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The ten biggest communication errors

May 01, 2014 by Andy Bounds

The ten biggest communication errors/ Borred businesspeople at presentation{{}}Here are the ten communication “errors” that I see most often. Do any feel depressingly familiar?

  1. Back-to-back meetings. When there are no breaks in between meetings, when exactly are people supposed to prepare or follow-up? I guess there are only two answers: at home or never.
  2. Pointless communications. You know all those communications — the reports, meetings, conference calls, emails — that achieve nothing? The ones that nobody would mind if they stopped?
  3. Too irrelevant. Sometimes you do need to communicate. But messages often contain content you just don’t need — pointless agenda items, unnecessary chapters, too many background slides and so on.
  4. Too boring. Ever been on a conference call that was tedious? A meeting that dragged on? Presentations where the presenter read their wordy slides to you?
  5. Too long. Preparation isn’t finished when your communication is as thorough and long as possible. It’s finished when it’s as short as possible.
  6. Too selfish. You know the type of thing… “Here’s my content, with all the detail I care about. My time is so important that I haven’t had time to remove the slides you don’t need. And now I need you to do X. And I mean right now”.
  7. Wrong channels. People often email when they should chat. They hold big meetings to discuss topics that should have been done one-to-one.
  8. Wrong person. When Person A wants to impact Person B, they should speak to them directly. Asking Person C to act as a middle-man is rarely as effective. It dilutes A’s passion and clarity; plus, B’s questions are rarely answered as well/at all.
  9. Poor cascades. One exception to the previous point: middle-men can be good for cascading info from on high. But only when the middle-man adds something to the message — their own experiences, personalising it for his team. If he adds nothing, he serves minimal purpose in the chain. In fact, he can make things worse if he does something as dismissive as: “FYI — read this”.
  10. Onerous pre-reads. Giving people too much to read for a meeting is… well, too much. The pre-reads are supposed to enable decisions, not be a rant about everything.

Do these things happen in your business? If so, the solutions are simple:

Back-to-back meetings — stop having them, finish early.

Pointless communication — stop creating yours. Stop reading others.

Too irrelevant — when preparing, ask people what content they want you to include.

Too boring — always ask yourself: “what can I do to make this more interesting?” and include it (you’d be amazed how rarely people do this).

Too long — put detail in the Appendix and irrelevancies in the bin.

Too selfish — look at your communication through the recipient’s eyes. If you don’t think they’ll like it, they won’t.

Wrong channels — consider the best channel for this communication; don’t just do “what we normally do”.

Wrong person — go to Person B, not through Person C (and, whenever possible, don’t let other people use you as a middle-man).

Poor cascades — don’t include/be a middle-man unless the middle-man adds value.

Onerous pre-reads — strip them right back. Aim for one page; two as a max. Remember: they’re not just reading yours.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Why all your staff should be involved in selling

April 03, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why all your staff should be involved in selling/Teamwork and corporate profit with red statistical{{}}You may have a fabulous sales team but if you don’t encourage the rest of your people to sell and support the sales process, you’re missing a golden opportunity. It’s not just your sales people who should be selling!

Marketing

A good marketing department should directly influence your sales. They should identify new and fruitful markets for you to approach, helping you to find and convert prospective clients. Marketing can also influence product development, helping you to devise pricing strategies and prepare all creative collateral.

Customer service

By listening to customer feedback, your customer service people are in a prime position to identify customer frustrations and turn negatives into positives. What’s more, they can listen out for suggested improvements to products or services based on customer feedback. In addition to influencing sales, your customer services can encourage clients to return if they’ve had a positive customer experience.

Accounts

Indirectly, other departments in your company can also influence sales. Your accounts team can free up your salespeople’s time by chasing up invoices and purchase orders for them. They can also provide salespeople with information on customer spending patterns as well as keeping costs under control so that prices can be competitive.

IT

You may initially think that your IT team can’t boost sales, but key tasks in that department can play an important role in influencing them. Your IT people can Identify and invest in software to support your sales team, such as CRM. They’ll also be responsible for providing the hardware to support the sales team and may be involved in providing reliable remote access so sales teams can work whilst on the road.

Delivery team

Any delivery department will be able to ensure the quality of your product as well as its availability. They can provide a positive experience when liaising with customers and, like the customer service department, they can listen out for suggested improvements. What’s more, if your delivery team isn’t delivering on the sales team’s promises, then you won’t be getting any repeat sales.

So, whilst your sales department may do a fabulous job, they shouldn’t work in isolation. Make explicit the contributions made by other departments, so all your people can appreciate their involvement in the selling process. Selling is an activity that almost everyone can be involved in, and should be involved in.

In the words of Mark Cuban, American businessman and investor, “I still work hard to know my business … and I'm always selling. Always.”

