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Intentions (not Resolutions) for 2015

Posted on: January 9th, 2015 by Monika No Comments

For the last couple of years I have set intentions rather than New Year’s resolutions. For one, intentions are “the thing that you plan to do or achieve: an aim or purpose” as opposed to a resolution which is “a firm decision to do or not to do something”. If we look at the standard definitions, it seems clear to me that resolutions are designed to set us up for failure. More often than not, we decide NOT to stick with something. And once we fall into that pattern, it’s easy to give up.

How many people do you know who had made New Year’s resolutions to give up smoking, or to lose weight only to end up falling back into the same habits a very short time after January 1?

So, in setting an intention – a plan, something to achieve – it makes the purpose more realistic and it helps us accomplish it. Baby steps, good intentions and making a plan – how does that sound?

When it comes to sales, here is a wish list of good intentions that would help me in my mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners.

Sales Culture

Contemplate a change in the culture of your business. Invite your employees to review your sales goals/plan. I mean, ALL of your employees – because in my book, everybody is in sales. If your receptionist is unfriendly and rude, at some point it will have an effect on a prospect or client. You might not hear about it, which is the worst case scenario, but trust me I have stopped doing business with companies whose employees were rude and I know many people who have done the same. By providing transparency and helping everybody within your organization understand that without clients they wouldn’t have a job, you will help them view prospects and clients in a different way.

Everybody Is In Sales

Everybody, and I mean everybody is in sales. Whether they are client facing or not. There is internal sales and external sales. How often do we need to “pitch” an idea to an internal audience to make sure that our clients are happy? So, while the research manager providing data for a project might not touch the client directly, they certainly have an impact on the success of the project. That is the culture that successful companies employ. They help their people communicate with each other, they provide technology to ensure proper workflow, but most importantly they encourage a culture of honesty and integrity and being customer-centered

Training Strategy

I hope that more companies will have firm training strategies. And I don’t say that for selfish reasons only, I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Better trained employees are more loyal, they represent your brand better and they contribute to the bottom line.  We see it over and over working with our clients. Employees who had been on the short list of the next in line to be fired turn into jewels for their company once they are trained properly. This is not to say that every employee is trainable and that nobody will ever get fired again, but it means that if you want to be an A player as a company you have to have a solid training strategy.

Honesty and Commitment

Let’s talk a little bit about those virtues and let’s bring them back. They are essential for every company to be successful. Without honesty there is no progress. You need to look at the areas of improvement to fix whatever is not working AND improve what is working to truly stand out.

Commitment (and I am a stickler for this), is another area that is a key ingredient to stand out from the crowd. Once you commit to something, you are putting a stake in the ground and then all you need to do is – well, just do it (Nike!). There is no shame in admitting that sometimes you might have made the wrong decision, but people respect leaders who are committed and good for their word.

So, let us start with intentions to do something, so we allow for small setbacks while intending to stay on course and to achieve our goals. In my world that is elevating the reputation of the sales profession and its practitioners. Why? Because somebody has to do it! And I invite all my readers to join me!

Wishing you a successful 2015 full of great intentions!

 

State of the “Sales” – Union – Naughty or Nice?

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the year is quickly winding down, I wanted to take a look at sales and business development as a practice in 2014 from my very personal perspective. Not that I believe that I am in a position to provide an all-encompassing view of the sales world, but being in the trenches every single day, helping my clients with their business growth, I’ve encountered some who are “naughty” and some “nice”! Especially as I do a lot of prospecting for my own company, as well as for some select clients.

Being in sales means that you put yourself out there in a way that is different from other business areas. You need to bring yourself into the process and without being able to build trust, it will be hard to be successful.

So, taking a look back at 2014, I’d like to share with you what I observed …

Social Selling – Be Personal

Social Selling has become a buzz word and very often misunderstood and/or misinterpreted. Below is the link to an interesting article in Forbes Magazine to that effect.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/09/12/the-science-of-social-selling/

Yes, Twitter and LinkedIn are essential when it comes to building relationships and finding decision makers. LinkedIn, in my humble opinion, more so than Twitter, but I let the experts judge that. The question will ultimately always be (and that holds true for every technology) – how to use it. Being a business owner I get messages on LinkedIn all the time, and inundated via Twitter, people pitching their business and telling me about their great services. Although they found me, they often fail to understand what I do and what my business offers. Their offerings are generic, often not relevant and therefore ignored by me. So, borderline Naughty, wouldn’t you agree?!

