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Sales Strategy & Management

Making Sales Presentations

You have the appointment but will your presentation ruin it all?

Entrepreneur

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Your cold calls and follow-up efforts have paid off, and you have made an appointment to visit a prospect in person and make a sales presentation.

How can you make sure it’s a success? Four elements determine whether or not a sale will be made:

  1. Rapport: putting yourself on the same side of the fence as the prospect
  2. Need: determining what factors will motivate the prospect to listen with the intent to purchase
  3. Importance: the weight the prospect assigns to a product, feature, benefit, price or time frame
  4. Confidence: your ability to project credibility, to remove doubt, and to gain the prospect’s belief that the risk of purchase will be less than the reward of ownership

Here is a closer look at the steps you can take to make your sales presentation a success.

Before the Presentation

Know your customer’s business.
Potential clients expect you to know their business, customers and competition as well as you know your own product or service. Study your customer’s industry. Know its problems and trends. Find out who the company’s biggest competitors are. Some research tools include the company’s annual report, brochures, catalogues, and newsletters; trade publications; chamber of commerce directories; and the internet.

Write out your sales presentation.
Making a sales presentation isn’t something you do on the fly. Always use a written presentation. The basic structure of any sales presentation includes five key points: Build rapport with your prospect, introduce the business topic, ask questions to better understand your prospect’s needs, summarise your key selling points, and close the sale. Think about the three major selling points of your product or service. Develop leading questions to probe your customer’s reactions and needs.

Make sure you are talking to the right person.
This seems elementary, but many salespeople neglect to do it. Then, at the last minute, the buyer wriggles off the hook by saying he or she needs a boss’s, spouse’s or partner’s approval. When you are setting the appointment, always ask “Are you the one I should be talking to, or are there others who will be making the buying decision?”

In the Customer’s Office

Build rapport.
Before you start discussing business, build rapport with your prospect. To accomplish this, do some homework. Find out if you have a colleague in common. Has the prospect’s company been in the news lately? Is he or she interested in sports? Get a little insight into the company and the individual so you can make the rapport genuine.

Ask questions.
Don’t jump into a canned sales spiel. The most effective way to sell is to ask the prospect questions and see where he or she leads you. (Of course, your questions are carefully structured to elicit the prospect’s needs – ones that your product just happens to be able to fill.)

Ask questions that require more than a yes or no response, and that deal with more than just costs, price, procedures and the technical aspects of the prospect’s business. Most important, ask questions that will reveal the prospect’s motivation to purchase, his or her problems and needs, and the prospect’s decision-making processes.

Don’t be afraid to ask a client why he or she feels a certain way. That’s how you’ll get to understand your customers.

Take notes.
Don’t rely on your memory to remind you of what’s important to your prospect. Ask upfront if it’s all right for you to take notes during your sales presentation. (Prospects will be flattered.) Write down key points you can refer to later during your presentation.

Be sure to write down objections. This shows your prospect you are truly listening to what he or she is saying. In this way, you can specifically answer objections by showing how the customer will benefit from your product or service. It could be, for instance, by saving money, raising productivity, increasing employee motivation, or increasing his or her company’s name recognition.

Learn to listen. Salespeople who do all the talking during a presentation not only bore the prospect, but also generally lose the sale. A good rule of thumb is to listen 70% of the time and talk 30% of the time. Don’t interrupt. It’s tempting to step in and tell the prospect something you think is vitally important. Before you speak, ask yourself if what you’re about to say is really necessary.

When you do speak, focus on asking questions. Pretend you are Barbara Walters interviewing a movie star: Ask questions; then shut up. You can improve your listening skills by taking notes and observing your prospect’s body language, not jumping to conclusions.

Answer objections with “feel,” “felt” and “found.”
Don’t argue when a prospect says “I’m not interested,” “I just bought one,” or “I don’t have time right now.” Simply say “I understand how you feel. A lot of my present customers felt the same way. But when they found out how much time they saved by using our product, they were amazed.”

Then ask for an appointment. Prospects like to hear about other people who have been in a similar situation.

Probe deeper.
If a prospect tells you “We’re looking for cost savings and efficiency,” will you immediately tell him how your product meets his need for cost savings and efficiency? A really smart salesperson won’t – he or she will ask more questions and probe deeper:

“I understand why that is important. Can you give me a specific example?” Asking for more information – and listening to the answers – enables you to better position your product and show you understand the client’s needs.

