The Benefits of Tracking Your Sales

June 29th, 2009

I saw a great advertisement yesterday. It was an ad for a storage facility on a bus. (The ad was on the bus, not the storage facility.)

What made it such a great ad? Underneath the phone number was the instruction, “Mention the word ‘bus’ and get your first month free!”

A free anything is always a smart sales tactic. (See my article Sell More by Giving Things Away.) What’s even smarter is that using the word ‘bus’ makes the ad trackable. At the end of the month, quarter or year, the company can see exactly how many sales came from their bus ads and compare those numbers not only with the cost of the ads, but also with their other marketing efforts to gauge their relative effectiveness.

Tracking your sales gives you data to make better business decisions. This is critical because there are a million things clamoring for your sales and marketing dollars, from Yellow Pages ads to web site SEO (search engine optimization), from radio campaigns to sales training for your team.

Now, while sales and marketing efforts are investments rather than expenses (because money you put into them should provide a return), not all investments are good ones. The only way to know which investments are worth your money is to track your results from everything and analyze the data.

For every line item in your sales and marketing budget, what kind of a return are you getting? If the answer is nothing (or close to it), then, obviously, stop doing that. But if the returns are good, increase your expenditures on that.

Most companies these days have slashed their sales and marketing budgets across the board. Because they haven’t been tracking their sales, they have no idea what’s been working and what hasn’t been. Which means they’re shooting themselves in the foot by reducing their investments in those efforts that generate sales. They’re not advertising their product, they’re not training their salespeople and they’re not improving their customer service. Is it any wonder their sales are way down?

The good news is, their shortsightedness creates a golden opportunity for you, if you know where to invest your sales and marketing efforts.

How NOT to Make a Sales Call

June 25th, 2009

It happened again.

Yesterday I got a call from a salesperson who breathlessly told me what she did, mentioned she was going to be in my area and asked me if Tuesday or Wednesday would be better for her to stop by.

That’s it.

No rapport-building, no questions about whether I might actually need what she has, no asking for permission. She just assumed I’d be happy to set aside some of my valuable time for her to make a more detailed sales pitch. As if I sit around my office twiddling my thumbs, wishing a salesperson would stop by to break up the monotony.

The technique she used—asking an either/or question rather than a yes/no question—is an old one. The supposed idea is that you don’t give the prospect the option of saying no, so you’re more likely to secure an appointment.

I can’t believe companies (and some so-called sales experts) are still training salespeople to use garbage like this! The tactic didn’t work when it was first conceived and it doesn’t work now.

On the contrary, it can work against you. It’s a manipulative, annoying, high-pressure approach that makes prospects uncomfortable, angry and skeptical. Not how you want to start out a sales call.

I’ve done business with this company before, but this salesperson’s ham-handed attempt to set an appointment annoyed me so much that I’m actually less likely to buy from them in the future. (At least their competitors don’t call me up and try to force their way onto my calendar.)

When you’re making cold calls, keep these principles in mind:
1. Respect your prospect’s time.
2. Ask permission for everything.
3. Offer something of value. (And no, your brochure, informational DVD, or catalog is not something of value. At least, not from your prospect’s perspective.)

By the way, if your sales training is based on tactics developed in the 1950’s and 60’s, it’s time for something different. Click here for more details.

Social Media in the Limelight

June 22nd, 2009

If you’ve been avoiding social media because you believe it’s a waste of time, a fad or just for kids, it’s time to rethink your position. Social media (or web 2.0) sites are growing in influence every day and with this past weekend’s civil unrest in Iran, social media has been thrust into prime time.

Because the Iranian government instituted a ban on reporting by foreign media, news outlets have been combing social media sites for information. In a span of a few minutes on Saturday, CNN replayed amateur video from YouTube, cited a posting from opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi’s Facebook page and showed Twitter posts made by Iranians in the middle of the demonstrations. Fox News and other media outlets also turned to social media sites for up-to-the-minute commentary and images from people directly in the fray.

