Category Archives: Sales

Articles about sales and sales strategy

You had me at hello

stephen2By Stephen Rhodes

Ever been in a position where someone is trying to persuade you, or sell you something and they can’t stop talking? They breeze right by the part where you said OK.

big earsIt happens a lot in sales where someone is working from prepared text (telemarketers) or pitches (door-to-door). They are so engrossed in getting their message out they are not watching or listening to your reaction.

I like to throw a spanner in the works, interrupt and ask them a question totally unrelated to what they are talking about. Most are flustered and can’t pick up their pitch.

Be comfortable with your pitch or elevator speech, whether you are selling something or responding to someone asking what you do at a networking event.

But most of all listen.

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Filed under Networking, Sales

Will the Internet kill the modern sales professional?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

In the past few years I have written several articles about sales, its place in the business world and how the consultative solution sell has replaced the traditional sales speak. Technology today has changed all aspects of business from accounting to product sourcing and sales has probably been dealt the hardest blow of them all. We (salespeople) are now stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Consumers have far more options to source from, purchasing agents are now University-trained professionals, marketing strategies now focus more on social media and yet the revenue targets of salespeople have remained steady or have risen, even in the wake of shrinking economies.

business man presenting blank laptopSome believe that strong sales are the basis for an improving economy, and it is easy to argue that no money changes hands until a product or service is sold. Over the last several years, sales training by organizations has taken a dramatic decline, to the point where most salespeople lack the required skill sets to bridge the gap between the new technology and the solution sale. Couple that with an ineffective methodology for recruitment and development of new salespeople, and you have the perfect storm for sluggish sales in many organizations.

There appears to be an imbalance in the changing roles and responsibilities of the modern salesperson.  They are expected to be customer centric, solution providers, relationship builders, product specialists and savvy negotiators. These competencies were all part of the professional sales training program of two decades ago. Today, the focus of sales training programs is attracting clients utilizing social media sites such as LinkedIn, online sales strategies and inbound marketing techniques. Therein lies the issue. The two opposing forces of face to face selling and online buying.

For me the answer is an easy one. Products and services are being viewed more and more as commodities.  Organizations need to be business partners with their clients, and that is achieved through identifying additional value for the client. Value that can’t be found by the Internet tire kickers. Sales people now have more information on demographics and competitors than they could ever imagine thanks to the Internet. Training programs today need to combine the technology skills required to source knowledge and identify new potential, as well as the tried and true competencies of interpersonal selling skills, identifying needs and relationship development.  It is the bold Management team that appoints a Training Champion to ensure all the tools and resources are available to the sales team, and takes the steps to invest in them.

Empower them and they will sell. Empirical data shows that a 2% increase in productivity is shown to net a 100% return on training! The Internet is simply another tool that your salespeople need to be trained to use effectively in building client partnerships.

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Sales, Training and Development

Would You Buy from You?

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

Having been involved in sales and sales training for the last 30 years, I have seen some major changes in both buyer habits and sales skills usage. The economy, the type of product or service you are selling, the demographic you are selling too and the cost of the product are among the many factors that affect the type of sales interaction that should take place. Sales training continually ranks very low on the list of business expenditures, however it is probably the most important factor in the success of your business, and one of the most tracked and analyzed areas of measurable data a company has.

I have put together a list of the 5 most common mistakes a salesperson will make and how to avoid them in future interactions. They are certainly not a replacement for continual and effective sales training, however they might resonate with you on a recent lost sale.

1. Calling on the wrong person is something we have all done, and it results in a waste of time and effort on your part. I used to call on whoever I could reach at the company, or the person I met at the networking event, and found that it was very counterproductive. Sure, we can consider those people “influencers” however simply asking the question, “are you the decision maker?” or “will you be the person signing off on this?” will get you further.

2. Relying too much on the web and social media to sell for you is a trap that a great number of companies are still trying to get out of. All we hear about today is how we need to be online. Online is no substitute for your direct selling skills. Online tools are an important part of your marketing mix designed to create awareness and help the potential client move towards contacting you.

iStock_000016561283Small3. Dropping your price to meet the customer’s expectation of value is a killer. By dropping your price, you have simply created a new selling point for future negotiations. Hold your price; increase the perceived value by adding something additional on, an extra month of coverage, free delivery, 30 days additional warranty, some small inexpensive accessory.

4. Selling an “opportunity” is far different from selling to a “need” and will usually result in rejection. Don’t assume that because you have uncovered an opportunity for a sale that the client has a definitive need at this point in time and has to purchase from you. For every solid sale potential there are thousands of tire kickers.

5. Overselling or continuing the sales pitch just because you are uncomfortable with the pregnant pause to allow a prospect to consider the options and come to a decision, could end the interaction prematurely. Uncover the need, assist the prospect by suggesting a product, describe the features it has that satisfy the need as well as identify the benefits to them. STOP. Let them consider it and watch for a buying signal!

All of these mistakes are preventable, sales training to continually upgrade skills and competency levels are an investment every business needs to consider. These skills are tools of the trade. Are your skills up to par, and more importantly, would you buy from you?