My approach with LinkedIn and Twitter (which I like to think falls in the “Nice” category) is to build a personal relationship first, look at similarities that I share with people and truly understand their role and their company. People buy from other people, as I have said before and I can’t say it often enough. If you are not building rapport and you are just using generic messages, blasting messages you might as well not use any of the social platforms because they could work against you. Irrelevant messaging is a bit insulting (Naughty?), because obviously the person reaching out hasn’t done their research.

Content Marketing – Be Relevant

Another buzz word. Great concept, but the same philosophy holds true. You need to be relevant and build a unique voice. If you hire people to just write on topics that you provide them with, it will be hard for your readers to find your content engaging (might be a bit Naughty?). When it comes to content marketing, it is important to put a stake in the ground and to create content that is relevant to your audiences. Be edgy, relevant and engaging. (Now that’s Nice!)

Business Courtesy – Treat Everybody with Respect

I have observed that business courtesy is at times taking a back seat. For some reason there are some people who must believe that with the presence of social media networks, they needn’t be as courteous as they used to be (or were they always Naughty?). It’s concerning and honestly a bit frustrating.

Especially, saying thank you and getting back to people has gotten out of style.

Sometimes, I’m inclined to believe that some decision makers treat vendors with less respect (now that’s Naughty, right?). We understand that we are all at times inundated with information. And we understand that decision makers have the buying power. But for vendors, it’s still Nice(!) to get a message when a buyer has decided to work with a competitor.

Commitment – Sticking to a Promise is Good Business

History shows that people who are committed will be more successful than those who are not. Commitment or the lack thereof showed up in many areas in 2014 from my perspective. Once you commit to something, you should stick with it (Nice!). As I’ve shared with many of my contacts, there is never a good time to have a baby! And as experience shows, there is never a good time to do sales training, or to implement a new system. But the rewards for going forward in all these cases are overwhelmingly positive. By dragging out decisions, you keep your company from moving forward on the one hand, but it also shows that you are not good for your word, which can have devastating effects on your reputation (real Naughty!). AND, if you change your mind while planning, just simply communicate it (definitely a Nice!).

Outlook for 2015 – Bright and Sunny

What I personally like about these developments is that the cream is rising to the top (real Nice!). More and more sales people are becoming experts, working hard at being better listeners and trusted advisors to their clients. I see more and more companies who are working at becoming better corporate citizens. They work on their commitment, to their employees, to their clients, to their vendors and to themselves (incredibly Nice!). They certainly have to – competition is fierce. And more and more people are making decisions based on integrity. I’m so impressed that all of our clients are successful with the desire to be Best-in-Class. They want their sales people to stand out from the crowd. So my mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners is one step closer to becoming a reality.

And so, with buckets full of optimism, I wish you all very Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year!

Accountability and Dropping Buckets of Ice Water?

Posted on: September 18th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

Looking at my Facebook page these last weeks was like looking at an Ice Bucket Dropping Contest. Almost my entire feed was filled with people who are either dropping or challenging other people to do the same. While the idea of this challenge is absolutely brilliant, there is one thing that is missing and that is accountability.

Over dinner conversations I have discovered that at least four people I know through friends have done the bucket dropping BUT, they have not donated. I hope that I am the ONLY person who knows people who know people who are not that authentic or honest. BUT sadly, I have an inkling there are other people out there who do the challenge, a wonderful way to self-promote on Facebook by the way, and then “forget” to mail the check.

Many of my readers know that I like comparisons, so this scenario reminded me of sales people who love to have nice conversations, but they don’t sell. Activity doesn’t equal results.

Activity Doesn’t Equal Results
There was a really important step that was missed when initiating the ice bucket dropping campaign. That was to make sure people doing the challenge actually did pay the $100 they claim they did. You would at least assume they did, since it’s all about a worthy cause – donating money to ALS research, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure exactly how it could have been done, but with today’s technology there certainly has to be a way.

I do know however how to make sure that your sales people produce. Don’t incentivize activity. Focus on results.

And by incentivize I also mean that sales managers shouldn’t encourage sales people to just make more phone calls. Sales metrics, as my experience has shown me, should be tied to results and to results only.

It really doesn’t matter how many phone calls, e-mails or marketing touches you make – if they are not successful touches!

