Archive for January, 2010

The Ketchup is Out of the Bottle: Our First SAM Peer Group Meeting!

January 27, 2010

We had our first SAM peer advisory group meetings this week in Raleigh. I had mentioned in my last article that the anticipation of getting these groups up and running is a lot like waiting for the Heinz ketchup to come out of the bottle. Now the ketchup is out…so how did it go?

I’d love for some of the BCA members who attended to post their thoughts about the meetings, but from where I sat, they were fantastic. Attendance was good and will continue to grow, but most importantly, the people who were there really got involved and contributed. They came with issues to discuss and opinions based on their experiences for the other members.

As facilitators of the group, neither me nor my colleague Angela King are exempt from being on either side of the advice, so we too gave it out as much as we took it. I walked away with some great ideas of how to do things a little bit differently, both with our sales team and with the business in general.

What always amazes me is how at the beginning of the meeting, someone will always say “I think we all have the same problem…finding more business,” however inevitably as we continue to move from person to person and issue to issue it becomes abundantly clear that things run deeper than simply how to find more clients. We end up defining ideal clients, which are not always the same for the different members of the group; looking at ways each company finds those prospects and makes them clients, which is also not only unique from company to company, but from person to person within the company (which opens up a whole new can of worms discussing sales process!) We also talked about issues in motivating salespeople and came to the unanimous decision that if you have to spend too much time motivating a salesperson, he or she is probably not the right person to help your company grow.

Every SAM group meeting is different because the meeting belongs to the members. It is their time to discuss their own issues, challenges, opportunities and goals. BCA members are a strong group so starting out with them as the base and adding members from there makes a lot of sense. I want to send a special thank you out to Penn Shore, market owner of BCA of the Triangle, for working with us to get these groups up and running. We hope as we continue to add more members to our SAM groups that we can also reciprocate by inviting them to other events that the BCA puts on every month.

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Anticipation: Bringing SAM Peer Groups to the Triangle

January 26, 2010

Anticipation…remember the old Heinz ketchup commercials where they showed the ketchup slowly flowing out of the bottle and talked about the value of anticipation? That’s exactly how I feel as we start our new SAM Peer Advisory Groups.

The concept of our SAM groups is great. We provide an advisory board for salespeople and sales managers. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

It was an idea brought to me by a mentor of mine who works with business owners and salespeople. He noticed that much of their internal pain revolved around bringing in new business and sales in general. We further noticed that many of the salespeople craved an additional outlet beyond their sales manager to bounce around ideas. This was for several reasons, but mainly because they didn’t want their sales manager to know they were struggling or had questions. In a SAM group, they can talk with other people out on the same front lines they are, dealing with the same issues as they sell their own products and services.

So what’s the problem? This is where my Heinz ketchup analogy comes in. SAM groups are great. Starting SAM groups are not.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues. One is that for a sales manager, VP, or President to commit to taking his sales rep out of the field for a four hour meeting once a month, he wants to see a return on his investment of both time and money. Another is that when we start a SAM group we may find two competing companies or two reps from the same company that want to join. This means starting another group for the second rep or the competing company.

The value of the SAM group is in its people. The agenda admittedly doesn’t look all that impressive, which is by design. In looking at the agenda the first thought that comes up is “this is going to take 4 hours?”

Agenda:

8:00    Welcome and Opening Announcements

8:15    Significant Sales and Marketing Events

8:45    2nd Half Annual Goals and Tracking of Quarterly Goals

9:45    Host Presentation

10:30  Sales and Marketing Issues–“Today’s Issues,” other issues

11:30  Guest Presentation on Topic of Interest for Entire Group

12:00  Adjourn Meeting

You see, the content of the meeting is determined by the needs of the people in the group, not by the group facilitator. When you start a group with 2 or 3 people, it does not look that impressive to management when the members get back to the office (although in reality, they probably got a lot out of the meeting because we were able to dig deeper into the issue they brought up).

We figured that the best way to build up even stronger SAM Groups was to partner with another association where what we do can benefit their members. The easy choice was to work with Penn Shore and Business Clubs of America (BCA). So I met with Penn, and after months of negotiations, starting this month…this week actually…we are offering SAM Group membership as an added benefit to the membership of BCA.

Anticipation…it’s making me wait, as the old Heinz slogan goes.

So here we are, on the precipice of our first BCA/SAM meeting and I wonder what I wonder every time we start a group: How many people will show up? Will they be good fits for the group? Do they understand the concept (the hardest part for us salespeople is trying to truly understand the problem before going right to trying to solve it?)

