Tag Archives: sales

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.

8 Tips to Make Your Sales Message Memorable

By Patricia Fripp

Patricia FrippSome salespeople are silly enough to think that if they talk longer, they add more value or get their point across more effectively. Actually, any prospect or potential buyer you ask is eager for your pitch to be presented as efficiently and memorably as possible.

Here are eight tips to make your message memorable.

1. Build Rapport: In order to build rapport with your prospect, you need to connect emotionally and intellectually. Think of it this way: Logic makes you think; emotion makes you act. You connect intellectually with your logical argument through specifics and statistics, perhaps with charts and diagrams. You connect emotionally through eye contact, stories, content that creates a visual in the buyer’s mind, and with you-focused rather than I-focused language. This is incredibly important if you want to sell your ideas, a product, or a service.

2. Make Your Message Sound Valuable: How valuable does your message sound? Here’s another way to look at it. Rehearse your sales presentation, and time it. Or, if it is very important, consider transcribing it. Just for fun, consider the financial impact of your proposal or the investment of your prospect, and divide by the length of your presentation. This gives you a dollar value for your words. Logic makes you think; emotion makes you act. Click To Tweet

3. Remove Fluff and Fillers: Naturally you want to remove all the unnecessary fluff and fillers. For example, avoid clichés like “Each and every one of you in the room.” How often have you heard a salesperson say those nine unnecessary words? When your message is clear and concise, divide the number of words by the amount of time needed to deliver your presentation. You will notice how much more valuable each word has become. Make every word count!

Here is a real-life example: Barbara was a sales manager at a convention hotel in a major metropolitan city. A professional association was debating whether to bring their convention to the city. Barbara was a great salesperson one-on-one, but she was facing a group sales presentation. “I’m very nervous,” she confessed to herself, “How do I sell to so many people?”

Thinking through the eight tips she’d read, her internal conversation went something like this:

4. “How Much Time Do You Have?” “Eight minutes.”

5. “Who Is In Your Audience?” “A convention committee from the association. About ten people.”

6. “What Is Your Key Idea?” “What are you actually selling?”

“Well,” realized Barbara, “It isn’t my hotel, because if they come to this city they’ll definitely use our hotel. I guess I’m selling the city, because they are seriously considering a nearby town, too.”

Then she asked herself a question that rarely is asked: “How much is it worth to my hotel if I get their business?”

“Half a million dollars,” she knew.

So, she grabbed her calculator. “Let’s see. Half a million dollars divided by eight minutes. That’s $1,041.66 a second, even when you pause.”

Thinking back on her old opening, Barbara took a deep breath and began, “Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you’re enjoying our hospitality.

I know . . . ,” and she was off on a stream of platitudes.

7. Don’t Be Polite; Get to the Point: “That’s polite,” she thought when she finished, “and that’s not a bad habit, but I don’t have much time. They know who I am because I’ve been entertaining them. They know where they are. Make it about them.”

So, Barbara revamped her opening to this: “Welcome, and thank you for the opportunity to host you. In the next eight minutes, you are going to discover why the best decision you can make for your members and your association is to bring your convention to this city and this hotel.”

That is you or yours seven times and one hotel.

Then she said, “The other city is a magnificent destination, and you should definitely go there in the future. However, this year you should come to this city because . . . “Then she listed the specific reasons.

This is an emotional opening because it’s youfocused. And since you never knock your competition, it’s smart to acknowledge that the other city is fabulous. You’ve connected emotionally with your audience, and the logical specifics connect you intellectually.

You may argue that those polite opening comments are necessary because the audience is still settling down and not focused on you. This may be true, but don’t let it be an excuse. Go to the front of the room, and wait until you have their attention, maintaining a strong, cheerful gaze and willing them to be silent. If needed, state the opening phrase of your comments, and then pause until all eyes are focused on you, awaiting the rest of the sentence.

8. Logic Cells, but Close on Emotion: Continue your presentation with logical incentives, but end with emotion. Remember that last words linger, and your goal is to be memorable.

Barbara closed with this, “Imagine years from now when your attendees are sitting around a convention lobby reminiscing about the best conventions they’ve ever attended, and they talk about their experiences in this city at this hotel. And you’ll know you were part of that experience because you were on the planning committee.”

