Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Know Your Competition

When you're sellingi t's your job to know your competition inside and out, including the fact that the prospect can make no decision and function just the way they always have.

Knowing your competition helps you to understand the market and what you are competing against. When a prospect comes to you, you have an opportunity to position yourself as an expert. You're closest to the market and know all the options. You want them to come to you with questions as an advisor. Be honest and handle those questions well.

If you're competitor does something well, acknowledge it. Then discuss what your product/service offers instead. Help the prospect to make an informed decision.

In each of our industries we have overhead, hard dollar costs and we want to make a fair profit. Your competition is in the same boat. If their pricing is significantly lower, something's going on and you want to know what it is.
  1. They may be buying the market - offering services at a loss
  2. It might not be an apples to apples comparison - find out what's different

If it's not an apples to apples comparison, eliminate the pieces that your prospect doesn't value so that you can be more competitive. If you're service offering is more valuable, point out where it is.

If the competitor is buying the market and operating at a loss they will not be able to sustain that model forever. They won't be able to deliver high level service to their prospect consistently. They may not be committed to their market. Let your prospect know that. Let them know they are taking a risk by accepting a superficially low price and it may be more expensive for them with both time and money in the long run.

Time and money have equal weight in negotiations. However, time is more valuable. If you waste your time, you can never get it back.

If you have built trust and connection with your prospect you can ask them if it's OK for you to review the proposal or quote. Tell your prospect, honestly, if it's a deal you cannot compete with you'll let them know. Make sure you deliver on that promise.

Don't be afraid of your competition. Get to know them thoroughly. Understand what they do well and where they fall short. Work with your prospects to help them get the best deal possible. If your services fall short, bring them up. It's great market research.

Get out there and sell something . . .

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Connecting with Prospects

Genuine connections take time to build and require trust.

They don't happen immediately. Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you received a referral or the prospect is very cordial and polite you've made a connection. A lot of things could be going on with this person and it's your job to find out what's going on with them.

There are several broad personality types and communication styles to be aware of. It's important to know your own style, be aware of others' style and understand how you can adapt.

4 Broad Types of Buyers are:

The Great Friend Buyer: This person is open, shares information easily, will want to know about your family and tell you about theirs. When you ask about their weekend they really want to tell you. They enjoy meetings.

The Technical Buyer: This person wants to know everything about your product and service. They'll research your company and competition. They may create their own spreadsheet analysis. They will read and understand your contact. This person will not be pushed into making a decision. Take your time with them.

The Bottom Line Buyer: This person wants facts, and fast. Make sure you can think on your feet and answer questions. You'll be dismissed quickly as incompetent if you don't know your product, competition and their business. They want to make a good, informed decision and work with someone they can trust.

The Steady Buyer: This person may be very polite and quiet. They may smile and nod as you talk. They will take information for review later. This person wants to trust you and understand your information and process. They may have reservations and questions they are not sharing with you. It's your job to get this person to talk.

As a sales person you need to address each type of buyer by understanding what they want and giving it to them. If you are in a conference room with a group of buyers, it's likely all types of buyers will be represented in that room. It's your job to learn who they are and what they value by asking questions.

A great little sales contest to give yourself is to measure how much talk in meetings. If you are talking more than 50% of the time, you are talking to much.

Listen to the buyer and they will tell you exactly what it will take to get the deal.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learn How People Like to Communicate

There once was a statistic that it would take five points of contact to get the attention of a prospect. With all the methods of communication out there today; email, voicemail, phone calls, face to face meetings, twitter, text messaging, the statistic could be higher. Learn how your prospect likes to communicate and then use the method they prefer. You'll learn which method that is by listening. If they never respond to emails, emails are probably not the preferred method.

I left a detailed voicemail for a client. He called back, ready to talk but unaware of what I discussed in the voicemail. When I asked about it, he said, "I never listen to voicemails. I get 120 a day. When I see a number on the caller ID that I want to speak to, I call back." He also wasn't responding to my emails. He said, "I have three addresses, I only check one regularly. I get 500 emails a day."

This guy is stretched. I use the email he checks very sparingly and type whatever is relevant in the subject line so he can see the message right away. I no longer waste time leaving voicemails he won't listen to. I call only when I have key information that will move our project forward. When I do call, I am prepared with bullet points of what I want to discuss so that our call is meaningful. I want him to trust that when I reach out to him, I'm bringing value and this communication will be worth his while.

As you communicate with your prospects, use the communication method they are most comfortable with and start earning trust and building your connection.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Don't Lie

I've been receiving cold calls lately where the sales person says "I'm calling to respond to your request for more information about vending machines (or fill in the blank product/service)."

