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Sales Strategy & Management

It’s Sell Or Die Because Sales Are The Lifeblood Of Every Company

It may not be brain surgery, but done right, sales is a practice like medicine or any other profession. Learn it. Practice it.

Phil La Duke

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A company that isn’t selling is dying; that may sound melodramatic, but I have seen ordinarily rational and capable C+ executives go into a panic when sales are down and watched as that panic spread like a wildfire through the organisation, damaging the company in ways from which it may take years to recover.

If your job is selling, a slump in sales can put tremendous pressure on you. Here are some tips to help you be a more successful salesperson:

Build a network

For my money the single greatest payoff for the investment in time is in building and maintaining (which is not the same as working) your network. Help your network to know and understand what you do.

The more vague an understanding the people in your network have of what you do the less likely you are to get on the bid list or receive a hot tip.

Related: You Can’t Succeed At Sales Working In Failure Mode

Maintain your network

Too many professionals treat their network like a stamp collection; always delighted when they can add some new contact on LinkedIn. Maintaining a network is like growing a garden, you need to periodically weed out the personal from the professional.

I have a great friend who owns a U-haul rental branch. He is happy and successful, but he will never buy the things I sell. He’s a personal contact, not a professional contact.

If you don’t recognise the difference you end up wasting too much time trying to stay professionally connected to people you shouldn’t be.

Face-to-Face (F2F) means just that

Perhaps your company tracks Face-to-Face meetings in some sort of sales database and if so every salesperson in the company knows how to juke the stats so that it looks like you are having meetings when you are actually having conference calls or even just an email.

Get out there and get in front of people, it is the single best way to uncover opportunities and get the inside track on the industry, an email or a phone call just isn’t the same.

Not every F2F requires an aggressive sales pitch

Many times I go to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks just to socialise with a client or prospect. It’s useful to talk to them about what they are up to at work and at home. More often than not the conversation usually turns to a business opportunity and results in a proposal.

Related: The Sales That Really Count

Don’t apologise for selling

I used to sell to a top executive who ultimately went out on his own and started a small communications firm. As it happened I had a substantial budget for communications and since he was affordable, reliable, and produced great work (not to mention he was fun to work with) I generally sourced the work to him. But in the change from being my customer to being my vendor he got a bit weird.

When he would present a quote he would always say, “I know this looks like a lot but…” Personally I thought it was a fair price and had even budgeted higher, but for whatever reason he felt obliged to apologise for making a profit.

confident-sales-man

Be confident in your offering

The key to confidence in what you sell is to know your weaknesses and turn them into strengths. If you are the most expensive offering, be sure you can defend why and that defense better not include the expense of running an office, making copies, and the wages you pay.

Instead, you say “we’re the most expensive because we have the best people.” If you are significantly cheaper than the competition, be able to explain why.

“Everyone will tell you they have the best people and we like to think we do too, but we are able to deploy the best people because we have tightly controlled business systems that allow us to use the best people to do the work that most requires their talents. In other words, not only do we have the best people we are organised in a way that allows you to get the greatest value from these highly talented professionals.”

And if you’re the cheapest in town and can’t really compete with bigger and frankly better firms you say, “we don’t spend our money on fancy offices and high-priced staff that you have for whose salaries you end up paying in hidden fees, we’re less expensive because the money you spend is used on your project, not on a bloated bureaucracy.”

Related: It’s All About Accountability For Sales Managers

Delegate cold calls and paperwork

Behind every wildly successful salesperson is a team of prospectors who not only identify leads but who qualify the leads. We too often worry about the sales funnel, which leads sales people to deceive executives into thinking that sales are eminent when those sales are complete fiction.

By having a team charged with stocking the top of the funnel, other members weeding out the real from the pipe dreams, and led by someone who can close the deal, the sales funnel becomes a real tool that executives can use for planning.

Never sell on price

One of the best salesmen I have ever worked for told me to never sell on price, because there is always somebody out there who will pass an inferior offering as the same as your product but for a much lower price.

Too many sales people are hung up on price they believe that they are asking too much and the customer will see sticker shock.

I have been on both sides of the table – buyer and seller – and in both cases I have been very open about money. It’s not exactly like I’m asking for intimate details of the prospect’s sex life, I’m asking (or in the case of buying, revealing) the amount of money the customer is prepared to spend. In many cases the customer may not know what to expect, so it’s appropriate to set the expectations up front.

Ask questions like, “how much have you budgeted to spend on this project?” or “do you have figure in mind?” Understand that some customers won’t tell you – that is an indication that you haven’t built enough trust in the relationship. Also, be prepared to give a ball-park figure based on the scope explained to you.

Don’t submit proposals you have no chance of winning. This sounds like a no brainer, but too often we spend a small fortune and stress out the sales team producing artful proposals that were never going to be considered in the first place.

Before submitting a proposal don’t be afraid to ask if you are just being asked to fill a “three quote requirement.” Also ask who else has been invited to bid on the project – this isn’t top secret information – and learn as much as you can about the history between the two firms.

