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Sales Strategy & Management

Sales Power 30-Day Shape Up

Are you ready to ramp up your sales? This 30-day action plan takes your business to new heights

Barry Farber

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Take your sales to the next level in just 30 days. It’s more feasible than you think, especially when you break the process down into small, achievable steps. Remember, action is our greatest teacher and the only way to see a difference in your sales is to act! When you act on an idea, it builds your confidence and enthusiasm and you begin to see a clearer path on the road to reaching your sales goals.

1. Keep a positive attitude.

Everyone talks about the importance of attitude – and for good reason. High achievers in all types of professions list attitude as the top factor in their success. Take an honest look at the people around you. What kinds of attitudes do they bring to the table? Do they pump you up or bring you down? Everyone is entitled to a bad attitude now and again, but if some of the people you’re around are constantly angry, bitter and bringing you down, it might be time to move on.

Every 30 days, make a list of the people with whom you spend the most time. Put a plus sign next to the person’s name if he or she has been a mentor, role model or uplifted you in any way. Try to add one or two names to this section each month. Others on the list might have neither a positive nor negative impact on you. You can put a zero next to their names. Then there might be some people on the list who are negative and seem to always bring you down. Put a minus sign next to their names. You can either try to help these people or just stop spending time with them. This might be tough, but if you can do it, you’ll be amazed at the difference in your attitude and the way you think. We become what we think about, and our environment plays a big part in what we think.

2. Map out your goals.

Many people underestimate and under- utilise one of the most powerful tools on the planet, and it’s right between their ears. When was the last time you sat down with a blank sheet of paper with your number-one goal written at the top of the page? It’s amazing what you’ll come up with after brainstorming for 15 to 30 minutes each week. Try to list at least 20 ideas that will bring you closer to your sales goal. Choose one of them to act on right away.

3. Gain access.

The list of ways to gain access is endless: ask for referrals from great customers, send helpful information out to key prospects, and attend important trade shows and walk the floor. But the most successful tactic is becoming relentless when the return on investment is apparent. You can’t just be tenacious without a purpose. Otherwise, you’ll eventually turn off your prospect. But if you can uncover information about the prospect, such as their challenges (business or personal), and then research information and materials that could be useful for that person, it makes a lasting impression.

Find useful magazine or newspaper articles that address what’s important to a prospect or customer. After a while, the prospect sees your efforts helping theirs, and doors start to open. All it takes is a little time, a stamp and a note attached to a relevant story simply saying, “Thought you might enjoy what’s enclosed.” Mail an article to one key prospect today.

4. Ask questions.

Most salespeople like to talk. But most customers prefer salespeople who listen well. Do an exercise that keeps your listening skills sharp. Every time you meet a new person on the road, in meetings or anywhere else, make it a rule not to share anything about yourself until you’ve discovered what the other person does, their interests and so on. Even when they ask about your business, be short with the answer and go right back to your questions. The goal is to get them to elaborate on what they’ve said. Then decide if it makes sense to share what you do and what area of your business to focus on.

Questions are the keys to selling. Nobody ever listened themselves out of a sale! Next time you meet someone new, try to listen 70% of the time and talk only 30%. Get them talking about their challenges, goals and interests.

5. Offer stellar service.

It’s the details, the little things you do, that make the difference. It’s been proved over and over again that the reason most customers don’t make a purchase is they feel you don’t care, lack interest or show indifference.

I conducted a seminar more than 10 years ago and invited some of the company’s top sales achievers on stage to share the one most important idea that contributed to their success. One of them had a very simple answer. He said, “Every time I meet with a prospect or client, I continue to ask them this question: Is there anything I’m not doing that I could be doing to serve you better?”

What he was doing was constantly searching for problems. Problems become opportunities, and once they are solved, you have a more loyal customer than if they never had any problems at all. This is because the customer sees your efforts in action and knows you’re ready to serve. Customers feel comfortable the next time they make a decision to do business with you because they know you will be there to solve any problems that come up rather than run away from them.

Make a list of your top customers, and call one each day, asking, “Is there anything I’m not doing that I could be doing to serve you better?” You can’t go wrong when customers tell you what to do and you deliver.

6. Differentiate your business.

What makes you stand out in a positive way? How will your customer remember you after four competitors make their presentations? Follow-through, understanding the customer’s business, and service after the sale are important to customers, so before the sale is made, come up with ways to demonstrate a track record of providing these. I used to interview my satisfied customers on tape and use their success stories and comments to handle my prospects’ concerns. At the time, no one else did that and it helped me stand out in a positive way that also increased my closing ratio.