Find the “hot button.”
A customer may have a long list of needs, but there is usually one “hot button” that will get the person to buy. The key to the hot button is that it is an emotional, not practical, need – a need for recognition, love or reinforcement.

Suppose you are selling health-club memberships. For a prospect who is planning a trip to Hawaii in two months, the hot button is likely to be losing a few pounds and looking good in a bikini. For a prospect who just found out he has high blood pressure, the hot button could be the health benefits of exercise. For a busy young mother, the hot button may be the chance to get away from the kids for a few hours a week and reduce stress.

Eliminate objections.
When a prospect raises an objection, don’t immediately jump in with a response. Instead, show empathy by saying “Let’s explore your concerns.” Ask for more details about the objection. You need to isolate the true objection so you can handle it. Here are some ways to do that:

Offer a choice.
“Is it the delivery time or the financing you are concerned about?”

Get to the heart of the matter.
“When you say you want to think about it, what specifically did you want to think about?”

Work toward a solution.
Every sale should be a win-win deal, so you may need to compromise to close the deal: “I’ll waive the delivery charge if you agree to the purchase.” As you get more experience making sales calls, you’ll become familiar with different objections. Maintain a list of common objections and ways you have successfully dealt with them.

Close the sale.
There is no magic to closing the sale. If you have followed all the previous steps, all you should have to do is ask for the customer’s order. However, some salespeople make the mistake of simply not asking for the final decision. It’s as if they forget what their goal is.

For some, “closing” sounds too negative. If you’re one of them, try changing your thinking to something more positive, such as “deciding.” As you talk with the customer, build in the close by having fun with it. Say something like “So how many do you want? We have it in a rainbow of colours; do you want them all?” Make sure to ask them several times in a fun, nonthreatening way; you’re leading them to make the decision.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Sales Strategy & Management

How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

A key part of finding star talent to join your business is to start the process much earlier than you need to, by building a strong talent pipeline – also known as a Virtual Bench.

Andrew Aitken

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In a previous article, we discussed the 3 things business owners and sales managers should be concerned about when trying to increase sales in a systematic, more sustainable manner. The first of these is to hire a sales team consisting of A-players, and as the owner of a business, you’ll know how hard it is to find this kind of talent.

A key part of finding star talent to join your business is to start the process much earlier than you need to, by building a strong talent pipeline – also known as a Virtual Bench.

Related: 3 Ways You Should Use Data Science to Skyrocket Sales

What is a Virtual Bench?

A virtual bench is the concept of building a pool or pipeline of strong, A-player talent before you need it. Like sports coaches in team sports who always have players on the bench that are ready to play when needed, you too, need to have a pool of people that can fill new spots and substitute existing players on your team when necessary. A virtual bench is about ensuring that you don’t only think about hiring when the need arises – as doing so can have painful, costly effects on your business.

Always be recruiting, even if you don’t yet have a position to fill.

How to build a Virtual Bench of A-player talent

1. Use your existing contacts

Go through your existing contacts – on your phonebook, on LinkedIn, etc. and shortlist, from your past experiences, which of them are A-players that you would like to have working with you one day.

  • Keep in contact with the people on this list – let them know that you believe they are talented and have a great attitude, and that you are always looking for great people to join the business. Make an appointment to meet with them to discuss where they are in their careers and what their future plans are. Use this meeting to get to know them even more and unearth possible synergies where you could potentially work together in future.

2. Keep an eye open at social functions and networking events

Use regular social interactions to identify people you could work with one day. Speak to the people you meet about what they do and about their future plans. Also ask mutual friends or acquaintances about your new contacts, so that you have a clearer picture of who they are. Then keep in touch to nurture your relationships with them.

Related: How To Structure A Fair Salary That Will Motivate Your Sales Team

3. Work with your marketing team

Most of the support you need when building your virtual bench should be from your marketing team and not necessarily your HR team.

Sit down with your marketing team to see what content and campaigns they can run to attract the right people to your business. A-players are attracted to organisations that have a clear mission, distinguishable energy and drive, as opposed to merely seeking a job and a regular paycheck. So, create content that portrays:

  • Who you are as a business and what you stand for
  • Who your customers/clients are
  • The wins you are getting
  • What the working culture is like in your organisation

If you think about hiring in this forward-thinking manner, you’ll be sure to not only prevent a scramble when you need new talent to join your business, but it could help you prevent a lot of costly mis-hires.

