Better Networking … Better Business

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A regular coaching client, Amy, called me the other day.  She said that her business just wasn’t growing at the rate she expected and needed.  We talked about how long she had been in business, where her sales leads were coming from, and where the majority of her business originated.

After asking Amy several questions it became apparent that Amy wasn’t getting in front of enough new people on a weekly basis to have the necessary opportunity to grow sales.  “Sales is a numbers game.  You have to meet enough people and have the opportunity to share what you do if you are going to increase your sales,” I told Amy.

The truth is that it is more then a numbers game.  The quality of the numbers is also very important.  Just putting yourself in front of bodies is a waste of time.  You want to be speaking to qualified people, people who have a need and the ability to buy.

Amy and I decided that she needed to work on her networking skills and increase her networking opportunities.  Below are the four specific areas we discussed.

1. Put yourself into situations where you can meet people.

If you are waiting for your phone to ring off of the hook you may be kidding yourself.  When it comes to networking, it may be best to start small but think big.  Look for one additional networking opportunity per week.  Don’t try to over do it.  If you add one opportunity a week that would be anywhere from 44 to 50 additional opportunities a year depending on how much time you set aside for vacations and rejuvenation.

By starting off small you have the chance to overcome any fears or apprehensions you may have.  It will also give you the opportunity to hone your skills at delivering your finely tuned marketing message.  Chamber of commerce meetings, service clubs, and trade associations are all great networking targets.  If you are involved in one chamber of commerce, maybe think about adding one or two others.  Certainly your choices will vary from community to community.

The key is to find people that have the need and the ability to buy.  They may not know that they have the need for your product or service, but you can educate them.

2. Communicate the right message.

Poor communication or communicating the wrong message may be the biggest mistake that business professionals make.  To be effective at networking you must be able to communicate a memorable marketing message in 10 seconds or less.

Do you accurately know why people buy from you?  Are you positive of the specific markets and groups of people that can best use your product or service?  Do you have the ability and confidence to deliver a message in 10 seconds or less that can catch someone’s attention, be remembered, and generate a response that will lead to business?

No matter how many additional people you put yourself in front of, if you can’t put into words the value you deliver and to whom you deliver that value, you will not be able to take advantage of those additional networking opportunities.

3. Follow-up appropriately

Just because you meet people who need your service, and you start building a relationship with them, it doesn’t mean that they will make the effort to follow-up with you.  You must be responsible to follow-up with them.

There is a difference between being a pest and thorough efficient follow-up.  When you conclude a meeting with someone always ask what the appropriate follow-up would be.  In your closing question provide your prospect with an alternative of choice for your follow-up.  This will help you maintain control and allow you the opportunity to further the process.  An example might be, “John, it was great meeting today.  What would be the best time frame to follow up?  (do not pause here) Should I call you later this week, or would next Tuesday be best?”

Either choice is good for you.  Make great notes and make the follow-up call when you promised.

4. Ask for referrals

A commonly overlooked way to network is through referrals.  Many times we simply forget to ask the people we come in contact with for the names of others who “may” need your service.  I like to use the word “may” because it is less committal on the part of the person you are asking the referral from.  If you put them at ease, they are more apt to provide you with that valuable name.

You can ask for referrals from your clients, people who don’t buy from you, and people who you just happen to meet and network with.  All of these groups of people will be willing to help you if you have taken the time to build a relationship up front.

Every time a client buys from you thank them and ask them for a referral.  Your clients like and trust you and will be willing to recommend someone else who may need your product or service.

It is not unusual for someone to not buy from you at this time, but they will believe in you enough to recommend someone who will!  Don’t overlook this valuable source of business.

At all of the additional networking opportunities you are going to go to try to meet people, and also try to get referrals from the new people you meet.  That will really maximize your return on time.

When you put all four of these networking ideas to work, your referral base will grow, your sales will grow, and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz!

Developing Great Sales Habits

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I arrived in Louisville at 9:30 AM.  Todd picked me up at the airport, and we went straight to the hotel.  I knew that it was early, but I was hoping to be able to check in and have a room to meet in with Todd.  Sitting in the lobby would work, but it wasn’t my first choice.