Think about it: what can you do to differentiate your presentation? List three things that distinguish you and your message in a positive way from the competition and keep them at your fingertips to present at any time.

7. Sell value.

I remember a sign a printing company had on the wall that said “Price, Service and Quality. Please Pick Two.”

Great quality and outstanding service come at a price. How many times have you got a great deal on a product or service, only to find out later that the product wore out or fell apart, or that the service was nowhere to be found when you called with a question or problem? When customers challenge the price of your product, your company and even you, what they’re really saying is, “What am I getting from you that I’m not getting from your competitor for that additional investment?” If someone asked you that today, would you have at least three reasons why you’re unique and why they should buy from you? Write them down and memorise them.

8. Follow through.

Every customer wants to feel like they made a good decision after making a purchase. When you follow up with a call, a thank-you note, materials you promised, or just to ask how the first day went with the new system in place, it ensures that the customer will feel taken care of and not like they have been sold.

Review the criteria the customer had prior to making their decision, and when you make your follow-up call after the sale, ask them, “How has our company delivered on your key needs?” Then ask, “What can we do now to keep you as a lifelong customer?” Also be sure to ask what times are best for keeping in touch. With all this information, create customised outlines of long-term follow-up steps for each customer.

9. Create a sense of urgency.

Top salespeople seem to always push themselves to move things forward. They’re constantly reviewing their accounts and thinking of ways to increase business and get things done. They end every call with a question or statement that will either close the deal or move the sale along. For instance: “Why don’t we get together next week and review the product samples as our next step?” Or ask the customer, “What’s our next step?” Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with so much activity that we need to ask ourselves every hour: “What can I do right now to make the most productive use of my time?” It’s a good idea to put this question in your daily planner.

10. Turn obstacles into opportunities.

Great salespeople know rejection comes with the territory. When you get knocked down, thrown around and beaten up, it has a negative impact on your attitude. What’s important is the mental position you take toward a setback or obstacle. As Henry Ford once said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” When we run into obstacles, we have to continue to believe in our goals and keep the faith strong. Never, ever give up. A “yes I will” attitude has been responsible for more achievements in this world than anything else because of the belief, faith and commitment attached to it.

I’ve worked on many projects over the years that would have been easy to give up on when the road got bumpy, but have come through in the end. I received 27 rejections on my first book, more than 50 rejections on a patented writing instrument, and a countless number of rejections while selling a now-world-famous comedian to radio and TV. But deep down, I knew there was value in what I was doing.

I dare you to look at every obstacle, rejection and setback as a time to learn. Next time you face any adversity or challenge that gets in the way of your goals, remember that confronting them head-on with action is the key to success. Increase your sales activity; call mentors and others you respect to gather their insights for your next move; make a list of things you can do to get yourself back on track. Whatever you do, don’t give up and let obstacles get the better of you. Attacking them with intelligent action will tear them down.

Barry Farber is a top speaker and bestselling author of 11 books on sales, management and personal achievement.

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Sales Strategy & Management

Why Creating Value For Your Customer Beats Giving Price Discounts

Customers want value for money. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy (without losing your margins).

Ed Hatton

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Win More Sales

Businesses that can prove and deliver the greatest value can ask their price.

Pricing strategy may be low on the priority list, but complaints about competitors’ low prices get a lot of attention. It’s time to rethink your pricing strategy and rules.

For most of us, pricing is a cost-plus system, the calculated cost of an item is marked up by a percentage to get the selling price, which may then be discounted to match competitive prices. This method assumes that your cost is the lowest it could be, which is rarely true. It is likely you could drive down costs by smarter purchasing or more efficient manufacturing.

The second wrong assumption is that the mark-up percentage is correct; it is more likely to be a long-ago rounded off thumb suck of what you need to run the business, and out of date in this economy. Crucially, cost plus pricing ignores the value that a customer gains when buying the product.

Research shows that customers increasingly seek value for money and will even pay a premium for value. This is especially true of young people, but all classes of buyers, from giant corporates to very poor individuals, seek value over price. Many tenders are not awarded to the lowest bidder but to the supplier best able to deliver. Very poor people buy expensive branded food because they are trusted.

