Archive for November, 2009

Closing the Deal on the Go: Market Your Expertise

November 30, 2009

You are an expert in your company’s products and services. Your have years of experience and mountains of knowledge of the market you serve. This expertise can bring you new customers if you know how to use it.

Give a presentation to a local professional organization, using the opportunity to speak generally about your product. Participate in a vendor’s night. Write an article in a trade journal or a letter to the editor in a local paper or national magazine.  Start a blog. Work a trade show.

All of these things, if done well, help build your credibility and credentials, and may lead to new business.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

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Closing the Deal on the Go: Clarifying Your Cold Calling Objectives

November 23, 2009

When you begin cold calling, do you know your objective? Is it to prequalify a prospect? Make an appointment? Close a sale? The more complex your product or service, and the larger the account, the more likely your goal is to prequalify than sell.  Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make your cold call:

  1. How Cold Is Cold? Totally cold means you know nothing about the person you are calling or the account you are trying to get. Warm means you did a little pre-call research, perhaps by talking to contacts, looking at brochures, checking out the company website, reading the company blog, becoming a fan on Facebook, following the company or its decision makers on Twitter, or gathering information through any number of other sources. Even warmer would be if you were following up on a company lead.
  2. What Are You After? You should view cold calls as a means to gather information, not make a sale.
  3. Who Is Your Target? Corporate giants are usually a waste of time to call completely cold unless you are following up on a corporate lead or a tip from a trusted source. Smaller companies are typically better targets for such calls, at least partly because their decision makers tend to be more identifiable and accessible.
  4. What Should I Bring? Only a briefcase. You will look professional and non-threatening. Brining more than that may make you appear as if you plan to muscle your way in and hold someone hostage in a long meeting.
  5. What Is You Story? You don’t have one. Be honest. You don’t have an appointment, but you feel you may have something of value.
  6. How Long Should I Stay? If you get in, your prospect will likely say how much time they have. Respect those parameters. Stay within them. Preferably, keep it shorter.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

As the time limit nears, qualify your prospect, and if appropriate, close for a future appointment. If you feel the prospect is hot, and only if you feel the prospect is hot, you may want to acknowledge the time limit is up, then see if they are willing to continue with the discussion. If not, then try to close for a future appointment.

Look Who’s Tweeting: Learning to Better Implement the Social Media

November 19, 2009

I had a meeting Wednesday with our social media intern, the topic of which basically was that I don’t blog, tweet, or tell the world what I am doing enough. I like and respect our social media intern, Daniel Nuccio. He is a bright kid who really knows his stuff, and the reason that we hired him was that after sitting through several seminars and talks on social media, I learned two very important things: (1) we really need to get involved with social media more than we have been, even if it is just to evaluate for ourselves if it is a way for us to find new clients or if it is just a fad; and (2) I was probably never going to put the time in by myself to do this right.

There are many reasons for me to have come to the second conclusion, everything from being a small business owner (which in my world means wearing several hats from the “big boss” and managing our inside and outside sales reps and sales management team to being the guy who makes sure the garbage is taken out in the office) to believing that although I’m probably a decent enough guy, most people don’t want to about every breath I take or every move I make. According to Daniel, that is not the case. He assured me that people want to know more about me and about Randolph Sterling, Inc. than just that we are a sales management and outsourced sales company or when our next peer advisory group meeting is going to be held. I greatly enjoy developing relationships with clients but am used to doing it one on one, face to face, not so much in the public eye. I can understand people would potentially be interested in me talking about the trade show I went to yesterday and the program we are running for trade show follow up, or my trip down to our Raleigh office to evaluate some software we plan to implement to help us stay in better contact with our clients, but do people really want to know about the great day I had on Saturday when I ended up shopping for a one year old’s Bob Marley t-shirt (who knew they even existed?) instead of a new car? Are the people searching for articles that include Bob Marley looking for the kind of sales help I can provide?

I promised Daniel that I would make a more conscious effort to write more—heck one day I can put all of this together and write that second book that has been eluding me—but now this brings up a whole new problem: I’m a sales guy at heart, always have been, always will be. I’ve been selling since I was a little kid trying to convince my parents to let me stay up an hour later at bedtime (I guess I was pretty good back then since now I never seem to get enough sleep). How in the heck am I going to be able to “tweet?” 140 characters, really? As a sales guy, I like to paint a picture. Ask any of us what time it is and you will most often get a little bit about how to build a clock. I did make a promise so I will start with some random parts of my life since Saturday:

