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How To Keep Your Sales Staff Focused On The Future

How do you keep sales people motivated when clients aren’t spending?

Ed Hatton

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Sales people are by nature risk takers. Their success or failure, and significant parts of their income if they are commission earners, are in their hands. Sales is one of the very few job categories where performance is instantly measurable, and usually linked to rewards and threats. So what happens when outside factors reduce demand? How do you keep them motivated and rewarded when customers reduce spending?

Being fair is important. If you have reduced forecasts because of the economic climate it follows that you are expecting your sales people to make less sales. By then continuing to incentivise your sales team based on the original quotas, you will be condemning at least some of them to reduced income and failure to make target, however hard they sell.

You are likely to build resentment and damage motivation, which is the last thing you want in a reduced market.

Consider reducing quotas in proportion to your lower forecast, even if that means some sales people will earn more for selling less. Listen to their concerns and suggestions, provide training and coaching to improve performance.

Related: You Need To Sell, Be A Salesman, Be A Smous

There’s no ‘one size-fits-all’

Different categories of sales people will react differently to tough times. The stars typically have a very strong inner motivation and self-belief and will often see tough times as a challenge. They should be assisted to innovate, to attack the cash cows of weaker competitors and increase the range of products bought by customers.

Increased incentives for exceptional performance may make financial sense right now. Increased turnover will more than pay for the additional expense. Non-commission incentives like luxury weekends for the family may have more value than the equivalent cash.

The core sales people are likely to be anxious, especially if they are commission earners. Commission is a part of their income and they face the possibility of earning less and the consequent financial pressures. How they are performing is very visible and accordingly they are often first to feel threats to their jobs.

Do not assume that pressure will drive them to new levels of achievement. This works for some but others will get desperate and try too hard; buyers avoid buying from desperate sales people.

The downturn will not last forever and you will need a core of good sales people when the good times return, so ensure that they maintain their pride and sell at least somewhere near their target. Be careful about threatening their jobs.

Increase Support

Sales support becomes more crucial than ever. Cutbacks on sales aids, marketing or technical sales support will produce negative returns. By contrast, money spent on creating increased sales performance is likely to be a good investment in bad times. A big motivator for sales people is to feel needed and supported.

Related: How You Can Make Those Sales When Nobody’s Buying (Yes It’s Do-able)

Supplement this with simple additional incentives for good performance, like attendance at a sales conference or dinner with the CEO.

Deal sympathetically with real financial difficulties from reduced commission. You do not want your sales people moonlighting or worse.

The generally underperforming group of sales people, the laggards, are perhaps the most difficult group to incentivise in tough times. Some of these will be average to good sales people going through a bad patch. Treat them as you would the core group, and give them every support to break out of the doldrums.

The genuine underperformers will be dragging down the whole group and opening the sales team to increased criticism and pressure. Start by retaining them and ensuring appropriate support but you may have to redeploy some of the worst to keep the averages acceptable.

While considering how to manage all these incentives you should be aware that a special focus on the sales people, however justified, can cause resentment in other employees. Consider how to motivate and support them as well. In a downturn you want all your people motivated and doing the best they can.

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.

Techniques

How To Win Trust And Wax Sales

Small changes to your ecommerce platform could transform your turnover.

Daniella Shapiro

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Any ecommerce business venture is risky. Your products are not going to walk off the site by themselves from day one.  You have done your market research. You have identified and targeted consumer needs. You believe in your product.

What you need now is for consumers to believe in it too. But that is not enough. Your consumers also need to believe in you and your brand. Your ecommerce platform is the vehicle which allows the consumer to experience an insight into the quintessence of you, your product, and your brand.

Take your ecommerce experience from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’.

The voice

Your ecommerce platform is a place that gives you, your brand and your products a voice. Your voice needs to speak out and tell your story. How you came to this point with your product. How and why you know it is the best on offer. Who you are.

What your brand stands for. Drive engagement with your voice through blogging. Show your investment in remaining relevant and meeting consumer needs. Invite feedback to build diversity and growth. Your products need a voice too, but they cannot speak for themselves. Let customers know your products’ worth by offering clear, detailed, jargon-free descriptions.

Give your customers pictures. Lots of them. From every angle. Show what you and your products are made of. Bring your products right into the customer’s home. If your products have got it, flaunt it. Convey an effective message that unites you as creator, your creations, and the lifestyle your brand is offering.

Authenticity, honesty, and clarity of purpose will connect the consumer to your brand in a real and relevant way.

Related: The Future Is Now – Ecommerce Retail Trends For 2019

Tell all, on call

Respond to consumer enquiries with as little delay as possible. These are personal interactions with the consumer that build relationships. Excellent customer service boosts positive feedback. Aim to provide as much detailed information about your business as possible. Be transparent, and proud of it.

