Tag Archives: sales

Stalled Sales? 

Get Unstuck by Engaging in a Strategic Market Analysis

Jill Johnson-target market

By Jill J. Johnson

If you are struggling with sluggish sales, there are two critical areas you must review to address the situation. The first is determining if the slowdown is due to changes in your target market. The second is determining if your sales and promotional approaches are ineffective. While there may be complicating factors beyond your control, most of the time a sales slowdown can be attributed to one or both issues. This type of analysis reviews your demographics, competitors and the effectiveness of your marketing messages to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the demand potential for your business. When combined with a marketing audit, you have a powerful opportunity to turnaround your sales.

Strategic Market Analysis is a powerful approach to uncovering the true reasons for your revenue slowdown. Click To Tweet

Conduct a Demographic Analysis

A demographic assessment is the foundation of determining if your products or services remain feasible. Understanding your target market demographics provides insight regarding the impact of any changes in market volume. A demographic review can help you determine if you are in a short-term sales slump or if a more significant market decline is expected over a longer time horizon. All too often the cause for a revenue decline is evident in the demographic data. The key is to allow the data to show you objectively what is going on in your market.

A well-executed demographic analysis evaluates shifts in the variables of your consumer’s age, gender, income and other economic variables impacting the market you sell to and identifies potential market risks impacting your business survival. Business client demographics include company age, revenue, number of employees, or number of locations.

Be careful in defining your market area boundaries. Too many businesses use wider geographic areas for their market than they realistically serve. Overly optimistic boundaries will overstate your market potential. Think of your customer demographics as you would a doctor looking at your vital signs. Demographics will help identify new opportunities. Or they will confirm your market has shrunk to a level where you should re-consider your offerings.

Conduct Market Interviews

Some organizations conduct probing interviews of customers, employees, key community leaders, industry associations, and vendors to gain insight on what is changing within their marketplace. Interviews provide you with insights into what makes your competitors tick or help you understand what your key target audiences really think. Interviews can help you understand what is going on and provide you with insight to refine your marketing messages to improve sales.

Study Your Competitors

While the Internet has made it easier to gather basic information on competitors, competitive intelligence involves deeper methods. Look at what products and services they are promoting. Evaluate how they are positioning these resources including how they address pain points to meet customer needs. You can use primary research techniques including networking with industry experts, customers, suppliers, key referral sources and even competitors to better understand your market environment. Combine this information with the use of secondary research sources such as news media or subscription databases to help you gain additional insight. Researching your competitors will provide you with a deeper awareness of opportunities or the need to revamp your offerings. Competitor insight also can help you develop more effective strategies to address the impact they might be having on shaping your consumer attitudes or restricting your market area.  

Secret Shop Your Sales Team

Secret shopping allows you to better understand how effective your salespeople are at sharing your brand message with your target audience. You can assess their conversation approaches, closing techniques and positioning efforts when responding to contacts from a prospective customer. You can combine this approach with secret shopping your key competitors. Secret shopping your team and competitors will give you greater insight into identifying opportunities for improvement and enhancing sales effectiveness.  

Complete a Marketing Audit

Effective marketing strategies balance the critical interrelationships of the elements of the marketing mix with your organization’s strategic plan to reach identified target markets and generate desired sales results. A marketing audit evaluates the effectiveness of your marketing and promotional tactics to identify what needs to be maintained or improved to support your organization’s strategic vision and plan. This would include a review of your website and sales approaches (phone, drop-in, Internet, etc.). Review all of your marketing collateral materials to assess improvements to enhance consumer decision-making. Carefully evaluate how you utilize your social media channels to identify more effective tactics for sharing your marketing message and engaging with your prospects or key referral sources.

Provide Sales Coaching to Your Team

Sometimes your team needs outside support to review their sales approaches to improve overall performance. It is not uncommon for novice sales people to be given a few books and some sales manuals with the expectation they will intuitively figure out how to sell. Closing deals, whether to a consumer or a commercial client, can be a much more complicated effort, especially if it involves a complex sale. Complex sales do not resolve in a single interaction and they often involve multiple decision points before the final decision to buy. Sales professionals often have to tweak how they converse with prospects. Developing better skills and questions for probing prospects can help isolate decision criteria and move the sale forward.

