Archive for May, 2010

Value is the Determining Factor to Increase Sales

The ability to increase sales during challenging economic times is very difficult. Yet when you understand what your  potential customers value and the expectations driving that value, you may have more sales success.

People are the for most part willing to pay more when their expectations are exceeded.  When sellers (that is you) increase the gap between desired expectations and delivered expectations this will determine the value actually received by your customers.

One national restaurant chain is using this concept in Missouri. Panera Bread will be opening a new facility in conjunction with a not for profit using a Pay What You Can. This restaurant will not have a cash register. People will pay based upon the value delivered.

Allowing your customers, clients, patrons or donors to determine the value they received is very risky. However, I believe the end result is far greater because you are building an incredible customer experience because the onus is one you, as the buyer, to deliver what you say you will.

Today, my colleague Theresa Valade of Success Trek and I delivered a public business development learning engagement within the umbrella of Pay What You Can Afford Workshops. The first workshop focused on Internet marketing Increase Traffic Increase Profits.

Results of this innovative training and development approach delivered us greater revenue than had we taken the traditional approach. Later workshops will focus on other issues facing businesses from employees’ productivity to improving cash flow.

Much is written about value selling from consultative selling to relationship selling. The goal, no matter the specific sales training model, is all about how to demonstrate value.  And the better you can do that as a salesperson the greater success you will have not only building customer loyalty, but realizing your goal to increase sales.

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Proof (Sales Results) Is in the Pudding

In one of my past online business column I wrote about dishonest businesses who market web design that is search engine friendly or search engine optimization and really is just the opposite. This is truly a case of buyer beware. I would like to expand this concept in this posting.

Now let me ask you ask you a couple of questions:

  • Would you buy a “proven” diet pill without any reservations from a fat person?
  • Would you buy a Toyota without any reservations when the CEO of Toyota drives a German car?

Most people would answer these questions with a fairly strong NO. The probable reason why you would not buy has far less to do with the product than it has to do with the person selling the product.

People buy from people they know and trust.  When there is a disconnect between the product or service and the salesperson, this creates an objection, a very strong one.  In sales, the last thing you want are objections.

Recently I gave a presentation to a group of 8 local town, city and county governments on continuous process improvement,  customer service, productivity and performance assessments. Being fairly creative I was able to link everything together. I shared with them one way to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars with this one piece of advice. Do not send your people to a one day training event.

The reason is people remember after 2 weeks about 2% because there is no opportunity for practice and therefore memory retention. Afterwords I receive several positive comments and thank yous for this very valuable piece of information. One person expressed surprise that I was actually limiting my income because so many training professionals  deliver one day workshops.

Tomorrow, May 20, 2010 I will be testing the Proof Pudding once again through an innovative approach to public workshops with the concept of Pay What You Can Afford. This first workshop is on Internet Marketing – Increase Traffic; Increase Profits and is a direct outcome of seeing how many businesses have been taken advantage of by marketing firms who fail to deliver results specific to search engine optimization (SEO).

In future postings, I will share what I have learned from this new twist on education based marketing,  selling and sales training. My sense is if you provide value through great education that can be immediately applied and allow your customers to determine that value specific to them, you will receive more money.

Bottom line it is all about results and how do you measure the value of those results specific to your role, your business and your own value system.

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Top Sales Performers Avoid Only Fools Rush In

Yesterday, I had an interesting experience which once again confirmed to me that top sales performers are few and far between. I received another one of those let us catapult your website to outer space email blasts. So just for snicks I checked out this site and between its Alexa.com and Compete.com data, my site was getting more traffic.

I then placed a call to them to have my email address removed as I had never subscribed to their site. (There was no unsubscribe in the email. Second mail in the coffin.) This company had harvested my email address and had me already quite suspicious of their ethics and beliefs Of course, there was not a real person available no matter what extension I hit so I did not leave an email.

About 30 minutes later a man called, identified himself and then I made the request about removing my email address from their database.  We had a brief talk and then he asked me what I do? Before I answered his question, I asked him since he had already sent me an email, didn’t he already  know what I did?  His response was no and that did not matter because they received all their business from emails.

Then when he learned that I had some basic Internet marketing knowledge, he hung up on me.  Never once during the conversation was I rude or impolite. Actually my curiosity had the best of me because I truly wanted to learn how a company sold using only poorly targeted emails.

