Build a Better Sales Process: How to Find What Will Work For You

Is your sales process effective, efficient, and money-making? That is a question you need to be asking yourself every day. Whether you are building a brand new process or refining an old one, you need to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Success in this part of your business is one of the most critical business development strategies you have. Without a successful sales process, your business will not be successful.

How to build a better sales process

You can use these four principles to ensure that your sales process works:

  1. Understand your sales style. Your sales process is going nowhere until you know how you interact with prospects. Some industries thrive on long-term ongoing relationships, while others demand a short buying cycle with lower repeat client counts. A face-to-face retail setting is very different from a B2B online company. Each sales situation requires its own sales style.
  2. Ensure you are touching prospects at least 7 solid times in the sales process. Remember, people buy from people. You need to earn the trust of your prospects before they will consider making a purchase with your company. Each solid touch you make helps bring that prospect further down the sales funnel. Plus, it helps sort out qualified leads from casual prospects.
  3. Use “de-selection” to focus your sales efforts. This can be as simple as an unsubscribe link in your email messages and as bold as making the prospect jump through a hoop, or two. Again, this depends on your sales style. Further down the sales funnel, your sales team should be open to hearing that a prospect is not interested in what your company offers. Trying to push a sale that cannot exist is a waste of time and effort. Plus it can give your company the reputation of having a pushy sales team.
  4. Of course, you have to know your ideal client profile first. This should probably be first on the list. You cannot develop a sales style without understanding your ideal client. You cannot build solid touch points without that knowledge either. You cannot sort out your qualified leads from the crowd. Put this first on your list for building a successful sales model.

Take the time to implement each one of these principles to build a better sales process for your company. The time and effort you spend will be well worth it. Consider it an investment in one of your company’s most important business development strategies.

How are you going to invest in your business today? If you would like to learn more about how to keep your sales pipeline full join our next webinar. 

The Big Secret to Building Relationships With Senior Executives

Are you just another vendor looking for a senior executive’s time? That will get you nowhere fast.

The secret to building relationships with the C-suite is to become more than just another vendor. You need become a trusted external advisor. And it is one of those business development strategies that takes time and dedication to implement.

The power of the C-suite

Senior executives have the power to say “Yes” and sign contracts. However, they do so much more than make purchase decisions.

Senior executives can implement real change, provide insights into company thinking, and get sticky situations unstuck. Remember, it is always easier to start at the top than the bottom.

Preparing to meet the senior executive

You must move beyond the title of the executive and find out about the real person behind it. What are their ambitions? What keeps them up at night?

A well-run company is always aware of its challenges, limitations, and upcoming goals. You must know the same information, in intimate detail.

You must become someone of interest by building your own portfolio of knowledge. Cultivate interests outside of work and develop a breadth of knowledge in topics surrounding the executive’s industry, company, and personal interests.

Gaining access

Executives are busy people with limited time. They want to know that their time is going to be well spent. You should start with the people you know in the company and ask to meet people above them. Build relationships at each level, moving ever higher.

Extend your networking to people outside the company that know the senior executive (former executives, board members, trusted clients, etc.). Getting a warm referral from outside could open the door.

How do you move into the position of a trusted external advisor?

Your meeting with the senior executive is going to be short. So you must make a big impact, and show you are more than a vendor.

Don’t come in with a subordinate’s mindset. Address the executive as a peer instead. Always be objective and truthful in your dealings, even if you know it is in opposition to the executive’s current view. Bring outside perspective to the discussion. This will help build the elusive trust that senior executives crave but rarely get.

If you are looking to build long-term relationships with important clients, becoming a trusted external advisor is one of the best business development strategies you can implement.

To learn more strategies for Keeping Your Sales Pipeline Full join us April 21st!

Do Customers Know They Want What You’re Selling? The Story of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

Consumers often do not know what they want until you show it to them. The story behind Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte is the perfect example of this.

Since it was introduced in 2003, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has been sold over 200 million times. It has an cult following among its fan base. Many fans line up to get their first taste in the fall and mourn the day their local store runs out of it.

The kicker to all this is that, if the company had gone with the wrong business strategies, that flavor would never have reached the consumer’s hands.

The Story of the Pumpkin Spice Latte

Back in 2003, Starbuck’s product development team was looking for a new espresso flavor. The company had seen excellent results when they had introduced Christmas flavors, like Peppermint Mocha, in previous years. They wanted to replicate that success by introducing flavors for autumn.

The development team came up with a long list of potential flavors. One of the flavors on the list was a pumpkin pie latte. The team then let a pool of Starbuck’s enthusiasts rank the list. Drinks that contained chocolate and caramel definitely came out on top of the customer survey. The pumpkin latte idea fell close to the bottom.

