Archive for the ‘Client Relations’ Category

When a Smile Is Your Umbrella, You Get a Lot More Than a Mouthful of Rain

December 27, 2010

I was reading a post on LinkedIn that discussed the value of a smile to closing more deals. I found it interesting.

It is surprising how a smile can change someone’s day for the positive– and certainly help in closing a deal. Of course, we are talking about a genuine smile, one that shows compassion, caring, and a genuine love for what you are doing. Sad to say it, but I’m sure we have all encountered those people who smile and look like the “The Joker” because they really are not showing enjoyment for what they do.

Heck, you only live once so enjoy it. In reality, what do we do during the day that is so awful anyway? OK, so I’m not going to be grinning ear to ear when I am paying my taxes, but so many people get so grumpy when it is time for them to talk to people about what they do or try to sell their product or service. Smile when talking to clients and prospects…and not just in person but on the phone too. Enjoy it!

Yes, I run a sales management company so I may like sales more than the average person, but what can be more fun than getting to talk to people about a problem they have and how you can help to solve it? I get so excited when I see how something I was able to do made my client’s business better or at least alleviate some stress they were having. Who wouldn’t feel great about that?

A Question of Business Ethics

December 19, 2010

I was reading a LinkedIn question about business ethics recently and wanted to share with all of you my thoughts on the subject. While the question of ethics in business is not new, I feel that it is an issue that not only will not go away anytime soon, but will play an even larger role in how businesses are run in the next decade as we continue through economic recovery, and as our society seems to come more and more from a position of “entitlement” vs. “work hard, do the right thing, and you will be rewarded by a job well done.”

I believe the measure of a man is what he does when nobody is watching.

I used to work for a company whose definition of business ethics was “If what you did today was the cover story of your hometown newspaper, would you be proud or embarrassed by it?”

Interesting thought, and one that I took very seriously. Sure we all will do dumb things from time to time, but I would think about what my grandmother (who turned 91 recently) would think if she read what I did. Would she know that I, at the very least, tried my best, or would she be thinking that no daughter of hers raised a kid like that? Another friend of mine, Will Webb from Dupree & Webbin Raleigh, stated it this way “When I come home at night, my wife and my little girl will ask me how my day was. I always want to be proud to tell them about my day…every day.”

Unfortunately, posing a question like that is open to a certain amount of interpretation as I learned quickly that different people read different newspapers in the morning. Some read the Chicago Tribune, others the Wall Street Journal. Sadly, still others read the Enquirer.

What are your thoughts on business ethics, and to what level? I was talking to a client yesterday about an issue they were having with a client of theirs who said that they don’t meet with him enough. What he was really saying was that they didn’t take him out to dinner enough. I learned early on that in sales if someone does business with you because you took them to a $50 lunch, someone else will come along and take them to a $100 dinner and take the business from you. However, for some, the business dinner—or at this time of year the holiday gift—is how they develop relationships with their vendors. Where do you draw the line?

I never seemed to do well with the guy who wanted the fancy dinner or to go out to a bar on a Thursday night. Most of my clients are people who, at the end of the day, wanted to go home to their families, so it was pretty easy to find a line to draw. If you interviewed all of the people I have ever done business with, I don’t think you would find one that did business with me because of a fancy dinner I took them out to, although several would probably tell you that it was getting to know each other over lunch that gave them the comfort level to know that I had their best interest at heart.

 

Death of the Salesman: Are Traditional Salespeople a Thing of the Past?

December 7, 2010

I recently spoke with a woman who worked for a company that “invested heavily in e-marketing and reduced [their] sales force.” She went on to say “It’s been working quite well for the past six months or so. I think that the traditional salesperson is a thing of the past. We still send people to networking events to develop personal relationships, but lead generation is happening for the most part online.”

Now, we at Randolph Sterling have seen a lot of e-marketing with our clients too. However, I don’t think I would agree that the traditional salesperson is a thing of the past.

We have a client that generates 200+ new leads a day for products ranging in price from $5,000-$50,000 through SEO, e-newsletters, etc. They had so many that their salespeople became not much more than order takers, and because there were so many leads, their follow up got bad. The attitude was, “Why call a guy back when I will have 10 more just like him tomorrow?”

But then we came in and added the personal touch by following up on all of the leads that either got skipped over or to which the reps just sent a quote and waited for the prospect to call back. In the first 20 hours of the first week, we had already sold over $300,000 of new business that the company would not have otherwise gotten.