Heather Foley is a consultant at ETS, a UK-based HR technology specialist.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Sales management, sales | 0 comments

Seven ways to stay ahead of the competition

January 30, 2014 by Andy Preston

Seven ways to stay ahead of the competition/123 track to get ahead in business{{}}Whenever I’m talking to business owners, a question I’m often asked is, how can I ensure I stay ahead of my competitors? So here are seven things that you can do to ensure you stay ahead of your competition for 2014 and beyond.

1. Ring-fence your existing accounts

The first thing you need to do is ring-fence your existing clients. More and more businesses are looking to replace lost revenue and profitability through acquiring new clients — and some of the new business your competitors are targeting will include your existing regular clients.

As a lot of businesses have got complacent. They’ve tended to neglect existing accounts — and those are now the ones that have been taken by their competitors, or the ones most at risk.

What are your relationships like with your existing accounts? What about the ones you haven’t spoken to for a while? The ones you don’t get on as well with? Would they tell you if they had been using a competitor’s services? And if they did, would you keep the business at the same price or would you have to price match to keep it?

2. Target your prospecting

The quality of your prospecting will be one of the biggest factors in how successful you are (or not) in 2014. As the individual salesperson is asked to do more and more, it’s vital that the time you spend prospecting is time well spent.

That means knowing who is a good prospect for you. Most people think they know. But often they don’t. There will be certain specific criteria that make certain prospects more ideal than others. If you don’t know what they are, you need to find out — and fast. Take a look at your existing client base. What was it that made them stay with you at the moment they did?

3. Increase your activity

The next thing you need to do is crank up the volume. I’m a big fan of a high level of activity — as long as that activity is good quality and is done with the right mindset.

The more deals you have in your pipeline, the more you can afford to lose. If you only have just enough in your pipeline (or close to), then you’re always going to be struggling as you’ll be counting on every deal converting, and it’s devastating when any of them drop out.

Just by increasing your activity, you increase your chances of success — and therefore increase the amount of money you can earn.  Who wouldn’t want to do that?

4. Become a valued resource

Some of the best salespeople I know are a valued resource for their clients. They’re someone whose opinion their clients respect and who they turn to first to get information about purchasing decisions. They’re someone that has a high level of credibility and clients trust their advice.

Not all salespeople are in this position however. A lot of salespeople complain that their clients ignore their advice; that they don’t listen; that they don’t take their calls or see them when they pop in. What bigger signs do you want that clients don’t see you as a valued resource?

In order to be seen as a valued resource, you have to earn it. You have to give value first. You have to get updated on industry trends, technological advancements and understand the impact that these could have on your client’s business. You have to be able to hold a business conversation with the level of decision makers you’re meeting. Invest the time to do things like this, and it will pay you back tenfold.

5. Plan your attack

One of the best ways to get ahead of the competition in 2014 is to win some customers from them. This is a great way of distracting them from their own new business efforts, plus it’s a great motivational factor for you and your team.

If you’re in field sales, why not map out competitors’ accounts in your territory? Then create a call plan for getting to see them and focus on winning their business.

If you’re in internal sales, make notes on the prospects that are currently using your competition, then filter the data by competitors name. Then you can create a phone campaign designed specifically to convert their customers to your customers instead. Dedicated and focused approaches have a far better chance of success — and they put a big dent in your competitor’s confidence.

6. Develop consistent motivation

We all know that motivation is important for a salesperson. But it’s the salesperson’s ability to be consistently motivated that will help them stand out from the rest.

In order to be motivated on a consistent basis, the salesperson has to take charge of their own motivation, rather than waiting for other people (or things) to motivate or de-motivate them. They need to have compelling reasons for doing what they do, especially the tougher jobs such as cold calling.

7. Sharpen your sales skills

If you really want to stay ahead of your competition in 2014, you’ll need to sharpen your sales skills.  This means getting up-to-date, relevant sales tips and advice from trusted sources.

Internal training at your company is great and hiring an external trainer or motivator is even better. However, you don’t have to spend money to keep your sales skills updated — there are articles, videos and podcasts that are free to access and there are plenty of seminars you can attend.

Just make sure you put into practice what you learn.

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at www.andypreston.com.

Why communication is the opposite of competitive sport

January 23, 2014 by Andy Bounds

shutterstock_125840186.jpg/tennis ball on net{{}}One key rule when playing competitive sport: do what your opponent least wants you to do.

So, when Andy Murray plays someone with a weak backhand, he makes them play lots of backhands. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win, yes?

With communication, it’s the opposite: do what your audience most wants you to do.

So, if they like to be involved, ensure your communications are interactive by asking lots of questions. It’s the obvious thing to do if you want a win-win.

Here are a few simple ideas, to make sure you’re doing what others want you to. Some of this list might sound obvious. But how many do you actually do? And more importantly, how many do others think you do?

