Selling Ethically and Honestly

July 31st, 2009

Listen to my interview with Roger Cridlebaugh on Experts Unplugged. In this 30-minute segment, you’ll hear:

• The right way and the wrong way to sell
• How to figure out who your best prospects are
• The importance of social media
• How to quickly build rapport with prospects
• And more!

Click here to listen.

To listen to other interviews, click here.

Kung Fu, Control and Your Sales

July 27th, 2009

In the animated film Kung Fu Panda, the wizened Master Oogway advises his disciple, Shifu, to give up the illusion of control, a concept Shifu has trouble accepting. It’s a concept many salespeople have trouble accepting as well. In fact, many books and sales training seminars offer stratagems for “taking control of the sale.”

But Master Oogway was right, and salespeople should heed his advice. Trying to control the sale is an exercise in futility because such control is indeed an illusion. While we can certainly control our own thoughts, words and actions, that’s about it. We can’t make a prospect pick up the phone, read our e-mail or keep their appointment with us. We can’t control our competition, our prospect’s buying process or the end result of any given sales effort.

This is not to say you don’t have any impact at all. On the contrary, you have enormous potential to influence your prospect. You may not be able to “control” them, but you can:
    • Ask
• Engage
• Encourage
• Support
• Probe
• Listen
• Explain
• Empathize
• Assist
• Point out
• Demonstrate
• Suggest
• Help
• Advise
• Counsel
• Highlight
• Underscore
• Emphasize
• Describe
• Aid
• Elucidate
• Recommend
• Embolden
• And more!

When you try to control the sale, you frustrate yourself and annoy your prospect. When you give up the illusion of control, you free yourself to be of service to your prospect. And that will put you on the path to sales mastery.

Movie Trivia: Despite concerns by the director, all the actors in Kung Fu Panda performed their own stunts.

Trade Shows Still Valuable for Making Sales

July 24th, 2009

A recent survey by Tradeshow Week magazine confirmed that, even in a recession, trade shows provide great opportunities for increasing your sales. The survey, conducted in June, found that while overall tradeshow attendance is down, 96% of owners, CEOs, presidents and other c-level executives said they are still attending their industry’s most important shows this year.

So while mid- and lower-level employees have had their travel budgets cut, top executives (the people with buying authority) have continued to attend trade shows despite the economy. Why? Reasons included:
    • Keep up-to-date with changing industry trends.
    • See new products, equipment, technology and services.
    • See or participate in product demonstrations.
    • See products first reviewed online.
    • Maintain and build relationships; network.
    • Meet exhibitors’ senior management and staff.
    • Make purchases.
    • Acquire new ideas.
    • Education and training.
    • Save money by seeing many suppliers in one place.
    • Compare competing products and company teams.
    • Access competitive intelligence.
    • Maintain a presence – “see and be seen.”

The most important finding, however, was that these top-level executives have been buying as a result of attending trade shows. In fact, 21% of c-level attendees typically make a major purchase during or immediately after a show, and another 40% typically buy within three months. By six months, fully 78% have finalized an important deal with at least one exhibitor or sponsor.

Ironically, a separate Tradeshow Week survey, also conducted in June, found that large exhibitors have slashed their 2009 exhibiting budgets by an average of 22%, and have reduced the number of shows they’re exhibiting at by 13%.

This means you have a great sales opportunity! There are still lots of buyers flocking to shows, but fewer competitors contending for their attention. And with exhibitor participation down, you can score better deals with trade show managers. (Another finding from the survey.)

Now is not the time to cut back on your sales efforts! There are buyers out there looking to make purchases and if you’re not exhibiting at the shows they’re attending, those sales will go to someone else. Plan your show strategy, train your show sales team and get out there!

What’s More Important: Your Policies or Your Customers?

July 20th, 2009

Last week, Scott Coors (of the Coors Brewing family) and Dr. Dave Hurt went to eat at the Denver outpost of Houston’s Restaurant. The two were denied a table, however, because Hurt was wearing a sleeveless shirt. While not posted, such sartorial casualness is apparently a violation of Houston’s dress code. Even a discussion with a manager didn’t help the gentlemen.

The two ended up going to a different restaurant, but as Coors told the Denver Post’s Penny Parker, “Dave is humiliated. We don’t intend to return as a result.” And now that the episode has been publicized in the Post, a lot of other people will stay away as well. How many sales has Houston’s lost because of this one incident?

Every business has policies and they exist for a reason. (Hopefully.) But when it comes down to it, what’s really more important: your policies or your customers? When one of your policies negatively impacts your customers, that’s a policy that needs to have an exception made to it, or else modified or abandoned altogether. Examine each of your policies and ask yourself if it helps your sales or hurts them.

Both your policies and your people should serve your customers. When there’s a conflict, you have an opportunity to show your customers how important they are to you. If you don’t seize that opportunity, you’re telling your customers you don’t really care about them. As Coors said, “When the manager can’t or won’t override the rule based on actual circumstances, it’s bad business.”