All that matters is that every action you set will take you a step closer to closing the sale. Activity is important only if it’s streamlined, targeted and measured against clear objectives. A sales person who makes 500 client touches a week and never gets to go on a qualified sales presentation or meeting will most likely never make a sale. Not a successful sales person, right? But lots of activity!

Hold Yourself Accountable – Create More Opportunities
On the other hand, sales people who work smart will know who their ideal prospects are, research more, find out about their prospective contacts and then make well-prepared calls, followed by well-written customized emails, then follow-up calls, etc. And these sales people will open up doors faster.

These are sales professionals who employ consultative selling skills and strategies.

And in the end, it’s all about holding oneself accountable. Not just for management, but also for one’s own sense of purpose and goal-setting.

My friends and friends of friends on Facebook are not held accountable for their ice bucket dropping. Nobody asks them if they actually donated the money. That’s what’s missing in this process.

Holding your salespeople accountable, also means coaching them and sharing your experiences – successes and challenges. When sales managers and leaders collaborate with salespeople to create goals and ways to gauge their success, salespeople will also volunteer more information and share their insights. So, how could that work?

Working SMART
Laying out the steps which actually lead to a sale and holding salespeople accountable for consistently executing those steps has created higher performing and more successful sales teams. For example, having a check list with questions like:
• Has a follow-up meeting been arranged and committed to?
• What do the prospects perceive to be their needs?
• What value proposition can we develop and apply to this prospect?
• Who are the decision-makers? Who is the final decision-maker (=the Economic Buyer)?
• Do we know the decision-making and purchasing process?
• What is planned to happen after the first meeting?
• Are there next steps arranged?
• Do we know more about the prospect than we did prior to the meeting?
• What is their budget cycle?
• Who do they currently work with? How satisfied are they with their current provider? And so on.

These are questions that not only help qualify a prospect further, but are also essential to compiling data for future prospecting. Don’t ask your sales people to just put numbers on a spreadsheet that would equal the ice bucket challenge.

Make sure the numbers show progress in developing business, deepening business relationships. The numbers should show a path to increased revenue and not just increased activity.

And to everybody who is putting a video on Facebook dropping ice on themselves, be a decent person and write a check!

We don’t have time for … (sales training)

Posted on: February 12th, 2014 by Monika No Comments

http://www.thewoodshop.20m.com/graphics/clockface2.jpgThe phrase “We don’t have time for …” is very often used to stall and/or avoid responsibility or just as an excuse to do nothing. There really is never a lack of time. Rather, it’s really a matter of setting priorities. If you feel that you don’t have time to do something important, I invite to re-consider.

Are you trying to avoid doing something, or do you feel that the task is not important enough to make it on top of your priority list? This is a really important exercise. In business and in life.

Everyone I know suffers from time deficiency. Our busy schedules, cluttered with appointments and obligations and getting inundated with information through voice mails, emails, social media alerts, Twitter feeds, Instagram, you name it – we’re in overload!

Today, for example I decided to clean out my Inbox and unsubscribe from many mailings. Not because the information was useless, but it wasn’t of value to me personally and professionally any longer. Freeing up my time and clearing my schedule gives me an opportunity to add things that matter to me personally or to my professional education.

But, let’s get back to the phrase of “We don’t have time for sales training” – this is something we occasionally hear from our prospects when we discuss our Strategic Consultative Sales Certification Training Program.

Business Development Is A Priority, Is It Not?

I am a deep believer that Business Development should be a top priority for every single organization. Without it, your company won’t grow. But even more importantly for me, is that it should be mindful business development – not just making numbers. Your company should have a growth plan and a goal to gain more profitable customers. I’ve experienced more companies than I’d like to just adding numbers to their revenue stream without looking hard at profitability.

No Sales Training = Status Quo, or does it?

Our clients are always amazed at how even their top producing business development people develop new and updated insights and get great value from our Training Programs. There is always room for improvement and if we don’t learn, we stagnate, or even worse we regress. Sales is process and it’s hard. We are in the trenches every single day trying to achieve our sales goals. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern without looking up and looking around for new techniques and refining one’s skills. Decidedly, an on-going sales training program gives you an opportunity to regroup, to challenge your thinking, adjust your behavior and develop new skills.

Why is it Always the Top Performing Companies Who Get It?