These sales reps are banking on the fact that the prospect is so busy and overwhelmed they can't remember what they inquired about.

I remember. I resent being lied to.

It's a really bad sales practice. Do you want to build your foundation and connection with your prospect based on manipulation?

Connecting and building trust are two key basics in the sales process.

Don't be tempted to skip over them. Connecting and building trust with your prospects will put you head and shoulders above your competition that is acting out of fear and desparation.

Do business the way you want to. Find out what makes you, you and connect with your prospects in a way that makes you feel good. Then you'll start really selling.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sales Blitz

Sales Blitz' are an old technique but very effective. If you haven't done one in a while or never have done one - now is a great time.

A sales blitz is conducted by devoting a whole day to focus your sales staff entirely on calling and qualifying prospects. If there are customers you would like to reactivate or sell more to, add them to the list.

Here are some techniques you can use:
  • Send a letter/email/communication to your prospect base telling them you'll be having a sales blitz. Notify the prospect of the date.
  • If possible, have inside sales people or telemarketers call and say "our sales rep will be visiting you on next week Tuesday". If they don't reach the prospect, have the caller leave a voicemail.
  • If you don't have an inside sales staff or callers, have your reps make the calls.
  • Add an incentive for the prospect that is appropriate for your business: coupons, premiums, (golf balls, maps, product samples, etc.) Get creative
  • Have your sales people go out and make qualifying prospect visits on the date that was announced.
  • Set a target of how many prospects you'd like to connect with.
  • Reward the sales rep that makes the most connections and announce the winner
  • Have fun with it!

A sales blitz can be conducted with an inside sales force as well. Follow the same format but use calling versus personal visits.

Sales Blitz' is are a great way to create a surge of prospects and positive energy in your organization.

Now's a good time. You can create one on your own or you can call me if if you'd like help organizing a blitz.

Get out there and sell something . . .

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Increase the Success of Cold Calls

I received a call from a woman that said 'we'd like to have a lunch and learn for all of your employees'. My response was 'no thanks' and I hung up.

What did she do wrong in her Cold Calling process? Lots of things.

She literally picked up the phone and made a request. Cold calling that way will be filled with rejection.

A different approach would be to target companies that are interested in your service. I don't even know what her service was. I'll make the assumption it was health insurance.

Here's a better way to call.
  1. Do your homework before you call - does this company fit the profile of a company that would provide health insurance for it's employees?
  2. Check the website - do they have employees? Read their press releases, understand what is important to the company. Check for executive names so you can ask for a specific person when you call.

Now try this: "Good Morning, I took a look at your website and noticed you have a large call center. Do you provide health insurance for those employees?"

Do you see the difference? By doing some research on the company you are starting to build a connection. You're starting to earn the right to ask questions and build a relationship with this company. It will likely take more calls to actually engage them into allowing you to present information on health insurance benefits. With the information you gain from this call, you're beginning to build a database of information so you can continue to target this company. Make sure your track the information in your CRM so next time you call you are not starting all over.

Don't make cold calls. Do your research first the market will appreciate it and you'll increase your success ratio.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Too Expensive

My sister came over for breakfast on Sunday morning. She was working out a financial analysis with me. She's brilliant at that.

We started to talk about home improvements. She wants to get some painting done. I said why don't you call my friend/colleague Claire . "She's too expensive." my sister replied.

"Who's going to do it?" I asked.

She said, "Ronnie, a kid in the neighborhood. He said he'd do it but he never shows up when he says he will." I asked "How long has that been going on?" She replied "a couple of months."

"There's a guy at church who lost his job. He came over took a look at the job and said 'not interested,' my sister went on.

I wish my sister would realize that these solutions are not really cheaper and she should just call Claire. Claire will show up, be prepared and can be 100% trusted in your home. She will quote a fair price but it won't be as cheap as Ronnie or the unemployed guy from church.

Claire is not cheaper because she knows the value of her work. There is a cost to travel, being on time, scheduling jobs, having the right materials, understanding the scope of the job and planning to execute in a timely manner. She considers that cost and adds additional budget for her time and expertise. This is her business and she takes it seriously.

If my sister factored in the cost of her time, living with her unpainted space for months and managing contractors that don't show up she'd realize that Claire is a real value.

I like to do business with professionals that know their value.

Friday, September 18, 2009


There's one theory in sales that the price should not be disclosed until the very, very end. The prospect needs to listen to your features and benefits and understand them fully before you'll give them a number.