To read the story in Penny Parker’s column, click here.

Serve Your Community as Well as Your Customers

July 16th, 2009

Non-profit organizations face a never-ending struggle for resources to assist their communities. You can help, while potentially boosting your sales in the process.

Getting involved in community service can increase the public’s awareness of your business, generate publicity and improve your company’s image. (Studies have shown that people prefer to do business with companies that support their local communities.)

On an individual level, you also have the opportunity to develop new skills, make new contacts and create life-long memories. And to top it off, there’s the feeling of pride and accomplishment that comes from making a difference in someone else’s life.

Here are just a few of the organizations in your community that could use your help:

• Churches
• Schools
• Hospitals and clinics
• Hospices
• Retirement centers
• Fire departments
• Police departments
• Libraries
• Service clubs
• Civic associations
• Food banks
• Shelters for:

• the homeless
• battered women
• abused children
• animals

• Youth groups, such as:

• Boy Scouts
• Girl Scouts
• Cub Scouts
• Brownies
• 4-H clubs
• FFA
• DECA
• Boys & Girls Clubs
• Big Brother/Big Sister
• Junior Achievement

How can you get involved? Consider doing one of more of the following:

Volunteer
Share your expertise. Provide coaching, training or mentoring. Or simply lend a hand and do whatever is needed.

Be a Sponsor
Every non-profit needs money to succeed. Every dollar you can give them makes a difference. And that money does double duty, marketing your business while helping the organization accomplish its mission.

Donate Goods and Services
Whatever you sell, some community organization can use it. Even if they can’t use it directly, they can auction it off to raise badly-needed funds.

In my last post, I said sales is service and service is sales. This is true for community involvement as well. When you serve your community, your community will serve you.

The High Cost of Poor Customer Service

July 14th, 2009

In March of 2008, musician Dave Carroll—of the Halifax-based band Sons of Maxwell—was seated on a United Airlines plane at a gate at Chicago’s O’Hare airport when he heard another passenger exclaim, “My God, they’re throwing guitars out there!” He looked out the window just in time to see a ground worker tossing one of his guitars, which landed on the ground. When the band arrived in Omaha late that night, Carroll discovered the base of his $3,500 Taylor guitar had been smashed.

Over the next nine months, Carroll spent hours talking with United personnel in multiple offices, trying to get them pay for $1,200 in repairs to the damaged instrument. But after a long bureaucratic runaround, he was told that, while they were sorry the incident happened, United would not compensate him.

Finally, Carroll decided to do what musicians do best: write a song.

“United Breaks Guitars” debuted on YouTube on July 6, 2009 and in the space of a week was viewed more than 2½ million times. The story was reported in newspapers and on news shows all over North America, adding fuel to the fire.

This is precisely the sort of publicity United would prefer not to have, but they have only themselves to blame. For a paltry $1,200, United could have prevented this public relations debacle and kept a valuable customer happy.

It’s one of my mantras: Sales is service and service is sales. They’re two sides of the same coin. The better your customer service, the better your sales will be. And the converse is true as well, now more than ever, as customers have the ability to air their gripes to the entire world.

To United’s credit, they’ve publicly stated that they intend to make things right with Carroll and they’ve asked him for permission to use the video to improve their customer service training. Although really, both actions are a little late. United should have resolved the problem immediately and they should have been investing more time and money in training in the first place.

Better late than never, of course, but United’s inadequacies on both counts have resulted in an awfully high cost to their reputation.

Learn from United’s mistakes. Train your people to take excellent care of your customers, and when something does go wrong, take care of your customers. They’ll thank you instead of humiliating you.

Great Thoughts on Sales, Business and Success

July 9th, 2009

I love quotations. A good quotation can inspire you, enlighten you or make you laugh. Some quotations can do all three at once. Here are some of my all-time favorites:

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman—not the attitude of the prospect.” —W. Clement Stone

“Youthfulness of spirit is the twin brother of optimism, and optimism is the stuff of which American business success is fashioned. Resist growing up!” —B.C. Forbes

“When you make a mistake, don’t look back at it long. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” —Hugh White

“The first and most important step toward success is the feeling that we can succeed.” —Nelson Boswell

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” —Mary Kay Ash

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”   —Mark Twain

“We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” —Lee Iacocca

“Your most important sale in life is to sell yourself to yourself.” —Maxwell Maltz

“The surest hindrance of success is to have too high a standard of refinement in our own minds, or too high an opinion of the judgment of the public. He who is determined not to be satisfied with anything short of perfection will never do anything to please himself or others.” —William Hazlitt

“Don’t think of it as failure. Think of it as time-released success.” —Robert Orben

“No matter how good you get you can always get better and that’s the exciting part.” —Tiger Woods

“We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?” —Marianne Williamson

“A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” —Walter Bagehot

“No one can possibly achieve any real and lasting success or “get rich” in business by being a conformist.” —J. Paul Getty

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” —Anonymous

Track Your Time to Boost Your Sales

July 7th, 2009

Last week I wrote extensively about the importance of tracking your sales to maximize your sales and marketing budget. But if you’re a salesperson or professional, you also need to track your time.