Interestingly enough, most of our clients are the ones who are already successful. They don’t really have a problem with business development, but they do want to do better. They continuously seek out solutions that can help them to be more strategic and to grow revenue in a more effective way. They also know that by helping their business development staff be more effective, it will lead to a win-win situation. Their people will earn more and it will lead to more revenue and higher profit margins.

Still No Time for Training? Think Again.

What people don’t realize is that not doing anything doesn’t necessarily mean that everything stays the same. It means that you are not progressing but your competition might very well be. While your sales people are doing things the way they were done 5, 10, sometimes 15 years ago, the competition is learning to plan strategically, to overcome objections with real value solutions and to close business with clients who fit in with their strategic objectives. Sales and business development has changed in many ways in the last 5 years due to all the social media channels. If your sales people are not kept fresh and up to speed, they will be left behind. Nobody would think that using fax machines to get new business is a State of the Art practice, would they?

What is Your Business Growth Worth to You?

My health and sanity is worth 6 hours a month to me. That’s the time that I take away from my busy schedule to practice Yoga. It keeps me grounded and it keeps me sane.

My business growth is worth 20 hours a week, that’s the amount of time I spend on prospecting, writing articles such as this one and learning about new best practices.

Our clients have their sales and account management people spend 4-5 hours a month on learning to become more strategic business development people embracing and utilizing a consultative approach. When they graduate from our program (which usually takes 6-8 months, remember – sales is a process and so is learning) they have grown their business by over 30% on average. A small time investment if you think about it in terms of ROI.

So, really, it’s all about priorities. Business Development needs to be a priority, whether it comes to cold calling (schedule time every day), or staying in touch with your customers (plan to do that on a regular schedule) or learning new practices.

Not having time means that growing your company is not a priority. And that’s surely not what you are aiming for, is it?

“Even the woodpecker owes his success to the fact that he uses his head and keeps pecking away until he finishes the job he starts.”
– Coleman Cox

As you know, we deeply believe that our Consultative Sales Certification Program provides so many benefits and value to a sales organization. Interestingly enough we share this conviction with a Sales Consultant whose blog you can read here.

Three Ways to Increase Sales Training Adoption: Tom Maloney

http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com/bid/104882/Three-Ways-to-Increase-Sales-Training-Adoption

 

Courage in a bottle – Are you brave?

Posted on: October 15th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Courage in a bottle?

Some words of wisdom from the Wizard of Oz. Since lions are supposed to be “The Kings of Beasts,” the Cowardly Lion believes that his fear makes him inadequate. He does not understand that courage means acting in the face of fear, which he does frequently. Only during the aftereffects of the Wizard’s gift, when he is under the influence of an unknown liquid substance that the Wizard orders him to drink (perhaps gin) is he not filled with fear. He argues that the courage from the Wizard is only temporary, although he continues to do brave deeds while openly and embarrassedly fearful.

Recently, I had a delightful conversation with one of my female clients who is also one of the smart women I am privileged to have in my professional circle. We were talking about sales (what else?) and prospects being hesitant to buy when she pointed out that the lack of courage is often the reason why people don’t buy. She said that if she had a wish, she would send a bottle of courage along with her business proposals. We then  continued to chat about courage in general, The Wizard of Oz and my client then suggested that I write a blog about it, so here it is.

Let’s look at the Wikipedia definition of Courage

Courage is the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation.

Pretty straightforward and clear, but what lies underneath?

People who are not courageous are usually afraid. Afraid of the consequences of their actions (not understanding that not taking action also has consequences), afraid of trying something new, afraid of their own courage.

How much courage does it take to choose a new product/service?

My client who is the CMO of a newly established brand with a very compelling concept is trying to break into the marketplace and their offering is clearly new, innovative and of enormous value to consumer brands who in turn want to introduce their products. The approach is affordable, fun and with a clear benefit to CPG companies and the end consumer. So, why doesn’t the approach fly off the shelve? Because most people don’t have the courage to introduce a new concept and being a first adopter. It takes a lot of guts to take the first step. It’s a lot easier to follow but also more predictable and boring with few chances of standing out from the crowd and becoming a true leader.

There is a really good saying that I quote a lot and that is “Nobody ever gets fired for hiring IBM“. IBM is a well established company with huge brand recognition. Let’s just say (for the sake of the argument) that there are companies out there who offer the same solution as IBM but even better and cheaper, it would still be hard to sell. I know that, because some of my clients have tried.