As a consumer I find that frustrating. I want to know if the product or service is within the range of something I can afford. Once I know the price I'll be more interested to understand the features and benefits and the value that the price is based upon.

I have two apartments to rent and thought it would be fun to advertise them on a local Chicago blog. A friend suggested a national blog with a local presence. I've looked at the site, read the media kit, sent an email, exchanged a phone call and still don't have a price. I'm getting frustrated with this national blog with a local presence. I think I'll find some edgy Chicago writer with a loyal readership that'll be grateful some advertising revenue landed in their lap.

With FullCircle Management's services our minimum pricing for a TeleIntelligence B2B calling program is approximately $8,400. That's the price a company might spend on a trade show booth, on a print advertising page, or a direct mail piece. Our programs show consistent measurable ROI. If $8,400 scares a company I'd like to know sooner than later.

Our CRM, SalesInSync, is $30 per user per month - the cost of one lunch per sales person. If a company will not invest $30 a month in their sales person, I'd like to know sooner than later.

My philosophy is to put your number on the table and begin negotiating from there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

People Love to Buy

People don't like to be sold but they love to buy -- Jeff Gittomer

I conduct an exercise in sales trainings. I ask the participants to describe the worst sales rep they ever dealt with.

The replies I get include "they lied to me, didn't know their product, seemed desparate for the commission, didn't act with integrity, I got a bad feeling from them, they didn't follow up."

My response is "just don't do that. You will be head and shoulders above your comepetion."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Best Day to Call

Sometimes reps will tell me they don't want to call on Monday because it's the start of the week or Friday because it's the end of the week or in the morning because people are starting their day or in the evening because people want to get home.

The best time to call is now.

If you can make a connection with your prospect and offer value, it's always a good time to call. Watch the patterns of your calling and mix up the times. You will find executives and decision makers early in the morning, late in the evenings, on the weekends and during the holiday season when other employees are taking off.

Your metrics in calling will be for every 15 calls you make you might get one or two that are willing to talk to you. That's a good metric. If you're making 15 calls and getting one or two, celebrate, that's right where you need to be.

One or two new prospects a day will keep your pipeline full. If you stick with it, and call daily, you'll be guaranteed success.

I promise.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Earning the Right

"Don't confuse Activity with Productivity" -- Unknown

Did you ever get the feeling someone is trying to sell you something?

I was introduced to a woman who does public speaking for a living. I approach all connections tentatively. I want to really get to know a person before I give them a recommendation or invite them into my busines circle.

The woman had high energy, was very flashy and extremely enthusiastic. I took a look at her website. To me, it looked like lots of fluff and no substance. I could be wrong. I haven't gotten to know her yet.

We tried to schedule a meeting. Our schedules didn't permit so I suggested a phone call. I didn't hear back.

I then received an E-zine from her in my email in box. I hit unsubscribe. She hasn't learned about me or my business. She has no idea what I want to accomplish. At this point I'm not open to receiving marketing materials. She hasn't earned the right to send me the information. She hasn't asked for permission. She has not yet been invited into my business circle.

Making a genuine connection with your prospect is one of the Sales Basics.

When sales reps make lots of contacts and send out a volume of marketing materials they think they are being very productive. The truth is they have a lot of activity going on but no real thoughtful approach. Once in a while a connection sticks and they might get lucky. I wonder how many they alienate with their approach?

Friday, September 11, 2009

You Paid Too Much!

I'm rehabbing a building on Chicago's NW Side.

The process included totally remodeling two rental units: new kitchens, new baths, new tile, refinished floors, new plumbing, new electrical, new windows, new appliances and a repaired roof.

I mentioned my project to a realtor who is in the business of buying properties, fixing them up and selling them for a profit.

When I told him what I paid without asking one question about the scope of the work or the quality of the execution he exclaimed "you paid too much! Next time let me look at the quotes."

I was a little disappointed he didn't want to talk shop. I thought he'd benefit from the referral of my contrator.

Leases expire in Chicago every April and September. I wanted to get my units ready for rental by October 1. I was working under an extremely tight deadline. I found a contractor that has 40 rental units of his own. He knows the business.

When I met the electrician, the plumber and the carpenter, I realized right away these people were not laborers, they are craftsmen. They took pride in the work. They described every challenge, pointed out every detail and proudly discussed their solutions with me. The team was mindful of my budget and time constraint. They made low cost decisions where they could never compromising on quality.

Sure, the General Contractor made a little profit by coordinating and managing the team of contractors. He had best recommendations for all my challenges and had a team that could produce the work based on past, proven success. There's tremendous value to that and he earned his markup.

