Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Building Trust: It’s Critical to Sales Success

As a sales professional with WWICS I sold a dream which the clients only realized after three to four years .To close a sale, trust was Key, starting from the marketing function, through the face to face meeting and post sale.
Some of my colleagues thought that by talking to the prospect in the vernacular or change of voice tones would do the trick.
They would realize occasional sales however to get consistently high sales one had to take specific steps that address Trust. 
If you want to build trust with your prospects, clients or your friends, there are three things that you can do.
  1. Keep Your Questions Open.  It’s a conversation you are having with your client; not an interrogation.  Open questions get people talking, and the more your clients talks, the more they like you.  Starting your questions with words like, “who, what, tell, describe”.
  2. Stay Away From Problems.  Meeting someone for the first time, and immediately asking about problems does not build trust.  You have to earn the right to get to the deeper issues.  I want to hear all about my friend or my client, and the problems can wait… for now.
  3. Base Your Pace On Personality.  We are building a conversation here.  Some people are social, and that means your initial, open questions might include questions about family.  Some people are more analytical or dominant, and that means your initial, open questions would need to be targeted towards the reason why you are there.
To consistently achieve high sales never, ever assume that building trust is created in some magical way because you are smart, speak the same language or are genuinely a trust worthy person.
 It should be a conscious goal!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Build and Motivate a Sales Team

It is no secret that the right sales employees backed by superior sales training and effective leadership – can elevate an organization to new heights of success whereas a poorly prepared and under performing sales force can bring any company down. As a sales manager, it is your responsibility to build and support the best possible sales team. In either case, the glory or the blame rests squarely on your shoulders.
From a sales professionals standpoint money and status is what drives us; motivating and retaining a high-performance sales force is thus an important undertaking. To start ,you need people who are the right fit, set realistic and achievable goals, design effective ways to motivate your team( motivating salespeople is not a ‘one size fits all,’ because what motivates you may not motivate me)  and finally get  appropriate sales training. These key steps will get you and your team moving in the right direction:
  • Hiring the sales staff.
 Recruit slowly, think of the requirements of the job, look at the personality of the recruit and interview each person three times. This will enable you get the right candidate for the job. Lastly check the references
  • Explain performance expectations and job clearly.
Before sending your team out into the field, explain the job to each person clearly so that they are aware of their responsibilities and your expectations. Review goals and objectives with each person, and put their deliverables and compensation in writing. Clear communication helps eliminate questions or confusion.
  • Motivate your team.
To attract and retain   the best, combine basic pay with commission based compensation. This will provide a strong motivation for them to exceed set targets. As I mentioned earlier sales professional are highly motivated by money and status. This approach also guarantees a minimum income during lean times, which helps keep morale high and minimizes the risk of losing experienced staff. A comprehensive benefits program can help you compete for the best salespeople, and public recognition is another way to encourage and reward outstanding performance.
  • Sales train for your team.
Failure to train salespeople effectively is teaching them to fail.Invest in some form of professional sales training for your entire staff, to ensure that all team members have a consistently high level of knowledge and skills.
By following these steps, you can put your sales team – and your career – firmly on the path to success.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Marketing = Pull And Stay

    A big mistake I see every day is businesses constantly pushing products and services down people‘s throats via social media. People are just trying to sell, sell, sell and do not seem interested in building relationships. This is old marketing and is equivalent to spamming and is quite annoying. To succeed online, it is critical the firm builds up social currency.
     Social currency is the leverage one accumulates through their ongoing presence in social networks and communities. The idea is that by getting involved, creating a sense of community, and sharing ones knowledge and expertise with other users they create an identity, which is accompanied by trust and recognition.
      As the firm creates its presence in a giving, influential way, over time it builds up significant social currency. In other words by enabling people to get to know, like, and trust  the firm, eventually it earns the right to sell the people its products or services.
      Just like anything worthwhile, this takes time, patience, and consistency. Firms should not expect to just show up and have everyone buy all of their products immediately. ‘Build up your social currency and earn the right to turn your product or service into money’. This is very important if a firm is in business for the long haul.
      This brings me to a difference between the old world and the new world.
Old media = Push and pray
New media = Pull and stay
      Companies used to spend a fortune with their marketing budgets and basically they would cover the whole marketplace with their message. They would (and some still do) push their products in people’s faces and then essentially they would pray that people would buy them.
      In today‘s world, using the power of social media, we can do the opposite. By building up social currency and creating real relationships we can pull people into our world. Then, as long as we keep pumping out meaningful content, they will stay. People who are pulled in and stay also eventually will pay!
     The push and pray approach is expensive and unpredictable. The pull and stay method is comparably cheap, costing mainly your time and energy, predictable (once you figure out how the game works), and leads to building relationships, which always equates to a sustainable business.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Customer loyalty has virtually disappeared: Focus on Customer Preference.

