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Sales Strategy & Management

The Sales That Really Count

Sales are great (and very necessary), but they’re not worth much if customers don’t pay. Here’s what to consider when it comes to customer agreements.

Andrew Taylor

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While there are a number of important aspects to any customer agreement, at its core, the agreement seeks to do two ‘simple in theory’ things:

  • To regulate the extent of the liability of the company.
  • To get customers to pay.

The precise formats of the agreements regulating these things are varied, and all seek to achieve the same result, but, depending on the type of business, may do so through a terms of service on a website, a service level agreement or any other formal written agreement.

Related: A Good Sales Script Can Transform Your Business

There are several standard provisions (look to the Electronic Communications Act of 2005 for guidance) that ought to be included in any customer agreement, but, specific advice should be sought in relation to the commercial impact of legislation such as the Consumer Protection Act, the National Credit Act and the Protection of Personal Information Act (covered, to some degree, here).

Specifically, however, you should seek to incorporate the following key provisions:

  • Limitation of liability
  • Confidentiality
  • Payment
  • Termination
  • Dispute resolution.

Limitation of liability

It is almost impossible to exclude all forms of liability, regardless of the nature of the business, so these risks need to be managed in the form of appropriate insurance when a contractual exclusion is not possible.

When things do go wrong, you need to have a well-constructed provision that seeks to limit the extent to which your company is liable. For example, if you are a software business, you could face liability in a situation where your software malfunctions or does not perform as expected.

If you are an advisory company, even a relatively minor mistake in your advice could have vast implications, equating to large sums of money.

The key here is to manage this risk, rather than to seek to exclude all liability whatsoever, which would probably not hold up in court anyway.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality

Inserting a confidentiality provision into your agreement is one of the mechanisms that will assist in protecting all of the trade secrets and business processes that make up your secret ‘sauce’ and governs the extent to which third parties are able to access and use that information.

This is one of those areas where a carefully-crafted confidentiality clause can be of immeasurable value to your business. And beware: A ‘copy and paste’ precedent can be disastrous.

It is particularly important that the definition of what constitutes ‘confidential information’ is wide enough to encompass all aspects relevant to your business, but relevant and reasonable in its application to withstand judicial scrutiny, if it comes down to it.

Related: No Successful Salesperson Is Too Proud To Use Any Of These 12 Shameless Tactics

Payment

The fundamental purpose of starting a business is to make money. This is made difficult, though, when you don’t have an effective way of enforcing payment from customers.

Failing to regulate the expectations of all parties through a well-constructed payment provision in your customer agreement means that your clients may not know (or may argue about when) payment is due. You also need to make it clear to whom payment is due and what late payment charges may be applicable.

It is also plausible that a poorly-drafted clause may create vague responsibilities that, in turn, create loopholes and make judicial enforcement more difficult. It really is in everyone’s interest to have clear expectations of when and how payment should be effected.

Termination and dispute resolution

Regulating the termination of your business relationship can be very similar to divorce, so it’s best to carefully navigate these waters at the beginning of your relationship. The same applies to situations where a dispute may arise between parties to a contract.

Termination usually applies with some form of notice period, if the contract is a fixed-term contract, but, things to consider are:

  • Whether the Consumer Protection Act applies to the termination (and what a reasonable cancellation figure would be)
  • What length of notice period is reasonable
  • Whether there is an expectation of renewal from any of the parties

Where there is a dispute between parties, careful consideration needs to be given to how you intend to resolve these disputes, and what happens if you are unable to do so.

In most cases, a formal dispute will be raised through a notice, which is served on the breaching party, and will set out the grounds for the alleged breach and provide a specified period of time to rectify the breach.

Where the breach is not rectified, you need to consider what the next step is. For example, a dispute may be referred to arbitration or formal mediation, where a mediator or arbitrator is appointed to resolve the dispute in a manner that is more time- and cost-effective than referring the matter to court.

Related: 6 Sales Secrets To Turn A Rookie Into A Sales Superstar

Recent decisions in our courts have shown a strong preference toward exhausting all available methods of formal and informal dispute resolution, such as mediation and/or arbitration, prior to approaching the court for assistance, and have even gone as far as to order costs against parties who have not meaningfully participated in the dispute resolution.

A careful blend of the commercial considerations and legal risks and obligations are the recipe to a solid customer contract, and one that should undoubtedly be expertly tailored to your business’ specific needs.

Andrew Taylor is the co-founder of Legal Legends, a company that aims to revolutionise the legal industry by being Africa’s first eCommerce website for quality legal services aimed specifically at start-ups and entrepreneurs

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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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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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