Companies hesitate to switch suppliers only for price, particularly where delivery and quality are vital. With all this evidence that value is important, it’s time to rethink your pricing.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Determining value

Ask your customers what factors are important when choosing suppliers. Price will always be one factor, but focus on the others. Your goal is to become the supplier that best matches all their needs. In many cases, you may even be able to increase your price. Bottled water sells for anything from R5 to R50 a bottle, simply based on the buyer’s perception of the health and other values of that brand. You can get a website and brand identity for less than R10 000 or more than R1 million — neither are the wrong price, it depends what the buyer needs. Get all the information you can and don’t rely on your own or your sales team’s perception of customer needs.

What happens if you cannot make money at the price the customers see value in the item? Start a harsh examination of your buying or manufacturing efficiencies. At the same time re-examine the margin calculation — lean businesses need less margin than lazy ones. If you still cannot make or buy it economically, consider changing your pricing strategy.

Pricing strategies

Convenience pricing is offering a bundle of goods and services for a single price or monthly fee. The customer can easily assess affordability and decide if this offers value. Cell phone suppliers and motor dealers adopt this pricing method. You buy a car for a single monthly fee including the car, warranty, maintenance plan, roadside assist, financing and other items. Both customer and seller are satisfied.

Value-based pricing sees the price determined by the value of the product or service to the individual buyer. The most skilled value-based pricing experts are the street hawkers who are quick to assess the value a student, a businesswoman or a tourist may put on an item. Public speakers have different prices for different audiences like large businesses, start-ups and NGOs — I use this method.

Related: Accurately Predict Future Sales With These Two Things

Incentive-based pricing is widely used in the IT and construction industries. It works on the basis that the price is variable and depends on the performance of the supplier. An IT project may have a nominal price but bonuses are paid for early completion, being below budget or developing more than the requirements. Conversely, not meeting deadlines, delivering late, poor quality or incomplete systems will reduce the price eventually paid. Consider if your business can use one of these highly effective pricing strategies.

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Sales Strategy & Management

What Is Customer Intimacy And How Do You Use It?

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.

Clarissa Fleischer

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Knowing your customers well is a major part of being a successful marketing company. When companies do not connect with their customers, this is when they lose loyalty, revenue and positive customer sentiments. And in today’s world of hyper-connectivity and improved brand interactions, not being connected to your consumers can damage your brand in the long run.

If you think that maintaining a close relationship with customers is not as important as selling your products, you are wrong.Customer intimacy should be a top priority for any company who wants to maintain their success.

But, what exactly is customer intimacy?

Simply put, it is a business strategy that is based on paying close attention to the needs of your customers and ensuring that these needs are met and prioritised at all points of their journey with your company. It often involves close contact with customers using a variety of different channels and techniques. You need them to know that you care about their needs and understand what they are asking for.

You could think of it as segmenting your audience and creating specific offerings to precisely match their needs. If you want to excel at using customer intimacy, you will need to combine your in-depth knowledge of your customer with the ability to be flexible in your operations. This way, you can respond to any customer needs as quickly as possible, maintaining the high standards they have come to expect from your brand.

How do I use it?

Now that you understand what customer intimacy is, you are ready to delve deeper and figure out how to use it. There are some simple tips that you can use to implement customer intimacy in your current marketing strategy. Outlined below are just some of these effective methods.

Always prioritise your customers

This is the first step to any successful customer intimacy strategy. Prioritising your customers means that you need to set up operational processes which are “customer first” in their thinking. You will need to start by listening to customers and analysing their concerns. Only once you understand these concerns, will you be able to provide solutions.

It is important to look into processes that prioritise these concerns rather than react negatively to them. An example of this is avoiding looking at how many calls your client service team takes in a day but rather looking at the goals that they achieve when answering customer queries. Have they answered the customer’s question? Is there a resolution in sight for the problem? These are a more important metric to look at than how many calls are answered in a day.

Try to resolve problems

In order to become more customer-intimate, you should strive to solve the problems that arise rather than discourage people from coming to you with issues. And your brand should make customers feel as though they can share their grievances, either by contacting you directly or by writing a review on your social media page.

Statistics show that customers share a bad experience twice as often than they do a positive one, which could be highly detrimental to your company. So, when your customers do take the time to contact your business with either a positive or negative review, you have to have steps in place to resolve these problems. Use these complaints to improve your processes and your customer service section, so that the next time someone contacts you, it will be with compliments and not complaints.

