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How to Get a Foot in the Door of Big Businesses

Sales to huge organisations can be wonderful, but there are risks.

Ed Hatton

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Making a breakthrough into a giant corporate or a part of government is like finding the pot of gold for many entrepreneurs. If you have secured a contract, rather than a single sale, the excitement is even greater; the long-term profit generated allows the business to fund growth and regulates the cash flow.

Beware though, this kind of business comes with some risks, and entrepreneurs should be aware that such contracts have destroyed businesses, and cost entrepreneurs everything they owned.

Related: The Big Trap of Small business

How to make the sale

Large organisations, from government departments to mines are required to buy from small businesses, especially black empowered ones. We expect them to seek out entrepreneurial companies as suppliers, but it does not work that way. Little businesses have to fight hard to become suppliers.

Large organisations are driven by budgets and the key performance objectives (KPIs) of the business unit which needs the product or service, so they will buy the products that fit the specification they prepared to suit those needs. This may not be the best product offered to them. Giants are risk averse and bureaucratic.

To win their trust you need to be aware of their style and needs and prepare your company and products to meet those. Pitch your sale in a way that will help the end users to do their job better.

If there is ever a case of selling to the customer needs then this is it – you want to stand out from competitors and show why your company should become the supplier. Once you make the sale you must execute flawlessly all the time, and be instantly available to them at all hours.

Tips for managing the account

1. To become a regular supplier and trusted advisor you need to make sure you can provide everything they want and do so at a competitive price, staying within their budget. Do everything you can to help them improve their KPIs. This may mean doing irrational things like providing them with products on loan to get around budget cycles, and going far beyond your contract to fix problems. You also should prepare to be bullied – this is a very unequal business relationship. They hold all the power and will follow their own rules.

2. Develop your relationship beyond the individual champion(s) who favoured your company. Do not bypass them but use them to expand into other divisions and branches and cultivate a network of supporters. Individuals and whole departments may leave, be retrenched or transferred and their replacements often have their own favoured suppliers. Develop customers outside the giant as well, you must spread your risk.

3. Government and corporates are notoriously slow payers; make sure you have the cash to manage this. It gets worse if your paperwork is not right; payment can be delayed for months or years.  A fixed price contract is dangerous; an increase in costs may see you being forced to supply the customer at a loss. Do not expect the customer to be sympathetic to any desperate situation you get into.

Can you handle the effect of big business on your company?

So is it a good or bad idea to go after corporate and government business? It is a bad idea if you are careless with paperwork, complacent, too lazy to reduce risk via additional opportunities, want to do things your way or have insufficient working capital.

It can be fatal if you are dependent on a single individual or department or are selling on a fixed price contract with variable input costs.

It is a great idea if you manage the relationship. Large organisations have insatiable demands, growth can be explosive. The reputation effect on your company is huge – if you are a supplier to one of the giants, then other giants and little companies will be comfortable talking to you. It provides profit and cash to drive further expansion. Enjoy it.

Related: 5 Quotes on Risk That Will Have You Ready to Take Action

Ed Hatton is the owner of The Marketing Director and has consulted to and mentored SMBs in strategy, marketing and sales for almost 20 years. He co-authored an entrepreneurship textbook and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to succeed.

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Techniques

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?

Anna Johansson

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sales-calls

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?

Related: Have We Lost Our Face-To-Face Sales Ability?

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.

Related: Click-2-Call: Securing Sales By Retaining The Customer’s Attention

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.

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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?

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Face-To-Face Sales

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.

Related: 5 Strategic Ways Your Sales And Marketing Teams Need To Collaborate

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?

online-client-relationship

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.

Related: Why Data-Driven Marketing Drives More Sales

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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Techniques

How To Drive Customer Referrals (When You Aren’t Airbnb, Dropbox or Uber)

Build your business through customer referrals by leveraging these five tactics.

Sujan Patel

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customer referrals

customer referrals

By now, you’ve probably realised that your customers trust their peers more than they trust your brand. And those peers are constantly sharing what they like and don’t like with their networks.

Just look at social media. Your friends are constantly talking about businesses just like yours. They may even be offering glowing recommendations – recommendations that you and other friends of theirs will pay attention to. According to Mark Zuckerberg, “Nothing influences people more than a recommendation from a friend.”

Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful form of marketing, but extremely difficult to control. We can’t all be like Uber, Dropbox or Airbnb, businesses that were built on word of mouth. But it is possible to grow your business through customer referrals.

Related: See You At The Top: A Guide To Winning At Customer Service

Here are five steps you can take to create a referral programme that works for your business.

1Offer an incentive

Dropbox extra megabytes

You can’t expect referrals to just happen. And asking isn’t always enough to get customers to recommend you. They need to know what’s in it for them.

That’s where an incentive comes in. In exchange for recommending your business and referring a friend, offer a discount, upgrade, free item or other gift. Whatever you decide to give, make sure it makes sense for your business.

It doesn’t need to be a huge cost, either. Dropbox gives its customers an extra 500 megabytes of space in return for inviting a friend. That way, Dropbox gets the referral, and no reduction to its bottom line.

2Get the right information

Referred customers are more valuable than leads since they are already invested in your business. These kinds of customers help you build the right audience. But, how you get the referral matters just as much as getting it.

Acquiring a name and email address isn’t enough. You must go beyond just gathering leads and actually get them to convert.

“The best referrals are where a customer actually facilitates a meeting, visit or purchase by the referred person, in person, by email or otherwise,” says Daniel Kehrer, editor and director of content development for Business.com.

Related: 5 Tips To Generate Sales Leads Through Social Media

3Time it right

Timing is key for any form of marketing, but especially in regard to referrals. Ask for a referral at the wrong time, and you risk being ignored and even losing business.

The best time to ask for a referral is when your customer is engaged and highly satisfied with your business. Then, you can take that person’s positivity and channel it into the action you want him or her to take.

The perfect time could be right after the customer has made a purchase or had a positive customer service experience.

There may be several moments when it makes sense to ask for a referral. Just be attuned to your customers and how they will respond.

4Make it easy

referral programme

Giving a referral shouldn’t be a difficult or confusing process. So, you want to make sure your referral programme is set up in the easiest way possible. Your customers shouldn’t have to work hard or put in a lot of effort to refer someone. Don’t assume that customers already know about your referral programme, either. If that’s the case, you won’t get many takers.

The idea is to create a seamless brand experience that encourages your customers to participate. By making your referral programme a prominent part of your website, and promoting it through multiple channels, you’ll make your customers’ journey easier.

Related: Tips For Redesigning Your Website

5Get the word out

As mentioned, getting people to participate in your referral programme means you have to make sure they know how to do it. That’s why you need to make it visible.

Start by dedicating a page on your website to referrals. Include the details of your programme, and a clear and simple call to action. Consider adding a form to the page to capture your customer’s referral information.

Having a dedicated page also makes it easy to share the link through email, social media and other channels.

If you want to get even more visibility, make your referral programme visible on your home page. For example, Prize Candle placed a call to action for its referral programme in the upper left of its home page. This makes it easy for customers to see it, and ensures that everyone who visits the website will know about the programme.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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