You now have eight tips that add value to your words and make your message memorable. Use Barbara’s model of how to connect emotionally in the beginning and end of a presentation and connect intellectually in between. Plus, you will be making your words sound more valuable.

Good luck! Persuasive presentations give you a competitive edge.

When your sales must be successful Patricia Fripp can help. She is a Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills, and on-line training expert. Patricia is also a subject matter expert for Continuing Education at XTRACredits. For more information www.frippvt.com.

Is Procrastination Good for Sales People?

By Stu Schlackman

Stu SchlackmanRemember those good ole days back in college when you knew you had finals lurking just a couple of weeks away and you committed to study a little bit each night? You promised to be disciplined and not wait to cram everything in at the last minute. And what happened? Sure enough, finals week was staring you right in the face. The proverbial all-nighter is inevitable. You are now cramming for exams and scrambling to finish your projects.

Panic sets in and you wonder how you let this happen swearing that you would be disciplined as the semester was ending.

Why do so many people wait to the last minute? Why don’t they spread their workload out over a realistic timeframe? The bottom line? We procrastinate!

Many can relate to this. Procrastination is part of human nature. We live in such a fast-paced society that forces you to juggle multiple balls on a daily basis that getting to your priorities seems to always have delay. The more output you have the more chances for originality. Click To Tweet

But while procrastination may lead to a last minute, stress-filled scramble, it also has its advantages.

Procrastination as a Positive: So what is the advantage of procrastination? The more you wait on accomplishing a project, task or creative endeavor, the more time you have for your ideas to simmer and develop. Ideas can mature in your subconscious without you realizing it. As you procrastinate you give yourself more time for ideas to mature. It serves as an incubator for your ideas.

As we amass multiple ideas in our mind, we start connecting the multiple ideas to formulate new ones. Procrastination helps this process develop.

When team members have brainstorming sessions, multiple ideas are put on the board. As we look at the ideas, we start to combine them to form new ideas. This is how creativity happens. It’s connecting the dots of multiple ideas that brings about new ones.

In other words, it leads to great achievements and innovation.

So procrastinating might not be so bad after all.

For many of you who work 50 to 60 hours a week juggling multiple accounts and opportunities, preparing a new presentation for a prospect might come down to the last minute. We kick ourselves for not being more organized in advance, but we often perform better under pressure. Also, we can expect our past experiences to kick in when we perform. Great sales people are known for thinking on their feet.

Quantity Over Quality: Sometimes quantity is better than quality. The quantity of ideas you have can lead to new ideas that are unique and creative and just might fit the customer’s need.

This makes total sense to most sales professionals. We multi-task, having many different tasks to perform for numerous accounts and that can help us be more original and creative. It’s like when your kids were playing football or any other sport; their grades were better than when they were not playing sports. You are more productive when you are busy. The more output you have the more chances for originality.

So the bottom line when preparing for a major customer presentation or developing a large proposal is to gather your team members and generate as many ideas as possible as to why you’re the right fit. Ask, “What can we communicate about our company, our value, or competitive advantage?” The more quantity of ideas, the better your chances of the quality ideas that are more original than those of the past.

As a sales professional, you are the quarterback on the team for your clients. You are responsible for touching or leading every aspect of the opportunity. You must be involved in creating the proposal, making the presentation, understanding the customer’s needs, and even understanding their credit situation. You are the go-to person for the client.

You need to leverage all your experiences to become more original. It’s been said many times that you learn more from the sales you lose than the sales you win. That’s where you gain experience. You learn from your mistakes and for the next opportunity you have more experience and insight as to what can work versus what might not work. You learn how to read customer situations as you relate them to those in the past that were similar. In other words what’s worked versus not worked.

When the pressure mounts at the last minute to get a presentation or a proposal ready for a customer, realize that all the experience you’ve acquired over the years gives you a mental advantage in preparing that you just might not realize. You never learn from mistakes you’ve never made.

The next time you’re down to the last minute in preparing for a customer, realize there might be a positive aspect in those final moments of preparation. Be open to the fact that a great idea for the customer might be just minutes away.

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 25 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.