sales

Acquiring And Managing Lead for Your Business

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The process of gaining new customers can be summed up in two steps - ‘getting leads’ and ‘converting leads to customers’. Although the first step is the responsibility of marketing and the second is the responsibility of the sales function, the two have to work together to optimize their effectiveness.

Generating the leads themselves is always the first task of any successful marketing exercise. Leads can be purchased, as in buying a mailing list of prospects, but gaining your own isn’t difficult. Just know that you should be prepared to use a variety of ways to attract qualified prospects rather than depending on just one source.

Promote yourself and manage inquiries – Think about how some companies are always announcing the results of a market study or survey. They get a lot of airtime and press space and are perceived as being experts in their area of operations. You can conduct your own survey and publicise the results, becoming an ‘instant expert’ in your own industry.

Team up with an affiliate – Find a business that’s not a direct competitor but whose customer base represents a list of good prospects for your own firm. Exchange mailing lists or do a joint promotion to both groups of customers and create a campaign that specifically targets them.

Create articles for other companies’ newsletters and websites – If you can come up with something really interesting that others will publish it’s like gaining their recommendation for your business. There are literally thousands of newsletters and websites that are happy to receive high quality, useful content for their readers.

Do your research - media like daily newspapers, Internet blogs, newsgroups and websites where people can post queries are great places to look for people who might be interested in your products. They’re also good sources of business intelligence about developments in the marketplace that might provide opportunities to open up new markets for your products or services.

Get out and be seen – Trade shows and exhibitions are surprisingly undervalued, but mainly because so many exhibitors aren’t good at following up the leads they get from them. They’re always a good way to meet seriously interested prospects, especially for B2B marketers.

Regardless of how they’re acquired, one of the most critical areas in any business is managing the leads that come in. Unfortunately, because a lot of good leads don’t respond immediately to sales efforts they aren’t pursued long enough, even though in time they may have become customers.

One way to cope with this situation is to create a follow up system that will automatically contact leads at designated intervals, perhaps by email or by sending them a piece of print material created to reflect their area of interest.  If all leads are followed up for a set period of time it keeps them ‘warm’ until the sales process finally closes them.

This type of follow up is especially useful for leads gained at large scale events like trade shows. The process can commence immediately after the event and then be maintained by some form of contact on a regular basis – perhaps weekly or bi-monthly.

To begin designing such a follow up system go back over your previous sales records and answer these questions:

1.    How many contacts did it take before a sale resulted?

2.    What was the frequency of contact with those customers where the sale was finally closed?

3.   What kind of contact method proved the most effective?

4.   How long did it take before the lead was converted to a customer?

5.   What percentage of leads became customers?

This information will guide you in creating the system so that you can determine such aspects as the type and frequency of contact and what kind of results you should expect.

Gaining leads and then following them up are all part of the overall job of staying in business. Get the two working together and you’ll have a much better chance of success than if you let them function independently.

How Negotiation Skills Can Improve Your Sales Results and Your Career Opportunities

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I recently had one of my class participants reach out to me and share the results he was able to achieve, shortly after attending our Negotiation Skills Workshop. Though this wasn't the first time I'd heard back from a participant who'd achieved significant results from the training, this time was different, because it showed how a little creativity, on the part of the participant, can turn simple principles and strategies into a world of opportunity.

Here's his story, if you'd like to hear it first hand.

The bottom line is this: When you know how to negotiate effectively, in any given situation, you can create, unstick and even improve opportunities for yourself, your company, your customers and anyone else with whom you have the privilege of negotiating.'

This gentlemen who reached out to me was able to close his first million dollar plus sales with a large account, as an account executive, and then turn around in less than a moth after, and land his ideal professional role as a VP of Business Development.

So, how did he do it, exactly?

  1. He focused on reaching a mutually beneficial outcome for his customer, then his new employer and, in both instances, for himself.
  2. He engaged both, his customer, and then his new prospective employer, in creating value based solutions that did NOT exist in past interactions and discussions.
  3. He let go of, and set aside his own agenda, in both scenarios, to focus on and fight for the other parties' outcomes, over his own.