If the company has a 20-year track record of awarding business to Company X, there really isn’t much that you can do to steal that business away.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Phil LaDuke is is a partner at Environmental Resources Management. An author, he writes about business, worker safety and organisational change topics on his blog. An avid user of social media for business networking, LaDuke has worked as a consultant in this area.

Sales Strategy & Management

3 Ways You Should Use Data Science to Skyrocket Sales

This post will show you 3 ways to keep your business stable and profitable, successfully.

Olivia Ryan

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Sales business is getting harder and more competitive day after day. Both physical retail and e-commerce offer a wide variety of brands and products, which makes it more difficult for an average sales person to seal the deal with potential customers.

Sales professionals have to be clever and extremely analytical before even approaching their clients. That’s why they use data science to skyrocket business. Data science is a contemporary statistical model which seeks to provide meaningful information from large amounts of complex data.

According to the study, this type of business analytics is expected to generate almost $170 billion in 2018. If you want to keep the business stable and highly profitable, you should consider embracing data science in everyday work. This post will show you 3 ways to do it successfully.

Prospect Analysis

Data science is based on artificial intelligence that has enough analytical power to give you remarkable insights into the traits of all prospects. Using this tool, you can personalise sales negotiations so as to match the exact needs of each client individually.

For example, data science will tell you the basic demographic features like age, gender, and location. But it goes beyond that and reveals income levels, professional titles, or personal interests based on online searches. All these inputs allow you to customise offers according to client’s preferences.

Related: Can Your Marketing Team Speak Data?

At the same time, you can prioritise prospects based on company size, predicted revenue, long-term potential, industry influence, or any other feature you might consider relevant to your business. This way, you can dedicate more time to the more important prospects and increase profitability just because you know who to talk to first.

Upselling

It’s much simpler to sell products to existing customers than to attract new buyers. Data science can help you to upsell products and increase the profit using the base of loyal clients. The system is simple – data science analyses the purchasing history and the preferences of every customer and suggests complementary products. That way, you make sure that your upselling suggestions stay relevant, which not only reduces bounce rates but also strengthens the base of loyal clients.

Create Ambitious Sales Quotas

Creating sales quotas has never been an easy job. Most companies are selling dozens of products in many cities, regions, or even countries, which makes it difficult for sales managers to manually determine ambitious but realistic quotas for their agents.

It’s actually one of the biggest reasons why managers underperform and fail to meet company requirements. However, data science makes this task a lot easier because it can automatically conduct the research and decide how much is enough for every sales representative in your team.

Company Aussie Writings uses data science to make sales forecasts and here’s what they say about it: “The new business analytics model goes through huge volumes of data within minutes, detect sales trends, and gives us a good plan for each agent, product, or region. With such powerful tool at our disposal, we don’t put too much pressure on sales representatives, but we also don’t have to worry about underachievement.”

Conclusion

Data science helps businesses to analyse potential clients more comprehensively and increases the odds of keeping sales high in the long run. It’s a perfect model for entrepreneurs who want to stay competitive in the abundance of brands, products, and services.

In this post, we showed you 3 ways you should use data science to skyrocket sales. Which tip could give your company the biggest boost? Let us know in comments and don’t hesitate to ask us if you need any additional information about this topic!

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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Secrets Of Communicating Effectively With Your Customers

Richard Mukheibir

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Communicate with customers

Standup comedians take cues from their audiences and modify their material as they go along. You can use this technique to watch for cues from your customers as to how they like to be addressed by you and staff.

This might seem like a schlep when things are going crazy at the tills or in the back office but the reward is creating loyal customers. Getting their feedback can also help you build your business. Here’s how to make communicating with customers a win-win scenario for them, for you and for your staff:

1. Listen first

Rethink your relationship with your customers by remembering that they are in control of the cash, not you. Shift your attitude to acknowledge this by recognising that you would like them to buy happily and confidently from you.

Bullying them with an over-the-top sales pitch is often a fast road to customer disappointment.

Instead, take time to guide them to the product or service that suits them best.

2. Acknowledge and connect

Whether you are demonstrating a product or ringing up a sale, allow the time to pause briefly and look customers in the eye. This personal connection makes customers feel that each one of them has been acknowledged as a fellow human being and not just a cash cow.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

Such simple courtesies help you build the loyalty that encourages customers to return to buy again. They also often help take the sting out a disappointment or complaint about your product or service, allowing you to deal with it constructively.

3. What happens in the back office stays in the back office

Be clear in your own mind and also make sure your staff respect the house rule of not pursuing disagreements between colleagues on the shop floor. Most customers who witness something like this tend to back off – perhaps right out of your door.

Some may even film or record it and post it on social media. That is when you realise that there is indeed such a thing as bad publicity and you risk your business’s reputation being permanently damaged.

