Archive for February, 2009

Want Quick Sales Growth Now?

In this lean economy it is often the little things that make all the difference in the world to your clients.   I have a few simple recommendations to light up your sales success.

Strike While the Iron is Hot!

  • Return that call:  One of the most common client complaints I hear surrounds follow-up.  Sometimes we put our work activities ahead of those pesky calls and e-mails we need to get to.  Big mistake!  Put your clients (sales) first…period.  Empty your voice mail queue and get to those calls on all of those sticky-notes.  As a general rule, return calls within an hour.  In no case should a call be left for more than 24 hours.  In this internet economy, your clients expect immediate feedback.  From a practical perspective, Strike While the Iron is Hot!
  • Jump on those e-mails:  Believe it or not, clients in this day and age expect a response to their e-mails as quickly as any other form of communication.  We have and the web enabled retail community to thank for that.  No problem.  Simply jot a quick note if you don’t have time for a complete response.  Better yet, build a few “boilerplate” response e-mail templates that you can quickly modify and send out quickly.

Do Your Homework

Do the homework for your client.  This often means spelling out your offer in terms that they understand and can use in their own organization.  Speak their language.  Write your proposal assuming that they’ll be doing your selling job for you when your not there.  By doing their work for them you help them put the best foot forward.  Here’s a quick example.  In working with a client recently, I found that their proposals were getting held up.  After interviewing the client and the buyer, it became clear that both were not on the same page.  I found that by creating a proposal that clearly spelled out “WIFM” (What’s In It For Me) from the buyer perspective the proposal aligned with their internal messaging.  For instance, if your client is implementing or adhering to a certain business process be sure you reference that in all of your client materials.  If they are LEEDS compliant, reference that.  If they use PLANETREE as their customer interface solution, make sure your proposals call out your support of that methodology.  If their internal financial structure calls for a twelve month return on investment (ROI) make sure you do the math for them and call out the specific ROI for your proposal.

Some Homework for You

So how do you find out what internal client messages to align with?  You’ve got to ask.  The difference here is that this is not a “sales” call.  This conversation with your client needs to fall into the interview style I’ve discussed before.  Go ahead and schedule your next client visit but be prepared with these questions.

  • “What is the outcome you are looking for from this project?”
  • “Who is the ultimate audience or beneficiary of this proposal?
  • “Tell me about how my proposal needs to meet a certain internal ROI?”
  • “You mentioned _____ (LEEDS, PLANETREE, ISO, etc.) during our meeting.  How do you see my proposal integrating with that?”
  • “Help me understand what I can do to make this proposal meaningful to senior management.”

Try using open ended questions that do not elicit a “yes” or “no” answer from your client.  It’s best to start with questions like:

  • “Tell me about _____.”
  • “Please explain more about ___ to me.”
  • “I’m not sure I’m clear about ____.”

There’s no time like the present so go out and jump on this right away.

Happy Selling!

Are You “Coach-able?”

Start With a Serious Self Audit

One of the best exercises you can do to clear your path towards sales success is to assess where you are getting in your own way.  I’ve found that in my own career and in those of many I consult with, that there is a lot of time spent “in our own heads.”  We have fears about people and situations that we’ve carried from earlier experiences.  It’s time to take a fearless look at those interactions – face them head on and tell them to “bug off!”  I’m certainly not the first one to bring this up but I will tell you right now that there is not a path to sales success without confronting your “stuff.”

Ask Yourself and Others for Feedback

What this boils down to for most of us is that we need to start by being our own best “coach” or by reaching out to a trusted adviser and being “coach-able.”  Strip away your fear of being made to feel wrong.  Get rid of the pit in your stomach that starts when you think you are not good enough.  By taking an honest look at yourself and your fears you can then start to absorb the feedback from yourself and others that will help you improve your sales career.  A simple technique to begin with is to “interview” a few of your clients.  Begin by asking two simple questions.

  • “What do you feel I do well?”
  • “Where do feel I could improve?”

It’s crucial that you listen without a judgmental attitude.  I’d also recommend taking notes.  Nothing shows you care more than actually writing down the guidance you are getting from another person.  When you start to feel confrontational or scared push that aside as if you were mentally swatting away a fly.  When the conversation starts to dwindle with your client simply ask “is there anything else you’d like to add?”  I guarantee you that this will provide you with two surprises.

First, you are way tougher on yourself than those you sell to.  What’s the message you can get from this?  The fear you have about selling to your clients is a lot bigger in your head than it is in theirs.

Second, I’ll bet you thought you were going to get beat up by your client didn’t you?  What you probably got was a few friendly reminders and suggestions.  Did you hear…

  • “Could you be on time to appointments?”
  • “Would you return my calls the same day?”
  • “Can you get my invoices to me faster?”

Here’s Some Homework

That wasn’t so bad was it?  I’ll bet you’ll find that this will be a technique you use on an regular basis with your clients.  What better way can you think of to let them know you are truly interested in their business.  So here’s your homework.  Open up your favorite calender device (Outlook, Google Calendar, your datebook) and schedule one of these interviews in for next week.  Why not send it out as in online invitation to your favorite client.  Feel free to add the questions in the invitation so your client can start to percolate on them before you meet.

Enjoy the interview process and remember to be open and “coach-able.”  You and your clients will begin to see positive results immediately.

Happy Selling!