September 27, 2008

'There is a recession!' & Other Negative Sales Beliefs

I was at a talk recently about the importance of a positive mental attitude in business.

The main point was that most people have beliefs that hold them back. That started me thinking of the beliefs that can represent barriers to sales growth.

From our experience with hundreds of companies, here are the top 5 negative beliefs found in sales organisations:

1. The market is bad! - this can a fatalism regarding sales revenues

2. Our product is the best! - this can cause a blind arrogance and a failure to listen to the customers real requirements

3. He, or she can sell sand to the arabs! - this leads to too much focus on the sales person, as opposed to the sales process, or the customer

4. They wouldn't be interested in our solution! - the result is that potential customers who could buy are not contacted

5. They will definately buy! - in the absence of sufficient insufficient prequalification this belief can lead to false optimism and inaccurate forecasts

The presenter repeated a number of times that famous quote from Henry Forde - 'either you think you can, or you think you cannot - either way you are right'. How true that is!.

September 25, 2008

What solicitors, architects and engineers can teach others about sales and marketing

Business development in the professional services arena requires a lot more than just selling. It requires demonstrating expertise, establishing credibility and building profile. In fact in many professions the traditional approach to selling runs counter to these objectives.

So don't talk to an architect, engineer of accountant about sales, or even marketing. Ask them about the types of projects they want to be doing, how many projects they have got and how many more are needed. Ask them about their last and best projects and how they can win, or attract, more of the same.

In an increasingly brash world, there is a certain understated modesty surrounding many of the long standing professions and selling does not fit with it. I worked with Irelands largest professional body representing accountants about a decade ago and quickly learned that practice development, as opposed to marketing or selling were the terms to use.

Ask a real professional to sell himself, or herself and they will reel at the thought, but give them an opportunity to showcase their expertise (a tender, a seminar, an award, etc) and they will gladly accept. They know that the most effective way to do the former is to do the latter well.

The best sales people we know, don't really think of themselves as sales people and certainly don't act like salespeople are traditionally supposed to act. They consider themselves as experts, consultants and problem solvers as opposed to sellers.

They don't brag, they don't bluff and they rarely make exaggerated promises. They value expertise, reputation and character above all else and that is what attracts people to them and their businesses, or professional practices.

In this day and age most people are happy to talk to an expert, but would run a mile from a sales person. The difference is that one wants to get you to part with your money, while the other can credibly help you. So, which one are you?

Can salespeople learn anything from the US presidential candidates?

Ordinarily I am not one for politics or more precisely politicians, but the ability to sell an idea, hope, or change is something that gets my attention.  For that reason I have been observing the Obama campaign looking for parallels for those of us in sales:

1. The powerful 'yes we can, yes we can' is highly effective. 

1.       Obama is selling the most precious commodity in the world – hope.  Yes, he talks about challenges, but the focus is on the future within reach.  His 'yes we can'  rallying call is highly effective.

Too often as sales people we focus on what the buyer's problems as opposed to the solution.  We readily focus on what they are doing wrong in order to build a case for our solution. 

'Yes you can and I am going to help you' is the message I want to use more often with my customers!

2.       2. Obama is an excellent communicator - his delivery is confident and polished, his style is engaging and with his words carefully chosen (well almost always!).  It is getting harder and harder for us sales people to get and keep the buyers attention, or to effectively communicate why our solution is better than the competition.  More than ever a sales person must be an excellent communicator.


3.       3. Obama employs well placed and evocative stories.  They add great impact, reinforce the key points and help people to identify with his message.  Great sales people are also good story tellers.  Customer stories are the most credible and compelling way to communicate about our solutions.


September 24, 2008

Does your customer really ‘get it’?

Sales people often complain that although they have a 'great product, or service' the customer fails to realise, or appreciate it – 'the customer just doesn't get it!'

If you think about it logically there can be two possible reasons. First, you don't have as good a product or service as you think, or secondly (and more likely) you have simply failed to get the message across about how great you, or solution are.

Now, I look through hundreds of web sites and marketing brochures every month and I also sit through lots of sales presentations. I never fail to be amazed how many of the companies are actually under-selling what they have to offer. They fall way short of giving the customer a compelling reason to buy.