More and more businesses have been discovering the power of social media sites as well. The ability of these sites to enable dialogue and foster a sense of community provides companies of all sizes and descriptions a versatile and powerful sales tool.

Last year, Dunkin’ Donuts launched a highly successful YouTube campaign that solicited customer-created videos. This year, they’re running a photo contest exclusively for Facebook users.

Dell Computers has seen their Twitter following grow from 11,000 people in March to over 600,000 today. What’s more, Dell can trace more than $3 million in sales to their Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola has the second-most-popular page on Facebook, trailing only President Obama. When Coke posts promotions on its Facebook page, they’re seen by 3.4 million fans. (Who has the third-most-popular Facebook page? Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Go figure.)

And LinkedIn is evolving into one of the best prospecting tools ever invented, creating massive communities of people who actively want to do business with each other.

So whether you’re a salesperson, sales manager, CEO, association executive, business owner or professional, the time is ripe for you to leverage the massive potential of social media for your career or business. Click on the links above to the visit the referenced sites and set up your own accounts. (They’re free—what a deal!)

While you’re there, look me up. Or click these links to connect with me on LinkedIn, befriend me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter or watch my videos on YouTube.

I’ll discuss other social media sites, as well as strategies for using them and helpful resources, in future blog posts. In the meantime, just do a little exploring and get comfortable with the technology. You’ll soon start to see great sales opportunities.

The social media revolution is underway. Don’t be left on the sidelines.

How College Can Help You Boost Your Sales

June 19th, 2009

If your prospect attended college—or their children do—find out where. (You can find out directly from your prospect, from an associate or from their profile on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.) Then when you need a gift to send in advance of a cold call, as a follow-up or as a thank-you, you can give them something with their college logo on it.

Most colleges and universities have online stores with a wide variety of merchandise. Here are 26 ideas:

1. Hat
2. Coasters
3. Mug
4. Shot glass
5. Can cooler
6. Pennant
7. T-shirt
8. Sweat shirt
9. Jersey
10. Stadium cushion
11. Calendar
12. Framed print
13. Earrings
14. Cuff links
15. Lapel pin
16. License plate frame
17. Specialty food items
18. Golf balls
19. Golf club head covers
20. Window decal
21. Bumper sticker
22. Scarf
23. Tie
24. Pen
25. Christmas tree ornament
26. Stuffed mascot

The best gift reflects their personal taste and interests, but even if you don’t know the person and you’re just sending the gift in advance of a cold call, anything from their alma mater will make a personal (and powerful) impact.

Use Returns to Increase Your Sales

June 15th, 2009

How good is your return policy? And I don’t mean how well does it prevent people from making returns so you can keep a few extra bucks in your pocket. I mean, how convenient does your policy make it for customers to return purchases?

Some businesses hate returns so much, they refuse to allow them. Or else they create a policy with so many restrictions, it’s close to impossible to return anything. Approaches like these disappoint, aggravate and frustrate buyers, who then turn to competitors.

Smart sellers are less concerned with an individual transaction than they are with the customer’s perception of—and relationship with—their business. That’s where your true value is. Because the real profit comes not from just one sale, but from the dozens, or even hundreds, of subsequent sales to that same customer. So you want to do everything you can to encourage customers to buy from you again.

That’s precisely what a generous return policy does. When you make it convenient for your customers to rectify their mistakes, their perceived risk drops dramatically. Your commitment to their ultimate happiness means they won’t be stuck with a bad purchase. As a result, they feel more confident, and are likely to buy more expensive items. Which means that, far from being a cost center, a generous return policy is actually a shrewd investment in your future sales.

Instituting a strong refund policy will help ensure that your customers return. Again and again.

Deliver Better Sales Presentations

June 10th, 2009

Listen to my latest interview with Jim Blasingame on the Small Business Advocate Show.
 

To listen to previous interviews, click here.

A Rye Observation on Education and Sales

June 8th, 2009

In Sunday’s Frazz comic strip, an elementary school student laments, “Half of what I learn, I’m going to forget. The other half will become obsolete. Education is like bread. Even the good stuff goes stale.”

