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.
5 Ways To Drive Leads And Double Your Profits
Data is the secret sauce to grow your business and dominate your marketplace.
As a marketer, the right digital strategy can drive leads, increase profits, and eliminate the competition. But in a crowded marketplace, how do you cut through the noise?
Enter Joshua Harris, entrepreneur, master marketer, and member of The Oracles. His company, Agency Growth Secrets, teaches entrepreneurs how to grow highly profitable digital marketing agencies and win their clients unmatched results.
What’s the key ingredient to his secret sauce? The right data. “The data we use plugs into Facebook and Google, slashing the cost on these platforms by 25 percent to 75 percent,” shares Harris.
Here are five data-driven strategies that Harris uses to drive leads — and generate insane profits for his company and clients.
1. Eliminate non-buyers from your targeting
To get the biggest bang for your buck, eliminate non-buyers from targeting. “In Chet Holmes’ famed market pyramid, he showed that only three percent of people are ready to buy immediately. So, any money you spend on the remaining 97 percent of people is a waste,” Harris explains.
“Current ad platforms don’t have a way to eliminate these non-buyers, so marketers leave money on the table with the standard pay-per-click model,” he adds. Instead of using the “spray and pray” method of broadcasting your message to everyone, Harris recommends using precision targeting to identify people who are ready to get out their credit cards now.
“If you know who’s right for your offer, you don’t need to pay $10 to Google for a click. You can put your offer on The Google Display Network. You can send the prospect a postcard. There are multiple ways to reach someone when you know who they are.”
2. Implement a closed-loop attribution tool
To prove your value proposition to marketing clients, show how your work has influenced sales. The right big data technology has the power to do just that.
“The platform we use shows metrics on a consumer’s browsing history, where they encountered our ad, and how that ad influenced them to buy,” Harris shares.
With closed-loop reporting, cookies and other tracking codes (such as UTM parameters) are used to flag a URL to identify specific visitors. These codes are then used to track where a visitor encounters your ad and how that interaction informs a sale.
What you can’t measure, you can’t manage. By using closed-loop reporting, you can measure success and manage your business.
3. Embrace people-based marketing
People-based marketing means being able to recognise the name of who you’re dealing with. “Website traffic is mostly anonymous and fraught with fraudsters and bots,” Harris cautions. “With people-based marketing, you track channels to ensure your ad or message is getting delivered to a real person.
“We track URLs, buy data from publishers, and use paid subscriptions to create profiles of our target customers. When we reach out, we know we’re communicating with an actual client.” If you want real results, you need to verify that each person you’re targeting is an actual person.
4. Predict a path-to-purchase
By analysing data correctly, marketers can predict who is going to do what next. “With our platform, we feed a hundred potential buyers into our system,” Harris explains. “Then we examine all the different online behaviours of prospective buyers before they purchase. Their searches leave a trail of breadcrumbs, and we connect the dots.”
When analysing data, Harris advises focusing on what signals potential customers give off before they buy. “If you put the pieces together, you can anticipate a client’s next move by their online behaviour before they do.”
5. Advertise across channels
Once you’ve targeted the right client, reach out across channels. “Instead of spending $1,000 on just Google AdWords, use content management software that works across mobile and desktop platforms,” Harris advises.
“Use Facebook, Google, YouTube, Pinterest, Display, direct mail, phone calls. The point is not only to use the best channel, but to use all channels. In other words, become omnipresent. If a prospective buyer sees you everywhere, they’re more likely to buy from you than an obscure competitor.”
Ultimately, with the right data tools, you can consolidate your marketplace and eliminate the competition. As Harris points out, “a competitive advantage is either operating cheaper or commanding a premium price. Our platform allows you to operate at a lower cost with your ads. Because your costs are lower and your frequency is higher, you can convince your customers that you have a better offering, set the buying criteria, and drive profitable sales.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
The 5 Best Actions You Can Take To Improve Sales Calls
Ditch your script. Record your calls. Analyse your patterns. There are new, non-conventional ways to approach calls. Have you tried them?
We’ve all got a ton of digital tools to help us boost brand awareness, attract subscribers and followers and ultimately convince people that our brands have something to address their needs. However, closing the deal still usually depends on a one-on-one conversational interaction – or series of interactions – the traditional sales call.
Your top salespeople work tirelessly to track down leads generated by your marketing team. They reach out to previous customers to renew interest. And they work to convince interested buyers to finally take the plunge.
You can improve those close rates by: 1) asking your top performers to train your newcomers; or 2) sweetening the pot by offering more to your prospects in the first place.
But if you want to get even more out of your sales strategy, you’ll need to optimise your and your salespeople’s calls themselves. So, how, exactly, do you improve those calls?
Here are five ways:
1Ditch the script
First, let’s be clear: Sales scripts can be helpful. They’re a useful rubric for guiding the conversation in the direction you want to go, they’re a useful resource for training new candidates; and they’re a nice crutch for anyone who is shy or anxious about talking on the phone.
But there are two big problems with sales scripts on calls: First, they have a tendency to sound fake (especially if you’re using a template). Most customers can tell the difference between a sincere conversation and one that’s been over-rehearsed or pre-planned, and you’ll lose sales if you always sound insincere.
Second, scripts lock you into a single routine. It may be a decently effective routine, but you’ll never know if there’s something better out there.
2Record your calls
Have you ever experienced that phenomenon where the sound of your recorded voice is alien compared to what you’re used to hearing? This happens because of the vibrations we pick up in our own head, but it represents a bigger idea; we don’t know what we sound like until we listen.