  • Had a great day today…had planned on looking for a car but ended up having the best day in months looking for a present for a one year old. Company does matter.
  • Had fun watching football today, but think my Roethlisberger jersey has been cursed—Steelers lost and I got heckled by a Cincinnati fan!
  • Busy day in the office…have had good success on Aaron Equipment project but know more about waste treatment than anyone should!
  • Getting ready for the holiday rush. It is always a busy time for us when companies push to reach their sales goals and ask us for help.
  • That’s right, the holidays are coming! Time to start planning my holiday display for the house and the Toys for Tots drive.
  • Working on the website…has needed an update for some time now. Want it to be more interactive for clients. What would you like to see on it?
  • Have been bouncing around ideas for a charity event—something I have wanted to do for years. We should all be giving back
  • Just finished a day talking to clients about next year. In an hour was an “expert” in sales of tech, mfg., accounting, and staffing. I love the diversity of our clients.
  • Went to a trade show for a client. Saw some good opportunities for him, but even more for us. Will be going back tomorrow with Art.
  • Customer service matters. After sitting in traffic for 2 hours in Chicago on my way to McCormick Place. Parking lot attendant from yesterday remembered me & welcomed me back.
  • Sat in on a social media presentation at FabTech show in Chicago…ok, ok, I promise to tweet more!
  • Art made some good connections at FabTech for sales management and for having our team follow up on leads for them. Now let’s turn them into business.
  • Ran into my buddy Brad from softball as I was leaving the trade show. Talked a bit about biz and I think I have a good connection for him!
  • Played basketball 2 nights in a row and can still walk! Tuesday played great defense and Wednesday I scored a lot. Always enjoy playing ball with the guys.
  • Up early and off to the Raleigh office for a few days. Hoping to close deal to provide SAM Peer Advisory Groups for Business Clubs of America.
  • Have you ever been sitting on a plane, ready to take off only to have your plane go “out of service?” What does that mean exactly?
  • I like biographies so now I am reading Alonzo Mourning’s autobiography. Courageous, charitable, inspirational man. We can all learn from people like this.
  • Finally found us another plane…but this one has maintenance problems! Apparently the big problem was no water for coffee. Coffee…really?
  • Up safely in the air as I write this article and again wonder why I fly so much. I should hit Platinum status on my next flight. I like seeing clients face to face though.

So there they are, my random thoughts. I hope this gives you just a little bit more insight into me. I promise to write more and please, make comments so I can get to know you all better.

Closing the Deal on the Go: Snooping around an Office

November 18, 2009

The recent popular psychology book Snoop by Sam Gosling, a professor at the University of Texas, describes how you can learn a lot about a person from such seemingly meaningless things as they way a person dresses, the manner in which they decorate their office, and their taste in music. In fact, the author holds that from these things it is possible to begin to create a mini psychological profile on a person.

I found this fascinating, perhaps partially because some years ago I wrote about how you can gleam information from a reception room to prequalify your prospects and plan your sales approach. And, although my information was not based on mountains of formal research data like Gosling’s, I still feel there’s something to it. Here are some examples:

Lean and Mean:

Style: Small, pared down, dowdy

Conclusion: The buyers have a fixation on the bottom line and put a heavy emphasis on R&D

Glitzy and Glamorous:

Style: Designer labels

Conclusion: The company is either a success or wants people to think it is. Expect a concern for packaging and an interest in products that will enhance the corporate image. However, if the reception area is the only part of the office that can be described by glitz and glam, the prospect may be more show than substance.

Corporate and Formal:

Style: Wood paneling and understated elegance. The receptionist likely sits behind an antique table. There may be original art on the walls.

Conclusions: Expect to have to justify everything. Make sure your documentation is in order and your figures add up. Expect them to place a heavy emphasis on quality.

Civic Minded and Concerned:

Style: The walls are covered with citations and photos of group outings and charity events.

Conclusion: Try to tie your product or service to their civic consciousness. If your company has something in common with theirs, let them know.

And What About Hard Data?

Beyond the qualitative information you gather from looking around the office, also look for annual reports, brochures, a visitor’s log, awards, framed advertisements, etc. All can be good sources of information, as well as conversation pieces, especially when speaking to the receptionist, yet another source of information.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

Closing the Deal on the Go: When Secretaries Are the Decision Makers

November 12, 2009

Think of Joan Holloway on the AMC hit series Mad Men. How much do you think she was responsible for when she worked at Sterling Cooper? She definitely had the ear of Roger Sterling, Jr. and also had a lot of authority around the office, including the ability to make certain hiring and firing decisions. Yes, assistants like her have a lot of responsibilities. They decorate the office, select office supplies, make travel arrangements, set lunch reservations, schedule appointments, and do a whole lot else. In the recent season three finale, she was even called in by Cooper, Sterling, Draper, and the other principle characters as they were raiding their former office because she was the only one who knew where anything was.

There are assistants like Joan Holloway all over, with just as much if not more influence and authority, and that is just one of the reasons why you should treat a prospect’s secretary with respect. If you are not sure if a secretary is responsible for a buying decision, assume she is. After explaining who you are and why you are calling, ask something like “Is Mr. Sterling the person who will make the final decision.” If the secretary replies, “Can you give me some more information,” or “Maybe I can help you,” you may already be speaking to the decision maker.