Why is it easier to buy from a known brand?

There is no risk involved. Even if the solution turns out to have some areas of improvement, it’s still a safe bet and whoever made the decision to buy will hardly be questioned. But imagine, you are buying from a newly established company and there is problems. That choice might get a decision maker in trouble if things don’t turn out the way they were presented.

The Courage potion

On the other hand, choosing a new company not only helps diversity but also innovation. When my client said that she would like to bottle up a bit of courage in a bottle and send it to her prospects, just so they take the leap of faith and explore her new offering she really meant it. Sometimes it’s wise to stay with the “devil you know” but it’s also important to choose carefully and give new kids on the block a fair chance. If we live our life or do business, always trying to be on the safe side we will not be able to grow or innovate. The most courageous people are the ones who changed our thinking and the way we live. Nobody would have thought 30 years ago that a handheld device will help us to navigate through most situations, from getting driving directions to finding a good restaurant. I remember the times when people were afraid of computers and now grandmothers are on Facebook (for better or worse).   

Courage also helps sales people

In sales we often lack courage as well because of the fear of being rejected and not wanting to lose the sale. Many times sales people accommodate rather than push back. They oversell because they don’t want to lose the sale, forgetting that over-promising will have long-term effects.

Courage is essential when doing business in a successful way. Most successful people had to overcome ridicule and criticism and they had to muster up an enormous amount of courage to prevail. There is no success without failure and without courage we just stay mediocre.

Lean Forward – Or Walk Away?

Posted on: September 12th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Recognizing Buying Signs & Gaining Commitments

The purpose of sales is to close business and increase revenue (and profits, too!). While this might be obvious to some, one would be surprised how many sales people actually dance around not understanding when to “lean forward” and when to move on. Many sales are lost because a salesperson has failed to recognize buying signs. Simply acting on buying signals alone will close the majority of your sales. So, what are the most common buying signs? First, let’s think about the entire selling process.

Closing a sale when engaged in a Consultative Sales Process is not a single event.  It’s a string of commitments or agreements throughout the sales process that a sales or service professional needs to recognize to ensure that the final commitment, the closing of the sale, will be a natural, easy one.

Recognizing Buying Signs

Just the other day I had a delightful conversation with one of our business partners and while chatting we were commiserating about the fact that too many sales people are afraid to gain commitments and/or to understand that sometimes the sale just won’t happen. My friend compared it with a date (which of course is a topic close to my heart as I wrote the book “Dating & Selling & Why They Are So Similar!”).

He said that after a handful of dates you should be expecting a kiss. If you don’t get it, then you need to re-assess the situation. The same holds true in selling. When you have appointment after appointment, phone calls, webinars, etc and you can’t move the needle, you are either not talking to the right people or you have misread buying (or “not-gonna-buy”) signs.

Being a salesperson can be discouraging at times, especially if you have put significant time into developing an account, preparing a proposal or working on a contract and then not closing the sale.  It’s easy to start thinking of what you could have been doing with the time you just “wasted” working on a sale that you didn’t get.  You could have been fishing or practicing Yoga.  But just as with fishing, you need to throw the line in before you can catch fish.  If you wait to throw the line in only when you think there will be a big catch, it will never happen.  Top salespeople realize this and often “pay themselves” for each sales call, knowing that they need to have sales activity in order to generate sales.  Top sales professionals know that they get paid for every NO!

Gaining Commitments

Here are some typical examples of gaining commitment during a sale straight out of our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program:

When you ask for an appointment – This may seem insignificant, yet it is often the first YES that gets the ball rolling.  A customer will not commit to you until they’ve said ‘yes’ at least twice.  Assertively asking for an appointment is the best way to start the closing process.

When you first meet with the customer and begin to uncover needs – You may simply state,

“If we can show you how we can increase your production by utilizing us as a source, will you consider switching vendors?”  You are beginning to condition your customer to say ‘Yes’.

When a customer asks you for something or has a special request– For instance, when a customer asks you to put together a quote or special pricing.  STOP! Don’t run off to purchasing or your manager just yet! Right now, this is a perfect opportunity to close by asking the customer for a commitment.

You might say, “If we put together this special pricing, what will your next steps be?”  OR

“Assuming that we are able to do what you ask, will you go ahead and switch to us as your main supplier?” 