However, the product manager of the espresso division, Peter Dukes, could not get the idea of the pumpkin pie flavor out of his mind. He created a short list of four flavors for further development. The list included the top three contenders from the consumer survey and the pumpkin pie latte.

His bosses were skeptical, but Dukes pressed the issue. He knew that consumers loved the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving. Pumpkin pie, with its rich blend of spices and pumpkin, is a must-have for many during the autumn months. Fortunately, Starbuck’s management team listened to Dukes.

It was a decision that would mark the most successful rollout and seasonal flavor in Starbuck’s history. 

The Moral of the Story

Consumer feedback is great for identifying problems or areas where innovation can happen. However, it is not the best way to come up with a solution. It is the job of the entrepreneur to come up with solutions that the consumer will love.

Focus the efforts of your company and team on coming up with innovative solutions. It is among the strongest business strategies your company can adopt.

 

Innovative Solutions are part of what help Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full. To learn more ways to pump up you pipeline join us for a webinar April 21st. 

 

What to Do When People Say They Buy Based on Price

How many times have you run across a customer who is looking for the cheapest price? If you have been selling for any length of time, you have probably run across plenty of customers who buy based on price. Being able to manage such a customer is a business growth strategy you need to master.

Digging out the reality behind their price point

Buying based on price can take a few different forms. It is important to do a bit of digging to find out what form each customer is using.

  • Buying within a set budget. Some people have $X amount to spend and that is it. You might be able to bump their base budget up by a small percentage, but not by much.
  • Buying based on the cost of past purchases. If you are selling something the customer has bought in the past, they may be comparing your price to what they paid last year or last month.
  • Buying based on anticipated cost. Many times, a consumer will do a bit of online snooping to find out the lowest prices out there. They then set their “budget” in that range.
  • Buying based on price is just an excuse. The customer may be saying one thing and thinking another. Ask if they have any other concerns besides price. You may be surprised at what comes out. 

Managing or eliminating price concerns

Once you know what is behind your customer’s price concerns, you have the information you need to manage the concerns or eliminate them all together. It is a business growth strategy you cannot avoid.

  • Turn the conversation from price to value. You know your product. You know your competition. You know the value that your product has over that of your lowest priced competition. Use that information to redirect the conversation.
  • Compare products and features vs. the customer’s needs. Many times, a consumer thinks the lowest priced item will serve their needs. However, when you do a point-to-point comparison of what they need with what you have to offer, your product will win.
  • Offer a solution instead of a product. People buy products and services to solve a problem or to fill a perceived gap. You need to position your product or service as a solution to their problems.

What do you say to someone who says they buy based on price? Start with “Why?”

Being able to solve a problem for your customer will help keep your Sales Pipeline Full. For more ways to fill your pipeline join our short and informative webinar. 

5 Vital Steps to Building a Worthwhile Target List

Building a high-value target list of potential clients is a business growth strategy for companies of any size. The list helps target marketing and sales efforts, while guiding product and service development as well. Creating such a list is an investment in both short and long-term growth.

But, not all target lists are created equal. To build a worthwhile list, you need to put time and effort into the process.

Five steps to building a worthwhile target list

A worthwhile list is not a random list of potential clients. It is well thought out and thoroughly researched.

  1. Know your ideal client well. This involves building a persona for each of your ideal customers. Who are they? What kind of company do they work for? How is your product or service going to help them solve a problem or fill a need? This step is essential, because without it, your target list is not going to be high quality. Filter all leads against this persona before putting them on your target list.
  2. Start with your current customer base. These are the companies or individuals who know and use your products or services. Who, in their circle, could use your products or services as well? Make a list of their competitors, clients, affiliates, and associations. Those are all potential clients.
  3. Review literature produced within your ideal client’s industry. This includes industry magazines and blogs, trade show handouts, conference notes, and convention presentations. Look at the companies featured. Look at conference sponsor lists. Check out which speakers/bloggers work for what companies.
  4. Make personal connections within your community. You may be focused on getting clients from around the world, but fail to realize the potential customer base in your own neighborhood. Take part in networking events. Become a part of your local Chamber of Commerce. Make the acquaintance of leaders in the local business community.
  5. Keep your target list fresh and up to date. For your target list to be worthwhile, it must reflect the current status. Companies go out of business. New companies emerge. Older companies transition into new markets. New client industries develop. Your list needs to change as your target audience changes.