As simple as it sounds, this is the very formula he followed to make extraordinary strides very shortly after attending the training.

If you'd like to learn more about what I taught this AE turned VP, to help him secure tremendous opportunities in his career, I've put together some free training that will help you get measurable results, immediately. You can request that complimentary training here.

 

How to Sell Without Spending Money

For those of you who sell in an industry where expense accounts and war chests are the norm, and you’ve been led to believe the only way to gain access and/or actually have a sales conversation with your customer/prospect, this will be a breath of fresh air for you.

The reality of the situation is you don’t need money to gain access or have a meaningful sales conversation with your prospects/customer, at least not as much as you and your competitors are currently accustomed to spending.

I can already hear folks in the industrial sales, oilfield service and pharmaceutical sales profession screaming “bullshit” at me for even suggesting such blasphemy.

Just hang in here with me and consider the following . . .

When I started in the pharmaceutical industry, I did so at a time when doctors and pharmaceutical reps were both accustomed to lavish gifts, trips, dinners, lunches, etc. However, I entered the industry the exact month that all came to a screeching halt.

That month, something called "PhRMA code" was past and it eliminated the gift giving, golf games, fishing trips, the infamous "dine-n-dash" and lavish dinners for physicians and their spouses. The only perk left was office lunches and dinner programs lead by a peer speaker. However, I still faced a significant challenge.

The company I just signed on to sell for was a small “entrepreneurial” company. Translation: There would be absolutely no budget for said office lunches and/or dinner programs. That’s right, I was going to be required to actually sell. Sell my way in, sell the doctor on giving me some time, sell the doctor on the fact that I had no budget, and sell the doctor to prescribe a medication he’d never heard of, that was not even on the pharmacy shelf, and that I had no scientific proof that my drug was legit, much less safe.

To put the icing on the cake, I was selling repackaged Benadryl (for the most part) and all I had to work with was my smiling face, a sketchy looking sample, and a two sided marketing piece that was barely up to professional standards.

The result? Well, thanks to the very best sales training and leadership support I’ve ever received (before and sense), and a relentless work ethic fueled by the fear of failure, I took a territory that had never performed well, and transformed it into a top 6 territory that earned the respect of the CEO, upper management, and my colleagues.

I don’t share this to impress you, but to impress upon you that if I can sell repackaged Benadryl to a bunch of highly education, science-minded physicians, without any substantial evidence to support my claims, and without a penny to throw at my efforts, you can do extraordinary things with little to no budget, and the incredible products/services you represent. Here’s how I did it, and how you can too . . .

[By the way, that product I sold and the company I worked for were both first class all the way.  Like I said, they were entrepreneurial, and they chose to approach the market in a very strategic and intentional way. I owe a great deal of my professional and entrepreneurial success to the training and development I received from them. For that I am eternally grateful.]

1.     Invest wisely. If you have any money to spend, spend it on food. It took a while for one of my managers convince me of this, but since she did, I've seen it time and again first hand: faster and stronger bonds are formed when people break bread together.  If you don’t have a budget for meals, spend any time you get with your customer focused on building the relationship. When people feel like they know you as a human being and they connect with you on an emotional level subconsciously, all of a sudden the standard access and time rules don’t apply to you.

2.     Set expectations up front. Once you have broken bread together, or you have invested the initial time together building the relationship, let them know what you can and can not do with regards to your budget. Some will respectfully point you in another direction, but the ones you’ll ultimately be able to move the needle with will respect your limitations.

Be up front, be honest, and don’t be afraid to set those expectations. After all, it is sales professionals who have conditioned the customers to expect what they currently expect. There’s no reason you cannot recondition your customer.