This is extremely important for two reasons.  First, it mentally commits the customer to you.  It is very difficult for customers to back down after they have made this type of commitment.

Secondly, it will clear up any misunderstanding or missed intentions that will save you and your purchasing department or your management from wasting time.

When you’ve uncovered a need – you can simply ask a question like,

“If we can take care of that concern, you’ll want to go ahead with this, right?”

Over 18 years of research and competency modeling with over 4,500 top performers has shown again and again what top sales people think about and do:

  • Top salespeople realize they get paid for every NO.

(Some sales professionals even pay themselves for each NO.)

  • There are fears of closing both from the buyer and seller (yes, you!) perspective.  Knowing your sales numbers helps to alleviate these. (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Don’t change voice modulation when closing the sale.
  • That you should lean forward before asking for a commitment.
  • To eliminate words that make customers feel uncomfortable (Check out my next blog for dealing with buyer and seller fears!)
  • Pepper statements with glamour words to create interest.
  • Simply acting on buying signs will close the majority of sales.

Closing signs that your customers may demonstrate include:  When the buyer leans forward, or when the buyer asks specific questions, or your customer gives you a verbal or visual acceptance signs (such as asking you to explain something again, or nodding in agreement).

And finally, here are some Facts About Closing: Can you Fill In the Correct Answers?

Use these percentages:   10%    80%      52%      80%      50%

v             % of all sales are closed after the fifth closing attempt.

v             % of all sales calls end without the salesperson trying to close once.

v             % of all purchases from a new supplier take place after the fifth call.

v    Only        % of salespeople make more than five calls on a given prospect.

v    More than          % of salespeople make only one call & then give up.

If you are interested in the answers, Click Here! 

You will be surprised!

CRM Systems – Friend or Foe? How to be prepared if you get hit by a bus

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Sometimes sales and service blend in with each other and it’s hard to determine where sales ends and service starts, or the other way around. In an ideal world, every service situation should be a sales opportunity and every sales situation should be an opportunity to provide stellar service but we all know that the reality doesn’t always reflect that.

Keeping track of your CRM system is key to developing new clients but also crucially important when staying in touch with your existing customers. Bad database management can not only lead to lost opportunities it can irritate and annoy customers.

The other week I got a solicitation letter from the bank that holds my mortgage offering to lower my interest rate. Usually, I throw these letters right where they belong – in the garbage. But this was a different case. I’ve been their customer for years and they own my mortgage, so I was intrigued. They should know my account, they certainly know my payment history, they have all my data and information with the exception of my blood-type and my firstborn, so an offer to lower the rate of my existing mortgage has to be real, you’d think, wouldn’t you?

When I called in, the very friendly customer service representative asked me all the questions to verify that I was really the person who I said I was, and that is totally legitimate. What was not cool was the fact that there was no pre-qualification, no initial check that was done to put me on the fast track. It was almost like calling a company that solicited me based on my address, or my credit rating or any other criteria that is publicly available. In essence, it was a cold inquiry call from my end, although I was invited to call in. In my opinion, this was really unacceptable given the fact that I am a customer of theirs.

I mean, come on. You are Bank of … and for the last five years I have been paying my mortgage to you after  refinancing  to take advantage of low interest rates. So, you should know everything about me and only send me letters with offers if they are actually real and to my advantage.

In the end it turned out that re-financing wouldn’t make any sense at all and I would actually not only NOT save any money, but it would cost me thousands more! This was not only disappointing but very annoying because I had just lost 30 minutes of my time and it left me with an unwanted inquiry on my credit report.

That is what I mean by bad database management. If you solicit existing clients you need to make sure that you tap into all the information that sits right there in your database. I would expect that and so should everybody else.

But here comes the “adding insult to injury” part. The other day I got another letter that was the same content as the original one I had received a couple of weeks ago. Not only couldn’t Bank of … deliver on their offer, they then proceeded to NOT mark their database which resulted in me receiving more letters.

Database management is key to a company’s health and growth. Keeping a clean database and segmenting it so it works to your advantage is an art as much as it is science. Sloppy set-up and spotty record keeping will eventually lead to lost sales opportunities (how do you know when to follow up with whom) and it will leave existing customers/clients disgruntled when they receive offers that treat you like you weren’t a customer to begin with.