Final Thoughts

Engaging in a Strategic Market Analysis is a powerful approach to uncovering the true reasons for your revenue slowdown. The goal is to determine if your marketing approaches or your lack of a viable market is the cause of your situation. If it is your marketing, you can adjust your sales and marketing messages to better align with your customers and their decision triggers. If it is the market, you can review your pricing strategy and geographic market area boundaries to better optimize those elements impacting your target market.

Sifting through the data you gather will help you reassess your market trends, growth factors and competitive dynamics. You gain an understanding of the implications of this information relative to your organization, as well as an assessment of how well you are positioned for long-term success.

Jill J. Johnson is the President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, a highly accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted more than 4 billion dollars worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill J. Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

The Three Values of Great Salespeople

Put on Your C.A.P. and Evolve as a Leader in Sales

 By John Waid

John Waid-values of salespeopleDon’t you wish you felt like someone wasn’t trying to merely sell you something and instead was really on your side and wanted you to be happy with what your purchase? Wouldn’t a world with less pushy salespeople be nice? The best salespeople don’t simply adhere to acronyms like ABC—Always Be Closing—or the X-step processes that remove the humanity from sales interactions. The majority of selling is not technique, but plain old people skills.

When people are asked what makes for a great salesperson they’ll often cite characteristics like listening, asking great questions, caring more about the buyer than themselves, building rapport and being liked as people, handling objections well and shutting up. These are all behaviors that can be found in the three values every great salesperson must possess.

Let’s dispel the myth of what selling is. Most salespeople will tell you that they sold something and yet, if you think about it, they did not sell anything without someone buying. Selling is not the action, so really, salespeople could be called facilitators of buying. “To sell” sounds aggressive and can put the customer in a defensive position, and the inherent “tricks of the sales trade” often leave buyers with a sour taste in their mouths. There is a better methodology that goes to the core of why we sell in the first place—and it’s one that is not financially-driven. Believing in and selling a product or service that can improve an aspect of a buyer’s life should be the primary motivator for salespeople. It’s much better than selling just to hit a sales target or benchmark.

Once you establish a purpose aside from financial gain, there are three distinct values and some adjoining behaviors that drive the best salespeople. The acronym CAP is easy to remember and you will see that after we talk about all three, you or great salespeople you see will have on this CAP every day.A positive mental attitude and deciding to like everyone for something is something that is not only great in sales, but also in life. Click To Tweet

What is the first value? Are you curious? The first value is Curiosity.

Curiosity is the value that drives the best to want to know what is behind the reason why people are buying something. Why do some salespeople create rabid fans around buying their products and services when others do not? It’s because these salespeople add value.

Let’s pretend you have a paperclip company that sells plastic paperclips in ten colors and three sizes. Let’s also say that these paperclips are three-times more expensive. The first salesperson, Jim, goes to call on clients and pushes the paperclips. He has yet to meet his numbers. The second salesperson, Jenny, goes in asking questions to the business owners like, “How important is organization to you?” “How and why could organization help your business be even better?” “Why is being innovative in business important?” Jenny has resolved to selling an organization system and innovation in what most would see as simple clips that really do not warrant spending three-times more money on. Jenny is excellent at asking great open-ended questions and listening for the last drop to uncover value for the client in her products, whereas Jim is simply pushing paperclips.

Developing an attitude of curiosity to help build value for the customer along with the two key behaviors of great open questions and listening can lead you to enjoy selling like Jenny much more than Jim.

The second value is the one that makes you do all the right things and not cut corners: Accountability.

Accountability is an attitude that exudes success. Think about how much better you could have done in school if you had prepared before each quiz or exam, finished reading and taking notes on every textbook and gone to every class and asked for help when you did not know something. You might have gone to a better school and possibly had an easier life. Have you ever tried to build a piece of furniture without first reading the instructions? How long did it take you to build the furniture and how painful was it?