An FAQ section is professional and helps address recurring questions regarding your products, services and business practices. Use the opportunity to provide further info about your brand’s integrity and professionalism. Refer to certifications and licenses. FAQs indicate honest, reliability and well-established business procedures, which further builds consumer trust. 

The allure of secure

A steadfast returns policy cuts the risk for consumers when making a purchase. It is far easier to commit if you are assured you can return the product with a full money back guarantee. Make this policy evident from the outset. Include a link to your returns policy on your landing page. Address all returns related queries in your FAQs. Consumers will also trust your ecommerce platform if you guarantee safety and security of information.  

Less is more!

Shipping costs are a turnoff. Many consumers abandon their carts just at the finish line because of this final hurdle. So, offer free shipping and seal the deal. Discounts and sales items must be in your face. Feature deals and reductions on your landing page with hard-to-miss, easily understandable images of slashed prices. Build some buzz around sales items with a sense of urgency.

Small trial samples in exchange for email details or a quick survey are another sweet deal. Everybody loves a sample. And you score business leads to follow up. The info you gather can help you to personalise user experience, and fine tune focused target marketing.

Related: Tips On How to Build Your First Ecommerce Business

That big red button

We have all encountered an enticing call-to-action button. One that offers the promise of a new start, that opens doors, that kicks in the rush of actualisation. A CTA that makes the customer feel like that button has their name on it is what it’s all about. ‘Buy Now’, ‘Add to Cart’, ‘Get Started’. The brand and lifestyle you are selling needs its own effective CTAs. They are the final frontier between deliberation and diving in.

The quick or the dead

First things last: Your ecommerce site had better load, and fast. This is vital. Already, 5 years back, failure to load with sufficient speed meant 1.73 billion GBP in lost sales. Consumer impatience is a fact. There are loads of options out there. Don’t be left dead in the water.

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Techniques

How You Can Guarantee Customer Satisfaction

Customer service is no longer a differentiator. Every business makes the same promises, and everyone says that they put their customers first. But do you? Here are three ways to up your customer-centric game.

Basil O’Hagan

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“We implemented a money-back guarantee at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.”

It’s a stock standard differentiator that every company uses: Customer service. And yet so many businesses are anything but customer-centric. Whether you’re in a B2C or B2B environment, here are three areas you could improve today.

1. Guarantee Your Service

If you don’t believe in your service, you can’t expect anyone else to. So, guarantee your service. This should not just be an empty phrase — back up your guarantee with a money-back promise.

Advertise that promise in your business, on your website and in your communications. That tells your customers, “We have such confidence in our service, and we’re so determined to be great that we put our money where our mouth is.”

Related: 5 Techniques To Leave Customers Grinning And Vowing To Return

The benefits of a money-back guarantee:

  • It encourages first-time customers to try your services.
  • It forces your team to keep standards high and focus on results, as slip-ups will hurt your business immediately.
  • It fosters pride in your business. “Our service is 100% guaranteed to be great!”
  • It is a selling point. “At Venus Video Games, satisfaction is guaranteed, or your money back!”
  • It sets you apart from your competitors. Would you rather try a new store that offers a money-back guarantee, or one that doesn’t?

We implemented this at the Brazen Head at the Leaping Frog Centre, Fourways, offering a money-back guarantee on all our meals. Staff were reluctant at first, but the guarantee forced us to maintain standards at our front and back of house. In the end, we only had to honour the guarantee once in eight months.

2. Complaints: Relate and Recover

Often, what a customer wants most from a company is to be treated like a person. They want real, authentic, human interaction.

Mostly, this human kindness will come while you cater perfectly to their every need, deliver the goods and services efficiently and then send them on their way with a massive smile on their face.

But every now and then things will go wrong. The customer won’t get exactly what they were looking for, the service won’t be 100%, or there will be some kind of misunderstanding.

This is unfortunate and of course nobody wants it to happen, but occasionally it does. If handled properly, these hiccups can be an opportunity to improve customer relations, build real human interaction and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one.

When a customer calls into your bank branch to complain that an unauthorised debit order was taken off her account, treat the person like you would like to be treated. Here is a good procedure to follow that fixes the problem while building a real human interaction.

  1. Understand the problem. Listen carefully and make sure you know exactly what the client’s complaint is.
  2. It doesn’t matter if they actually signed an authorisation and it’s technically their fault. This isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about building a relationship of good customer service.
  3. Take immediate action to fix the problem. In this case, reverse the debit order.
  4. Ensure it doesn’t happen again. That means working out who authorised the debit, and why and adjusting your systems.