…it’s almost here, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

Closing the Deal on the Go: What to Do When Your Salespeople Are Dealing with Difficult Clients: Showing Support in Difficult Times

January 20, 2010

The other day I posted an article about what to do when you deal with difficult clients. Today I thought I would write about what to do when your salespeople encounter such clients.

Salespeople can find dealing with difficult customers draining, especially if they do not feel they have the support of their management. Therefore be on their side when they are right, and be there to listen. Help them more effectively deal with difficult customers with role-playing exercises. Tell them when a customer goes over their heads to you. And let them know you will speak with them about any action you take when intervening in one of their accounts. If you do not do this, you risk damaging your relationships with both your salesperson and their client.

Also, resist taking the easy way out when a salesperson’s difficult client comes to you, even if placating them seems like it would be the best short term solution, because ultimately your people must live with the consequences of you decision, plus, that difficult customer may soon becomes your consistent problem.

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: What to Do When Dealing With Difficult Clients

January 18, 2010

As a sales person you have to work with all your clients. Some you will enjoy doing business with. Others will prove to be a challenge. Of these more difficult clients, there will be several types, each bringing with them their own challenges that will require their own solutions. However, when dealing with any of these more challenging clients, it will always help if you have researched them thoroughly and are prepared to listen.

(To protect the innocent I will use the name Bob to refer to all my hypothetical, difficult clients).

Agreeable, But Not Willing to Buy

Here Bob either cannot or will not say no. Instead, he will always tell you yes, but, in the end, never sign anything. Ultimately, you need to call Bob’s bluff. Acknowledge that he likes you, your product, and company, but that you have not been getting his business. (Do not say that he is not giving it to you!) Suggest there is a mix up (not a mistake) due to someone (who is not him). Then let him know you are there to help. At this point he may say why he will not or has not been buying from you, or he may duck the issue. If the latter is the case, confront him without being confrontational.

Angry

When Bob is angry, he may be difficult to deal with on a personal level because he may make you feel as if you are under attack, causing you to instinctively want to fight back, shift the blame, or leave. Instead you should let Bob vent, be sympathetic without being insincere or accepting or placing blame, and, when the time is appropriate, try to rectify the problem. If necessary, work to negotiate a solution with Bob. Bring up areas of agreement, suggest a step by step plan, and follow through on what is settled upon.

Apathetic

Now Bob is being difficult to deal with professionally, just as when Bob is angry he may be difficult to deal with personally. Nothing you say seems to interest him. If he is a qualified prospect, he may be using his apathy as a strategy. If he is not qualified, he may also be implementing a strategy, or not have the budget. He may want you to court him. He may not, but let you anyway. Another possibility is that his apathy is real. Regardless, it is best to open him up with lead-in and open-ended questions. If this does not work, it may be best to just be direct and ask if you are boring him, and how you can excite him about what you have to offer. You will know you have broken through when he can offer a specific objection.

Cautious/Timid

If Bob is insecure and afraid of rocking the boat, he will likely be concerned about reliability and that he is in fact making the right decision buying what you have to offer. Here you must build his confidence. Provide him with facts. Play down novelty. Stress benefits. Present him with testimonials. Show that what you are offering is becoming an industry standard and that there may be negative consequences for not buying. But be sure not to come off as a bully. Go slow with him. Let him ask questions, then probe for information, then present your product or service’s benefits in conservative terms, closing for agreement after presenting each one, then using an assumptive close at the end.

Chronic Complaining

Like a whining child, a chronic complainer such as Bob wants attention and his own way, but unfortunately, unlike a whining child, he cannot be sent to his room. Now, sometimes Bob may have a legitimate complaint, and therefore you must look into each one he makes. But if his complaint turns out to be unreasonable, you should listen carefully, being sure not to let him repeatedly go over the same ground, respond with neutral comments, and draw a line, reminding him of what you can and cannot do. But, again, be sure to investigate each complaint.

Indecisive/Procrastinating

Bob may lack confidence in his ability to make good decisions. If so, he needs your reassurance and support. To better prepare him to make a decision, ask him questions throughout, requiring him to answer positively, and helping him build a logical case for his final decision (buying your product or service). Be sure to give him reassurance, facts, testimonials, details etc., and inform him of the consequences of inaction.

Mercurial

Today you’re Bob’s first choice! Tomorrow, you’re not even in his top ten. If you press for a reason, he becomes hostile. To cope with Bob, focus on what seems to interest him. Show how what you have to offer can be beneficial to him and solve his problems. If he goes off on a tangent, act friendly and interested, then gently lead him back on track, offering encouragement, reassurance, and positive feedback, as well as samples and demos if possible.