The best salespeople prepare in writing and are meticulous about preparing their territory plans, target accounts, their positive mental attitude, materials, open questions, objection handling, etc. There is a great story about a sales manager that went out on a field ride with one of his sales reps. As they were on the road the manager asked the rep if he had a catalog of the products. The rep said it was in the back seat. The manager then started on the first page and asked if he had a sample of that product with him. The answer was no, so the manager ripped out the page and threw it out the window saying, “I guess we won’t be selling that product today”. He threw the whole catalog out the window after going through this exercise several times. The lesson learned here is that preparation is 90 percent of success and if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

The third value is a love for people through great People skills.

Is it more important that you like the customer or that the customer likes you? Before you rush to answer the question, think about it a bit. How is the customer going to like you if you do not like them? Having a positive mental attitude and deciding to like everyone for something is something that is not only great in sales, but also in life. We spend much of our time interacting with people and if we do not do this well it can cause a lot of heartache. Many of the most successful salespeople create rapport and learn to mirror the behaviors of others for better understanding of them and themselves. The ability to create likeability is the first step in creating “trustability”. Helping people to buy is not easy when they do not like you.

So there you have it. These three values and the adjoining behaviors are key to sales and even make for a better life. Put on your sales C.A.P. daily and you’ll begin to see a boost in relationships, a boost in your numbers, and a boost in your satisfaction as a salesperson.

John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker and author of the book, Reinventing Ralph. With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer and subject matter expert, John Waid holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit: www.CorporateCultureConsulting.com.

Three Critical Ways Marketing Can Be Applied to Close More Sales

By Andy Slipher

Andy SlipherDo you operate in an organization where sales begins with a capital “S” and marketing with a lower case “m?” Sales-centric organizations often operate at such a high level in sales, they lack marketing prowess. Some are even altogether marketing-phobic, believing marketers exist to usurp the importance of salespeople or to replace them altogether. What happens, as a result, is that sales-centric organizations fail to integrate fundamental marketing principles into the sales process—principles that could actually improve their effectiveness. Although this phenomenon is not uncommon, it can leave customers with feelings that range from a lack of a clear understanding to downright confusion. Who does this kind of thinking benefit? Certainly not the customer.

The bottom line regarding marketing and its place in a sales-dependent organization is that it should thrive upon supporting sales, and not to supplanting it. It’s a simple fact that in certain environments where customer relationships must be continually nurtured and where product investment is high (business-to-business environments, for example), sales and good salespeople are of paramount importance. They help solve customer problems, bestow benefits, share product knowledge, behave proactively, and are simply there for customers when called upon.

At the same time, such organizations can have blind spots when it comes to using marketing to their collective advantage. They don’t see that marketing is there to extend and expand the sales opportunity. As a result, their salespeople aren’t fully prepared and equipped with what they need to do their best while enabling better outcomes for their customers.

Want to improve your odds of success in sales by using marketing to your advantage? Here are three ways:

1. Understand what marketing is and what it is not.

Marketing is not simply media. It’s not cheap or cheesy gimmicks designed to get the attention of your customer. Rather, proper marketing is anything you do in good faith to get your product or service into the hands of the customer. The breadth of marketing spans the entire buying cycle, and beyond. As such, effective marketing involves planning, investment and understanding of the needs of your customer. Think of it as everything else that wraps around your sales approach (in front of, during and beyond) to ensure that the customer has a positive and persuasive experience.Effective marketing involves planning, investment and understanding of the needs of your customer. Click To Tweet

For example, what if, by asking your business-to-business customer, you learn that he or she will have to champion your business and product to others within his or her organization? What do you do? It’s not feasible to be at every internal meeting. You might instead think in terms of clear, succinct messaging and professional materials to leave with your customer—ones that upon initial presentation by you, he or she could then represent to others with an adequate degree of confidence and knowledge. This is one possible marketing tool. But, it begins by discovering and understanding customer’s own mindset, needs and buying process.