I wish my realtor friend would've discussed the process with me a little bit. Sure, I could have probably paid less. I could have taken their bids and had other contractors under bid them.

I choose not to do business that way. I may have paid a little more but gained more in some areas and received more value in others. I received more benefit than I can measure.

I will use this contractor again and again.

No, I did not pay the cheapest price.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What makes You, You?

“Dare to be yourself.”
AndrĂ© Gide (1869–1951) French writer, Nobel Prize winner

I never intended to be a sales person. I was a marketing manager and provided sales support. A sales job came my way. I thought it would be fun. I took lots of sales assessments that firmly reported I did not have the right personality for sales. I'm not extroverted. I am analytical, thoughtful and follow through on initiatives I start. I'm not the life of the party but am the one who makes sure everyone is enjoying themselves. I am not motivated by money but expect to be paid fairly for what I produce.

I went to sales trainings that taught me the basics of sales:
  • Identify prospects that are good targets for your service
  • Connect with those prospects
  • Listen to the prospects, understand their situation
  • Analyze how your product/service can benefit them
  • Present your solution by matching the features of your product/service to what they care about
  • Offer pricing that is profitable to you and based on value to them
  • Provide a contract that is fair to both parties
  • Execute well
  • Record all the information you captured about the prospect in a database (CRM) so that you can sell to them continuously
  • Have fun with it.
One day as I was making my calls I thought "what makes Alicia, Alicia?" The answer, I thought, was "I will work just as hard making sure that you get good service and a quality product as I've worked to sign your business."

I started using that as my closing statement. The deals starting closing one by one.

What makes You, You?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Difference Between Sales and Marketing

Business people sometimes confuse sales with marketing. A sale occurs when money actually changes hands and your product or service is being used. Marketing builds awareness for the product or service.

If I asked you to name a beverage you might say "Coke". The "Coke is It' campaign did it's job. Coke is in your awareness.

If my next question to you is 'what are you drinking?' and your answer is "water", water represents the sale. You are aware of Coke but you actually consumed water.

In this example you might perceive that the water was free. You walked over and got it from your tap. Someone, somewhere pays a water bill. You also invested your time to pour the water. It was not exactly free.

Coke's competition is now water. In order to sell Coke to you, a sales rep would have to convince you to use your money to purchase Coke when your preference is water.

If you purchase Coke, the sales person was now successful. If not, no sale was made and the rep needs to move onto the next opportunity. The salesperson did have an advantage because Coke was in your awareness, they did not, however, close the sale.

It's important that sales and marketing partner to achieve the same result - increased sales. In an ideal situation the sales rep would report back the objections they heard from the prospect in choosing water over Coke. The marketing rep would then incorporate new selling features into their campaigns making the sale easier for the sales rep next time.

When it works, it's harmonious.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Listening and Responding

You'll hear me talk about the fact that the key to sales is how well you listen not how well you talk or how well you present. If you really listen, the market will tell you exactly what they want. All you have to do is provide your service profitably. It's easy.

Today Social Marketing: Blogs, Twitter, Linked In, Plaxo, FaceBook, YouTube are all the rage. The market is wondering which tools are right for their company. Should they use all of them or none of them? If they do choose, how do they get started and how do they do it well? After hearing these inquiries over and over again FCM has joined forces with Blogging Made Simple to help companies maximize the social marketing tools that are available to them.

When FCM was created we thought we were going to provide six sigma consulting. The market said "we don't want a report, we want leads." We added a call center to provide TeleIntelligence: b2b cold calling. Then we say the market managed the leads we provided poorly. We started to provide consulting on how to customize their CRM system effectively and eventually created the proprietary CRM system SalesInSync. From viewing the CRM system we saw that the sales people needed help closing leads and moving the sales process forward, we created Company-Specific Sales Training to help them use their own competitive advantages to strengthen their sales process. We've built our business on listening.

If you are interested in learning more, give me a ring at 312.697.0885

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Basics of Sales

When I provide consulting to an organization or develop training sometimes I get the feedback "this is so easy." Sales sure is easy. All you have to do is follow the process thoughtfully.
  • Identify prospects that are good targets for your service
  • Connect with those prospects
  • Listen to the prospects, understand their situation
  • Analyze how your product/service can benefit them
  • Present your solution by matching the features of your product/service to what they care about
  • Offer pricing that is profitable to you and based on value to them
  • Provide a contract that is fair to both parties
  • Execute well
  • Record all the information you captured about the prospect in a database (CRM) so that you can sell to them continuously
  • Have fun with it

That's it. Easy.Just do it.

Don't forget the most important part -- have fun.