Keep an eye out for our next article in this series: What core skills do your salespeople need to have?

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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Lessons On How You Can Deliver A Product Your Customers Actually Want

By learning quickly and failing fast, yourself, you’ll be better able to keep in step with customer expectations and respond to their needs.

Victoria Lawson

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When Zappos.com founder Nick Swinmurn had the initial idea to launch an online shoe retailer in the ’90s, he sought out the leanest way possible to test whether customers were willing to buy shoes online. Instead of spending time building an infrastructure and inventory systems, Swinmurn went to local shoe stores, took pictures of products and posted them online.

If a customer purchased the product, Swinmurn bought the shoes from the brick-and-mortar store at full price to ship to his customer. When the concept actually worked, he knew it was go-time.

Almost 20 years later, in today’s retail environment, adopting this type of low-risk, lean-startup mentality, with a “fail fast, fail cheap” approach, is the number one strategy for success. Here are five lessons to help you nail product innovation through an agile approach.

Take lean to the extreme

Forget about scaling at the beginning. Instead, identify and embrace the bare minimum you need to develop an end-to-end solution, even if it’s manual.

Then build out a basic product infrastructure to mimic a more scalable process and iterate as you progress through development and validation.

This is called the “garage phase” of innovation. Thought leader and author Marty Cagan explained a similar “light-weight” process to product development in his book, Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love.

Related: What You Need To Know About The Lean Start-up Model

By embracing a lean approach, Cagan wrote, you’re making room for the next great idea and continuing to discover and improve with each step you take along the way.

Don’t overcomplicate

Consider simple solutions that are as innovative and personalized as they are valuable for your customer and business objectives.

Related: Saab Grintek Defence’s Strategies For Staying Lean and Competitive

Recently, our company, CarMax, launched 360-degree-camera technology to allow shoppers to interact with 360 photos on carmax.com and experience the inside of a prospective car as if they were sitting in it.

The goal was a more optimized and personal online customer experience, and it started with a selfie stick. This basic low-cost solution required little time, training and resources, and was quickly scalable.

Starbucks is another example: The company excels in creating a simple customer experience because of its focus on seamless personalization: Baristas serve coffee ID’d by the customer’s name, and each location has the same look and feel but is personalized to the geographic location.

Recognise that innovation doesn’t happen in a lab

Don’t isolate your R&D in a lab; instead, send your team out to the field while developing your solution, in order to deliver real-time adjustments and build your awareness of variables you may not have considered before.

Test different approaches, speak with customers and stakeholders and understand all the possible challenges or failures that could happen.

When Nordstrom was attempting to develop a digital way to help sunglass shoppers make a purchase decision, members of the innovation team embedded themselves at a Nordstrom store for a week, talking to real customers, showing prototypes and adjusting those product samples based off those customers’ feedback.

Innovate for both internal and external audiences

Remember the two “customers” you’re innovating for — both the end user and the associates who will be using the product.

By finding a simple solution that works for everyone and training for the rollout, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Qualitative testing and immediate feedback can also help your team better understand usability and the overall customer experience the product is delivering. A product just might fail if there’s a lack of understanding about its functionality.

Avoid product remorse

By starting with a minimum viable product, you’ll be able to get something in front of customers as early as possible before you’ve invested too much time and energy into it.

Related: How To Determine Your Minimum Viable Product

Take a page from Jeff Gothelf’s book, Lean UX, and don’t sit on value or wait to arrive at a perfect solution before implementing at the level of “good” can be good enough and be your starting point for further iteration.

You’re not going to learn everything and anticipate every problem before you introduce a product. And, if you wait too long, the market may shift.

Before co-founding Groupon, Andrew Mason spent almost two years working on a product called The Point, an online platform for social activism.

While The Point never gained steam, Mason did observe his customer base using a featured offering for a group discount on products. Because of good timing and openness to learning, he was able to pivot and create Groupon.

By learning quickly and failing fast, yourself, you’ll be better able to  keep in lock step with customer expectations, to leave behind the ideas that aren’t helping your customers and to deliver the experience your customers want today.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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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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data-science

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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