2. Embrace the visual.

Effective salespeople are generally great at the verbal aspect of selling—persuading with words. However, virtually all customers today also rely upon and expect the visual. For example, who would have thought twenty years ago that we could manage a significant part of buying a new home by taking virtual home tours from anywhere? Yet this is the world we now live in, thanks to technology. The lesson is that people are now accustomed to buying only what they can see. It’s a studied fact that people generally remember only 20 percent of what they hear, but up to 50 percent of what they both hear and see. Therefore, the more you can help them visualize what they are buying (even if what you sell is a service), the greater your odds of success. How does this play into your sales process? How could you improve upon the visual beauty of what you sell? What objects, models, graphs, photos, maps, videos, tables or illustrations could you use to better persuade? What is both practical and effective? If you cannot yet answer these questions, start by asking your customers what they would want to see more of.

3. Integrate your process.

Have you identified and broken down your sales process? What is the first thing you do? Second, third and so on? How does your process both move the sale forward and serve the needs of the customer? These are wider questions beyond, “How do I get more chances in front the customer?” Yet, by asking such questions, you have the opportunity to integrate a wider range of tactics into your sales process that work toward a common goal. For example, rather than focusing on getting a sales call first, what about an approach that begins with having a wider conversation with would-be customers about their needs and challenges? How would you ask such questions? Would you engage with them around a common issue through social media? Would you mail them an old-school letter? Would you offer a free lunch-and-learn session? Or would you make a gratis overture to solve a relevant problem in order to build even more goodwill and trust? This opening up of the sale to a larger process engages a marketing mindset. It integrates your everyday sales tools with a broader set of options that work together for better outcomes.

Sales and marketing shouldn’t be thought of as mutually exclusive. After all, they serve a common goal. Even if you are deep in a sales-centric organization, you can still integrate strategic marketing thinking and tactics into your own approach to improve your chances for success, while delighting more of your customers in the process.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. He is an accomplished strategist, interim CMO, speaker and writer on marketing strategy. He is marketing lecturer for SMU’s accredited Bank Operations Institute for professional bankers, and for the Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT). Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information, visit TheBigHow.com.

How Can I Get More Sales?

Peter DeHaan: Author, Blogger, Publisher, EditorBy Peter DeHaan

Almost every day, someone asks me, “How can I get more sales?” In fact, for most businesses, increasing sales is a primary concern. Rarely does anyone tell me that their company is making all the sales they want.

I wish they would ask me easier questions, like “How can I improve quality,” “How can I increase revenue,” or “How can I reduce turnover?” All of these I have successfully dealt with, but the sales issue is a bit trickier. It seems that people are looking for a quick fix, a simple strategy. It’s as if they are expecting me to say, “Invest X dollars in Y process to produce Z sales.”

But alas, there is no magic secret. If there were—and  I knew it—I would start a sales and marketing business. My clients would merely tell me their sales goals for the month and I would fill their order. But it is not that simple. Consider the following list:

  • Direct mail
  • Telemarketing
  • Direct mail followed by a phone call
  • Cold calls
  • Trade shows
  • Networking
  • Referrals
  • Yellow page ads
  • Print media
  • Websites
  • Internet advertising

These tactics have a proven record of producing sales in many instances Unfortunately, these same methods have been repeatedly demonstrated to be total failures. Campaigns that have consistently generated high sales numbers for one organization have proven to be colossal flops in others.

The distinguishing factor is not the strategy, but what surrounds that strategy. Here then, is the ultimate—yet elusive—formula for sales success:

Personnel + attitude + execution + management = sales success

Personnel: This is the critical element in the formula. Without the right people in place, nothing else matters. This starts with finding the right person for the job. Over the years, I have hired many sales people. Some worked out, but many didn’t.