There were two common elements to those sales:

  1. The lead generation system generated a quote to the prospect and showed it was opened. However, when we called, the prospect could not find the quote (often they accidentally deleted it) so we went over the information with them. If we hadn’t, they were going to sign off on another quote they had gotten somewhere else.
  2. The initial quote was usually for a smaller ticket item, often not exactly what the prospect wanted. But, by following up on these “little deals,” we often found that the prospect either needed several of the small pieces over the course of the year, or needed a different piece entirely.

Without the personal attention of a professional salesperson, these deals and many others would have been lost.

Technology is wonderful and certainly has helped the sales industry to change for the better, but based on my experience, my feeling is that the best formula is a strong sales team working with good technology to help attract the right prospects.

Should You Downsize Your Sales Force and Implement a More Automated and Online Marketing System Instead?

November 22, 2010

This is a question that came up in an online Vistage discussion group recently, and those who know me, or regularly read my blog or newsletter already know my answer: NO! An online or automated marketing system will never replace a strong sales force!!!

We’ve spent months and months in our Vistage groups talking about attracting more clients through online marketing systems and at the end of the day what was determined was what we already knew…some companies are sales focused while others are marketing focused, but the most successful companies integrated an approach using both.

Sales is about finding customers while marketing is about bringing customers to you. By having them work together, say by reviewing the report on who reads your e-newsletter and then calling the readers to discuss topics of interest in more detail, or offering a downloadable white paper on a topic of interest then following up with those who downloaded it, will increase the ROI of your marketing programs and reduce the sales cycle (for more details on this topic, click here).

Now, some might disagree with me on this and claim that their sales force isn’t working for them. In those cases I would say the problem is not a matter of having a sales force, but not having the right sales force. For example, if all your salespeople are doing is providing you with information that can be found on Google, fire your salespeople and get better ones (OK, maybe I am being a bit harsh with that.) Good salespeople develop relationships and find the right people for you to work with. If people only bought based on the “facts” they find on Google, anyone who wanted four wheels, an engine, good gas mileage, and a way to get to work would be best served buying a Yugo. When the salesperson digs deeper to find the true pain and how his solution can solve it…well just count how many BMWs and Hummers you pass on the way home tonight.

For companies who have a sales force that spends most of their time working with current clients, or don’t have a sales force at all and the people who do the work also sell it, a better idea would be lead generation. It allows the experts to be the expert. At Randolph Sterling, we have an inside sales force that we outsource to help develop new markets and new prospects. With it, we do not simply find AN opportunity for ourselves or our clients, but THE RIGHT opportunities. Good inside sales teams get a better feel for who your ideal prospects are and work to find you more of the people you want to do business with. You never want to incent them to find ANY opportunity because wasting your time on a bad opportunity can be more detrimental than not having an opportunity at all

 

Integrating Your Sales and Marketing Efforts for the Best Results

October 30, 2010

In a recent post wrote I spoke of how it’s getting to be that time of year when smart salespeople are trying to meet their annual quota, as well as building and strengthening relationships during the holiday season, and clients are working on their budgets. As I wrote that article, I was reminded of a conversation we at Randolph Sterling once had with a client. We mentioned to them that, based on the trial program we were running, if they were to invest $150,000 in our solution, we could pretty much guarantee an additional $2-3 million in sales. It is a great return on investment, however they had to determine if they had the $150,000 to invest, and, if so, would they be willing to invest it on this solution or someplace else.

Many of us right now are struggling with similar questions. For example, this October, we at Randolph Sterling, where we have strong sales culture, were left seriously contemplating how much of our 2011 budget we should allocate towards our marketing efforts and how we should divide our marketing budget amongst the different tools we implement, whether they be our email marketing campaign, our blog (which you’re reading now), our various social media efforts, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, or any number of other more traditional efforts. (Thank you Gini for your excellent video blogs on these topics).

However, we often see that many clients, whether due to their culture, or for some other reasons, believe they have to choose between sales (going out to look for customers) or marketing (drawing customers to them). Both are incredibly valuable, but unfortunately, it seems that too many companies focus on one over the other rather than developing a strong integrated plan. Here’s an example.

