It drives me crazy when people perceive the sales process as glad-handing or wining and dining. Salespeople are skilled professionals. Yet as a company president and business owner, I see sales from a different perspective.
I’ve been contacted by salespeople for just about every product or service imaginable and seen excellence and disasters. The best salespeople not only know their product or service inside and out but have also taken the time to study my company and its culture. The odds of success are so much higher when the sales pitch is tailored to how the company operates. Here are six tips:
1. Understand the organisation
Many sales professionals assume that approaching the CEO is key to making a sale. In most cases, that assumption is wrong.
If a salesperson goes right to the proverbial top of my company, he or she is bypassing the people who will make or break the relationship.
As CEO, I am not going to usurp the decision-making authority vested in my employees. If a purchasing decision is made that circumvents these employees, this is certain to demoralise and deflate them. I am more concerned about employee respect, empowerment and morale than any product or service.
If salespeople understand my company enough to find the relevant decision maker, their chances of success increase dramatically. If I receive a positive recommendation from my decision makers, then they have my attention.
2. Understand that organisations change
When a company is of modest size, a certain senior executive might confer with the salesperson directly. As companies grow and responsibilities change, though, stay tuned. Don’t bank on yesterday.
For example, I used to handle my company’s benefits. Over time, I transferred that responsibility to another executive better suited to the task.
Despite several attempts to inform a certain salesman of the change, he refused to recognise it. He continued to bypass the right party, thinking he’d be OK as long as I was around. A competitor studied our organisation, went through the correct channels and built credibility with the right people. Who do you suppose is handling my company’s business now? I am running a business not a country club.
Never rely on a relationship with a company executive as a long-term sales strategy. People change and roles change.
3. Become a strategic asset
My company is relocating and building a new office building. I’m very involved with the new office planning and have met with several prospective vendors. All but one immediately began to promote their furniture, prices or service. Only one salesperson came in with a different game plan.
He asked: “Why do you have an office in the first place? After all, you could perform most things remotely. So, why are you spending the capital on an office?” These questions led to a discussion about teamwork, the need for communication and tearing down silos. All these are core values at my company.
This value-based discussion led to some strategic thinking about my company’s office design including the limitations of the space and the organisation’s vision for the future.
The sales representative offered to prepare a preliminary design that was aligned with my company’s objectives and values. He indicated that my company was free to use the design and choose another vendor if he could not meet our objectives when it came time to buy furniture.
This ranks as textbook perfection for positioning a product or service for a sale at the executive level. This salesperson took a commoditised product (office furniture) and approached it as a strategic sale. The vendor showed how his products support my company’s values and strategic goals.
4. Respect my time
Take the advice of President Woodrow Wilson. When an official congratulated the president on introducing the vogue of short speeches, he inquired about the preparation time involved.
He said: “It depends. If I am to speak 10 minutes, I need a week for preparation; if 15 minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
Be prepared. Be concise. If there’s a need for background, do research before the meeting. Don’t use the meeting to probe for a value proposition that I want to hear. Instead using the meeting to investigate what’s giving the company pain (consultative selling), do the homework. Arrive at the meeting knowing with reasonable certainty about the company’s needs.
Be prepared to put a best foot forward based on the strength of the product or service. Do this by networking with the people in my organisation who would be closest to the product or service involved.
Related: How To Make The Most Of Your Network
5. Know whom I trust
Cold calls and letters are not likely to land a meeting. The most effective salespeople operate within a network. The odds of a meeting soar if a referral comes from a trusted business associate or advisor (not just some friend of a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn).
The odds of a meeting are increased if a salesperson has served as a value-added resource inside a network. If a trusted source raves about a certain product or service, I will want to ensure that a meeting with the appropriate salesperson occurs.
Don’t try to get around my company’s gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is there for a reason. A salesperson pretending like he and I are old friends does not work. My gatekeeper knows my trusted network quite well. Treating my company’s gatekeepers with disrespect means zero chances of doing business with my organisation.
6. Leave the gifts at home
At a previous company I worked for, a box arrived at my office with a beautiful Mont Blanc pen set and a request for an appointment. Needless to say, the vendor was banned and the gift returned.
Know and respect a company’s vendor gift policy. I don’t allow any sort of entertainment or gifts during the courtship. It makes me feel like a salesperson is trying to buy my business. Once a vendor is selected, then limited, reasonable entertainment (such as a lunch) may be appropriate. Never violate written or common-sense integrity principles. There’s no faster way to kill the chances of doing business.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
4 Rules Of Engagement That Wildly Increase Your Odds Of Closing The Deal
If someone calls about what you sell, call them back. Not in a week, right now.
Sales is a process that can be learned but is comprised of many topics and categories that you have to master to become an expert. No one book or recording can cover everything you need to know to become great.
Consider that every salesperson has a unique personality and then add to that that every customer interaction and customer personality is unique and you can see how complicated it can become. Surgery is almost less complicated for the doctor because he is dealing with bodies that are unconscious while the salesperson is dealing with personalities, egos, insecurities, uncertainty, economics, competition and more.
