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Sales Confidence

Re-energise Sales

An entrepreneur shares five strategies that helped breathe new life into his company.

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I’m a firm believer that businesses must always grow or face extinction. So, early last year when my business — which specialises in producing short promotional videos known as ’sizzle reels’ — was seeing high levels of return business but not much in the way of new customer acquisition, I immediately set out to make some big changes.

Over the next 30 days, my sales team and I conducted a full assessment of the sales operation — everything from lead generation through the point of sale — with the goal of improving new client acquisition. After careful analysis, we came up with a five-point game plan that helped to significantly improve revenues in less than six months.

1. Instruct the sales team to operate with a 2-for-1 mindset. Whenever we sold a new client we encouraged our team to turn that one client into two. We created a programme that gave free gift cards and catered breakfasts to clients who gave us referrals. Not long after, our business’s bottom lined surged. Today, most of our clients have morphed into as many as four new clients. For every R1 000 we’ve spent on referrals, we’ve received an average of R16 000 in gross sales.

2. Adjust our keyword strategy based on client feedback. Over many lunches, conference calls and email exchanges, we asked our clients to tell us what they thought about our service, where they heard about us and why they hired us. The most telling thing we learned was that most of our clients found us online but rarely by using any of our traditional keywords. Some were minor differences (while we were already using the phrase ’sizzle reels,‘ we found that ‘sizzle reel,’ the singular form, generated 10 to 15 times more interest). In other instances, our clients were using keywords we hadn’t even considered.

This led us to the conclusion that how we defined our product and how our clients defined our product were on two separate wavelengths. Adjusting our pay per click and organic search engine optimisation strategies increased our online traffic by nearly 100% in a single month.

It also helped fortify our market position online. Based on the keywords our clients suggested to us, we bought up several keyword-rich URLs, for anywhere from R400 to R16 000 per URL. After reviewing a year’s worth of Google analytics, we realised that buying these ‘hot ticket’ URLs and turning them into highly-optimised landing pages was helping us to build our search engine rankings while also locking out the competition.

3. Simplify the information-gathering process. Client feedback also taught us that they didn’t want to call us or send an email through our general inquiry address because they didn’t know what to ask in order to get a quote. In response, we added a ‘request a quote’ page which asks customers to answer questions we think they might ask us in order to get a quote. This way, we can collect everything we need to provide them with an accurate quote without needing to have an actual conversation. The page cost R400 to build and helped us book R60 000 in new business in just the first week it went live on our site.

4. Compute in the cloud. Moving our company’s operations online not only helped us provide information to customers quicker and close deals faster, it also slashed our overhead expenses by R10 000 a month on average. We were able to develop a much leaner, more efficient selling system by using online tools such as SlideRocket.com and Proposable.com — both of which offered us instant access to our most updated documents and real-time viewing analytics for our proposals and presentations — and others such as Freshbooks.com, Box.net and Google Docs.

5. Use testimonials to build your reputation. We were fortunate to have a roster packed with name-recognisable clients including Old Spice, Pampers and Gap. We needed to reach out to several of our clients for testimonials, which we could then use to sell new clients. We collected those testimonials and displayed them on all sales materials and online. While we can’t put an exact rand amount on what this tactic generated revenue-wise, it is clear that it has made it much easier for our sales people to close sales. Big names equal instant credibility.

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, public speaker and author of Never Get a 'Real' Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business and Not Go Broke.

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Sales Confidence

How to Get Clients When You Hate Asking for Business

Three ways to trade cold calling for warm leads.

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Whether you’re starting a business or growing an existing one, you need clients. If you don’t like selling and don’t have a strong referral network, getting clients is a big challenge. I’ve helped scores of entrepreneurs who hate selling grow their business, and in my experience, one of the biggest hurdles is how you feel about selling itself.

If you judge selling as manipulative, you probably try to avoid it, and if you can sell in a way that aligns with your values and your personality, getting clients gets easier.

One of the best ways to do this is to start with warm leads instead of cold calls. This means approching people you know or feel comfortable with.

Here are three key ways to generate warm leads:

1. Contact database

By putting your contacts into a spreadsheet, you’ll find lots of great people you’ve forgotten about.

Download your list of names into Excel with data fields for first and last name, then add two new columns. Call the first column “lead status” and the second one “lead type.” In the status column, mark “warm” or “cold.”

Warm contacts on this list are the people you wouldn’t hesitate to call because you know you’d receive a warm welcome. Cold contacts are everyone else.

In the “type” column, decide whether each person is likely to be a potential client, referral source, mentor or something else. Knowing why you will contact each person in advance makes reaching out easier and desired results more likely.

Once you’ve got the columns populated, filter for the warm leads and reach out to all of them. Target a specific number of calls per day for maximum payoff. You may have to use Google or other research to get phone numbers. If you can’t get a number, then use email as a last resort. Be ready to call or email several times to get a response.