Set goals that your entire company must follow

One of the most effective ways to become a customer-centric company is to set common goals that all of your employees must follow. For example, one goal could be to answer customer questions within 24 hours with a solution that is realistic and achievable. Or you could aim to improve your project turn-around time by gathering information from clients at every stage of their journey.

Whatever goals you set for your business, you will need to ensure that every employee adheres to them. Leaders need to set an example for their staff so that the customers, ultimately, reap the benefits. But be sure that your goals are attainable. You cannot expect your employees to reach the unreachable, as this will negatively impact the level of customer service you can provide consumers. Look at the data that is coming in from customer calls and interactions and use this to come up with goals that you can reach. 

The customer is always right

We often use this saying in a joking or derivative way, but it is truer than you might think, especially for marketing companies. In today’s world, the consumer wants brands to focus on them. In fact, if a brand ignores even the smallest form of contact with a customer, there could be an issue. And this is why you need to become a customer-intimate brand.

You need to prioritise the needs of the customer at every touchpoint in their journey with your brand, solve any problems that might arise and ensure that everyone is on the same page in your company. Soon you will see that your customers are singing your praises to everyone they meet.

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Sales Strategy & Management

How To Use Sales Skills To Build Your Business

If you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

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Building your business from the ground up is no easy feat. You might feel overwhelmed by all the ways and methods that are available to you but there is one way that can help your efforts immensely, and that is by using sales skills. Sales skills might not seem like they are applicable to building a business, but what is a business without sale people?

You could look into a sales accelerator for business development course to improve your selling skills. Sales training courses can be useful, as they will teach you about sales techniques and sales strategy, which you can apply to other aspects of your business. So, if you want to build your business up, read on below for how to use sales skills to do so.

Listen to existing customers

An effective way to improve your business offerings is to listen to your existing customers. Listening is actually more complex than it seems, and it means that you have to do a lot less talking. This will help you to truly hear your customers and take stock of what they are saying.

Listening to existing customers is one of the best sales and marketing strategies you can use to improve your business. This is especially true if you have built a relationship and rapport with your current customer base, as this will encourage them to give you insights into any issues they might be facing. Whether you are a small business or a large company, listening to customers is always helpful.

Related: The 15 Characteristics of People Who Succeed at Sales

Try to solve a problem

Solving a problem is a marketing plan that is effective and sure to work in building your business. And a great salesperson knows that solving the problem of a potential customer is a sure-fire way to improving the conversion rate of their business.

You will need to do some research into the problems that your target market faces and then focus on how your products or services can be used to solve these problems. This ties into the first step of listening, not only to your existing clients but to potential ones too. Listen to what people are saying and learn to read what is being said. This way, you will be able to ascertain the problems your customers are facing and you can come up with solutions to fix them.

Use word of mouth

Existing customers can be a huge help to your business, in that they can provide you with positive referrals to use to boost your client base. If a customer is happy with the services or products you have provided them with, you can ask them for the name and contact details of other business owners who might benefit from your help.

You can also ask for positive testimonials from customers that you can place on your business site and social media platforms. You should always ask permission before using testimonials, and be sure that they are factual, true and relevant to your brand. Referrals and testimonials are common sales tactics that can be applied to boosting a small business or improving the reputation of an established company. And while nobody enjoys receiving negative reviews, it is important that you use these reviews to learn from your mistakes and improve your customer experiences.

Sell your vision

Building your business might involve reaching out to investors to help with monetary issues, and this is where your sales skills will really need to shine. This is because you are not only selling your business, but you are selling your vision of your business as well.

You will need to give specific details as to how your offerings will help customers to solve problems and answer questions. And you will need to sell a successful vision to your investors of how you want your business to success. Show them that your employees will be happy with how well they are taken care of and that customers will live a better life by using your services or product.

Related: Take Your Sales Skills To The Next Level With These 5 Simple Steps

Exceed customer expectations

When a salesperson goes over and above what the customer expects, it is likely that the customer will become a return customer. And this is what you want for your business, right? So you should look into ways in which you can meet and exceed customer expectations.

One of the benefits of always exceeding expectations is that you will no longer have to rely on the “hard sell” to encourage people to use your business. Word-of-mouth will travel about your excellent customer service, which will sell your business for you. If your brand is passionate about providing customers with the best possible service, you will be selling your business and improving it all at once.

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