It’s just bad business and reflects poorly on your overall brand and image. So, here are my little drops of wisdom. Take the time and set up and manage your CRM as if your business depends on it (actually it kind of does!). And if you can’t, and no one else in your organization can handle that professionally, then spend the money to hire an outside expert to assist you. It’s well worth the investment, and your ROI will astonish you!

5 Steps to Keep Control of the Sale

Posted on: July 9th, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

Buying or leasing a car is an emotional decision. At least for me it is and listening to most of my friends it feels like it’s similar for them. Yes, you are buying a product but you are also making a decision as part of an experience. Not only the driving experience, but the way you feel in the car, the way people perceive you in that car, how practical it is and the list goes on.

So, when I walked into a Toyota dealership the other week looking at some models that could compare to the VW Jetta that I was currently driving, I was almost “sold” on the idea that the RAV4 could make sense to me. I was over on my mileage allowance with my Jetta and the new model doesn’t come with a built-in navigation system. My husband had gone to the dealership the day before to see if we could get a good deal trading in our Jetta and I felt that it was a good idea to make that move. Everything made sense and I was prepared to give up my European car, which is a “biggie” to me, to save some money and to get my navigation system that I so desperately need to not end up lost in a dark alley somewhere.

So, what happened that I didn’t buy the Toyota, but instead, decided to go with another Jetta? It was mainly the whole sales & customer service experience. You could say I just simply didn’t feel the love. But there are five important steps in the consultative sales process that were missing in this situation (not necessarily in this order).

1) Understand & Acknowledge Who the Buyer Is (and Understand Who the Influencers Are)

The sales person never looked at me, only addressed my husband although we had told her on numerous occasions that it was my car, and I was the buyer. Even when buying a car there are influencers (my dog, for example, and I took him along to make sure the car wasn’t too high for him – don’t judge me – LOL!). In this case, I was the Economic Buyer. It was my car therefore I was the final decision-maker.

2) Listen to Your Customer’s Needs

When I test drove the car the sales person pointed out how great the model was and that it’s literally flying out of the showroom, because it’s so extraordinarily popular and in such high demand. She never asked me if I liked the way it drove (I didn’t). In fact, she never even asked me one question – assuming that this “great” model would sell itself.

3) Manage Expectations

Under-Promise and Over-Deliver – a good motto to have.  It turned out that their initial calculations were off. The trade-in turned out to be far less attractive financially the day we showed up at the dealership than they had calculated the day before. A big negative for me as I was truly looking to find an economically sensible solution.

4) Stay in Control of the Sale

And most importantly, she let me leave the dealership to go home and think about it. Once I went home and reflected on the experience, I really started missing my Jetta (although it was still sitting in my garage). I couldn’t bear the thought of giving it up. Quite unexpectedly, it didn’t bother me anymore that there was no factory-installed GPS system.  I also realized that I could use my large screen Smartphone instead. And finally, I didn’t feel valued during the entire process and it reflected on how I felt about the car. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the whole idea of switching.

5) Create Value

Had the sales person addressed me (instead of my husband) and asked me questions about my needs, focusing on the fact that the Toyota offered navigation, a feature I couldn’t get with the new Jetta, and had the numbers not changed to my disadvantage, maybe I would have signed right then and there. I would have felt understood and valued. But she didn’t do any if the above. She didn’t seem to care about my needs. She only focused on other features of the car that didn’t speak to my needs and once I walked out of the dealership the sale was lost.

We have a segment in our Consultative Sales Certified Training Program that showcases an example similar to what occurred, but it wasn’t until I experienced it myself that I realized that even cars don’t sell themselves.

Consultative Selling Puts the Buyer in the Driver’s Seat

A comprehensive consultative sales approach truly helps sales people guide the customer/client through the sale to their final purchasing decision. Consultative sales people don’t push features – they identify needs and create a solution that is of value to that particular prospect/client. Buyers working with committed consultative sales professionals will never feel “sold to”. They know they’ll have made a decision that works for them. And surprisingly enough, consultative selling isn’t only necessary when you sell a service, but obviously also when you sell a product.

5 Tips on how to prospect wisely

Posted on: June 12th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

Most organizations want to prospect Fortune 1000 companies. While tempting, it can be a bit like boiling the ocean. After all, there are 1000 companies on the list and the big question is always how to prioritize. While many companies listed on the Fortune list are desirable prospects, some may not be and it’s really important to understand that, otherwise your sales people will end up dialing for dollars, which is time consuming and costly.