If you want to generate new warm leads, networking is an excellent place to start. Instead of looking only for ideal clients, consider the fact that anyone can be a mutual referral source.

If you’ve exhausted everyone in your network, try someone new you have a lot in common with. You’ll be more likely to grab a cup of coffee with someone who shares your love of hiking and traveling, and that conversation may lead you to your next client. We’re more likely to hire and refer people we know, like and trust, but the foundation of that relationship is often common interests, not a potential to become business partners.

Before you get too far with these strategies, make sure you set up a customer relationship management (CRM) database. This will keep you organized so you remember who you need to call back and know which Cathy was the potential client and which one recommended the great sushi spot.

I recommend an online tool like Less Annoying CRM, Insightly or Highrise HQ if you have a small budget. Excel is great for filtering, but it doesn’t email or text you reminders to follow up, which is crucial for acquiring new business. If you’re not on top of it, you’re wasting your time and throwing out potential revenue. Make sure to keep up-to-date notes about activity, actions you’ve promised and when you need to reach out again.

Related: Exactly How Involved Should You Be In Your Business’s Sales?

2. Referrals

Referrals are an excellent warm lead resource. The problem is, when you wait for referrals, they aren’t reliable or plentiful enough to keep your business going. You need to create multiple referral sources and nurture them.

To do this, make a list of your power partners. These are other businesses that serve your target market in a non-competitive way. Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer. Your power partners include makeup artists, florists and DJs. The magic of these partners is that you can all refer each other so it’s a two-way street rather than beneficial to only one of you. If you get a large list of power partners and are in regular contact with them, your referral numbers will increase and become more reliable.

Once you know your power partners, you can look for them at networking events, and you can ask your existing contacts if they can connect you to others. If you’re introduced to an ideal referral source through a mutual friend or contact, you’re both more likely to make the effort to help each other.

Related: 3 Insanely Easy Ways To Double Your Sales

3. Speaking

Another great way to get clients and warm leads is speaking. The key to getting clients through speaking is inviting the audience to work with you during your presentation. If you find this step as cringe-worthy as cold calling, here are a few tips:

  1. Determine your core values and desired audience perception. One of my clients values professionalism, integrity and service. With this understanding, we brainstormed how she could invite members of the audience to work with her in a way that made her feel aligned with her core values.
  2. Talk to “your people.” During your presentation, you’ll notice a few people are more engaged than the rest of the room. You’ll know they love what you’re saying by their smiles, head nods and questions. When you make your pitch, have those people in mind. If you make more eye contact with them during the pitch, you’ll feel more comfortable. They’re the people who want to speak with you further, so make them feel invited to do so.
  3. Attend other speaking events. Listen to how other speakers make a pitch. Write down what you like about their methods and what turns you off. Figure out how to integrate the aspects you like into your own pitch.

If all else fails, make sure you have a way to collect names, phone numbers and email addresses at your events. This will give you a collection of warm leads. Enter them into your CRM system and then call them to follow up.

If you start using even one of these strategies, you’ll find yourself with more leads and more confidence. Confidence, in the end, is what makes selling easier.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Confidence

6 Sales Secrets To Turn A Rookie Into A Sales Superstar

Here’s a tip: You’re a consultant, not a salesperson. So, figure out what you’re really selling.

Toby Nwazor

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I once worked as a salesman in an insurance company. And, like most salespeople, I couldn’t meet my targets in the beginning. I noticed however, that certain people in my organisation made more sales than all of us put together. So, I got close to some of them and tried to learn their secrets.

Luckily, they were kind enough to let me in. And they taught me that selling is a skill that can be developed, not a special gift one is born with. After following them, I found that my selling improved drastically, and almost immediately. My sales were huge.

Related: The Personalities You Should Engage To Be Better At Sales

So I now believe that like me, anybody can learn the art of selling. But it begins by learning the following secrets:

1Make continuous learning your personal mission

I remember catching a ride with one of my sales managers one day. I was surprised that throughout our ride, he never played music, as I would have done were I the one driving. Instead, he plugged in an mp3 and played a particular talk. It was a huge lesson and I followed suit immediately.

To be a sales superstar, you need to learn every day. The future of “selling” belongs to those with an unquenchable thirst for learning, not just for those who work hard.

Make learning a top priority. Invest in books, seminars and audio talks related to sales, and watch your sales skyrocket.

2Overcome your fear of rejection

This fear is the greatest obstacle you must overcome if you intend to have a successful sales career. Like most newbie sales agents, I found it affected my selling, too.

Luckily, my supervisor became concerned and taught me that selling was basically a game of numbers. In other words, the more I met people, the more likely I would be to make a sale.

That new knowledge fired me up. I started getting new prospects, and when they were not interested in my product, I simply said, “Next!”

To be honest, we are all afraid of something at one point or another. But, to borrow a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “If you would be a great success, make a habit throughout your life of doing the things you fear.”

