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Win with a Rational Sales Strategy

Win with a Rational Sales Strategy

When you are out in the field making sales, you are representing your product or service, your company, and possibly, your industry at large. It’s crucial that you and your sales staff create a serious sales plan from day one to represent your products and services with a professional image.

You also need to make sure that all of your marketing material is consistent with your sales message. Furthermore, all of the material should go through a thorough review process by sending cycles of ideas and marketing text around to trusted, qualified marketing managers and other professionals, usually via e-mail attachments or on-line applications like BaseCamp.

From the first phone call to a prospective client, to the days and weeks after a contract has been signed, your salespeople represent you and your company to clients and the outside world, so make certain you spend the necessary resources to give them the best ongoing training and support.

When calling a new potential client, salespeople need to ask the gatekeeper (secretary, receptionist, assistant, spouse, vice president, and so forth) specifically who is in charge of their service area. Double check to make sure you will be connected to the best decision-maker. (Joining the networks LinkedIn and FaceBook gives you access to much of the info you might need and fills in pieces of a puzzle that can be further developed by doing basic research on your prospects in Google.)

Befriend the gatekeeper and ask as many questions as you can get away with because they can often open locked doors. (Examples of potential questions include: “How’s the weather in Houston?”; “How do I spell her last name?”; “Can you tell me how to find your website?”; “Would you mind if I sent her a brief e-mail to outline our offer?”; “How long have you been in business?”; “How about those Redskins?”, and so on.) As you see, the object is to establish a personal relationship that has the potential to grow over time, which might create the trust necessary for a broader, longer-term relationship with the prospect’s company.

Every customer wants (and you must give them) personal service. Since you will have so much time and energy invested in providing the best services, your sales targets may as well be the big fish. You will be qualified to impress them, and they can afford your services and products.

One primary reason to target ostensibly high-level prospects is so you don’t waste time giving fantastic service to people who are not in the position to make future serious commercial decisions and referrals. Those customers would only be of marginal benefit to your long-term goals, whereas, a wealthy VIP may be able to purchase your high margin services regularly, and introduce you to his equally valuable peers in an ever-compounding process.

Everything and everyone somehow ties together. Connect those dots. All positive human links can be of value. The people with the strongest business and social connections, and the most impressive past successes, are the most beneficial to associate with your own expanding corporate-social-charitable network. You want to know all of their friends and business associates so you can speak more intelligibly about their line of business and create more sustainable relationships.

Always make the links obvious so they can be strengthened and expanded to your advantage. Do the proper industry research, not just about the product or service that you are selling, but also about the people in that industry and your particular sales prospects.

Have you heard of the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”? It helps prove how a human referral system can connect you to almost anyone you want to reach, as long as you flesh out the network effectively. Go for the big names, and make sure you are always developing new references to get there.

Be quick and efficient once you are speaking with the right person so you can make more calls, set up more meetings, and submit more proposals (and so they don’t quickly tire of you).

Be assertive but not too pushy. Be very polite—say “yes, ma’am/sir,” “yes, please,” “thanks,” and “I appreciate your help.”

Contact multiple people at the same company, if that’s what’s necessary to close the deal. Nevertheless, don’t appear as though you are trying to go behind the back of your primary contact. There isn’t always a clear chain of command for service provision, and nobody will be offended if you politely push a good deal through the bureaucracy. Always have a positive or neutral tone of voice, even in negative, frustrating situations.

Once you have an appointment, go about your first meeting the right way. Always ask your sales prospect his time frame and budget. If he doesn’t know this, then he is not close to buying what you are selling.

Be confident with the fact that you are the best in each service area so you are being honest when you tell your prospects so. They will likely notice your confidence and will have confidence in you in return. In fact, if you don’t intend on trying to be the best, then get a new job.

Ask many open-ended questions to prospects, thereby eliciting their critical involvement in the sales process. Memorize questions and answers; learn who to ask, which questions to ask, and when to ask them. Clients love to talk about themselves and it is an invitation into their world. Moreover, you need to document all the information you can get since it adds future strategic value to your marketing arsenal.