Accordingly, your underperforming salespeople may be making critical mistakes they could pick out in an instant – if only they realised they existed. Start recording your sales calls, and make your sales staff listen both to their own calls and those of others. You’ll become collectively more acquainted with proper sales techniques, and be able to isolate some of the most egregious mistakes your people are making.
3Analyse your patterns
Unfortunately, there’s only so much the human mind can pick out in a single episode of listening of a sales call. That’s why artificial intelligence (AI)-powered speech recognition and analytics tools are starting to grow more popular. These tools automatically transcribe your sales calls, then analyse the text, looking for specific keywords that can tell you how the conversation is progressing, and where (for better or worse) the turning points are.
It’s an automated way to dissect how your sales calls develop, and a perfect tool for brainstorming new angles and tactics.
4Control your progress with goals
You should also make sure your progress remains steady and measurable by setting goals for your salespeople. These need to be both short-term and long-term, so your salespeople can see steady progress and feel motivated by their own efforts. Your goals also need to be both individual- and group-focused, so you can keep your team working together while still inspiring a bit of competition and individual improvement.
5Experiment and observe
Finally, don’t let yourself get too comfortable with any one set of tactics – even if your phone-call recordings guide you in that direction. Just because a strategy is good doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best, so if you want to keep improving, you’ll want to experiment, sometimes with drastically different approaches.
Related: 8 Tips for Dominating Online Sales
Observe how these experiments develop, and scrap whatever doesn’t work. Inevitably, you’ll find something worth exploring.
A note on conventional tips
You’ll notice that I haven’t included any conventional tips to directly make your calls better, although there are plenty out there that seem to work. For example, there are no recommendations to start the call with a positive anecdote, or to make calls while standing and walking around to bring more energy to the meeting.
These can be helpful, but they’re short-term fixes, and they aren’t going to fix any glaring problems with your strategy. They’re also limited in how much value they can deliver.
Instead, the strategies listed, in contrast, are methodologies that can be applied indefinitely. They’re tools to help your team members learn and improve on their own. Accordingly, they won’t give you an instant boost in productivity or effectiveness, but they will yield the most powerful results – especially when applied over the course of months or even years.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?
Do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?
When it comes to selling there are ample strategies around to help you become a confident closer. There is a lot of content on the topic of face-to-face selling as well as cold calling and closing on the phone.
A quick Google search will list copious amounts of books that will help you close deals, make money and smash your sales goals. And this is because a business can’t really be considered functional unless it’s selling. But in the current market much of the selling that happens, is via digital platforms. And yet, do we actually know enough about selling online to the point of being able to forego the traditional face-to-face selling?
We’re still in the learning phase of online selling
And we don’t know enough yet, we don’t have all tools to understand how to successfully close deals and so we’re not ready to rely on our digital sales alone. However, many companies do heavily rely on their online and social media presence alone to garner their profits. Are they wrong? Well, for the most part, yes. Because solely relying on online marketing efforts to increase sales and profit margins is not wise.
By relying on digital sales alone things become less personable. Yet all online strategies encourage companies to create as personable an interaction with each client, as possible. So in reality, face-to-face selling goes hand-in-hand with the online game.
The thing with online strategies is that they’re not actually sales orientated but rather, marketing campaigns and plans. As you develop online strategies, you’re working towards as many lead conversions as you can garner, but you can’t rely on those leads alone.
Those leads are the by-product of a robust online marketing campaign that has created brand awareness, promoted products and made it possible for the business to offer advice and guidance.
Digital marketing is not selling; digital marketing has a variety of different elements that lead towards a sale. Human interaction is always needed for you to enjoy many sales and fat profit margins. But in this digital age, it would appear that we’ve begun eliminating the personal interactions of traditional sales.
In fact, the invaluable networking and selling opportunities found at large conferences are slowly disappearing too. Webinars have become the new go-to in place of conferences or large meetings.
What do we lose when all of our interactions with a client are online?
Well, the answer to this is arguable. So, it’s best to look at only the facts. Historically, salespeople spent a good portion of their time knocking on the doors of bosses’ offices trying to secure an appointment. Or they could be found driving from place to place to see client after client to introduce their new product. And so because they quickly became a regular face, they were a part of the company in a way.
These relationships that were built over time became enduring and when products or services needed to be procured the client pledged loyalty to the salesperson.
Why? Because the relationship had become interpersonal and could be considered a work friendship. That type of bond is broken when things are purely digitised. And so it’s no wonder clients switch between service providers quickly and easily.
There’s no face to put to the name, there’s no relationship built and there’s no additional personal value offered. No one’s feelings are hurt and no excuses are necessary.
Human connection is often the value-add that a client enjoys and requires. And if you read up about excellent social media strategies they will all tell you to respond to clients online as quickly as you can.
You should call your client by their name when chatting or emailing and ultimately, make them feel like you really care. But do you know what’s better than that? Having a salesperson prepare a solution and present it to client.
How do you tick all the boxes?
Your fierce digital strategy will keep you competitive and ensure you remain relevant online. Your social media style will see you winning followers and your content offering will help you rank as an authoritative voice in the industry. But your sales team must work constantly on touching base with your current clients and potential new accounts.
Scheduling a round trip to see all your clients is an excellent idea. Getting creative about how you connect with them will be exciting for everyone involved. And arriving armed with data showcasing how you’re assisting your customers will likely win you more business.
If you’re a new business or you have a brand new sales department then make every effort to have your sales people attend sales and marketing courses. Coach them in relationship building and create networking opportunities for them.
A good place to start would be to attend conferences in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban – the biggest cities – especially those with exhibition areas and high foot traffic. This is the perfect place to fine tune your pitch and create connections.
You see, digitalising your company and creating an online offering was never meant to take the place of your sales team. It was meant to assist them with doing better and smashing those goals you set out.
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