I realized the reason this company does all their business via email is because they are totally clueless as to how to really sell and there were a lot of fools rushing in. Besides having claims that were beyond validation, this individual was all about sales or product based marketing.

Email blasts when combined with some other marketing activities can be affective. However top sales performers do not rely only on email blasts.  They invest the time to do their research so that they are not viewed as fools rushing in.

The lesson learned to this posting beyond allowing me the opportunity to vent just a little is if you truly wish to increase sales, take the time to know what your potential customers do. Even if you purchased a list, research the company before you make that first contact because the last thing you want is having someone about what a fool you made of yourself.

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A Tale of Two Salespersons

A recent family discussion about high school grades, advanced placement classes reminded me of the novel A Tale of Two Cities that was written over a 150 years ago. The first paragraph in the first chapter starts it was the best of times, it was the worse of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…

Now someone might ask what does this have to do with sales or selling? And that question is valid.

In today’s economy great sales people are still hitting their sales goals, but many still are not. For them it is the worse of times. So what is the difference between Super Sales Performers and not so super ones?

Let us consider two professional sales people with the same high positive core values, roughly the same selling skills and levels of experience. The only difference is one exceeds sales goals and one does not increase sales.

It is my belief (I may be wrong) the main separation is their own beliefs. If if they believe it is indeed the worse of times, their results will reflect that belief.

After listening to a family discussion about how students who sought advanced placement classes to earn 5 points for an A on a 4 point grading scale created a field of unfairness for those who did not seek those AP classes thus pushing down their class rank, I realized how true those first few words are not only in high school, but in life. And the end result is those who choose not to take the AP classes by having louder and larger voices ended up changing the playing field. They pulled down the high performers so they can improve their class rank. In other words, they can change the best of time to the worst of times.

Sales or selling is still probably one of the best representations of measurable work performance within the economy. Unfortunately there are many in business who accept less than desirable performance and this creates additional problems. When non-performers continue, their behaviors may affect the rest of the team in usually a negative way meaning sales do not increase as demonstrated in the previous paragraph.

Today more than ever having a strong belief in one’s own abilities, the discipline to make it so to quote Captain Picard  (one of my favorite leadership characters) and the resiliency to keep going when the going gets tough can probably be found in those super sales performers.  So the question is “If I am not making my sales goals, what is the real problem?”  The answer to that question is your first step to changing your results.

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I Hate to Sell Is a Marketing Psychographic, But Can Backfire

I hate to sell is a belief, attitude or thought held by some if not many within the business world. This helps to explain all those titles of business development that have replaced “salesmen” or “saleswomen.”

Today  I received another one of those email blasts to attend a free or in some cases not so free teleconference or webinar and it started:

“Let me guess:  you hate selling.”

My immediate reaction was “Heck No!” (Yes I did clean up my first thought).  Then I realized this was a psychographic for many because some people actually do dislike selling. Of course I cannot understand why they opened their businesses, but that is another topic for another day.

A psychographic is the why or as my colleague Jay Niblick of Innermetrix recently stated during a workshop it could be viewed as the “Power Source.” What is powering up, energizing, fueling the need?  This is all about the why should I buy.

Returning to the email, in my case this was not one of my pyschographics and literally turned me against the email. I did read the rest of the email from an education or learning perspective.  What the sender of the email was attempting to do was connect sales success or specific sales skills with self confidence.

His webinar was going to help the respondent in just 60 minutes learn 7 major objectives.  After reading the learning objectives I realized this was a very intense hard sell using the soft sell of a webinar to buy into their coaching program.

How did I know this?  Just think about it. Sixty minutes less 5 minutes for introductions and 5 minutes for wrap-up leaves you 50 minutes divided by seven gives you about seven minutes for each learning objective. Not very much time is it?

Seminars like these are designed to be specifically broad enough to increase your desire to learn more and of course you will pay for that knowledge. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Save thousands of dollars by not sending your sales team to a one day seminar or workshop because in 2 weeks they will remember just 2%!

The other possible backlash from misused psychographics is using the Internet to check out your firm. Even though this email did not have a  URL there was enough information to find the website. What I learned is this site gets more visitors than this expert who claimed in his email of securing 100 coaching clients annually. This claim could also backfire.