The marketing-focused company sends out a very nice post card to targeted prospects and hopes that they decide to call to use their services. The sales-focused company cold calls those same targeted prospects. Both get decent results, but the company who integrates the two by sending out the well thought out postcard and then has their sales team follow up on it by calling those targeted contacts most likely gets a better result than the other two because (in theory anyway) the guy who responds to the marketing effort follows the call to action on the postcard and calls the company that sent it, while the guy who responds to the sales effort doesn’t remember the postcard but returns the voicemail the salesperson left. However, a third group of people emerges who got the postcard and had a level of interest, but not enough to actually call themselves. They receive the follow up call and feel a little more familiar with the company because they remember seeing the logo from the postcard as the salesperson talks to them. Those that implement both sales and marketing efforts (again, in theory anyway) therefore are likely to get responses from all three groups.

With this said, it is important to point out that many people who went into marketing did not go into marketing to be salespeople, many people who went into sales did not go into sales to do marketing, and many people when starting their business had no real desire to do either, even though, oftentimes, both are required for the best results. So, where do you go from here?

The first answer that comes to mind is you can do it on your own. You can do it yourself. Someone else at your company can do it. Or you can bring in an additional person or two to fill these roles in-house. To once more use ourselves as an example, we are a sales solutions company, but we have an in-house Social Media Director, Daniel Nuccio, who handles our email marketing campaigns and manages our blog and social media accounts, while we maintain close relationships with marketing companies with many different specialties to help us and our clients with other tasks (more on this later).

However, you may not feel comfortable filling these roles yourself. Or you may believe that the time of you and your employees would be better spent elsewhere. And you may find that bringing on one or two new people may be too costly.

So, then what? You bring in an outside team or two. At Randolph Sterling, we offer a number of outsourced sales services for both short term and long term sales solutions. And, for your marketing needs, we at Randolph Sterling have partnered with a number of marketing firms with different areas of expertise so that we can better offer a full solution to our clients.

The Importance of 10 Second Mission Statements and Showering Before You Go to the Gym

September 26, 2010

Earlier this year I requested that all of Randolph Sterling’s team members commit our mission statement to memory:

Randolph Sterling, Inc. is a sales solutions company whose main goal is to assist growth oriented clients improve their overall sales and sales process through management services, process development/improvement, inside sales, and sales peer advisory groups.

Ultimately, we would like to change the perception of salespeople by the public by always promoting solution based conversations and continued learning.

Here is why:

I went to Virginia Beach over one weekend during the Spring. On Sunday morning I rolled out of bed, hair all messed up, unshaven and unshowered, and decided to get a quick workout in before getting ready for the day. Usually, when I travel and work out in hotel gyms the place is empty, so I didn’t think anything about it.

This time, of course, was different.  As I walked in, a woman was walking out to get some wipes to clean off a treadmill and just wanted me to know that she was coming right back (I think she didn’t want me to take her Sunday paper). She mentioned that she travels a lot for work so I asked what she does…turned out she is a director of sales for an accounts receivables management firm in the transportation industry. She asked what I do and I gave her a variation of our mission statement. When I told her, she replied that she was so buried in client meetings that she never has time to develop new prospect relationships and that she definitely needed our services. I ran back up to my room to get a card after she requested one.

Twenty minutes later we were having a business meeting while I was on the StairMaster and she was on a treadmill. When she finished up, I asked when I could get a proposal out to her for us to assist her. She gave me not just her card, but also the card of a colleague of hers who is redoing her company’s website. She mentioned that I should reach out to him as there might be some opportunities for the two of us to work together as well.

This is a testimonial to why having a quick 10 second rundown of who you are and what you do can lead to profitable results…also, it shows why you should always shower before working out! 🙂

Using Your Time to Your Advantage

September 20, 2010

This past March I ran into my friend Jim down in Virginia Beach where he and his fiancé Sue were running a half marathon. This was the second time that I met up with Jim at a race (the first being the day he actually met Sue), however, I have always been content with grabbing a beer with him after a run. Sure, I play softball, basketball, and bike ride, but I never considered myself much of a runner.

Jim inspired me to start running, so since about the end of March, I have been running every other day, usually 3-4 miles or so. When the weather got hot, I figured it best to do this run at 6:00 AM when it was still cool, rather than 6:00 PM when it was still very hot. This became somewhat of my morning commute (I also walk for about a half hour on the “non-running” days.) It has become a great time for me to collect my thoughts, plan my day, and think about clients and how we can help them before getting into the regular daily grind of the workday.

Let’s face it, once the day starts, it is run, run, run, and not many of us have the time to really look at the bigger picture. As much as we want to take the time to find the inspiration to do that next great thing, the phone starts ringing, or you check your email to find 100 messages waiting for you. Next thing you know you are in your first meeting of the day and the day becomes more of a list of transactional activities rather than a study of ideas to make the world better. At some point you grab some lunch and say “Darn, it is only Monday,” “TGIF!” or something in between as you flash for a second to a time when you thought you’d be doing something more inspirational at work.