Is your client target list as good as it needs to be? Make it a habit to review and update your target list every month or so. It is a business growth strategy that will keep your efforts focused. For more tips on how to keep your Sales Pipeline Full click here! 

3 Ways to Generate More Leads

Leads. Leads. Leads. They are the fuel that drives your sales engine. Without leads, your sales efforts will go nowhere fast. Finding ways to generate more leads is a critical business development strategy that you cannot afford to ignore.

Three ways to get more leads

Here are three ways you can generate more leads to fuel your sales engine:

  1. Offer something of value for a limited time. You may have plenty of prospects who are interested in your products or services, but do not have an urgent need to take the next step to become a lead. If you offer something of value free for a limited time, it can spur those prospects into becoming a lead. The free time period can be a month, a week, or even just a day. At the end of the free period, that offering should become a product that you sell to your customers.
  2. Give your existing customers a reason to refer your company. A customer referral is gold when it comes to leads. The customer already knows your products or services. They can give personal testimony to others about your brand. Your existing customers have a good idea of those in their circle who would likely be most interested in your company’s offerings. The key is to give those existing customers a reason to make the referral. Offer a discount or freemium to those customers who make a referral that turns into a sale.
  3. Use cross-promotions and co-marketing to your advantage. Do you have a supplier or a vendor that offers a complementary, non-competitive product that you could cross-promote? You would form an alliance where each would share leads, promote products together, and do other mutually beneficial activities. Leads that are generated from these kinds of partnerships can be high quality. The difficulty is that you need to have a partner that you can trust and you need to manage that relationship closely to get the most benefits.

Each of these techniques will help you generate leads now and in the future. That is a business development strategy that will pay dividends in a healthy, growing company. Your company.

Do you have any unique ways that you use to generate leads? For more information on how to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full join our convenient and informative webinar!

Celebrate any wins lately?

Well done!! Way to go!!!! You’re a rockstar!!!!!!!!

When was the last time you sat down and reflected on a win you had in the past week?  How do you acknowledge your business accomplishments?  Do you recognize and praise your team on a regular basis? How do you celebrate your victories, however big or small?

I don’t know about you, but if you’re like most people it doesn’t occur to us (including me) as a natural act to reflect on our performance.  We just keep on going to the next thing and the next thing.  It takes courage and commitment to look back on the things you did well, the things you didn’t do so well, the things you succeeded at, where you fell short of your mark.  Maybe that’s why so few people do it. 

When individuals routinely operate at such high levels, it can sometimes seem like the norm; these people say things like “it’s no big deal, that’s just what I do”. Instituting a ritual of weekly reflections that are grounded in what went right go a long way toward building confidence as individuals and as a team.  Completing what didn’t go the way we’d hoped and identifying what was missing allows us to do better next time and serve as a training opportunities that turn into wins. 

Success breeds success!  Be sure to build on your successes by stopping to smell the roses and bask in the sunlight of your accomplishments.  Start your weekly reflections and watch your successes take off.

Learning the art of questioning and listening

Being the expert in your business means that you have all the advice to give about your product, so selling should be easy, right? Selling is a tricky thing. Knowing about the product isn’t enough anymore, you need to know the right questions to ask.

Have you ever answered a question with a question? Would that be making a difference to your conversion rate? The answer to the latter is most definitely yes! Asking questions not only increases your conversion rate, but builds rapport with your customer and ensures that the sale becomes their idea and not yours.

Asking questions also means active listening. You can ask questions about your customers work, business, kids or hobbies but make sure that you are listening with sincere interest. It may even be helpful to note down some of the answers – such as the names of their kids, interests etc for future communication. By asking questions and listening, you are building rapport and attaching importance to their conversation.

Also, by asking questions you are remaining in control of the conversation. Once you find yourself doing all the talking you are no longer in control. Just remember that the person asking questions sets the direction for the conversation. If the customer is dominating the conversation by asking you questions make sure you answer the question with a question. However, try to vary the questions that you ask. You may remember from looking after your own children or babysitting that being asked “but why?” over and over again tends to get a little monotonous.

Questions can guide consumer interest, discover a need and give accurate information. There are two commonly known types of questioning – open ended and closed questions.

Building Rapport and Qualifying
Open-ended questions are an excellent way to ensure customer involvement in the conversation and are key to identifying not only what they need but a lot about themselves. You can use open-ended questions to build rapport, to find a need, to discover a customer problem and find the right solution. In journalism there are six key questions used in the interviewing process which is as equally useful in sales – who, what, where, when, why and how.

Here are a few example of open-ended questions which are very useful:

  • Who are you buying the product/service for?
  • How often would you use the product/service?
  • What features were you looking for in this product/service?