If you want your customer to realise how good you really are then take another look at your sales pack, web site, marketing brochures, etc and make the following 5 changes:

1. Focus on providing solution to the customers problems, as opposed to a product / technology

2. Communicate business impact of your solution, as opposed to the features

3. Quantify the benefits as a result of your solution

4. Tailor the message to different verticals / segments (as opposed to one message or one website for all)

5. Tell more stories (in particular stories that relate to the top 5 problems, or advantages of your solution

What is the end result of all this? Well it makes it easier for the customer to buy

September 23, 2008

Generating more enquiries from the web – the rest of the steps to follow

How well your web site performs in terms of generating leads and enquiries for your business is largely in your own hands.  In the 2nd of two posts, here are steps 6 – 12 for optimizing your web site (if you missed steps 1-5 just click here).

1.      6. Restructure your site and rewrite your website 's text to reflect the key words you have chosen.  That means renaming pages to correspond with the keywords, changing headings in the body and writing copy itself that includes them.

2.       7. Add links to your site from sites of similar content and request back links to your site from others.  To do this you could add your name to various internet directories, join a links exchange.  However, it is the popularity or quality of links to your site that matters not the quantity.

3.       8. Add content that is interesting, relevant and fresh.  Transform your site from an online ad, or brochure, to a source of valuable information for potential visitors.  Use this content to contribute to blogs and other sites. Put articles, opinion pieces and whitepapers on to various portals and sites.

4.       9. Register your site with Google and other search engines and keep registering it on a regular basis.  Submit a site map.

5.       10. Add a blog or forum, again packed with the right keywords and back links and actively submit to 3rd party forums adding back links to your own pages. 

6.      11. Add more stuff.  Use a newsletter with links to your site.  Add a u tube video and see how quickly it will appear in a search under your company.  You can do this by taking your company's sales presentation and adding a voice over.   Add your company to Wikipedia, linked-in and so on.  Also adding FAQs to your site can be effective.

7.       12. Experiment with buying a certain number of clicks, or visitors to your site.  When you buy from Google Adwords and others you need only pay for visitors to your site, as opposed to for the showing of your ad, so it can be well worth doing.


What is the number 1 job of a sales manager?

What is the number one job of a sales manager?  To meet target I hear you say.  Well, yes it is, of course.  But if that is the end result, how is it most effectively achieved? 

Key tasks for the manager include; finding the best people, managing the sales team and setting strategy.   There is no question these are important, but they are not the secret of high performing sales teams. 

The most successful sales managers and directors see their primary role as that of coach and mentor to the sales team.  That is how they get great performance from their sales people.

Coaching means helping sales people perform at their best - to set personal and well as professional goals, identify opportunities to increase performance, boost activity levels and enhance skills.  It entails a lot more than being a manager, or holding monthly sales meetings.

A sales coach spends time quality one to one time with the members of his team - listening, asking questions, offering suggestions and sharing experiences/insights.   He or she spends time with sales people in the field, understanding their opportunities and challenges and shaping as well as clarifying their goals and priorities.  That is how he/she unlocks the true performance potential of his team.

Ray Collis

It is not the recession that worries me, it is sense of helplessness that often goes with it

Almost everybody is talking about recession.  That is everybody except those sales managers most determined to meet target.

The newspaper, radio and television may be screaming RECESSION, but a downturn in the market doesn't have to mean a fall off in your sales.  That is unless you believe it will. 

The real danger is that talk of a slowdown can quickly become a self fulfilling prophecy.  So every time you hear the word recession; pick up the phone to a prospect, make a sales call, get a referral, or take some other action that has the potential to contribute to your pipeline. 

Last week the CEO of a young company reported to investors on progress with respect of sales.  Although the results were reasonable, the CEO began by talking about the slowdown in the market.  To the audience it sounded like an excuse, their response was to work harder.

Remember, even during a recession there are still products being bought and sold.  Maybe the market is not going to grow on last year, but that does not mean your sales need take a downturn. 

So, instead of worrying about a reduction in demand, increase your level of sales activity, as well the effectiveness of your sales activity.

Seize the opportunity from your competitors who are dazed by the changing fortunes of the market.  Help your customers guard against a slowdown too by showing how your solution can protect its revenues or controls its costs.

