Courtesy navigation

Blog posts in Sales

Displaying 1 to 6 of 66 results

Why a new business meeting is like a blind date

July 03, 2014 by Andy Bounds

Why a new business meeting is like a blind date/Calendar mark with blind date{{}}Picture the scene: you’re having dinner on your own in a restaurant and the person of your dreams walks in. They come over to you. There’s good eye contact. You can feel a connection already.

Breathlessly, they whisper: “It’s great to meet you. Tell me about yourself…”

How would you respond?
Like this?

“Great to meet you too. Luckily, I’ve got this book with me (you ceremoniously whip the book from your pocket). It describes my family history in full — how many of us there are, all our names, the things that are different and interesting about us. It really is a One Stop Shop describing what’s special about us…

Hey, hold on, I haven’t finished yet…

Where are you going…?

Don’t go…

Come back!”

Devastating. Your one chance to make a first impression — totally ruined.

Do you think that’s a weird example? After all, nobody would behave like that when first meeting someone, would they?

So, why is it that some people feel it’s essential to take a brochure with them to first meetings with potential customers?

They’ve never seen you before. They don’t want to be reading stuff about you. They want a chat — one that you both find interesting and stimulating. One you both enjoy. And one that — like a first date — if things go well, leads to something much better for both of you.

Ditch the brochure

So, when you’re meeting someone for the first time, don’t take a brochure (you wouldn’t want to read theirs, so why would they want to read yours?)

Instead, prepare (in advance):

  • A list of questions to ask them, to get the conversation going and find out more about them;
  • A couple of interesting, useful things you could say about yourself (a good rule of thumb is “facts tell, stories sell. Tell stories about what you’ve done for others; don’t just list facts about what you do);
  • One or two useful bits of info/advice for them, so they get value from the meeting;
  • Your opening line, so you feel confident going into the meeting;
  • Your closing lines — suitable for two situations. If the conversation’s gone well, how you’re going to ask for Date Two. And if things aren’t going so well, how to end the meeting politely, with integrity, but without a follow-up;
  • Diarise, to follow-up with them immediately after the meeting.

Since you’ve read this far, I guess you’re finding this advice useful? So, while I’ve got you, let me just quickly show you my holiday photos…
No, don’t go…
Please…

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 Sales meetings | 0 comments

Five tips on selling during the upturn

June 10, 2014 by Andy Preston

Five tips on selling during the upturn/ The road to recovery signpost{{}}It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?

1. Write a sales plan

If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.

2. Focus, focus, focus

The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.

If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.

3. Work to your strengths

This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!

We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.

Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.

4. Block out time for prospecting

I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.

There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.

This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.

Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.

5. Get motivated

Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.

Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.

If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!

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

Posted in Sales | Tagged upturn, sales, recovery | 0 comments

An entrepreneur's guide to lead generation

May 21, 2014 by Marc Duke

An entrepreneur's guide to lead generation/ Lead Generation sign{{}}Lead generation is vital for any business. I have tracked with interest the evolution of marketing automation companies and lead tracking technology providers. Lead generation software gives marketers incredible power to scale marketing to thousands and to track, nurture and ultimately convert interested followers into paying customers.

But while technology is great, when it comes to start-ups and small firms, I am concerned that lead nurturing technology actually confuses rather than helps. You don’t need a Ferrari to collect your groceries when you can walk around the corner to the supermarket or order them online.

Sales vs marketing

There is always the classic sales/marketing schism which runs like this: sales find that the leads they are provided with by marketing are no good, while marketing feel the leads were great but sales can’t close them. Entrepreneurs don’t have time for this.

I remember working with the ceo of a start-up who needed 12 trial customers within three months. I sat down with the sales director and asked how many leads they had in the pipeline. I also asked about the sales process. I then asked what key collateral was needed to help them close deals — case studies, fact sheets, press coverage, advocates. In this case, if marketing didn’t support sales then after 12 weeks neither would exist.

Meeting revenue targets

I also worked for an enterprise workflow start-up vendor and the ceo asked me to draft the business plan to help secure funding. I was delighted, as I knew that the revenue targets would shape how many leads marketing had to generate which would, in turn, flow down to a series of tactics I could deliver.

It’s not just about brand, share of voice, tone of message — it’s about leads. Yes, you need to get the other metrics right. But my experience has told me that we must be united about leads. As Bruce Springsteen puts it, “If you don’t stick together you won’t stick around”.

Once we have the leads, we need to work out which ones are really worth pursuing and which ones are time-wasters that will stall you. As entrepreneurs, we can’t confuse interest with commitment.

Ultimately, we are after customers and once you have a lead you need to know what to do with it — play or pass. The other point to remember is that going for glory — and the time, effort and resources involved in chasing the one big name account — may not be worth as much as the lower hanging fruit, the deals that are easier to close and will generate cash more quickly.

Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.

Posted in Sales | Tagged lead generation | 1 comment

Why it pays to admit you don't know

May 13, 2014 by Andy Bounds

Why it pays to admit you don't know/ 3D graphic illuminated question mark{{}}So, what’s the most useful business technique I could show you?

Well, I don’t know. It depends on all sorts of things — your personality, your skills, your priorities, your current challenges. But if I could just ask you a few quick questions, I’d be able to tell you exactly what you most want to know.

Using the words “I don’t know” in response to someone’s question can often help you. It gives you the chance to ask more questions first — ones that will show you the best way to answer their original question. It also stops you saying the wrong things or losing the power in a conversation.

Here are other situations where saying “I don’t know” could be extremely helpful:

  • When you’re asked “how much do you charge for X?”, say: “I don’t know yet. It depends what you want. Let me ask a couple of quick questions so I fully understand. I’ll then be able to tell you the exact price.”
  • When someone says “what will you cover in your document or presentation or workshop?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends what you want the reader or audience to do after it. Let’s discuss that first, and I’ll then be able to answer your question.”
  • If a friend is going for a job interview, and asks “what should I focus on?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends what the interviewer is most interested in. Have you asked enough questions to find that out yet?”
  • When pitching for work, and a colleague asks you “what are our best selling points here?”, say: “I don’t know. It depends on what the prospect will find most valuable. And, to establish that, we’re going to have to ask them more questions.”
  • One of the questions people often ask me is: “’I’m going to an important meeting. Should I use PowerPoint or not?” My answer always is “I don’t know. It depends what you’re looking to achieve, and what your colleagues want. Have you asked them yet?”

Take charge of the conversation

All these examples help you regain control of the conversation. After all, if you answer their question before you have enough information, you’ll be guessing. And guessing increases the chance of your answer being too long or irrelevant.

This is especially important for people who sell. The instant you give your price before discussing your value, people think you’re too expensive. They’re already thinking, “can you reduce it?”.

A price doesn’t make sense on its own. Here’s a question for you: “Is £10,000 expensive?” It’s impossible to say, isn’t it? It depends what it’s for. It’s cheap for a Bentley; but exorbitant for a sandwich. So you first have to discuss what they’re buying, and establish the value they perceive is in it. And the only way to do this is? Ask them what they perceive as valuable.

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 | 1 comment

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 Guest Blogger

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

Displaying 1 to 6 of 66 results

Syndicate content