What is true for all candidates is even more valid for sales applicants: you see them at their very best during the interview. In fact, even mediocre salespeople know that they must give their best sales performance during the interview. If they can’t convincingly sell themselves to you, how can they possibly sell your service to someone else? To cut through all of this, I have a few key questions I like to ask sales candidates:

How much did you make at your last job? If they made six figures, but can only expect half that at your firm, they are unlikely to work out. They will be unhappy, develop a negative attitude, and leave as soon as a better paying job comes along. Conversely, if they barely cracked the poverty level at their last job, they may be out of their league to produce at the level you expect. Ideally, their prior compensation should be 5 to 25 percent less then what you expect them to make with you. Personnel + attitude + execution + management = sales success Click To Tweet

How much would you like to make at this job? The response to this is most telling. Why? Because if it is unreasonably high, they won’t be satisfied working for you. On the other hand, if it is lower then what you are prepared to pay, then they will start coasting once they hit their target compensation. Again, you are looking for a salary expectation that is consistent with what you can deliver, but is still motivating to them.

Would you like to work straight commission? I don’t advocate that anyone be paid straight commission, however this question is designed to throw them off track and see how they respond. To make this work, you can’t ask the question directly, but need to back into it. If they are at all good with sales, they will have already regaled you with their accomplishments, assured you that they will be your best sales person ever, and promised they will produce at a level beyond your wildest expectations. And, if they have moxie, they may even say you’d be foolish not to hire them or suggest your company will fail without them. (Yes, I have been told this—many times.) Given all of this, they assert that you must pay them top dollar.

At this point, you are in a position to say, “I don’t normally offer this, but based on your track record and past performance, I think you’re worthy of special consideration. I suggest that we consider a compensation plan where you will be highly rewarded for your results and given an open-ended opportunity to exceed your compensation goals.” Then pause, lean forward, and confidentially whisper, “How would you like to work for straight commission?”

First, watch if they can quickly and smoothly react to an unexpected turn of events. Next, you want to see how they retreat from their prior boasting. Often a more realistic picture emerges. Lastly, you will quickly get a true idea of what they expect for base pay and how much they are willing to put on the line in the form of commissions, incentives, or bonuses.

In the event that they are shocked or hurt by this question, simply apologize and indicate that, based on what they were saying, you thought this idea might appeal to them.

Attitude: Having the right sales staff, however, is just the beginning. They also need to have the right attitude. How many times have you seen salespeople talk themselves into a bad month? The thinking goes like this, “Last August was bad. I wonder if August is always bad? I better brace myself for a bad month.” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and they have a bad month.

Or, how many times has a sales person said something like, “I don’t set any appointments for Monday because everyone is always too busy.” Then they add Fridays to the list because prospects are focused on wrapping up their week. The first thing in the morning doesn’t work, nor the end of the day. Before and after lunch is bad, too. I once had a salesman use this logic and he actually concluded that he could only successfully sell on Tuesday and Thursday in the mid-afternoon. It should surprise no one that he sold nothing and his time with the company was a record in brevity.

Another self-defeating attitude is negativity. Consider, for example, the salesperson who says, “Direct mail? That won’t work!” And of course, with that attitude, it never will. Or how about, “That didn’t work last time and it’s not going to work now!”

Are they willing to try new things? If they are open to new ideas and plans, then they have a much greater chance of success than if they are closed-minded. Strangely, all too many salespeople would rather continue to do what has failed in the past than to try something new.

Execution: Closely linked to attitude is the proper execution. In fact, without the right attitude, successful execution is impossible. I have seen ideal marketing plans flop because of poor or haphazard execution. Conversely, I have seen the most ill-conceived and contrived strategies succeed famously because they were diligently, steadfastly, and consistently implemented.

Quite simply, there needs to be a plan. The plan needs to be meticulously followed. And those involved need to be held accountable for their work. This brings up the fourth element:

Management: The glue that holds all this together is management. Good management starts with hiring the right salespeople, giving them excellent training, providing them with appropriate compensation, and motivating them effectively. This must be followed by a sound marketing plan and a supportive environment in which to implement it. Lastly, sales management means investing time on an ongoing basis to encourage, observe, teach, and adjust what they do. Put more succinctly, the right management keeps them on task and holds them accountable.