He’s absolutely right.

Much of what we learned 20 years ago or 10 years ago—heck, even a single year ago—is no longer relevant to what we do now. Whether you’re a salesperson, a sales manager, a business owner or a professional, your job is constantly changing, the market is constantly changing and the world around us is constantly changing.

Which is why, just as you need to continually buy fresh bread, you need to continually invest in fresh education. If you’re going to succeed in today’s  hyper-competitive marketplace, you need to be constantly upgrading your skills and your knowledge base.

So make it a point to regularly:
• Study your company’s products and services
• Study your competitors
• Attend sales training seminars and webinars
• Attend industry conferences
• Hire a coach or consultant
• Talk with a mentor
• Read books on sales, management, negotiation and personal growth
• Read articles and blogs on a variety of business-related topics
• Watch educational television and videos
• Listen to educational radio and podcasts

Learning should be a life-long endeavor. If it’s not, then not only will your education go stale, so will your sales. And before long, you’ll go stale. As Henry Ford once remarked, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”

A Great Day for Sales

June 4th, 2009

Today is National Cheese Day.

It’s also National Cancer Survivors Day, Apple Computer Day and Children’s Awareness Memorial Day. In addition, it’s National Fishing Week, North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, National Candy Month, National Fragrance Week, International People Skills Month, National Burglary Prevention Month, International Volunteer Week and National Pest Control Month.

To name just a few.

Why should you care? Because if you can link what you sell to any of the above observances, you have a great opportunity to send out press releases, post on Twitter or your blog, offer a promotion or follow up with prospects and clients.

You don’t have to wait for a major holiday to do these things. If you’re a landscaping service, a home & garden center or a nursery, you could send out a press release alerting the media about National Garden Month, with information about your company. In honor of Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day, you could offer free shipping on any purchase. Or you could call a prospect and leave a message on their voice-mail wishing them a Happy Stick Out Your Tongue Day.

You can find information on these and other annual occasions at your bookstore or library in books such as Chase’s Calendar of Events or online at sites like CelebrateToday.com and gone-ta-pott.com.

Here are just a few of the days, weeks and months that have been designated for some cause or issue. (I swear I’m not making any of these up.)
• National Bike to Work Day
• Organize Your Home Day
• National Shampoo Week
• International Hot & Spicy Food Day
• National Hobby Month
• Customer Service Day
• Rid the World of Fad Diet and Gimmicks Day
• Clean Up Your Computer Month
• Fun at Work Day
• Homes for Birds Week
• Personal Self-Defense Month
• National Lipstick Day
• Hot Air Balloon Week
• Professional Speakers Day
• Root Canal Appreciation Day
• Correct Posture Month
• Dump Your Significant Jerk Day
• Handshake Day
• National Baby Week
• National Caffeine Addiction Awareness Month
• International Talk Like a Pirate Day
• Canada-U.S. Goodwill Week
• Wear a Plunger on Your Head Day

Want more? Follow me on Twitter, where I’ll post a different commemorative day, week or month daily.

Top Ten Mistakes Salespeople Make

June 2nd, 2009

Most of us are our own worst enemy. We do things (or fail to do things) which sabotage our sales success.

Take a look at this list and give yourself an honest appraisal. How many of these are you guilty of?

1. Avoiding prospecting
2. Not listening
3. Making long, boring, ineffective presentations
4. Not knowing their competition well enough
5. Confusing features with benefits
6. Forgetting to follow up
7. Cutting their price
8. Not attempting to close
9. Failing to up-sell
10. Not asking for referrals

If you make one or more of these mistakes on a regular basis, try not to be too hard on yourself—they’re extremely common. But do make a concerted effort to correct them, because they’re holding you back.

Figure out what’s causing you to commit these errors and do something about it. Read a book, go to a training seminar or get some individual coaching. When you do, you’ll see your sales increase. Make no mistake about it.