Here are some insights that might help you and your team prospect more effectively.

1) Understand who you want to target

A consultative sales approach starts with understanding who your target audience is and it might turn out that your ideal client is not necessarily on the Fortune list. For example, if you develop a niche offering your prospect could be small business owners or mid-size companies in a specific region or industry.

2) Develop a message that resonates with your audience

Once you identified your ideal client profile, you need a message that resonates. Put yourself into your prospect’s shoes and try to find out why you would want to buy the service/product. Talk about industry trends, such as mobile technology if it’s relevant to your service offering so you help your prospect be relevant.

3) Identify the decision maker

You need to talk to the right people within the organization, otherwise your message will not be heard. If you have an offering that features cost savings, target the CFO. Develop a unique selling proposition that highlights the benefits of your service/product by telling a story to your prospects that is relevant to their daily responsibilities.

4) Don’t talk about your company background service features

People are not interested in how good your service offering is, they only care what it can do for them. Focus on the benefits and avoid the temptation to brag. Everybody thinks they have the best offering. What counts is whether it’s a fit or not.

5) Look for a fit

Not everybody will get excited about your story and that’s OK. If you do your research and you take the steps outlined above, you will find the individuals in the companies that fit your ideal prospect profile. Sometimes you will get a “no” or a “not now”, but more importantly while you are having those conversations you will be able to gather market research to strengthen and sharpen your message.

In a nutshell, don’t try to boil the ocean. Be targeted in your approach. Find the appropriate person within the organization and sharpen your message so it’s attractive to the buyer. Don’t embellish and don’t pitch. Tell a compelling story and look for a fit.

Story-Telling & Sales

Posted on: May 9th, 2013 by Monika 1 Comment

How story-telling can enhance the sales process

In a consultative B2B environment we are often faced with a formidable situation when we are selling the invisible. There is no physical product we can showcase when we are prospecting on the phone and we are challenged to connect with a prospect in a short period of time. Telling stories and sharing best practices gives us an opportunity to communicate a business objective in a fashion where people can relate.

Once upon a time… From a very early age on I was fascinated by fairy tales and stories. As a grown-up I’ve come to appreciate how Story-Telling can be an essential benefit in a consultative sales environment. My experience has shown how it helps you connect with your prospects. And it is a great way to add value rather than pushing a feature or a benefit.

Remember 1,001 Arabian Nights?

When I was a kid I loved the idea of people gathering in a tent or square and listening to stories. Still to this day I remember my family’s dinner parties best where people were telling stories, sharing, laughing, showing compassion or just simply cracking a joke. As children growing up, it’s fairy tales and stories that help shape our thinking. They trigger our imagination and fuel our creativity. As adults, it’s not that different. We are always drawn to stories that we can relate to.

When I started out in sales, I had come from a public relations/marketing background with no credentials in sales so I decided to do what I liked best – listening to stories. I researched case studies and told my prospects about the success that other companies had when using our service. It worked!

Why?

Because people like to listen to stories that they can relate to themselves. Product features or benefits are boring to many people unless they can directly establish a use for them to their advantage. Nobody wants to listen to you bragging about your company, your service, how good you are, etc. What people are interested in is what your service can do for them and how it will help their business.

If you don’t have something to show, share a story

In a B2B environment you often don’t have a product to show and you need to rely on a verbal presentation and anecdotes to get people interested. This is especially true when you first engage with a prospect unless they know your company and service. The key question is “What value does the service or solution you offer provide to your clients?”

What better way to explain than sharing success stories?!

Why is it easier to sell a story than a product or service?

Rather than selling a service, focus on the value it brings to the client and the human experience. Instead of selling a service that is “better”, offer a solution that, for example, helps increase efficiencies, saves money or helps your client make money. Especially in a consultative sales environment, once we are able to tap into somebody’s emotion, and understand what triggers their interest and what their needs are, it’s a lot easier to connect. Never forget that it is human beings you are targeting. Although you are trying to sell them something, you are also an advisor, a consultant in the true sense, a resource to help them make the right decision. The right decision for your prospect or client will be the right decision for you as well.

When telling stories, it is important that you own those stories and make them yours. Be personal, just like at a dinner conversation. But first, listen to your prospects, find out what their real needs and pain points are, and then choose a case study/story that you think will resonate with their needs. I can assure you that your prospects will listen.