This type of questioning yields a lot of great information from your customer and helps you determine which product/service is uniquely suited to them.

Closed questions tend to get one word answers ‘yes’ or ‘no’. They can be used to gather information quickly – not unlike a check-list. Using closed questions can also confirm a buying detail and help confirm the sale.

By using questions you are encouraging the customer to communicate, building rapport, establishing their needs, directing the conversation, diffusing tension and inviting discussion.

Learning the art of questioning and listening is the key to increasing your conversion rate and well on the way to creating a continuing customer relationship.

10 Tips For The First Time Business Owner

Whenever possible, we encourage up-and-comers and established entrepreneurs to mentor the next generation of dream-seekers; for it is this insight and insider education that will provide the foundation for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. With that, here are 10 pieces of advice:

  1. Focus. Focus. Focus.
    Many first-time entrepreneurs feel the need to jump at every “opportunity” they come across. Opportunities are often wolves in sheep’s clothing. Avoid getting side-tracked. Juggling multiple ventures will spread you thin and limit both your effectiveness and productivity. Do one thing perfectly, not 10 things poorly. If you feel the need to jump onto another project, that might mean something about your original concept.
  2. Know what you do. Do what you know.
    Don’t start a business simply because it seems sexy or boasts large hypothetical profit margins and returns. Do what you love. Businesses built around your strengths and talents will have a greater chance of success. It’s not only important to create a profitable business, it’s also important that you’re happy managing and growing it day in and day out. If your heart isn’t in it, you will not be successful.
  3. Say it in 30 seconds or don’t say it at all.
    From a chance encounter with an investor to a curious customer, always be ready to pitch your business. State your mission, service and goals in a clear and concise manner. Fit the pitch to the person. Less is always more.
  4. Know what you know, what you don’t know and who knows what you don’t.
    No one knows everything, so don’t come off as a know-it-all. Surround yourself with advisors and mentors who will nurture you to become a better leader and businessman. Find successful, knowledgeable individuals with whom you share common interests and mutual business goals that see value in working with you for the long-term.
  5. Act like a startup.
    Forget about fancy offices, fast cars and fat expense accounts. Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal. Watch every dollar and triple-check every expense. Maintain a low overhead and manage your cash flow effectively.
  6. Learn under fire.
    No business book or business plan can predict the future or fully prepare you to become a successful entrepreneur. There is no such thing as the perfect plan. There is no perfect road or one less traveled. Never jump right into a new business without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become a well-rounded entrepreneur when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
  7. No one will give you money.
    There, I said it. No one will invest in you. If you need large sums of capital to launch your venture, go back to the drawing board. Find a starting point instead of an end point. Scale down pricey plans and grandiose expenditures. Simplify the idea until it’s manageable as an early stage venture. Find ways to prove your business model on a shoestring budget. Demonstrate your worth before seeking investment. If your concept is successful, your chances of raising capital from investors will dramatically improve.
  8. Be healthy.
    No, I’m not your mother. However, I promise that you will be much more productive when you take better care of yourself. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 profession. Working to the point of exhaustion will burn you out and make you less productive. Don’t make excuses. Eat right, exercise and find time for yourself.
  9. Don’t fall victim to your own B.S.
    Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Impress with action not conversation. Endorse your business enthusiastically, yet tastefully. Avoid exaggerating truths and touting far reaching goals as certainties. In short, put up or shut up.
  10. Know when to call it quits.
    Contrary to popular belief, a smart captain does not go down with the ship. Don’t go on a fool’s errand for the sake of ego. Know when it’s time to walk away. If your idea doesn’t pan out, reflect on what went wrong and the mistakes that were made. Assess what you would have done differently. Determine how you will utilize these hard-learned lessons to better yourself and your future entrepreneurial endeavors. Failure is inevitable, but a true entrepreneur will prevail over adversity.

Successful Business Networking Tips

Everyone knows that the benefits of networking are great, but most people don’t know how to take full advantage of it.
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Want to make your business networking more effective?
Here are ten tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
  2. Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
  3. Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining.
  4. Hold volunteer positions in organizations. This is a great way to stay visible and give back to groups that have helped you.
  5. Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means questions that ask who, what, where, when, and how as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them.
  6. Become known as a powerful resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions, ideas, names of other people, etc. This keeps you visible to them.
  7. Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do that you can easily articulate to others.
  8. Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you. Too often people in conversations ask, “How may I help you?” and no immediate answer comes to mind.
  9. Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Respect and honor that and your referrals will grow.
  10. Call those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together and share ideas.
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