LESSONS IN L.E.M.O.N. SALES

The ingenious quick thinkers in Jelly Towers needed to think of a word …after much deliberation we came up with lemon. Well…it took 17.2 seconds of speedy thought!

LISTEN
EDUCATE
MOVE
OPPORTUNITY
NURTURE

Listen
Sales people talking at you is a real bugbear of mine. What is the point? Before you can sell anything you need to fully understand the prospects needs, understand their business, appreciate their target audience and so much more. They won’t be interested in watching boring PowerPoint presentations with copious amounts of slides full of geeky product info. Ask a series of questions, take notes and pay particular attention to the needs of who you’re listening to and get to know them. Despite what you may think, people do like to talk about themselves so let them. If they identify with you and enjoy the meeting they’ve had then you are much likely to have found yourself a new customer.

Educate
You may have years of sales experience under your belt selling a plethora of products across a wide range of sectors but never for one minute think you’ve got there. No body is perfect in any career, everyone still has a lot to learn. If your sales meetings are the same every time then there’s something wrong. I would out money on you not applying the ‘L’ bit of this blog. If you’re not listening then you’re talking, probably using presentations or sticking to a robotic and boring script. Everyone has their own approach to sales – there isn’t a set style which works and I believe we can all learn off each other.
I’ve been to many sales training sessions over the years and whilst sat in some of them, I’ve been bored to death but on reflection, I’ve learnt something. I remember one session I was forced to go on by a company I used to work for; I was in a room with no aircon, no refreshments, horrible plastic chairs…the presentation was definitely interactive, the slides were boring and I don’t remember anything of the course. Perhaps my bosses had wasted the best part of a grand but looking back I picked up a valuable lesson. I didn’t take anything from the sales training as intended but I did become to fully appreciate that your prospect needs to be comfortable with the surroundings and you need to be on the look out for signs of boredom. I sat in that room for 6 hours a day for 2 days and felt I’d wasted my time. As a sales person, if you bore your prospect or you make them feel uncomfortable, you are wasting your time and are sure to lose the opportunity.
What I’m saying is that you don’t only have to learn from good examples, you should also learn from what not to do.

Move
OK…I’m stretching the use of words here but I think I’m onto one so bare with me!
I’m thinking along the lines of speed, timing and pace. If you get this wrong you will lose out to one of your competitors. Some industries have been spoilt and relied in reactive sales…not many businesses have that luxury nowadays and have had to adopt a much more proactive approach. This shift in the sales process means that timing is key and you need to move towards your customer instead of the other way around. How are you going to find that prospect? When will the opportunity arise?
I give up on this one!!! I do think move is a good word but to avoid me waffling, I’ll leave it up to your imaginations. :)

Opportunity
I believe this is the most important part of this blog, without an opportunity the is no sale. It really is as straight forward as that. Therefore, you need to find an opportunity to win new business. Who has a need? What is their need? and how can you grab it?
Opportunity combines all the other parts of the LEMON. Without listening, you won’t understand an opportunity, without having the skills you won’t understand how to spot an opportunity, without moving you won’t find an opportunity and without nurturing, there will be no success. Opportunity is the core of the sale – winning the business isn’t the most challenging part of the process…it’s the finding and looking after the potential, without this there is no new business to be had.

Nurture
Business doesn’t happen overnight unless you are extremely lucky. I accept that referral based sales may be quicker and that part of the nurturing process has already been done by an introducer. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy and I am predominantly focussing on generating new business from scratch. Most potential customers will be talking to a number of suppliers within your field, many will require more than one appointment and all of this takes time. When it comes to nurturing, there’s a fine line between not doing enough and pestering and it’s finding that balance to suit the opportunity. I try my best to give as much control to my prospect. I will say that I’ll give them a call on a specific day of the week and I’ll ask if that’s OK. I have never had one person who’s said no other than days out of the office or other work commitments. If they’ve said it’s ok then you can’t be pestering. It also saves you time because you’re much more likely to get hold of them rather than playing voicemail ping pong. The key thing is once you’ve said you’ll do something then do it. If you fail to deliver proposals, miss meetings or not call when you said you would then your prospect is already envisaging what your after sales support will be like and you’ll no doubt be slipping down the selection ladder, losing you the business.
The nurturing process is all about that fine line and where that is depends on the individual opportunity, the individual and the business your selling to…you need to judge how to move, when to move and you’re likely to find the right balance keeping you at the top of the ladder.