If you go through this process as efficiently and as pleasantly as you can, you might find the customer comes out the other side in a pretty good mood. Their complaint has been acknowledged, they’ve got an apology and it’s been sorted out.

Service Tip: Don’t take customer complaints personally. They are part of your job, and your role is to handle them professionally. When a passenger of your airline says, “You’ve lost my bag!” they don’t mean it was you personally who lost it. But in this case, you represent your airline, so you should take responsibility, apologise and sort it out.

Related: Demanding Customers Are The Ones Who Motivate Innovation

3. Use Your Own Services

There’s no better way to check what your company’s service is like than by being your own customer. Of course, if people recognise you as one of their colleagues, they’ll be on their best behaviour, so use one of your digital channels, phone up or use a branch where they don’t know you.

Now pretend you’re a customer looking to make a purchase, but without too much knowledge of your systems. You’re a person off the street, as it were. What is your service experience like?

Here are some ways you can use your own services:

  • Try to get hold of your company. How easy is it to find your details? Is your website clear and logical, is your phone number prominently displayed? How is the phone answered?
  • Try to make a purchase. Is it easy? Is your query handled efficiently and quickly?
    • Most importantly, what’s the service like? Are the staff friendly, positive and dynamic? Do they go the extra mile to deliver exceptional service? Do they build relationships, do they provide help beyond just making the sale?
  • Phone to complain. Use the customer-care line, or website. You’ve been advertising this channel for years — what actually happens when someone uses it? Are complaints handled efficiently and in a positive spirit?
  • Leave a message. You can do this by voicemail, text or email. Does anyone get back to you?
  • Be inconvenient. Call over the weekend, after-hours, during lunch, or even during a busy period. Are the staff just as keen to help you? Can you even get hold of anyone?

Try to get hold of yourself. When last did you listen to your own voice message? What does the signature say at the bottom of your email? What does your switchboard operator say when answering the phone?

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Techniques

How To Manufacture Sales Urgency (Without Sounding Like A Scam Artist)

If you’re struggling to drive urgency in your business, here are three ways to do it.

Sujan Patel

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We’ve all seen those infomercials – the ones that urge us to call in to buy a blender or a mop or some other kind of gadget. If we call in the next 20 minutes, we’ll receive two for the price of one. Somehow, against my better judgment, I find myself thinking about calling in to cash in on the deal. But why?

It’s because those infomercials are all about urgency. You can use the same tactic to drive sales to your business, too.

Establishing urgency gives your customers a reason to act quickly. Their instinct is to take their time and think about the decision. But by throwing urgency into the mix, you’re eliminating the customer’s ability to think too hard or wait too long to buy.

But creating that sense of urgency isn’t always easy. Research from Hubspot finds that establishing urgency is the top challenge today’s salespeople face. If you’re struggling to drive urgency in your business, here are three ways to do it.

1. Establish scarcity

The more there is of an item, the less motivated we are to go out and get it. But if that item is scarce (or perceived as scarce), its value increases.

Related: Sales Strategy Example

Think of the iPhone. How many people do you know who run out to get the newest iPhone on the day of its release? They stand in line for hours, wanting to be one of the first to have the new product, and knowing that eventually the store is going to run out of iPhones – at least until they get another shipment. But that won’t be for months.

That new model iPhone is perceived as scarce. There aren’t many of them, and time is running out to get one, so your purchase decision needs to be made quickly. The same idea can be applied to your products or services. Perhaps you only offer a limited number of products or you only open registration for your event for a limited time. With the window of opportunity much smaller, your prospects will be more likely to buy.

2. Focus on your customers’ needs

Establishing urgency doesn’t always have to be about scarcity, though. You can create a sense of urgency by understanding, from the customer’s point of view, why they need the product now. This goes back to understanding your customers’ needs, which you need to know to sell anything to them. You need to get to the bottom of what makes your customers tick and what their pain points are. Then you can focus on how your products or services offer a solution.

The customer is always asking “What’s in it for me?” When they hear how your product or service aligns with their needs, they are persuaded to act. To the customer, their problems are urgent, and if you offer a way to solve them, they’ll be more likely to trust you and buy from you.

Related: Empower Your Team To Make More Sales

3. Show the consequences

As humans, we tend to avoid negative consequences no matter what. This “loss aversion” means we’ll do whatever it takes to avoid dangerous situations, losing the things we love or any other negative consequence. In fact, the desire not to lose is often greater than the desire to gain.

In sales, focusing on the consequences of not buying can have a great effect on a prospect’s decision to buy. You may choose to show how much money the prospect could lose if they don’t invest in your product or service, or how flawed their current processes are and how inefficient their business is. Whatever it is, focusing on the negative instead of the positive will have a psychological influence on your prospects, which will lead them to a purchase decision faster.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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