For example, I usually get anywhere between 8-15 new clients each month who purchase my sales coaching tools to help them increase sales to improve both professional and personal results not to mention those who buy my book be the Red Jacket.  As the old expression goes, figures do not lie, but liars figure.

What might have been better is to write “our average client value is $3,000 and we secure 9 new clients each month.” In this why the pyschographic of “I hate to sell” has been linked to specific dollars that have been linked to specific learning objectives.

Using psychographics is a great way to attract attention, but misusing them can backfire. Just be careful so you are attracting positive, not negative attention because bottom line is you want your potential customers to exchange their hard earn dollars or profits for your goods or services.

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To Tweet, ReTweet or Not Tweet

Twitter is a popular social media site. Just received this article sharing some interesting social media statistics specific to the end users in Twitter.

Bottom line is that Twitter is a powerful fast distribution vehicle for getting your marketing message out. Your Tweet goes beyond your followers. However given that most messages (Tweets) are one way, you must truly add value if you want your message to be re-tweeted.

By taking the time to do your research, you can leverage this very fast marketing distribution media vehicle.  In this way you can go beyond the popular quotes to actually educating your target audience with your tweets. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  When you educate your potential target audience, this is called Education Based Marketing.  These actions will help to solidify you as the guru, expert, the go to person and you will be the Red Jacket in a sea of gray “tweets.”

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Sales Skills – What Does It Take for Sales Success?

What sales skills are necessary for sales success or if you prefer what makes a sales superstar? These two questions have been making the rounds recently between LinkedIn Discussion Groups as well as known sales blogs. Today, I received my weekly newsletter from Jeff Gitomer who discussed a survey specific to sales skills.

My sense is there a confusion between marketing, selling and soft skills within the overall sales process.  This confusion leads to different sorting of what makes a great salesperson or sales superstar. So would it not make sense to align the skills to the sales process?

If people buy from people they know and trust, then it would make sense that interpersonal, self-leadership people or soft skills would be top of the list. Even better, my sense is those who consistently demonstrate high, positive core values receive over the long haul far more earned commitments than those with less than honorable behaviors. And having a positive attitude by truly knowing and understanding yourself can only help you become better at what you do.

So my first three choices would be:

  1. Self-Leadership skills also known as people, interpersonal or soft skills
  2. High positive core values that have been written into a values statement
  3. Positive attitude based upon knowing individual talents, decision making style and internal motivators

Then looking at the sales process, marketing is the first phase.  If your products or services are not known, your sales will reflect that knowledge. With the marketplace very crowed, creativity is no longer an option, but a necessity. Additionally with so many sales leads being left to whither on the vine, this suggests discipline is also required. Finally, being an active listener is also very important in this phase as well as the selling phase. The next 3 choices are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Discipline
  3. Active Listening (this is a self-leadership skill)

Selling is the second phase of the sales process. Here is where these three technical skills are very much in evidence:

  1. Value determination and articulation by doing the required research and then by asking questions ignored by others
  2. Presentation based upon product and potential client knowledge
  3. Earning the sale which may just be becoming quiet and waiting for the client to make a decision

Every salesperson brings a unique set of experiences and skills to the table.  How they integrate these skills into every interaction is what makes them different from their competitors and allows them to be the Red Jacket.  Your goal is to be authentic first, knowledgeable second and technically savvy third.  Invest the time to understand your own skill sets. By taking this action, you just may increase sales.

P.S. You may find the free sales skill assessment to the right of this column of value.

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Customer Experience is Core Being Customer Centric

Repeat customers who rave about your products or services (a.k.a. customer loyalty) is the pot of gold for any business.  However, far too many people fail to understand how to articulate the desired results and hence may initiate  strategies and tactics that fail to achieve those unclear results.

Take for instance customer loyalty. Much as been written about it and most of it is from the outside, the views of the business. What would happen if businesses would change their perspective and view if from the inside? Of course some would answer we do and yet I am not convinced given the consistent data about poor customer retention where most businesses lose 50% of their customers within 3 years.

A posting entitled Making Customer Loyalty Real referred to some earlier research in 1999 of global manufacturers conducted  by Deloitte. What is interesting to note is beyond the ability to adapt quicker to customer demands is a philosophy of attracting profitable customers and retaining them forever.This creates an almost self fulfilling loyalty prophecy.