ALWAYS judge a book by its cover

Controversial, I know but it’s true. First impressions are extremely important in the sales process and will undoubtedly have an impact on the decision to buy or not to buy.

Why is the phrase ‘never judge a book by its cover’ so well known and accepted?
Essentially, we are accepting that it may look bad but when you start to experience and turn the pages of the product ..it is pretty good.
Would you have bought the book if the cover wasn’t appealing? Would another book have stole your attention? It probably would.

We are talking about new business development; not reliant on referral marketing or inbound sales..we’re talking hard sales grind. Your prospects don’t know who you are, they don’t know your product and they’re in talks with your competitors. You need to stand out to be chosen and there are only a few ways to give yourself a better chance & here they are:
1. Pricing
2. Service
3. Product

Here we go…
Money doesn’t grow on trees (that’s a phrase I agree with!) and as such, pricing will always be a contributing factor for the buyer. As a business you need to establish what price position you are amongst the plethora of competitors. Are you the cheapest, the most expensive or would you put yourself with the elitists? There is no wrong positioning but what you do need to do is be clear with where your product sits.
Then there’s service, service, service. Every business will claim to be awesome, industry experience, attentive staff ….blah blah blah. Testimonials are great but would any business ask anyone other than their ‘favourite’ ones to give one? Quite simply, you don’t know how good the service is going to be until you’ve already invested. It’s all well and good saying how fantastic your service is but isn’t everyone else saying that?
And finally, we will talk about the product. Does it do it’s job? It’s always a start but that’s about all you need to think about.

That’s pricing, service and product considered so we now need to think about how to win that sale. This is where ALWAYS judge a book by its cover comes into play.

Your image needs to reflect your positioning – if you’re aiming at the top end of the market, look like your IN the elite range. If you’re service is top notch then show yourself off. If your product is awesome then brag about it!

Most people don’t take the time to read text – I know my efforts with this blog are lost!!
Images tell stories and implant ideas into the heads of your audience. You need to think carefully about what images to use. Stock photos are what they are, they’re off the shelf photos – you will need to mould your business to an image as opposed to creating an identity to suit. Your logo is important but does it reflect you, your product and your business?

In summary, image is everything and to achieve a successful identity you need to establish where you are, who you are and what you are. A strategic approach to developing your image will consider all factors from the outside in and from inside out. It’s a sure way to make sure your buyer picks up your book, buy it, turn the pages and go on to shout from the hill tops about how awesome you and your business are.

Happy reading!

Positioning is a term that everyone understands…right?

There’s  existence and then there’s positioning – I think we’re getting the two mixed up. 

Where does your product/service sit within the market?

 Are you the market leader, the local leader, the cheapest, the best quality?  

If you can’t be exact with the answers to where you sit, I think you’re existing. Positioning needs work.  It needs someone to pick up your product and plonk it in a place where you think is the best move. 

I’m no chess player but I know what goes on…you move objects (products/services) and you place them either in a risky position or on a safe square. Positioning is all about thought… it doesn’t happen automatically. 

If you’ve not thought through this process – you are only existing.  

Businesses that think are positioned. 

Businesses who don’t – simply exist. 

….simples!

50 Shades of Grey: Proving Word of Mouth is The Most Effective Route to New Business

It’s well accepted that word of mouth is the most cost effective and successful method of generating new business.  If a supplier is recommended, it is much more likely they will be selected by the buyer.  Despite this, many businesses fail to exploit the word of mouth route to market.  So let’s consider how it should be done…using, arguably, the best and most recent example of maximising word of mouth with 50 Shades of Grey, the best seller by the author E.L. James.

You couldn’t turn without hearing about the book on the TV chat shows, the radio, at work and Facebook was plastered with status updates making me feel I was THE only person who hadn’t queued in Waterstones to purchase the infamous 50 Shades.  It became the fastest selling paperback of all time, blowing Harry Potter & J. K. Rowling off their broomsticks.  So; how did they get it so right?