3.     Prioritize your territory. Once you’ve had the conversation and set the expectations with all of your prospects and customers, you’ll then have a pretty good idea who you can influence, who you can’t, and who may take the greatest investment of time. Make a list of all your customers/prospects, and label them A, B and C. Discard any whom you have learned that will be no access due to your lack of funds.

4.     Increase your activity. Decide where you can invest more of your time now that you’ve reprioritized and eliminated. Who do you need to see once a week, bi-weekly, once a month, etc. Invest your time in the following manner: 70% on A targets, 20% on B targets and 10% on your C targets.

5.     Ask for the business. Every single time you’re in front of your customer, above all things, add value. But once you have added value, always ask for the business. The business might not be the sale, per se, but there’s always a next step. Ask for that. Every single time!

Consistently apply these five things to your current sales process and you'll be amazed at the growth in your business in the next 3-6 months.

How to Negotiate as a Sales Professional to Influence a Win-Win Outcome

As a sales professional,  you may be tempted to believe that you have no influence or power when negotiating with a customer. In fact, many sales professionals I work with during my strategic work sessions and seminars don't even realize they are "negotiating" in the first place.

The truth is, you are negotiating every single time you have a conversation with your customer and, more importantly, you have a tremendous amount of power to influence the outcomes of those negotiations. I'll explain . . .

Though the customer does bring the power and influence of the final decision and the checkbook to the table, you and your company bring something to the table that the customer cannot do by herself. Otherwise, you wouldn't be having the conversation in the first place.

You bring an outside perspective, data, research, superior products/services/strategies/ideas and proven strategies to apply your solutions they do not have, that can help them solve their most expensive and pervasive problems. But first, you have to understand what those expensive and pervasive problems are, and you have to prove to them you can solve them.

Here's how to wield your power and influence to facilitate a mutually beneficial outcome for the customer, your company and yourself as a sales professional:

1. Make a Value List. Based on the research you've done, and the conversations you've had with the customer, what is it that you perceive they value, need or want to feel like doing business with you is the right decision? What are 5-10 items you could give to them to add value to them, and help them achieve the outcomes they desire? Likewise, what are 5-10 you could ask for, in return, to be able to achieve the outcomes you and your company desire?

Make an actual list and have it with you during your next conversation with the customer. The purpose of the list is not to give all or ask for all on your list, it's to encourage creative give-and-take, and solution creation between you and the customer.

Enter a "What if?" Conversation. Now, take your list and start a non-committal, hypothetical exchange based on the list in front of you. "Mr. Smith, suppose we were to offer x?", "Would you consider . . .?" "How would you feel if . . ." Basically what you're doing here is testing the waters without raising sales resistance. You're just feeling your customer out to see which of the items on your list may or may not have merit. You're not promising anything, and the customer isn't committing to anything (yet).

2. Ask the Most Important Question. The most significant and important question you can ask your customer, to understand what they truly value, is some version of "what do you want?" How you ask this question is going to depend strongly on the relationship you have. The bottom line here is, you can do all the testing you want in step 1, but until you ask some of this question, you're guessing at what they value, at best. 

The secret to asking the "what do you want question" and getting a sincere and favorable response is to honestly disclose what it is you truly value and want from the business relationship first. When you do this, it lowers the resistance and defensiveness of the customer. They feel safe disclosing their true needs and wants because you did so first.

You can't begin to imagine the catastrophe I've witnessed when one party asks what the other "wants" before they volunteer what they "want." That's a recipe for conflict if ever I've seen one.

4. Partner to Create Viable Options. Many times your products, services, strategies and/or ideas won't appear to have merit with your customer. It won't be clear to you or to them how you can solve their problem. This is where the fun begins but, unfortunately, it's where most sales professionals throw in the towel and admit defeat.

If you've handles steps 1 and 2 properly, you've built adequate trust with your customer and created a problem solving momentum. Now, instead of trying to sell them a solution to their problem, get on the same side of the table as you customer, literallyand figuratively, and team up against the problem. Begin brainstorming ways to overtake the problem based on what you learned and discussed in the first two steps. Offer ideas and encourage them to do the same. When you here some for of "well, that won't work, but what if we try this?" coming from your customer, you've successfully entered the battle together.