Be fearless; if you are hesitant or nervous to ask the right questions and make a pitch, you aren’t going to sell anything. You have nothing to lose unless somehow you are establishing a bad reputation by being annoying.

Keep tools handy like industry and marketing directories, databases, industry pricing and inventories, emerging ideas and questions, references, and URLs (in your bookmarks management application). Know the answers to questions that customers might ask, by memory if possible.

In your closing process, precisely know which stage you are in and what action any items or objections need in order to be managed properly. Once those items are effectively dealt with, you should have a completed deal unless other objections exist. If that’s the case, then deal with those issues immediately. For the most part, objections are repetitive, so you should know how to counter each one in advance.

Send marketing items to your prospects and customers consistently over the life of your relationship with the purpose of keeping your company name in your contact’s mind: i.e., printed brochures, concise PowerPoint presentations, specials, faxes, newsletters, business cards, calendars, and other ad specialties (like pens, shirts, magnets, mouse pads, bumper stickers, relevant press clippings, and so on). Don’t forget to work with them on-line, too, by e-mailing relevant links, press releases, and other information.

According to Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of business bestseller Guerilla Marketing, an average prospect needs to be exposed to your message nine times before he is amenable to become a customer. Since the prospect only sees or hears your message one out of three times when you attempt to reach them, that would mean it takes twenty-seven attempted exposures to begin to saturate each prospect effectively with your brand or messaging.

The greater quantity and variety of exposures, the better—referrals, press articles, fax, mail, newspaper ads, radio, affinity groups, friends, and on-line articles are all helpful in getting your message out.

As always, spelling and grammar in marketing material is critical—don’t get any of it wrong. Optimize your overall verbiage and word flow so your message can be fully absorbed by the highest proportion of prospects. Work with creative marketing people to help you out.

Copious notes on each sales call and meeting should be kept in your contact manager so you can gauge the effectiveness of your sales process, and use that information to tailor your future messages.

Call clients back in a reasonable amount of time after meetings, or send letters and faxes so they don’t forget you. Ask for good days and times to do follow-ups if they are generally hard to contact, and ask gatekeepers for the same information.

You must follow-up thoroughly on leads or else all the time and money used on your background and introductory work is wasted, and all leverage is lost! But reprioritize follow-ups according to your perception of the prospect’s likelihood of bearing fruit. In this case, your contact manager (the best are SalesForce.com and SugarCRM) once again proves to be critical, particularly its calendar functions.

Do a lot of hand holding for demanding prospects. On average, this will be worth the cost and effort for you and will lead to future strong sales and referrals. If you can please the most demanding customers, then you can please the not-so-demanding ones even more.

Establish long-term personal relationships with targets and clients to the extent that it aligns with your goals. Make it easy instead of overwhelming or overly complex for clients to buy what you are offering. Then make sure to literally ask for the sale by saying, "What do you think?" “Are you ready?” and “Can I bring you the contract?” Then sit quietly and let them answer. Above all, listen to any objections you will have to overcome.

If the answer is “no,” you will have to accept the rejection and move on until your sales process suggests it’s time to call on that prospect later, if ever. Don’t be discouraged if your offer fails. But when a customer is ready to sign up, do not give him the opportunity to change his mind—make the arrangements by phone, fax, and e-mail ASAP or, better yet, set up meetings with the contract in hand.

Statistical modeling will help you organize and analyze the tests of your business activities. This can be especially effective in Internet commerce where you can electronically measure the effects of new navigation, graphics, text, partner programs, contextual advertising strategies, and so on, while dynamically improving your results on a real time basis. Profits generated from your successful advertising tests can fund additional, more permanent advertising investments. This is the ideal.

When you make proposals to sell your services, they should often be based on standard company templates which are then customized to meet each specific proposal at hand. They also must reflect the accurate budgets involved as well as the reasonable time frames for benchmark activities. Proposals must be good-looking and accurate, spell-checked, and grammatically correct.