Your time is even more valuable than your money. (You can always make more money. You can’t make more time.) So it’s critical to invest your time in efforts that will produce the biggest return for you.

Look at the activities you spend your time on. Which activities are most beneficial at producing leads and sales? You’ll likely find that several activities contributed to specific sales. That’s fine. What you’re looking for is patterns: what should you spend more time on and what should you spend less—or no—time on?

You don’t necessarily need to keep a time log, although that can be very helpful in maximizing the use of your time. Just look at your sales and figure out which efforts spawned them.

Keep in mind that some things you spend time on—like reading, training and relaxing—can’t be directly linked to specific sales. That doesn’t mean they’re not important. (On the contrary, I would argue reading, training and relaxing are all vital to your sales success.) So don’t cut them out of your schedule just because there isn’t an obvious causal connection. The same goes for activities like networking, exercising and spending time with your family. All provide you with valuable—if unquantifiable—dividends.

The great thing is that when you track your sales efforts against your results, you’ll be able to plan your time more effectively. That will insure you spend your time on activities that generate the most sales and enable you to make time for everything else that’s also important in your life.

You’ve Tracked Your Sales—Now What?

July 3rd, 2009

I hadn’t intended for this to become a series, but hey, when inspiration strikes, run with it.

In my last two posts I wrote about the importance of tracking your sales and how to do it. This brings up yet another question: Once you’ve collected and reviewed your tracking data and figured out what’s working and what isn’t, what do you do next?

The answer isn’t as simple as just keeping what works and dumping what doesn’t. If that’s all you do, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities for more sales.

Start with the efforts that are working. Experiment with them to see if you can improve their results. What if you rewrote the headline? What if you changed the offer? What if you altered the time frame or the frequency?

Next, analyze each effort that didn’t work. See if you can determine the reasons it failed. Was the copy not compelling? Did people not see it? Was it directed at the wrong audience? Then, before you jettison it forever, try it again with some changes. You might be able to make it work.

Your goal is to maximize the return you get for all your sales, marketing and training investments. Make sure they’re always trackable, review your data regularly and tweak them until they’re as powerful as they can be. If you just do these three things, you’ll be ahead of more than 99% of businesses.

By the way, if you’d like some help with any of the above, give me a call or drop me an e-mail.

How to Track Your Sales

July 1st, 2009

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of tracking your sales. Some of you undoubtedly thought to yourselves, “OK, smart guy, and exactly how are we supposed to track our sales?” That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked it.

There are a number of ways of tracking where your sales come from. Here are a few:

Mention Code for Free Gift
This is the tactic the storage company I wrote about used. Their ad said, “Mention the word ‘bus’ and get your first month free!” If you’re using any kind of giveaway, discount or other promotion, put a code word in the marketing piece that’s unique to each piece.

Shopping Cart Tracking
Most web-based shopping carts have tracking systems built in, which enable you to insert unique links into newsletters, web pages, affiliate e-mails and more. When prospects click on the link, the shopping cart software records which link generated the lead. (Note: If your shopping cart doesn’t have this capability, call or e-mail me for the cart I recommend.)

Enter Code in Web Site
If you’re running a promotion that requires people to visit your web site, but you’re using off-line media (print, radio, TV), give prospective visitors a code to enter to fulfill the promotion. Again make each code unique to the marketing vehicle it appears in.

Ask for Someone Specific
If you’ve ever seen an ad that listed a phone number and then the instruction, “Ask for Margaret” or “Ask for Ted,” here’s a secret: There is no Margaret or Ted! The name is a fictitious one, created for the ad as a tracking device. If the ad appears in five magazines (or five newspapers or five whatevers) each ad will carry a different name. When a caller asks for that name, you know where the call came from.

Dedicated Phone Number
You can designate a specific phone number for a specific marketing piece or campaign. Every time that particular line rings, you know why. Many yellow pages companies have a service that provides you with a unique phone number for your directory ad. They’ll do the tracking for you and show you how many calls came from your ad.

Code on Coupon
If you use coupons, put a code on them matched to the delivery mechanism, whether it’s direct mail, newspapers, e-mail, etc.

Ask Your Customers
The most obvious way to track the results of your sales and marketing efforts is, ironically, one of the least used. Ask your customers how they heard of you!

Unless you’re a gigantic company with millions of marketing dollars to waste (and most marketing dollars are wasted), you should never undertake a sales or marketing effort that isn’t trackable. This goes for ad campaigns, web site overhauls, sales training initiatives and everything else that affects your sales.

And of course, having that data is pointless unless you actually look at it! Review your data on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis to see what’s working and what isn’t. Only with good data can you make good decisions.