Your product needs to stand out from the crowd.  The book wasn’t much more than a raunchy Jilly Cooper novel but 50 Shades simply got out there with its controversial story line.  It was a risky approach to promote the book as what could be perceived as a soft porn paperback.  Would people buy it?  Well, clearly yes!  Readers and wannabe readers talked about the book, they shouted about reading it and every reader would’ve advertised and sold the book without much effort.

Never underestimate the power of social media…don’t rely on people to talk amongst each other.  Take control of the messages by the power of Facebook, You Tube, Twitter and the plethora of blogging sites.  Social media is often misunderstood and undervalued but done in the right way presents a platform to share messages quickly at little cost.

Success stories are often built on several attempts to get things right.  We can all think of examples within the major brands of Microsoft, Nokia, Apple…they’ve all got it wrong at some point.  If you don’t reach your goals on your first attempt, don’t be afraid to stop and step back from all promotion to see where things have gone wrong.  Adjust the message, review the brand – even if it means changing its name and look at the routes you took to market.

We can all learn a lot about the success story of 50 Shades of Grey.  The force behind the book got it right making it the fastest best seller of all time, selling over 1,000,000 copies within days.  Sales are now in excess of 50 million …all of this achieved without TV or press advertising.

Having written this blog; I can now admit that I have still to pick up a copy of the book!!

Reach out and touch…

How many times do we need to ‘touch’ our prospects before they really listen?  At what point do you give up?

…the three strike rule is often discussed.  Try three times and then back off BUT are we losing ourselves valuable business opportunities?

Here are a few things for us to consider when generating new business:

  1. Do your research.  Ensure you are asking for the correct named decision maker, good data is key to your sales success.  If your calls are bouncing around a business you are demonstrating a lack of research and understanding about your prospect.
  2. Building familiarity helps to build trust and makes for a much more interesting call.  Relate to location, mention other clients they are sure to know, make notes on them – have you called when they’ve been on holiday?  Find out where they’ve been.  Do you know if they play golf?  If so, use it to your advantage.  Remember they may not be interested in your product but if they’re interested in you and themselves then you are much more likely to have sales success.
  3. Don’t just call; continue to build rapport through emails, snail mail, newsletters and even visits to their premises if it suits.  The visualisation of your brand, your face, your email address will keep you and your product in their mind.
  4. Respect them.  If someone asks not to be called or they ask to be removed from their database, we need to respect their choice.  Ignoring them can result in legal proceedings but it’s one sure way to be annoying and push your prospects away.
  5. Be clear and interesting.  You may be passionate about your product offering but don’t overdo it.  Keep it straight forward, easy to understand, sell on the benefits your prospect will see and make it sexy!

So…how many touches are needed?  My answer is “it depends” …not direct, I know, so let me explain:

Are they not interested or are they not ready to bite for your product?  They may be committed to a contract and as such they can’t purchase from you until towards the end of the contract period.  Don’t just say, well I’ll call you back nearer to the time.  Treat them as if you would a contact who is keen – keep in touch with them regularly before they forget you and move on…keep touching them!

I say, never give up until the point they specifically ask you not to contact them again.

Happy Selling!

Rules of Selling: Listen

For the buyer to be interested in you, you must be interested in them.  The successful sales person is able to ask the right questions to get the required information from them.  A pointless skill is you fail to listen.  Losing track of a conversation is a sure sign you’re not listening and consequently not interested in them.

Your objectives are to be interesting, be interested and to get the information you need to make the sale.  None of these are achievable if you don’t listen.

This may seem common sense but few sales people actually listen.  They may appear to be listening but what they are most probably doing is planning the next question or even the one after that.

Listen out for signals from your buyer.  Groans they may have with their existing supplier will enable you to mould your benefits around them without knocking the competition.  Pricing questions may reveal their current situation.

Listening is an essential skill within the sales process, it is not possible to successfully fulfil the other six rules without it.

