures (i.e. correcting billing errors, dealing with internal processes/procedures to get pricing or contracts approved).  With companies expecting more from their employees today and demanding they take on more responsibilities, this figure may continue to fall.  Eliminate some of these responsibilities from them by either automating some of the processes or hiring extra help.  Free up their time to meet with their customers and sell.  It will pay off in the long run.

Sales success also depends on intangible factors that are difficult to quantify such as the salespersons ability to build relationships and connect with their customers.  Salespeople are a major factor in determining if an organization will fail or succeed.  Eliminating as many barriers for them and creating an environment where their input is valued will minimize the politics and in turn create a powerful sales organization.