Sales strategies that deliver

Every week, I blog about what I learned in sales in the last five days based on actual sales experiences. Here are several key considerations . . .

1. Assume the sale. If you are seeing a current customer and it is time for a contract renewal, you must approach the meeting in an assumptive fashion. In other words, everything you do and say indicates that the client will be renewing. Make sure to incorporate an increase from year to year and also bring something new to the table. For example, some added value proposition or new information that will enable your client to increase market share

2. Avoid discounting. It’s easy to discount your product or service in order to make a sale but it doesn’t make sense from the perspective of perceived value. At one point, my advertising agency was proposed an opportunity at $850 per week and I said that I would only consider paying half that amount.
The salesperson proceeded to say ok, we can do it for $425 per week. Really. You we’re prepared to rip me off until I negotiated? If you watch Million Dollar Listing, you will see young real estate agents getting almost full price without ever dropping the price to make a sale

3. Target the right prospect. When you are prospecting, spend some time doing your homework to make sure that the prospect you are going to meet with has the following criteria . . .
– they can benefit from your offering
– they can afford your offering
– they can sustain the investment if it is ongoing
– they are engaged in the process

Sales can be like riding a roller coaster, but a combination of perseverance, solid work ethic, and positive energy will emerge triumphant

If your company would be interested in a sales seminar or sales coaching, contact me at tim@storefrontmedia.ca

Communication is everything

No matter what job you have in life, your success will be determined 5% by your academic credentials, 15% by your professional experiences and 80% by your communication skills.

If you take a moment and relate this to your daily business experiences, you will quickly realize how true this adage is. Your ability to communicate can be the difference between being a lawyer or a parter. It can be the difference between making or losing a big sale. And it can be the difference between a busy or an empty restaurant on a Saturday evening,

Communication skills are based on three things – words, tone of voice and body language. According to a UCLA study many years ago, words account for less than 10% of your communication effectiveness, tone of voice accounts for almost one third and body language accounts for more than half.

So let’s explore each of these components.

Words are important but the way they are delivered is far more important. In the radio industry, when we voice a commercial, we usually stand and smile. There is a noticeable different in the tone of voice as it is more compelling, more powerful and more enthusiastic. Use your voice to enunciate words, pause for effect, and in the sales arena be sure to use words that offer benefits to the prospect. Sometimes sales people feel the need to talk too fast and talk too much. Less is more. Listening is more important than talking. Your tone of voice should be enthusiastic, positive, confident, and include a next step. The next step can be a meeting, a sale, a demonstration, or a plan to learn more about your prospect before making a presentation. You must never sound like there is a question mark in your voice.

The most important component of communication is body language. Be presentable. We have been doing interviews recently to hire new salespeople and it is surprising how some candidates present themselves. You don’t have to look like a movie star, but you should put your best foot forward. Use energy in your body language, sit straight and look your prospect in the eye. Shake hands firmly and smile. Don’t interrupt and be respectful of the other persons time. Also, try to understand the style of personality that you are dealing with and attempt to mirror that style. If the individual is amiable and talkative, then follow that cue. If they are more direct and to the point, stay on course.

Study the art of communication, take a Dale Carnegie course, and make certain that every interaction results in a positive feeling and success in business and life.

What I learned in sales this week

Sales is tough. Lessons can be learned. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been selling for 3 months or 30 years, there is always something to learn.

Here is a list of what I learned in sales this week.

1. It’s tough to reach a decision maker and set an appointment. Business owners are busier than ever in 2014 and are facing more competition than ever before, not only from bricks and mortar, but also online. In order to make an appointment, which is the best way to make a sale, you must be persistent, creative, unique and offer a benefit to the business owner. Do not talk about your product or service, talk about their product or service and how to bring them more customers. Use different tactics to break through the clutter because email does not work. The tactics include phone calls, texts, LinkedIn messages, Facebook messages, providing them with information that can help their business, blogging, snail mail, and even dropping in with a coffee.

2. Establish clear expectations when you sell a product or service. If the customer expects one outcome and another occurs, you have a disconnect and the relationship becomes problematic. If you are selling a branding campaign on the radio, and the client expects immediate results, they will not continue to advertise. Set out the expectations at the beginning so that both parties are clear. If you want a marketing campaign to brand a product or servcie, it will take time – up to 5 years. If you want to sell a large volume of products in a short period of time, then you must take a different approach with a higher level of frequency and a call to action.