5. Fight for Their Win. Now it's time to bring it home by assuring your customer you won't quit until you find a way to help them achieve their outcomes in a way that is fair and comfortable for the both of you. More importantly, make sure they know that you're fighting hard to help them achieve their win.

Consistently applying these steps to the negotiations conversations your having with your customers will help you to understand what it is they truly value. Once you do, you can then partner with them to help them achieve their outcomes. 

Sometimes, however, helping the customer achieve a win for their business may require you to refer them elsewhere for the short term, but it will lock you in as a trusted advisor, and you will be able to serve their business and drive revenue for your company long term.

 

 

 

Influential People Sell Themselves Authentically

There is nothing worse than having to endure a "sales pitch." I absolutely hate to be sold to. and I'm pretty sure you do too. In my opinion, the absolute worse form of this is when we are bombarded by an "interruption" sales pitch.

I've almost decided to completely stop shopping at Sam's Wholesale Club because, every time I walk down the left hand isle, I get accosted by the Direct TV sales people who jump directly into my path and ask me if they can ask me a quick question. "Sorry, man, you just did. No thank you . . ." and, more importantly, "how dare you?" In what world do they think people still respond to that crap?

If that wasn't enough, I have to get a sales pitch about Sam's Cash Back program every single time I check out. Every damned time! I think some people give in just to avoid future sales pitches.

We all know that nobody likes to be sold to, but that everyone loves to buy stuff. The difference is obviously who's idea it was in the first place, and the way we are assisted in the buying process. In other words, I make an emotional decision that I need or want something, I proactively seek out a solution and then and only then am I open to a sales person helping make that purchase.

Most of the time I don't need anyone's help at all. However, let's just say I did. At that point, how does the salesperson do their job effectively without pissing me off or making me second guess my buying?

Well, it's the exact same way we should all sell ourselves and our ideas, products and/or services. Authentically! Here's how it looks . . .

1. Serve - You must determine in your mind, before you even have a conversation with your potential "buyer," that no matter what the outcome, you're going to give your face off. You're having the conversation for one reason only - to give. When you approach your "selling" conversation this way, the other party feels it, and it begins to lower their sales resistance organically.

2. Ask good questions - The best way to do this is to be fully present in the conversation, give the ball to the other person, let them have control of the conversation, and ask the next logical question that will help you understand what they value, and what exactly they're looking for.

3. Listen - When you honestly and fully let go of your own agenda for the conversation, many serendipitous things begin to happen. Among them are the little insights and opportunities to add value that you may not have come to the conversation anticipating. Another is that, very quickly, you begin to understand what it is that they value as it relates to the potential purchase of your stuff.

4. Add value - Once you understand what it is they value, you must immediately do two critical things:

a. Scrap what you had originally planned on offering them.

b. Give them what they've just told you they value.

b. Partner with them to see what they may and/or may not be open to trying.

5. Have a partnering conversation - at this point in the conversation, you'll have a pretty good idea of what your potential buyer values as it relates to your offer, but you'll still need to clarify a few things so you can land your plane on their runway. This is where a "suppose that, what if, would you consider, how about" conversation needs to proceed making an offer. For more detail on how to have that conversation, read this.

6. Put the buyer in control - once you've discerned the "must haves" from the "nice to haves," you can add value to their buying experience by connecting the dots as to how what they really value can be met by what you're offering. Once you've done that successfully, you simply put a gentle offer on the table and let them decide what their next course of action will be.

If you've done a good job with steps 1-5, more times than not, they will make the decision to buy what you're offering - as long as it is of value and meets the needs/wants they were looking to have met.

If you will follow those six simple steps each and every time you get the opportunity to "sell" your ideas, products, services and/or yourself, you will see your efforts amplified immediately.

When you do, please come back to this post and share the results so we can share in your success and give you a virtual high five!