Here are a few of the topics that salespeople need to learn and understand:
New to Sales
- Fundamentals of Selling
- Road to the Sale
- Handling Objections
- Negotiating Strategies
- Social Media and Sales
- Closing the Deal
- Follow Up for Owners
- Follow Up for the Unclosed
- Sales Manager
- Sales Meetings
- Understanding Customers
- Incoming Calls
- Outbound Calls
- Cold Calls
- Internet Response
- Customer Service
It’s very easy to become overwhelmed with the different topics so let’s narrow the focus and talk specifically about four general rules to follow once you have actually gotten a customer or prospect in front of you. What approach will you take? Not knowing means you’ll be missing out on deals every day.
In business, you must have a pipeline and a belief system that you can sell to anyone. Once you have become engaged here are four general rules to help you in the process.
No matter what the buyer says, states or demands, you should under no circumstance ever disagree, make the buyer wrong or suggest their request is impossible. This simple strategy is very powerful and will save you lots of sales once you perfect it.
The old saying – the customer is never wrong – is not true. In fact, often the customer is wrong; sometimes they even lie, but that doesn’t mean you should call them out. When you tell someone you can’t, you won’t, you’re not allowed to or that’s impossible, you only cause the customer to become more dug-in on their position. You make it more difficult to come to an agreement.
Train, drill and rehearse avoiding all variations of no, not, never, can’t and won’t. Any and all variations of “no” and “can’t” must be eliminated from your vocabulary.
Now when you hear this you may think, “I don’t want to mislead the customer and I am not going to over promise and then be unable to deliver.” The problem here is when you tell someone early on you are unable to do something because you are “so honest’” you just eliminated any chance of being able to do anything for the customer. Try this when a customer asks for the impossible, “I never say no until I have to – if that is possible, there is no better place for you to be.”
Role play this law of selling until you no longer get into confrontations with your buyer and make them more difficult than they already are. Perfect “no problem, happy to, my pleasure, exactly what I am thinking, done, you got it” and then learn how to negotiate from a place of agreement. This does not mean that you simply lie down and give the buyer everything they want. It means you use the agreement to keep the negotiations loose enough to be negotiated.
Just because this is simple do not underestimate the time and energy necessary to get GREAT at it.
You must give them an offer and your proposal should have a figure and be presented with confidence. These seems basic but 72 percent of salespeople never present a proposal to their customer, which is part of the reasons why 87 percent of all salespeople miss their quota.
Simply increase the number of people you show a written proposal to and you will close more deals.
Wrap the deal up and get them to purchase. When you get to the close, make sure you are with the decision maker. Qualify them and have a sense of urgency. Without urgency, there’s no point in doing the deal today or tomorrow.
Selling, presenting, demonstrating, promoting, marketing, building trust, etc. are all very commendable and admirable actions but in no way compare to finally closing the deal. Closing is when you finally benefit your buyer.
Closing allows you and your company to expand. All the things that took place prior to the close were necessary to get to the close but will not allow for expansion and survival. Close the deal! Be willing to do whatever it takes to close the deal, knowing that only when you close do you provide any real value to the customer.
The close is ultimately for the buyer, not for you or your company. Until the customer closes they cannot benefit from your service or offer.
Related: 6 Ways To Win A Better Deal
This is the Holy Grail of sales. It’s the most important thing there is but few people and companies do it. Consider that 48 percent of salespeople never follow up and that 64 percent of companies admit they do not have any organised way to nurture a lead. Follow up is a massive opportunity. Then add to that the average company takes almost 72 hours to follow up a lead, even though contacting a customer in the first five to 10 minutes increases your chances of contacting the customer 900 times. Text them in the first five minutes and your chances of closing them increase 50X.
Learn the rules and use the rules and make deals.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Why Every Business Needs A Call Centre
Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.
As a business owner, you are likely always looking for something to put you ahead of the competition. This could be anything from a new marketing strategy to an exciting product. But many companies do not think of call centres when it comes to boosting their business and putting themselves ahead of the competition.
A call centre allows you to interact with consumers. If you do not have the staff for it in-house you can outsource for premium call centre quality assurance to ensure customer satisfaction. You will be able to provide stellar customer service as well as collect data from the calls to improve your business. Still not convinced? Below are just some of the reasons why every business needs a call centre.
They help to build customer loyalty
Having a call centre does more than allow you to answer the complaints and queries of customers. It will help to build up customer loyalty, especially if you choose to outsource your contact centre management.
While online shopping has grown immensely over the years, many consumers still want to be able to phone in and ask questions about products that are not working, that are damaged or for advice on how to remedy a problem with their purchase. A call centre will provide confidence to consumers that your company is there to help and provide trusted advice, which will, in turn, improve their loyalty to your brand.
You can get to know your audience
By having a call centre that allows you to interact with consumers on a one-on-one basis, you will be learning valuable information about who your customers are. And because you will be monitoring every call, you can ascertain the demographics of your audience.