But if this is not the case, you should still treat them with the respect and consideration they deserve. Treating an assistant as if they are of token importance may turn a potential ally into a hostile stranger. At the end of your conversation, with a secretary, be sure to thank them for their help, even if they told you nothing more than when their boss will be in. Few people bother to do this, but the ones who do will likely be remembered.

Selling in November and December…the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

November 9, 2009

“Nobody is buying anything this time of year,” a fellow account executive said to me many years ago as he asked me to meet him at the mall to help him find a Christmas present for his girlfriend.

“I think I’ll stay here and get a couple things done. Maybe I can meet you a little later,” was my response, as I stayed in the office and made a few more phone calls to clients and prospects.

Let me set the scene here. This was not a conversation that took place between two seasoned account executives, but rather between two kids just starting out in the sales world. While I think I always have had a good work ethic, my reason for not going to the mall had more to do at the time with a fear that our boss would catch us at the mall goofing off than it did a desire to make 100 more cold calls the week after Thanksgiving. What happened next changed how I looked at selling in November and December forever. 

Many account executives, much like my old colleague, look at November and December like this:

  • “Nobody has any budget left”
  • “This is the time when we thank our clients for business, not look for new business”
  • “Everyone I talk to is taking time off”
  • “I’ve spent 11 months knocking on doors. It’s getting cold and snowy out there, I deserve a break”
  • “I’ve already made my quota for the year…why not enjoy the holidays?”

For those of you who know me, you know how I feel about the holidays, so that last excuse about enjoying the holidays really gets under my skin. I am a huge fan of the holiday season and spend many an hour decorating my house to look like something out of Christmas Vacation, planning an annual holiday party/Toys for Tots drive, and picking out presents for friends and family; yet somehow I have still found time to do that and also do my job.

Too many salespeople use the holiday season not to work, and they are missing the boat. For me, the holiday season is the best time to sell because while others are working on their excuses not to sell, I’m out building and strengthening relationships.

So what happened the day I stayed in the office to make more calls?

This was back when I was selling temporary IT staffing. One of my clients at the time was Warner Lambert, which is now part of Pfizer. We used to provide them with help desk, desktop support, and network specialists. Many times they would use one of our guys to fill in when someone was on vacation or if they had a big roll out to do. As my relationship with the decision makers I worked with grew, I eventually worked with them to bring in new employees. They would work as a “temp” for six months as our employee before Warner Lambert would hire them on as permanent staff members. On this day, I was reaching out to my contacts there, scheduling the end of year “thank you” lunch and discussing their plans for the next year so we could be sure to continue to provide them with what they needed. I called Chris Uminowicz, one of the network support managers I worked with and he asked me, “Hey Rich, you guys do desktop training too, right?”

While this particular service was on our brochure, it is not one that I had personally had much luck in selling to this point. “Sure, Chris, we have some great trainers,” was my reply, as I hoped our database had one or two people in it to be able to help them out. “Why do you ask?”

“One of the sales managers asked me,” replied Chris. “I think they want to train some of the salespeople on using their laptops more effectively,” as he gave me the name of the sales manager to call. I guess my trip to the mall would have to wait a few more minutes as I called the sales manager.

The result of that call was that we did get to bring the trainers—15 total—in to train their salesforce on some new software they had developed to generate proposals. Each of those trainers worked for over four weeks, minimum 40 hours a week, at a bill rate of well over $100/hr. (at a time when our average bill rate was about $40/hr.) Because of the great success of the project, they decided to do this project in mid-December every year. Talk about writing your own Christmas bonus!

My point is simply this; it has been said by many that 90% of success is just showing up. This is extremely evident in November and December. While your competition is out buying Christmas presents for their significant other mid-day in December, stay focused on task. Call your clients to thank them for their confidence in you to allow you to help them throughout the year, but also ask them about their plans for January and the coming year. Call those prospects that you’ve been trying to reach all year and wish them a happy holiday season. Ask them what their plan is for the new year. Chances are their current supplier hasn’t asked and won’t until he gets back from the mall sometime after January 2nd. While you will be hitting the ground running with at least a month’s head start, he will be sputtering out of the gate, shaking off the cobwebs from a month of drinking eggnog and eating Christmas cookies.

Closing the Deal on the Go: The Sales Letter

November 6, 2009

If you decide to write a sales letter to a prospect, this first step can determine the success or failure of the relationship. When writing the letter, keep it simple. Stick to a single goal such as setting an appointment.

Without being there you cannot see how your prospect responds to the information you give them. Giving them too much information can inadvertently give them a reason not to buy.

At this early stage the goal should be to raise the possibility that you have something of value to sell. Inform them of the principle benefit your are offering and nothing more. Don’t give them a list of features. Keep it to the point and concise.

Also, know who you are writing to and tailor the letter to that person. Do not talk around them with a letter that could have been written to anyone at that company, or worse, anyone in their industry.

And finally, be sure in your letter to prepare the person for your call.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)