Rude/Confrontational

Bob’s not angry, just insecure, secretive and rude. When you’re probing, he may think you’re snooping. He may not think you are genuine or worthy of his trust. To prove yourself to him, do your homework. Find out as much about Bob and his company as you can. When he vents, wait for him to settle down. If he becomes abusive, calmly tell him he crossed a line, or walk out.

Self Important/Egotistical

Here Bob expresses his insecurity with self-centeredness, making him unusually assertive, critical, and hard to reach with a sales message. Bob feels superior to you, but needs your constant attention, praise, and awe. To break through his defenses, ask for his opinions and angle your presentation as information for his evaluation. Also, be sure to compliment him and let him impress you.

Talkative

In this situation Bob will talk about anything and everything, except what he needs from you. Therefore you must get him involved in your presentation with visuals, samples, and demos. (I felt it was best not to come off as too talkative in this one).

Unreasonable

Sometimes Bob can and will try to prove who is boss by demanding you to do something or suffer negative consequences if you refuse. However, even if you give in to his orders, there will still be negative consequences: you will lose his respect and encounter even more unreasonable demands in the future. To respond to Bob, you should show respect and understanding, but be honest, making sure he understands what you can and cannot do, and why. Do not make exceptions or lead him to think that you can. If necessary, suggest a coffee break, restate what you can do, and resell Bob on yourself, your offering, and your company.

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)

Marketing or Sales? The Good Companies Do Both!

January 13, 2010

One of the first questions we ask a client when we start working with them is what does their ideal client look like to them? What are the characteristics that they all share? It is a simple enough question but sometimes very difficult to answer as many of these traits are not exactly something you can search a database for.

One characteristic we noticed in our clients is an understanding of the difference between marketing and sales and the ability to use both effectively together rather than one over another.

I began taking marketing classes 20 years ago and have been selling since I tried to convince my parents to let me stay up an extra half hour at age 7. I have heard many definitions of marketing and sales but the best one I have heard, and the one that I use is this: marketing brings companies to you while sales has you going to the company. This article, for example, is an example of marketing. My hope is that you may read it and say “wow, Randolph Sterling, Inc. can really help me grow my business. I should talk to them,” and you give us a call or send us an email asking to be a client. It is also a sales lead tool as well because let’s face it, how many people are going to do what I described? Some maybe, but being a sales guy, I need to be more proactive.

As part of our “quick start” sales program that we have developed, we will get a report of who read this article, for example, or who looked at our website or any of our marketing efforts and reach out to them. We will thank them for their interest and offer them any additional information they may want on the article, the company, one of our clients, etc. While we have them, we will also see if there are opportunities where we might be able to help.

So which do you think is more effective:

  1. A strong marketing program which attracts buyers to you
  2. A strong sales presence where you go out and look for ideal clients and see if you can help them
  3. A combination program where a commitment is made to both 1 and 2 working together to find more of the people that have an interest in you, your company, and how you do business?

Of course, the answer is number 3.

I’m sure that many people are saying that investing in both marketing and sales is expensive and while it could be, budgeting properly and executing a good plan within your budget can yield some incredible results. The sales piece makes the marketing more effective and the marketing makes the sales more effective…and ultimately, isn’t that what we all want.

In 2009, Randolph Sterling, Inc. developed partnership agreements with marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our ideal clients. We look forward to continuing those relationships in 2010 and continuing to grow as we help more and more companies find more of their ideal clients

Closing the Deal on the Go: Why Are So Many Sales Professionals Opposed to Telemarketing???

January 3, 2010

Why are so many professional sales people opposed to telemarketing? Perhaps it is because of their less than fond memories of having dinner with their family interrupted by poorly trained sales reps who want to discuss a product they never heard of, that they usually won’t want, even if they do agree to suffer through the rep’s pitch? Such memories are as common as they are unfortunate. And, more importantly, such memories have nothing to do with professional business to business sales calls, although they are often confused with them anyway.

These awful memories instead come from consumer telemarketing. With consumer telemarketing you often encounter inexperienced college kids making an extra $10 an hour or $16 per appointment, calling you when you’re eating or watching you favorite TV show (or both in some cases), hoping that you may want the product they’re selling, In essence, this approach involves discretionary purchases. It involves products that someone might like. The process is similar to randomly pulling numbers out of a phonebook. It is like scattershot.

Business to business sales calls on the other hand are done by professionals such as yourself. The approach is highly targeted. You are not calling the recipient at home during their family or leisure time, but during business hours. You are not simply hoping the recipient will want what you have to offer, but, through properly qualifying your prospects, you will have reason to believe that what you have to offer is something they will need. And, the person answering your call is not going to be answering the phone in dread, but will likely be paid to take and handle such calls, or will be able to direct you to someone who is.

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)