For example, you might find that several calls are coming in from one area, which will allow you to focus your marketing strategies to that geo-location. Or you might notice that a certain product is bringing in similar complaints. This information will allow you to make important changes to the product. This data will help you to get to know your audience and tailor your products, services and messages to their needs.
They help to avoid lost sales
Quality assurance is vital to the success of your customer support. This is because a call centre will help to avoid lost sales and lead opportunities. Instead of relying on a voicemail service (which consumers will likely not use) your call centre will allow consumers to speak directly to a helpline, which will encourage them to buy from your brand.
For those who have a small amount of staff, outsourced contact centre services will provide a shorter wait time for call centre queues. Lost sales can be disastrous to a company of any size, so investing in a call centre will help to remedy this. If consumers are not waiting in long phone queues, they are likely to make a purchase or use your services. And leads will become conversions because consumers will feel valued and satisfied.
You will have an edge on the competition
In the world of business, everything is cutthroat. If your competitors have a number for consumers to call in case of any issues and you do not, it is likely that they will choose your competitor over you.
An effective way to beat the competition is to provide a call centre number to your customers as well as office numbers. This way they can call the customer support number for product related issues and the office number if they would like to speak to managers or make business deals. If you outsource your call centre management, you are sure to have a leg up on the competition. Consumers want to feel as though their voices are being heard and taken seriously.
Related: The Future of Call Centre Design
It is professional
Whatever the size of your business, remaining and appearing professional to business partners and consumers is important. Having a call centre that gives a customised greeting to consumers and sends them through to an agent will make it appear as though you are an established company doing business with many customers.
Professional customer service is vital for the success of any company, especially if you are a start-up. And if you are a larger company, try not to become complacent with the customer service you are already offering. If consumers can phone in with queries and compliments, they will have trust in your brand’s professionalism, leading to customer loyalty and more sales.
Be future facing
Anyone who runs a business knows how important it is to look toward the future. And having a call centre can help with this. It will help to build up customer loyalty, you will learn more about your consumers and your audience, you will avoid lost sales and you will have an edge on the competition.
Wow Them World Class With This Customer Service Myth
Without fail, every single business says that one of their differentiators is customer service. When was the last time you were wowed? Most businesses don’t walk their talk. Which means if you get service right, it really can be a differentiator.
Customer loyalty is earned by being great, not satisfactory. Aim to be exceptional in your business. Deliver world-class customer service. Service that’s better than anyone else in your industry. That’s how you become great, and how you attract loyal customers. You have set yourself apart from the competition.
Let’s say you own a plumbing business — Plumb Rite. Set out to provide prompt, efficient service, with friendly workers who can explain the service they offer, and deliver quickly, well and affordably.
Satisfactory Is Not Good Enough. Be World Class!
Be remarkable. When you finish repairing a leak, you want your customers to go, “Wow, how good were those guys!”
Remember your customers’ names and where they live. Give them discounts, or free services where it’s warranted. Meet them in person and explain repairs to them.
While you should be aware of your competition, don’t simply replicate what they do. Maybe they’re terrible. Rather provide the best customer service you possibly can. Being satisfactory means you’ll be part of the bunch. Rather be great and stand out from the herd.
First, consider what customer service actually means. Do you make the lives of your customers easier? Too many businesses make the sale, and then move on. True customer service has a long-term outlook.
Once you’ve efficiently handled a customer’s business and sent her on her way with a smile and a friendly greeting, your work is not yet done.
Part of serving her needs is following up and making sure that everything is in order, after the sale is complete. After all, you are building a LASTING customer relationship.
Let’s say you run a camping store selling essential gear to the camping and outdoor community. A woman named Tumi comes into your store. She’s not really into camping, but she needs a tent.
You enquire what she needs a tent for and learn that there’s a music festival coming up in Mpumalanga this weekend. There are no chalets available, so camping is the only option. She needs a tent.
You recommend a leisure tent, help her pick the right colour, give her a brief tutorial on how to put it up and send her on her way. This is an awesome opportunity to follow up with some after-sales service once she returns from her camping weekend.
This is go-the-extra-mile time
Give Tumi a call the next week and — as professionally as possible — ask how she enjoyed her tent. Was she able to put it up without too much trouble? Was it warm enough? None of the zips malfunctioned?
This emphasises that customer service comprises service before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale.
Some other opportunities for good after-sales service:
- A travel agent following up with a client during and after their holiday ensure everything went according to plan.
- A butcher recommends a cut of meat to a customer. The next time he comes in, the butcher asks, “How was that kudu steak you bought last time?”
- Cross-selling once you’ve made a sale. A parent brings their child into Toy Kingdom. You remember you’ve sold them an Elsa Frozen dress. “How about these lovely Frozen slippers to go with your Elsa dress?”
- An automated SMS to thank customers once they pay their cellphone account.
More than anything, following up shows you care. You want your customer to be satisfied more than you want her money. We’re also building a relationship that’s going to outlast this single transaction. Good after-sales service drives word-of-mouth recommendations and helps set you apart from your competition.
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