Rules of Selling: Sell Yourself

People buy from people; we’ve all heard the phrase.  Confidence in your own abilities will reflect on your confidence in your job and the product you are selling.

Sales people are given product training, fully briefed on the differentiators of the business, presentation skills and how to pitch for the order.  Sales people seldom receive training on how to sell themselves and it’s not always a natural skill they apply.

So, how do you sell yourself?  It’s simple; you need to be interested in the buyer for them to be interested in you.  Ask questions to get to know the potential customer and find out what interests them.  Remember; people but from people it’s not just about the pricing or position of the product.  By showing this interest, you are selling yourself.

Look for similarities between you, your business and your client.  Do they have a golf ball paper weight and you’re a keen golfer?  Do they have a ski photo and you’ve just returned from a winter holiday?  Have you researched the business and identified a mutual client?  These similarities provide an easy conversation starter to enable you to sell yourself and to gain interest from your potential client.

Who will the buyer remember?  The grey suited sales rep who talked only about a product or the grey suited sales rep who spoke to a keen golfer about the recent Open at St Andrews?

It’s a simple and effective tool to increase your sales.  Discover your skill, feel comfortable and sell yourself!

Rules of Selling: Ask the Right Questions

The only way to get the information you need is to ask the right questions.  Remember that it’s not an interview; you must balance the six other rules to ensure the pitch is a success.  A barrage of questions will not only bore your buyer but it will prevent you from showing interest in them and remember; people but from people.

What questions will you ask?  The key is to be prepared.  Do your research on the target business in order to demonstrate your interest and to maximise your time with the prospect.  Ensure you get the answers to all questions making sure you don’t have to make contact after the meeting asking the dreaded ”just one more question…” This is an obvious sign of being unprepared and shows little interest between you and your buyer.

In asking the right questions, you will be able to prepare your proposals accurately, using relevant information and capturing the buyers attention.

Having a data collection form will provide a template to note the meeting and collate the information you need to gather.  This will reduce time allowing you to focus on selling yourself

Rules of Selling: Sell to People

It’s not possible to make a sale unless you sell to a person.  So, the first rule is to adapt your presentation to suit your potential customer.  Each presentation must be different because you will never be presented with two identical people.

Every buyer has their own requirements and objectives.  Every person comes from a different background, works in a different environment, has different interests and has a different personality.  They may be in a good or bad mood, stressed or relaxed, pushed for time or not.

The successful sales person will embrace all of these differences and will build their presentation around their potential client.  The key is to be interested in the buyer and to identify you with them.

How to get more from your online marketing

How do your potential customers find your website?  74% of UK businesses have a web presence but very few apply strategic measures to direct searchers to their site.  Would you invest in leaflets and not distribute them?  Would you buy business cards and not hand them out?  I’m sure the answer is no.  Then why do so many businesses invest in a web development but not raise its profile?  Perhaps it’s perhaps a lack of understanding or need for optimizing web sites or the web developers don’t include this as part of their service.

So, how do you get more from you online marketing investment?

Is your site visible?  There are 3 billion global searches on Google every day, that’s 34,000 per second!  You need to make sure that you appear within these searches and there’s a clear methodology behind search engine optimisation (SEO).

Keyword incorporation between your web site and what the Google searchers are looking for is a cost effective option.  Your words need to be specific, relevant and regularly reviewed all of which will improve your search engine rankings.

Now you’ve attracted the searchers, what have they found?  Your web content needs to be interesting, concise and up to date in order to captivate your audience.  Be specific and ensure the content is constructed with your potential reader in mind and not an expert within your industry.  Don’t over type the content and to improve your SEO, ensure you regularly update the content.

You’ve got an audience but how do you retain it?  Your customers and potential clients who have chosen to visit your site have already proven interest within your business and its products and services.  Most probably, your web searchers are willing to opt-in to a newsletter subscription.  They will no longer need to visit your site to search for offers as targeted email campaigns provide a cost effective way to drive offers and increase your profile, prompting your searchers to revisit your website and ultimately generating new business.

If you have a website, distribute it as you would if you’d invested in brochures.  Implement low cost yet effective methods to ensure you get the best return on your online investment.