September 22, 2008

Planning for growth - the objections managers hear when they present their plans and how to avoid them

Here are the 7 most common objections managers hear when they present their plans and what to do about them:

1. Overly optimist sales forecasts, with time to market/revenue and cost underestimated as a result.  Most people will flick to the end of the plan to see your numbers, make sure they stand up to some stress tests.  Make sure the investment in sales and marketing supports your ambitious sales targets.

2. Lack of objective market or opportunity validation, that means not just quoting reports (which is important) but providing direct feedback from potential customers.  Getting some external objective input to the document will very important.

3. Too much technical / product information for the audience in question, causing the overall message about why the company will be successful to get lost

4. Not enough detail on sales and marketing, including stuff like who the customers are going to be, what number of customers, the cost of acquiring customers, the advantage over competitiors, the marketing programme, the lead time, who will do the selling, etc.

5. To much generality and not enough details of what actions will be undertaken and when, a good plan should incorporate a project plan with key dates, actions, dependencies and milestones.

6. Not establishing the credibility of the team  - here are our successes to date, here are our customer and partners, here is our management team and its track record, etc.

7. Not keeping the audience in mind - what is it they need to hear?  Summarise the plan in 2 pages with the audience in mind, using their language, addressing their key concerns, etc.  For example if it is an investor audience then the return on investment and the exit strategy are the key items should be highlighted on page one paragraph one.

September 21, 2008

Its Time for Sales-Led Marketing

To get the most from their marketing, managers are adopting an increasingly Sales-Led approach to marketing

Everybody knows that marketing has a role to play, but in most companies what exactly that is has not been clear. 

In so many companies a mismatch of expectations results in frequent complaints from sales about the; leads, lists, materials, messages, etc. generated by marketing.  

Marketing always adept at identifying and meeting the needs of its customers has recognised that its primary customer is the sales team. The result is a sales-led approach to marketing.

Sales-Led Marketing is a move away for expensive and inherently difficult to measure mass marketing, such as advertising and trade shows.   

Instead it
focuses on the same target lists as the sales team, thereby directly supporting its sales activities for this quarter and next.

At its core is a
systematic programme of one 2 one contact with senior managers and decision makers in companies that meet the criteria.  

That contact entails an integrated programme of contact by telephone, email, newsletter, whitepaper, invitations to seminars, events and webinars, etc.  

All this is
personally targeted at specified senior managers in those target organizations and supports the present sales activities of the sales team as well as building awareness and interest among the prospects of the future.  


Think twice before admitting that half your marketing is wasted!

Many managers joke that half their marketing is wasted, they just don't know which half.  In reality however if half your marketing is wasted you are only half doing your job.  

Imagine a factory manager admitting that only half of what was produced worked, or an accountant saying that only half of the company's accounts were accurate.  They would quickly be out of a job!  So why should marketing be different.  

Yes, marketing can be a little hard to measure, but not impossible.  In particular the trend from traditional mass marketing to one to one contact with buyers and decision makers have enabled a revolution.  We call it Sales-Led Marketing - it is the approach employed by those companies who accelerate sales growth.

Everyday we listen to sales managers and their teams side-swipe at marketing, either for the quality of leads, the accuracy of lists or the effectiveness of sales collateral.  Sales led marketing is an end to the 'them and us' approach that has existed for too long.

Don't let anything distract you from your sales tasks

Did you ever notice how
101 things will arise during the week to distract you from the sales activities you had planned - calling that prospect, arranging that meeting, following up on that proposal, asking for that referral, etc.

Managers continually tell us that although
sales is priority number 1, more urgent but less important activities continuously strive to put it in second, third or fourth place.

Raising funding, completing the business plan, preparing for the management meeting, sorting out a delivery problem - all noble tasks but ultimately futile unless the revenue keeps flowing in.

Remember even a full time sales person gets to spend only a small proportion (around 25%) of their week selling on the phone, or face to face. We all need to make a firm resolve to spend time on sales related activities.

So starting this week, make a new determination with me -
not to leave what matters most (selling) at the mercy of what matters less (administration, paperwork, returning calls, etc.).

Block time out of your diary,
whether it is two half days or two full days - that is time uninterrupted by meetings, visitors, phone calls, or emails, for making your sales calls, following-up on enquiries, etc.