Many sales teams we see are exactly like this. The “what have you done for me lately” attitude leaves them going from transaction to transaction instead of building long term relationships. When was the last time you sat back and thought about something you could do for a client…maybe refer them to someone, research an article you think they would find interesting, or come up with an idea that will make their life easier even if it doesn’t put a dime in your pocket. We all want to do these things. We all see the value of doing them and growing a stronger relationship, but many times we just don’t have the time to think about them.

I urge you all this month to take that “in between’ time, the time in between your front door and your office door, the time in between your desk to the restaurant for lunch, or the time in between the end of the day and coming home to your family to allow yourself to think of the bigger picture both for your clients and for yourself…to find your inspiration.

Closing the Deal on the Go: What Do You Do When Your Loyal Buyer Leaves?

June 3, 2010

Maybe there was a merger or acquisition. Perhaps there was some restructuring.  Maybe your loyal buyer took another job for twice the pay. Regardless, he is no longer with the company you do business with. Someone is there in his place. There’s a chance this new person will wish to continue doing business with you. There’s also a chance he will want to leave his mark on everything he touches, and that keeping his predecessor’s supplier is not part of that equation.

What do you do?

Keep your reaction low-key. Don’t act surprised or disconcerted. Congratulate your buyer’s replacement. Wish him luck, and work at establishing to him the worth of your business relationship.

Stick to business history. Focus on your relationship with his company, not your relationship with his predecessor.

Get the new person comfortable and work at establishing a relationship with him.

Keep your lines to the influencers open. The influencers are the users of your product. If they like what you have to offer, they may let the new buyer know.

If you lose the company’s business, try to hold on to some of it, because even as a backup supplier, you can watch for openings back into a major role.

Keep selling quality. Sometimes a competitor will try to undercut you by selling a lower quality product at a lower price. If you lose business to such a competitor, but you maintain some role, you will be nearby if and when the bargain vendor trips up, either with their lower quality product, or while trying to continue to make a profit while selling at the lower price.

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)

On The Road Again…From Chicago to Raleigh to DC to perhaps Detroit and Kuala Lumpur

February 17, 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. After some time back at the Chicago office, was back on the road again. It kind of made me feel a little like Willie Nelson, who made the song “On the Road Again” famous, talking about his travels around the world, and also because I had been so busy that I hadn’t had time to get a haircut I felt like I was starting to look a little like him!

So to start this trip it was off to Washington, DC to check on some opportunities there, then this week and next week, back to Raleigh to run our three SAM Groups, meet with two of our newer clients, and meet with 10 additional prospects. Then it is back to Chicago to develop a sales strategy for a new client in Alsip, IL. We are also working on potential projects in Detroit and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…does anyone know the temperature in Malaysia this time of year? It sounds like a good opportunity with a client, but if I’m going to be on a flight that long, there better be some nice weather at the other end of the trip!

I have been so happy with the growth of the company. When we first started out (April will be our 7th anniversary) I had hoped that we could change the way salespeople were perceived and we could make an impact in many company’s top and bottom lines. I got excited when we got our first client outside of the city of Chicago…and that company was about 5 minutes outside of Chicago in Evanston! To think that we are able to help clients from coast to coast and internationally sometimes just blows my mind!

So yes, I am on the road again. Sometimes I feel a little like George Clooney’s character in the movie “Up In The Air,” Ryan Bingham, who spends most of his life traveling the country. Luckily, I get to help companies grow and hopefully add more salespeople while his role was to come in and fire them. Still, as a guy who really is a homebody and likes the routine and balance of a “regular” schedule—work, dinner, the gym, friends/family, softball in the spring and fall, basketball in the winter—travel is sometimes difficult.  It is not, however, something I feel I will be doing forever. Yes, I did receive my American Airlines Platinum Card in the mail a couple of months ago and do appreciate the perks of getting on the plane first, the exit row, occasionally a first class upgrade, and of course, the shortest line going through security at O’Hare Airport (and whatever additional perks American Airlines would like to bestow upon my by mentioning them here).  But I would love to use those extra miles to go away on a vacation someplace warm, away from the foot of snow in Chicago. I guess I will have to learn more about Malaysia…or maybe just my own back yard!

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)