  • People like to feel understood, listened to, and that your agenda ties into theirs.
    So, ask good questions upfront, so you can then tailor what you say to their perspective
  • They like to be entertained.
    So, be entertaining. Think of things they will find enjoyable — stories, examples, trivia…anything — and include it.
  • They don’t want to be worried about anything.
    So, ask if there’s anything they’re worried about. Then remove it.
  • People don’t enjoy having challenging conversations, where you both go over old ground, blaming each other (remember: persuading someone they’re wrong is never a good way to win an argument).
    So, explain that you would like to find a mutually acceptable solution that improves things for you both. Then work with them to do so.
  • They don’t want to read/hear content that’s irrelevant to them.
     So, ask them upfront what they want you to include/exclude.
  • People despise going to meetings they didn’t need to attend.
    So, when it’s your meeting, ask yourself whether any of your attendees needn’t be there, and suggest to them they don’t need to come. You can always send them any actions arising, of course.

Unlike sport, with communication, your aim is to get a mutually acceptable outcome as quickly as possible.

Action point

Identify one or two things others would most like you to change; then, think of easy ways to do so.

Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

Posted in Sales | Tagged Business communication | 0 comments

Are you prepared for your next face to face sales appointment?

December 17, 2013 by Andy Preston

Are you prepared for your next face to face sales appointment?/Have you done your homework-note{{}}Preparation is one of the keys to sales success, especially for face to face appointments. It should be one of the main focuses when it comes to winning new business. However, more often than not, I find that lots of people are still doing the wrong sort of preparation.

Mistake number 1: Are you too worried about yourself?

In my experience when training businesses and salespeople, people often reveal that they are more concerned about their own preparation, such as: Have I got enough business cards? Are my Power Point slides done right? Or, have I got my product samples in my case?

This is a big mistake — surely you should be more worried about your client than yourself?

Mistake number 2: Are you doing enough client preparation?

The best preparation is client preparation, such as looking at and printing out pages from their website. You’d be surprised how many people do not even visit a prospect’s website before meeting them face to face, only to be left faced with awkward situations that involve them asking questions such as: “tell me a little about your business”.

Mistake number 3: Not using Google!

There is no excuse for not even carrying out basic preparation — after all, anyone can use Google.

Google the company name (to see what else comes up, not just checking out their website); Google the name of the person you are meeting; check out their competition and see who you've worked with in a similar industry or situation.

Instead of asking questions like “tell me a little about your business”, ask questions like, “I was looking on your website and noticed that....” or “I noticed on your website that you worked with...and I wanted to know a little more about it...”.

Do you think these have a different impact on the person you're meeting? Do you think they would perceive you differently than your competitors who ask the same tired old questions, time after time? Absolutely.

If you do the right kind of research, do you think it might have a big impact on the results from your sales calls and appointments? You can bet on it.

Andy Preston is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a leading expert on sales. His website is at www.andypreston.com.

How to tailor your sales process to your customers

December 09, 2013 by Richard Edwards

How to tailor your sales process to your customers/tailor measuring the size{{}}Are you confident that your company is able to capture your customer’s needs? And more importantly, are you using them to create a viable sales process?

Far too often the traditional structure of a sales process talks about opportunity rather than customer needs or requirements — the focus is very much from the seller’s point of view.

In order to help your potential customer make a decision you need to approach the process through their eyes. It’s essential to think about their needs, not yours.

So how do you create a successful sales process that is designed around your customer’s needs? Here are some tips that we have used successfully and which are integrated into the processes that we design for our clients’ sales teams.

1. Don’t sell

Recognise the customer as an individual person and create a process that adapts to them — don’t expect them to adapt to it. At the forefront of your mind should be customer satisfaction, not sales.

A salesperson’s ultimate role is to present a solution to a problem, or a perfect fit for a desire. The end result is ultimately the same — the customer chooses you and you make that sale.

2. Active interaction

People want to be served in a way that fits their situation and their buying habits. Whatever direction the sales process takes, it needs to have listening as the first step.

Customer feedback is a big part of this and can be both the end and the beginning stage of your selling process. Feedback provides you with the knowledge to refine your sales technique and/or product. It’s also a marketing tool to show new customers that you are a) actively engaging with buyers and b) providing the solutions they are looking for.

3. Share the load

The responsibility of researching the customer is not restricted to the sales team. As social media and ecommerce increasingly dominate Internet and mobile usage, customers are looking to other channels to get the information and, ultimately, the service that they require.

This is why you need a focus on internal collaboration. Your online marketing, social media and customer service teams need to know where to look and what to look out for in order to ensure you are visible to potential buyers.

Restructuring your sales process to suit customer needs can really improve your business. Not only can you create more harmonious relationships with your customers and your staff, a revamped sales process can produce tangible results.

A sales process designed around you customer really does lead to happier customers, more collaborative teams and a measurable increase in business. What more could you ask for?

Richard Edwards is director at Quatreus.

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