3. Stop wasting time in the office. The most profitable time a salesperson can spend is in front of prospects and customers. Any other tasks such as paperwork, proposal preparation, or calendar juggling should be done before 9am, at lunch, or after 4pm. Use the prime time hours for the most critical activity. Every face to face meeting can result In a sale, strengthening a relationship, a referral, or just a positive feeling of reassurance.

Now get out there and make something happen.

Technology and sales don’t mix

The prevailing wisdom is that technology is a great tool in the world of sales. Software programs enable us to maintain contact with our clients, emails allow us to reach a lot of prospects in one fell swoop, and power point or Prezi give us the opportunity to frame our presentations. But stop and think for a minute. Is it better to send an email birthday wish to a client or to drop in, say hello and bring a small gift. And have you ever purchased a product as a result of an email pitch that you received. And of course effective communication derives from body language and tone of voice and very little from the words that are being said. So where does the effectiveness of words or pictures on a screen come into play. Salespeople are getting lazy. It’s easier to send a mass email than to visit a client face to face. However, the scientific odds of being in front of a prospect are dramatically greater in terms of closing a sale than via an email that probably won’t get opened due to the fact that less than ten percent actually do. Here’s a novel idea – send a snail mail letter. At least the prospect is not getting very many of those anymore. The facts are clear – more face to face appointments equals more sales. As a matter of fact, we are tracking this in our sales operation and the person with the most appointments is our top representative. You accomplish nothing by sitting in your office on your computer. You accomplish a tremendous amount by taking the time to visit prospects face to face. Technology reduces the need for social interaction thereby making the sales process a commodity where the best price wins. There is no opportunity to establish value, differentiation or service. So before you download another customer relationship management program, pick up a Starbucks coffee and visit your top clients as well as your top prospects. You will see an immediate increase in sales results. For more information on sales training, contact me at tim@ storefrontmedia.ca

Advertising that works

If you listen to the radio, scroll through a newspaper or watch TV, there is one consistent advertising approach that the majority of companies use. In the automotive world, it’s one low monthly lease or finance rate with low interest for an ridiculous term like up to 84 months. In the audio and video field, it’s the lowest price on the largest big screen TV. And of course the grocery circulars which feature loss leaders on limited items to lure the shopper into their store. Every department store has a sale almost on a weekly basis and as such, have trained consumers to wait for the sale. Products and services become commodities and the only point of differentiation is price. Why not take a different approach? The approach that I have used in many business categories is what I call the educational approach to advertising. For example, a financial advisor can create a 60 second commercial and use the first 30 seconds to answer questions about investments. Examples are . . .

– When should you start investing?
– How do you begin planning for retirement?
– What is a tax free savings account and what are the benefits?

As you educate consumers, you build trust and when they are in the market for a financial advisor, they will contact you. The same approach has been used with dentists discussing dental health tips, pool stores talking about how to maintain your pool during the summer and even funeral homes providing information and demystifying the industry.

Think about it – would you use the services of a business that just offered discounts and specials or one that provided useful information. And this approach can be done with any media.

For more information on the educational approach to advertising, email me at tim@storefrontmedia.ca

Why is most advertising ineffective

According to Roy Williams, the Wizard of Ads, somewhere between 50-90% of advertising is not working. That’s a scary figure given the budgets that some companies allocate to advertising and marketing. There are several reasons why most advertising doesn’t work, but let’s review the three key challenges . . .

1. The average consumer is bombarded with almost 5,000 advertising messages daily. From the moment you wake up in the morning, turn on the radio or TV, read a newspaper – probably online, brush your teeth with Crest or Colgate to the moment you go to bed at night, advertising is assaulting you in a variety of forms.

2. You like to test different media – let’s try radio for several weeks and the run a Facebook campaign or buy a few Google ad words and see what happens. Advertising requires patience and a long term commitment. There is actually a chickening out phase described by Roy Williams at around the 8-13 week period of a campaign where advertisers consider bailing out. It takes years to build a brand and a long term plan to keep the brand top of mind. Everyone knows about McDonalds but do they stop advertising?