There is nary a salesperson who can be truly successful without attention and oversight. They need to be lifted up when they are down and celebrated when they make a sale, held responsible for their schedule and made liable for their results. This takes considerable time and effort. As such, proper sales management is not just one more hat to wear, but a full-time job.

Successfully managing salespeople is hard work. It takes time, perseverance, determination, and dedication. But then don’t all things that are worthwhile?

Peter DeHaan is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.

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Three Questions that Capture Your Customer’s Attention

By Stu Stu SchlackmanSchlackman

You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I get the follow-up meeting with that recent prospect?” You asked all the right questions and got the answers you needed to qualify them. You had their budget, knew their goals and needs, and their timeframe to make the decision. You knew who the decision maker was, were keenly aware of your competitors that were in play, and felt that you had the perfect solution to meet their needs.

So why didn’t it work out?

Unfortunately this happens to many sales professionals, yet only one will earn the customer’s business. While you may be asking good questions, you may not be asking the right questions. You want to ask the type of questions that make the customer take notice of who you are and what you have to offer. What makes them pay attention to you? What are the questions that get the customer to say “Tell me more”?

Customers get bored when you ask the basic surface questions. These are the questions that you need to have answered to better understand the customer’s situation and so that your solution can be positioned to meet the customer’s needs. Customers already know their situation. They want to know what makes you different from the pack, and how you can help them in a way that provides value that no one else can deliver.

And remember, the last thing your prospects want on a first appointment is a presentation! This meeting is not about you and what you offer. It should be all about your customer and how you can help them meet and exceed their needs and achieve their goals and objectives. Customers want the conversation to be all about them. In other words let them talk—you should be listening!

Prepare to ask questions that your customers will pay attention. Click To TweetSo what are the questions you should ask? Think about it this way: customers engage best when they are asked specific and targeted questions that pique their interest and highlight the consequences of unsolved issues. There are three critical types of questions you need to ask to build momentum and ensure that you get the next meeting.

1) What are the Issues? To build the critical trusting relationship, you need to understand what’s really going on. Ask them, “What issues are you facing that most need to be resolved?” Do not start by asking what type of solution they are looking for or how much they will spend; instead, aim to learn where they are experiencing pain? How bad is the pain, and how long has it been going on? The best sales people dig deep when it comes to understanding customer issues. You can further understand the pain by asking “why” questions. When you ask “why,” you’re bringing the customer into the past, which allows them to elaborate on what happened in the first place.

2) What is the Cause? Ask them, “How long have you been having this issue? Is it getting better or worse? Do you have any thoughts on why?” These probing questions will demonstrate that you are truly interested in understanding their situation to the fullest extent. It means that you are building credibility with the customer and showing them that you care. This approach takes the conversation to a better level of understanding and often they will even discover something they hadn’t seen before. Helping your customers understand the cause of their issue helps you understand which solutions to offer—when appropriate— and helps them to think through the situation.

3) What is the Impact? Impact questions help to create a sense of urgency about the issue. Now that you more fully understand the problem and how it was caused, it’s time to talk about the possible impact on the business. Ask them, “How do you think this issue is having an impact on productivity, customer service, revenues or operating expenses?” When you can help them understand the impact, they are one step closer to taking action in your direction.

When the customer sees the impact of their issues in multiple areas, we can start to create a viable solution. You can start to help them see the future in a positive light by asking “what” questions. “What” questions focus on the possibilities. Now you can work with customer as a partner since you have a solid understanding of their issues, how they came about and how their affecting the business.

Good selling is all about going below the surface by asking thoughtful, probing questions that help to uncover the key issues, the root causes, and finally the impact that their most painful issues can have on their business. As the saying goes, “If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers.” The best sales professionals have great skill in asking the more significant thought-provoking questions that make a difference in the customer dialogue.

Prepare to ask questions that your customers will pay attention to and you will be much closer to building the kind of relationships that will lead to more closed sales.

Good selling!

Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of Four People You Should Know and Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something. With over twenty-five years of success in the sales landscape, Stu provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques, and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information about Stu, please visit www.stuschlackman.com.