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Filed under Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Sales, Training and Development, Uncategorized

Orienteering through Your Business.

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

“Unless we progress, we regress” said Dwight D. Eisenhower back in 1959. All our business strategies when combined should be leading us in a progressive pattern. Yes, times have been difficult over the last several years, however that doesn’t mean a business can’t be moving forward, planning ahead, and planting the seeds for future expansion and growth. After the first six months of the year it is time to settle in and review some of the key things that might affect your strategic plan.

I tend to focus on three key areas of a business when looking at where we have come from and the future direction we need to take.  We don’t have a Business GPS that will pinpoint our final destination and tell us step by step which turns  to take.  We do however have our experiential compass that can show us the general direction, based on our past movements and the trails we have marked to get to the current position. At times when we feel a little lost however there are many tools at hand that we can utilize to get back on course. A strong business strategy serves as the basis for all future actions, and from time to time these might need to be tweaked or altered a little, a few degrees here and there.

Consider the following three “influencers” to determine if it is the plan that needs some alterations or is it tools and support you have in place to get you where you want to be. First, what if any landscape changes are you encountering on your journey? Has competition changed?  Has the marketplace grown or retracted? Depending on what your product or service is, has consumer attitude changed?  Is your brand more or less recognized?  What is being said about you in social media circles? These all have an impact on your business, just the same as the landscape would if you were hiking through dense forest, thick marsh, inclement weather conditions etc. We always plan for these events, however it is the smart business person that recognizes theses changes and adapts. Clipboard01

Second, is everyone on your team paddling in the same direction? It may be time to review your goals and objectives with the entire team.  Explain your progress, and ask for feedback on possible alternatives to past actions that did not get you the results you were hoping for.

Finally, has the leader in the group demonstrated the skills and competencies that make them a good leader? Flexibility, positive thinking, the ability to manage internal conflict, foresight and most importantly do they delegate authority? When the business is doing well, everyone is happy, however throw a few missed objectives, a string of poor revenue performing months or some other distraction into the mix and the added pressures can have ill effects on the employees and the leaders of the organization. Most of us have seen in our business lives the type of leader who owns the successes but positions the failures on others.

Progress needs to be monitored to ensure that we are advancing and not just going in circles.  The six month mark is an excellent time to see exactly what your coordinates are!

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Filed under Jeff Bowman, Managing, Sales, Strategic Planning, Training and Development

Survive, Revive and Thrive in 2013

JBMG_5500aBy Jeff Bowman

It certainly has been a long haul over the past few years what with the economy shrinking, large companies announcing layoffs and consumers becoming far more educated and selective about who and what they chose to ‘invest” (formerly called spend) their money on. There are many factors that will affect performance this year, including leadership skills, training, ability to quickly adapt to an ever changing market and the culture that exists within the walls of your organization. With that in mind, here are 5 things you need to do address to survive, revive and thrive in 2013.

Strategize – you need to provide superior value to your client base, demonstrate differentiation in your products and services, and be one step ahead of the competition for success in 2013. What is your strategy for moving forward in your market and possibly beyond into new or emerging marketplaces?  Strategy is the route you will take, the tools you will employ and knowing the obstacles that lay ahead and having a plan to overcome them. By demonstrating sustainable competitive advantages over your competitors and any newcomers lining up to eat your market share, you will be creating the success model on which to build as the economy grows.

Diversify your social media tactics – that is assuming you are utilizing any tactics now. What is critical to the delivery of any message you need to send is the diversify ability and willingness of your target to receive and understand it. The mediums for delivery have changed, viral can mean success, Facebook allows you generate followers, Pinterest is rapidly gaining a legion of users and your web tactics must take mobile applications into consideration.

Reward your employees – one truth about recovering markets is that companies begin to take back what they let go years before.  Opportunities for your employees to move elsewhere become more abundant. Will an employee that you had penciled in on the succession plan bolt for greener pastures?  They will if they have been overworked, under trained, under appreciated or underutilized in your organization.

Understand your Brand – review your brand. Is it still relevant, does it send the right message, has it stagnated? Look for ways to re-invigorate the brand. Lift its spirits, polish it up, put it on a pedestal and most importantly love it! When consumers feel the love that the company has for its own brand, it becomes contagious.

Sell to a need – I have said it a thousand times, consumers don’t want to be sold something they don’t want, in a way they don’t like by a company they don’t know. What basic need does your product or service address?  Have you determined if the prospect has this need either open or hidden?  Is it really a need or simply and opportunity? If you try to sell an opportunity you will often be rejected.

This year holds a great deal of promise to those organizations that plan now to capitalize on observed weaknesses in the market and their competitors.  Follow the five simple tips above and thrive this year!

Jeff Bowman is the “Attitude” in The Marketing Pad.  For a free consultation to determine how we can build success for you contact jeff@themarketingpad.com

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Filed under Branding, Communications, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Media, Sales, social media, Strategic Planning