To take such action means to leave product centered manufacturing approach and embrace a customer centric one.  Ford with its new cars are gearing to the needs of the younger generations through all the software applications such as IPod. Additionally, Start, one of Ford’s new concept cars is totally designed with the needs of the urban consumer. Do not presume by the name this is a low price entry car for it is not.

Bottom line this is being customer centric is about creating an incredible customer experience at all points of connection. However in many cases there are breaks or gaps in those connections which affect long term customer retention. One way to determine those gaps is to take a customer experience walk about your business both externally and internally. This walk answers this simple question – Are we easy to do business with? – or in other words what was the actual customer experience.  To do this requires using all five  senses sight, touch, hearing, tasting and  smelling. Additionally, incorporating the sense of feeling is also necessary.

When the experience is exceptional for truly qualified customers and existing ones, then you probably are a business that is customer centric. This will translate into higher profits because you have a lot more loyal raving fans who eagerly take action to  share their experiences with others.

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What Is Your Market Share of the Market Size?

So what is your market share or how much of the pie is on your plate?  To answer this question requires you to know your market size.  I realized how quickly the market is growing and how truly small my market share is given that 234 million people age 13 and older are mobile subscribers according to a report released by comScore. What is even more astounding is in March of 2010 almost 64% of these users sent a text message to another phone. (I am not a text sender even though many of my colleagues are.)

What this data suggests is that savvy small business owners to single office/home office to sales professionals can no longer engage in Captain Wing It by spraying and praying their actions all over the place with the hope that something will stick.  The reason is simple is because most of their competitors are doing the same thing with the same results. Your message is quickly being covered by someone else’s message.  Now is the time to stand out, to be the Red Jacket.

To stand out does require not only a written action plan, but patience because in marketing slow and steady wins the race.  For the last five years, I have engaged in education based marketing instead of product or sales based marketing. My focus is on to educate prospects or what I prefer to call potential clients or customers. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Change your words, change your results.

Now five years later, I have made a small dent (very small dent) as someone who is knowledgeable about business and overall continuous improvement. Between this sales blog along with being an established author at EzineArticles, Evan Carmichael, The Examiner weekly business columnist and a blogger at Sales Bloggers Union and Sales Gravy,  I continue to educate. This approach has people calling me instead of me calling them. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Having your potential clients pull you to them by their actions of calling or sending an email or even a test message is a much easier way to approach selling than having to push them into buying.

Marketing is an ongoing process and never ending because market size continues to grow. Think McDonalds.  Most people, at least in the U.S., know about this fast food mega giant.  When this business started years ago, they were the first to engage in this particular type of resturant or food service. Over the years, others have joined the market, some locally, regionally as well as nationally. McDonalds continues to market through Billboards and paid advertising. They understand no matter how large they are they must continue to market.

By investing the time to actually determine your potential market size and then what percentage of that size you want for your business (market share) will help you focus on what you need to do to actually increase sales. Without this knowledge you will be the Captain of a rudderless ship being tossed by this wave or that gust of wind.

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How Quickly Lack of Ethics Surfaces at Business Networking Events

Business networking events generate a lot of first time marketing opportunities. These events range from the simple chamber luncheons to the more formalized trade shows to even sales training workshops  seminars.

Yet these opportunities to meet and greet showcase the basic values of those involved. A recent post by Kevin Callahan addressed how some less than ethical salespersons to small business owners see business networking as a one way street. These folks could care less about you, but truly only want to either sell you or use your extensive contact list for more potential sales. Kevin does share his values by this question: How can I help you? Sales Training Coaching Tip: I, too, have found this a great question to learn about others.

Social media is another place where this appears to be happening.  From folks using LinkedIn discussions to either soft sell or hard sell their products or services to direct messages where again the goal is not to know about you, but is rather all about them. And what is even sadder, some of these folks are truly clueless about their behaviors.

The sales process combines both marketing skills and selling skills.  In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, it is critical to distinguish yourself from everyone else.  The demonstration of key positive core values is a must if you truly want to stand out in the crowd and as I often have said or written in be the Red Jacket in the sea of gray suits.

One final closing thought. People buy from people they know and trust. Ask yourself or better yet ask someone who will be honest with you this question:  Are my business networking behaviors demonstrating that I am a trustworthy individual with positive core business ethics and values?

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