If business leaders and executives are thinking that the global crisis is over and that the future financial performance should be okay, a word of caution is that all businesses are suffering from a more serious and enduring problem that has hidden beneath the recent turbulence.
      Throughout the history of buying and selling, purchase has been a challenging experience for both buyers and sellers because purchase is a lengthy progression with three phases: consideration, negotiation, and transaction. 
Buyers have always been in control of their consideration phase and sellers have always been in control of negotiation and transaction because they 'owned' every bit of valuable information relevant to the purchase.
      Over the past several years, selling and marketing has been changing rapidly because the buyers are changing.  No longer is the salesperson needed to educate the prospect; marketing is having an increasingly difficult time breaking through the noise to capture the prospect’s attention.  With the immense amount of information every prospect has at their fingertips, many times the prospect knows far more about their issues and potential solutions than the salesperson they’re dealing with. This has led to a profound shift in the buyer –seller equation. Robert H. Bloom states that the ‘buyers no longer care who they buy from’.
      Business growth is thus only possible if marketers and sellers can persuade newly informed and assertive customers to buy from them, and Bloom hastens to add that the task is a tough one, though.
      In this new marketplace the question becomes how do you gain the prospect’s attention and then put your product or service in first position?
      Robert H. Bloom in The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments (Greenleaf Book Group Press: 2010) offers an answer to this problem.
      Bloom argues that technology has empowered buyers and “ultimately {their} loyalty died” because of the immense number of choices they now have along with an enormous amount of detailed comparison information, along with the ability to purchase anytime, day or night, and from a growing number of vendors, all vying for their business. 
      Consumer loyalty, according to Bloom, is a thing of the past.  In today’s marketplace companies can no longer count on loyalty from their customers, but they can still become the preferred product or service by creating Customer Preference.  Customer Preference does not guarantee a sale as there are other factors at work, but preference opens doors, allowing you to charge a bit higher price and still get the business, to not have the exact desired color and still get the sale, to not have the best product and still get the sale, and to not be the best known brand and still get the sale.
      Creating Customer Preference involves giving the prospect a real or imagined benefit that is different from and more valuable to them than those given by your competitors.
      Embracing Customer Preference does not require a wholesale rethink of your business plan nor does it require investment in infrastructure or advertising. You can create Customer Preference with big ideas and small ideas.

      To achieve first position in the prospects mind, you must align your entire organization behind the mission of creating Customer Preference at what Bloom calls the Four Decisive Moments in every purchasing progression.
      The Now-or-Never Moment—the first brief contact with the prospect. Among the tips to get things right in the ‘first contact’ is the exhortation to ensure that your company’s website is customer-centric in design and content, because the site is the single most potent tool you have for converting prospects into customers. “Your home page must grab the visitor, differentiate you from your competitors, and immediately convey the primary benefits you offer the prospect.”
      Another advice is about training every employee who may be in touch with the prospect at the first point of contact. Consider implementing a weekly stand-up for the most interesting customer moments and a recognition program for the most successful conversion of the week, Bloom suggests. “Prepare a list of potential questions from prospects, and keep adding new questions to the list. How well and how promptly questions are answered will determine the level of customer preference you create.”
      The Make-or-Break Moment—during the transaction process. For the second decisive moment, make-or-break, staff training should concentrate on exhibiting patience and perseverance, because the consideration, negotiation, and transaction process is often lengthy and usually dangerous. Today, the old-style selling techniques of pressure and dominance rarely generate sales, the author reminds. “Your potential buyers value their independence and are looking for sellers who are willing to be their partners in the purchase progression.”
Importantly, he calls for a clear policy of concessions and ways to wow prospects that will turn them into customers. “How many customer requests have you said no to in the last two months? Is there a policy change you could make that might increase your conversion ratio while costing your business very little money?”
      The Keep-or-Lose Moment—the period when the customer is using the product or service. Focus should be on minimizing customer churn. If churn is eating your bottom line, your offering is probably not meeting customer expectations, postulates the author. Your priority must, therefore, be to assure the best possible performance for customers after they have purchased your product or service, he counsels.
“Too many bad things can occur during your valued customer’s usage of your product or service, and you may not discover the performance failure in time to rescue the relationship. Worse, your customer may spread the word about your failure over the back fence or on Face book or Twitter.”
      The Multiplier Moment—the chance to convert a one-time user customer into a repeat customer and gain a customer advocate and referral. Check how you handle clients when they return to buy more from you. For, investments in the customers you have are far more profitable than those made to attract new customers, as the book notes.
      Becoming the preferred product or service need not be expensive and can be accomplished by any size company since consumers, both business and individual, no longer care about who they purchase from—big or small; local, national, or online; old-line established or new start-up—as long as they provide the sought after benefit.
      Firms in every business category must forget about building their brand. “Brand-Building” is yesterday’s mantra. It is costly and seldom works, because in today’s sea of brands, mind-numbing slogans, and time-constrained customers’ brands mean far less and often nothing to the “new experts.” Alternatively, concentrate all your human and financial resources on delivering Customer Preference every time and all of the time.

      Do not confuse this trans formative concept of Customer Preference with a pep talk to your sales associates. Customer Preference requires that every staff member in your firm, from sales to the back office, to the shipping department, be energetically committed to making your company your customers’ First Choice.

      Creating Customer Preference is the fastest, least expensive, and surest way to win today’s newly empowered customers

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