Make an estimate of what the customers can spend since often what a client wants may not be what he can afford. And detail his specific needs so he knows the proposal is tailored for him.

Hit lots of leads simultaneously since only a minority of deals will ultimately close no matter how promising they appear throughout the process.

Know precisely which services you wish to sell to each prospect based on his likely requirements. Suggest solutions based on previous customers in similar situations.

See what others in the prospect’s industry do for their solutions.

Know who your existing clients are and how to use them as references.

Consider doing a tag team on deals, exposing the prospect to several trustworthy, friendly, capable co-workers. This is often very successful

When possible, use your prospects’ consultants to help close the deals. Likewise, consultants might give you access to additional business from their other customers if they appreciate your service. Consultants are therefore leveraged prospects who should be considered high priority.

Once you’ve made a sale, check up on your customers and try to sell them additional services while also attempting to get references; highlight your product line expansions and diversifications.

Plant lots of seeds that could grow into good deals and opportunities far in the future. Build a pyramid of referrals that will spin off business indefinitely.

Recommend add-on services. Say, “I will be in your building at two o’clock. May I stop in for ten minutes to show you/tell you about…?” This way, you’ll spread a wide net over various markets while still getting the most out of each individual contact.

Consider offering your prospects a questionnaire, if that makes sense for your product, and then take their feedback seriously to help improve future offerings.

Document the good ideas and solutions that you learn in the field and include them in your Best Practices or Standard Operational Procedures master documents, so they are easily at hand when you want to reuse them and teach them to others.

It’s possible, despite your best efforts and investments in advertising trials, that you have been unable to prove the effectiveness of traditional advertising for your business. Advertising is a technique that should be abandoned in favor of other investments if not directly proven profitable. Marketing is a broader process that includes how you and your product are presented so it cannot be removed from your long-term business plan. You should have a sound advertising strategy which might include not advertising at all.

Since the advent of Google’s AdWords/AdSense platform and Yahoo’s Overture platform, both leveraging the very profitable market they have created for dynamic contextual advertising links, along with older school applications like Advertising.com (now part of AOL) and DoubleClick (now part of Google), traditional advertising has taken new, innovative forms. Now, businesses, even with small budgets, can more effectively reach their target markets and contend against larger competitors through Internet advertising, which is currently best done with text link advertising via on-line bidding processes.

Google has been the primary force in the democratization of advertising. Suddenly taking brands global isn’t just for big corporations with large scale marketing budgets and strategies. Also, keep your eye on companies like SpotRunner, ReachLocal, SEO.com, and their competitors, which meld the better aspects of the Google targeting and bidding platforms with more traditional, local, and Internet advertising. Don’t be surprised if Google or its wannabe competitors spend enormous dollars one day to attempt to gain control over this niche of the search advertising marketplace.

With democratized campaigns, your ads can be more controlled allowing you to precisely test and measure your marketing strategies. Aspiring ad networks beyond Google and Yahoo are getting in the mix. With friends like these, traditional advertising might no longer be the best way to reach your marketing objectives. Most likely, each year you will be able to justify spending a greater portion of your marketing dollars on non-traditional Internet-centric media at the expense of traditional broadcast and print channels.

For instance, with your own small advertising budget, you can effectively expose your company using Google AdWords (adwords.google.com). You only pay when your ad is clicked on (Pay per Click/PPC), and you have granular control of your campaign to adjust details like budgets, keywords, and dates, whenever you choose. You can make as many changes to the advertisements as you want until you get the desired results without breaking your budget.

Google and Yahoo sell text link ads in a bidding process and have exact statistical “conversion” data with a multitude of ways to adjust and precisely measure your customer acquisitions. This is often an excellent option for companies to test. SEO.com, Yield Software, ReachLocal, and their competitors can help manage this same on-line advertising phenomena cost effectively, and potentially very profitably, for companies without adequate internal resources.

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