4. Choose the words

Customers are impressed when they see the boss putting in time on the shop floor or getting involved in customer relations. You can get double value from this time by listening in to the way your staff interact with customers.

Related: See You At The Top: A Guide To Winning At Customer Service

Make notes of what is positive and negative then use them during staff training sessions to role-play the situations again and help staff develop empathetic tones, body language and responses to customers.

5. Value the feedback

Compliments make everyone glow but even criticism or a complaint is valuable to your business – it’s like free market research.

So encourage your staff not to argue with a critical customer or try to prove how wrong they are. Respect their perception of their experience and use it to improve your range of products or services and help your business thrive.

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Sales Strategy & Management

What Really Drives Sales Growth And Repeat Business?

Hint: It’s neither your prospects’ ability to buy nor how great your product or service is.

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Have you ever analysed what really drives sales in your business? Most people tie their answer to marketing or new leads. Those can be drivers but not the main driver for small businesses.

What causes one person to shop with you for years, driving out of their way to get to you, while the guy across the street won’t set foot in your door? Typically, when I ask this question, I get feedback about how great the product and service is. When I ask why the guy across the street won’t use you, I typically get some explanation of a lack of need or ability to buy.

Those answers can all be true, but that doesn’t make any of them correct.

I have spent the last seven years studying these questions and searching for both the truth and the correct answer. Surprisingly, the right answer is far easier to understand than I thought it would be. Instead of you having to become an expert on the subject, I’ll save you years and tell you what I found.

The truth and the correct answer

If you want to drive sales growth and repeat business, it boils down to understanding and then implementing one strategy: Content builds relationships, relationships build trust, and trust equals sales. Think about that statement for a minute. It is true in your personal and business life right now.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Content builds relationships

Since the dawn of man, how did we build relationships? We create content. If I found myself to be single tomorrow and on a date, I would work to build a relationship with the person I was dating by talking to them – that is, by creating content.

In B2B sales for many years, people created content by having all the knowledge and telling sales prospects about the great features and benefits of new, amazing machines. Today, we create content for our websites and e-books, as well as for downloads or videos to post on YouTube.

Why do we do all of this? Simply put, content builds relationships. And if your customer is looking to purchase anything of significant value from you, you will first need a relationship to make that happen. Once we have a relationship, what happens?

Relationships build trust

shaking-handsMost people don’t fully trust someone they just met, regardless whether it is a business relationship or a personal one. Human nature is to give a little bit of trust and to see if someone is worth giving more trust to. In other words, make them earn it. This is why delivering, at a minimum, what you said you would is so vitally important.

This is where good customer service, the person who answers the phone or sits at the front desk, can make or break a new relationship. As the relationship continues, more and more trust is given; and if the experience remains positive, the amount of trust you get grows still more. As the trust in you grows, then what happens?

Trust equals sales

The more a person trusts you, the more they will buy from you.

One bit of good news with all the competition that is popping up is that it is super easy to stand out, because there are so many poorly run companies and untrustworthy people in the world. All you have to do is do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Also, treat people the way you’d want to be treated. Since so few will do that, it is not that hard to stand out from the pack.

Related: 3 Strategies For Closing Sales Without Picking Up The Phone

Once a person has a relationship with someone, and they always get what they expect, changing from that person or business is not easy or even desirable. Because you gave good content, you created a relationship. Through that relationship you worked hard and developed trust and now, that trust you earned turns out money through, year after year. When you have 500; 1,000; 2,000; or 5,000 of those trusting relationships, they become assets of your amazing business.

If you’ve read me before, you may have heard me say that you should use a newsletter to build a fence around your customers. They will stay longer and spend more. Well, this is what I’m talking about. Had I been more sophisticated in my understanding of how all of this works seven years ago, I would have switched out the word “newsletters” for “content.”

I tell people all the time that a newsletter isn’t a magic tool. If anyone is selling you a magic solve-all-your-problems tool, you should run very far away and very fast. A newsletter is simply a vehicle to distribute content that builds relationships. It nurtures those relationships over time. You have to respect the relationship and earn trust by delivering on your product or services. If you don’t, can’t, or won’t do that, you could deliver all the content and send all the newsletters, and it simply wouldn’t matter one bit.

How to implement this in your business

The challenge with any idea is implementation. With most ideas in business, you typically have four choices, and this one is no different.

You can do the following:

  • Do nothing. This is what most people do, which is good news for you, because it is also what most of your competitors are doing. That makes it very easy to stand out.
  • Do it yourself. Content has to be created, and maybe you’re the best person to do that right now in your company.
  • Hire an employee to do this for you. Of course, you could hire and train a content creation person and outsource editing, graphic design, etc.
  • Find a company to help you implement this strategy.

Related: The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls

Regardless of your decision, if you want to truly grow, or if you want to beat the competitor down the street, or if you want to increase the value of your company, it starts with this strategy: Content builds relationships, relationships build trust, and trust equals sales.

This leaves you with one thing to as you finish this article: Look back at the four options and make a choice.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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