3Keep your sales funnel full

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All sales superstars at any time have more than enough prospects to work on. To get better results in your sales, make sure you don’t lack prospects. If you must, hire someone to help you generate leads.

Most important, make sure you always get referrals after closing each sale. Lead-generation tools like Bant.io and Hubspot are becoming part of more and more companies that desire to streamline their sales, to save some time.

Related: 7 Simple Ways To Close More Sales

4Make your enthusiasm Infectious

Imagine that a salesman knocks on your door looking tired and worn out. Gazing at you, his eyes filled with disappointment, he pitches you in a whisper.

“My organisation can help you plan your event,” he says. “But then, you don’t really need that, do you? I mean, everybody plans their events these days, except celebrities. You don’t happen to know any celebrity around, do you?”

It will be a cold day in hell before such a salesperson makes a sale. According to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and one of the nation’s richest salespersons, rightly said:

“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”

5Present yourself as a consultant, not a salesperson

When I started my consumer goods business, I asked myself what I was selling. I had groceries for sale in my mart, but when I introduced “Home and office delivery services,” I realised that what I was really selling was stress alleviation, and a good time-saving option.

Once I understood this, I revised how I approached my targets, who were mainly busy professionals. When I met them, I didn’t just start selling my products. Instead, I tried to understand the level of stress their jobs placed on them. I then recommended my grocery home delivery service as a way of helping them reduce stress.

In the same way, you should present yourself as a consultant. Don’t leave anything to chance. Prepare for every sales meeting or call. Dress the part too, and look important. And just as my manager advised me back then, I’d say, take a short-term loan if you have to. Buy better clothes; you could even buy a car with a little down payment. Just make sure you present prospects with the image of a successful consultant.

6Close the sale

Many salespeople don’t ask for the sale. They assume that after their sales pitch, clients will take the initiative to pay. In most cases, however, they postpone it.

Related: How To Hit Your Sales Targets

My sales manager always drummed into my ears the words, “Toby, you will always lose 100 percent of the sales you don’t ask for.”

So, don’t make assumptions. Learn all you can about closing a sale. Just make sure you close the sale.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Confidence

You Can’t Succeed At Sales Working In Failure Mode

Customers buy products because of awesome marketing, not because of an awesome salesperson.

Jurgen Appelo

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As an entrepreneur, time is your scarcest resource. You should try to spend each minute of your work life in the most effective way possible. This means reducing the time you spend on sales and increasing the time you spend on marketing. Marketing scales; sales doesn’t.

Let’s look at typical sales activities. You spend a good amount of time one-on-one with individual clients, explaining to them what your products or services are for and what the benefits are compared to the alternatives. You try to influence leads and prospects in a personal way, hoping to turn them into paying customers.

With typical marketing activities, you spend more time on one-to-many approaches – reaching out to audiences with valuable ideas, offering entry-level products and services for free, presenting yourself and your business as authentic and handling any interactions with leads and prospects in a scalable way. Using this distinction, it is clear that sales activities don’t scale, but marketing activities do.

Related: The Sales That Really Count

When you have to verbally explain to someone the differences between two versions of your product, you are wasting your time.

You’re doing sales. You should use that time to make it clear to potential clients – using text, audio or video – what you offer in which versions. That’s marketing.

When you’re physically on the road or in a store trying to convince leads and prospects that your products and services are great, you are doing sales. It would have been more effective to use that time making your products and services so awesome, that word gets around and clients are lining up to get a piece of the awesomeness. That’s marketing.

When you are personally leading people around your store, showing them your wares and getting them to test some products, you’re in sales. When you enable people to try things for themselves and use the internet for information, you’re in marketing.

Your ultimate goal is to reduce the time you spend on sales to zero, and spend it all on marketing. Granted, it is unlikely that you will ever truly reach zero, but it’s a useful goal. Part of the marketing job is prioritising ideas and requests for development. The end goal is to make things awesome. The service department is also an area where marketing plays a role because all client contacts are opportunities for marketing.

When you have products and services that are great, people should be eager to be your customers. If that is not the case, you lack in marketing, not in sales.

Some people will argue that there are products and services that require a personal touch. Some would say, for example, that you cannot just have people test drive a Mercedes-Benz E-Class without a salesperson guiding them through the process. I disagree.

High-end products do require a personal touch, but that’s not sales; that is a service people pay for. This service comes with the product. It starts before the actual purchase, and it extends far after. Thanks to great development, service and marketing, the customer should already have made up his or her mind.

Related: 3 Online Marketing Strategies To Kick-Start Stagnant Sales

The “salesperson” is not spending any time selling anything to the client. Marketing should have already influenced and convinced the client. The salesperson just makes the purchasing process an enjoyable experience, which is the premium service the client pays for.

Don’t waste time on sales because sales activities don’t scale. You are operating in failure mode. It indicates that development, service and marketing were not able to make and communicate something that customers think is awesome. And it’s only awesome for you when you can scale it, and when clients pay a premium price for personal service.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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