3. And the most important component which is the creative message. All forms of advertising work as long as the creative message is compelling and has an emotional appeal as well as a value proposition. There are too many restaurant ads that are on the radio with generic messages which do not illustrate what the business has to offer that the competition does not. There are too many automotive ads in the paper with price and item which ultimately leaves the consumer decision based on that criteria only. A good ad is about the consumer and a bad ad is about the business. What are the benefits of your product or service and how are you different from the rest.

For a review of your advertising plans, email me at tim@storefrontmedia.ca

Why are salespeople afraid to close?

Closing a sale is actually a very simple process. Really? The reality is that if you have done your homework and followed the six steps in the sales process, then number six should happen naturally. So why do so many sales not materialize? Believe it or not, more than half of possible sales do not close because the salesperson does not ask for the order. I once worked with a salesperson who had a pending file bigger than his office. He was afraid to hear a no from a client and unfortunately couldn’t get a yes. Another reason that sales do not close is that the salesperson does not take the time to discover a need, opportunity or want. They rush to the close without determining whether or not their product or service can actually benefit the buyer. And sometimes a sale does not close because all of the decision makers or partners are not present at the time. It’s better to delay a presentation until all partners can be present than to present to only one. Your enthusiasm and knowledge will be excluded and the only determining factor to purchase will be price. If your product or service will benefit the buyer, then you have a professional obligation to close the sale. Don’t be afraid that your assertiveness will be perceived as being pushy. Buyers appreciate the effort you put into asking for the order. And if the answer is not yes, then you will uncover the objection that is stopping them from moving forward. Welcome objections as they are part of the sales process. There is no magic to closing; it’s simply asking for the order when you are pretty sure they will say yes. And remember, once you leave without the order, many variables may occur in the interim that may prevent the prospect from saying yes. Just do it.

Stop talking and start selling

The perception that you have to be a big talker to be successful in sales is so far from the truth. The stereotype of the used car salesperson talking a consumer into buying a car is prevalent in society and has demeaned the reality of professional sales. Sales is simply about finding a need, opportunity or want and then fulfilling it. According to the One Minute Salesperson, the essence of sales is helping people get the good feelings about what they bought and about themselves. So how do we discover what people want? By asking questions and then listening intently. Too many salespeople set up a client meeting and then launch into the features of the product and the price without ascertaining whether or not it will benefit the buyer. Our sales team sets up an initial customer needs analysis where we learn about the prospects objectives, competition, marketing strategy, customer profile and then we go back to the office and do our homework. One of our prospects mentioned this week that we were the only company in the media that actually took this approach. Surprising. If I pick up the phone and call a car dealer and ask for the price of a car, there is no simple answer. The car salesperson needs to know my budget, my space requirements, the options that are important to me, the terms of payment and so on. So the reality is that the more you talk, the less you learn. On your first client meeting, don’t talk about your product and its features; talk about the prospect and their needs. It’s never about you and always about them. And it’s never about features and always about benefits. I have never bought a new car because of the gas mileage or the technical specifications. I have bought a new car because it looked good and felt good to drive. So stop talking and start selling.

Stop sending emails

Did you know that communication effectiveness has very little to do with the words you say and is based on tone of voice and body language?
So why do salespeople continue to send email pitches to prospects instead of picking up the phone in order to set up an appointment?
Because it’s easy and we all do it. But does it really make any sense?
Most emails that I receive are spam and never even get opened; they are deleted immediately. So you certainly cannot start a new business relationship in that fashion. Stop sending emails and pick up the phone. At least during the course of a conversation, your tone of voice can help the overall effectiveness by adding a second dimension to the words being said. I can read the same opening line in two completely different ways and elicit two completely different reactions. Make sure that your voice is strong, positive, and energetic and smile while you are talking. If you ever sit in on a radio production, you will notice the announcer smiling as they read a script. The only purpose of the call is to make an appointment. Nothing else. State who you are, who you represent, the purpose of the call and the benefit to the prospect. And then ask for the appointment. It’s amazing how many calls I receive that completely miss the mark. One salesperson called and began by asking me how I was doing and proceeded to say that it was a lovely day. You can imagine how that call ended. Once you have an appointment, you can bring all of the components of effective communication together and increase the odds of making a sale substantially. And if you can’t get the prospect on the phone, drop in when you are in the area – cold calls around warm calls. Your positive presence will be tough to ignore and you have an opportunity to make a solid impact on the prospect.
So stop sending emails in the bleak hopes of making a sale – it’s just like trying to fire at a target blindfolded.