At check in I was greeted with a warm “good morning.”  Nancy looked up and smiled.  I explained my situation, and Nancy went to work on her computer.  “I have two rooms available to check into,” she said.  “A regular room, or for only $19 more I can put you into a suite.”

I thought momentarily and then opted for the suite.  Nancy was really trying to work with me.  She was giving me choices.  She also was moving me up to a more expensive room.

Nancy had developed some great sales habits.  Her habits led to increased sales and greater profits.  One of the quickest ways to build your business is to develop great sales habits.  Below are three powerful sales habits you can develop and use.

1. The habit of increased profitability

When you go into McDonalds they ask you if you want fries with you order, if you want to “Super Size” your order, or if you want an apple pie with your order.  They always want to increase the dollar amount of the transaction and grow their profits.

The first sale is the hardest to make, but it doesn’t say anywhere that you have to wait a certain amount of time to make the second sale.  You should always have an item or two that you can add on after you make your sale.  You have your client’s trust, and they want to do business with you.  Make the most of your time and resources.  Always look to increase your average sale.  By adding products or services to the sale, you are increasing the value that you deliver your client and growing your profitability.

2. The habit of assuming the sale

Ever hear the expression, “I picked up good vibes from her?”  We sense what others are feeling and thinking.  You need to be putting off the vibes that you believe in your product and service, that it is right for your client, and that you are anticipating that the transaction will move forward.

When you approach a selling situation with an outcome-positive mindset you will be confident, persuasive, and trusting.  Your clients will pick up on your commitment and, they will believe in your solution.  You will close more sales.

Persistence is one foundation of a great sales professional.  Your level of persistence will be significantly higher if you enter your sales relationships with an attitude of assuming the sale.

3. The habit of telling the whole story

I was working with a sales manager of a large equipment rental company.  He shared with me an incident that he experienced with one of the members of his sales team.  It seems that his sales professional lost a three million dollar client.  The sales manager asked the sales professional if he knew why he had lost the sale.  The answer was, “no.”  So, the sales manager took the representative back to the client to find out this critical information.

It turns out that the client went with the competition because the competition had a field service representative and service was of top importance for this client.  Well, my client was sick.  The client had offices all up and down the east coast of the United States.  The competitor had one service representative allocated to cover that entire region.  My client had a field service representative in each town they had an office in.  My client was in the best possible position to provide field service but lost the sale because the field sales representative did not properly educate the customer.

Never assume that your client knows what you k now.  They probably don’t fully know about your product, your company, you as an individual, or the services your organization provides.  Educate your client, and you will make the sale.

Every day you should work to hone and improve your sales skills and habits.  It takes twenty-one days to effect a habit.  Work on these three sales habits for the next twenty-one days, and you will be on the road to Building a Better Biz.

Build A Better Biz By The Numbers – Superior Customer Service

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5 Steps To Superior Customer Service

1. Know who your customer really is.
2. Learn all about your customers needs.
3. Separate their “product” needs from their, “act of doing business with you” needs.
4. Design systems to address your customer’s needs and then exceed their expectations.
5. Empower your entire company to service the needs of your customers.

2 Questions For You

1. Do your customers have any needs that they are not aware of?
2. When evaluating the process that a customer uses to transact business with you, does your process make it easy or difficult for them to do business with your company?

1 Thing To Do Today

Call five customers and ask them what is the best part of doing business with you, and what is the most challenging part of doing business with you.

Creating High-Powered Sales Teams

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Becoming a great salesperson takes dedication, training, and experience.  Creating a high-powered sales team is an entirely different project.  Great sales teams can make a company very successful.  A weak sales team can bring a good company down.

Creating an environment that attracts and keeps great salespeople is challenging, but critical if you want to build a better business.  A really good sales team is more then the sum of its parts.  A high-powered sales team brings out the best in everyone on the team.  Sales professionals that did well before joining a great sales team will produce at an even higher rate when surrounded by the right people.

There are several components of a great sales team.  Below I want to discuss four of them.

Hiring

Great sales teams are filled with the right people.  Look at your existing team.  Who is doing a great job?  What characteristics do those people possess?  Can you use them as a guide to create a model that you can hire against?

Many times successful salespeople come from customers.  The people that buy from you make very good sales professionals.  They have experience buying and know what they want and need.

You should use an independent evaluation tool with potential candidates.  There are many good tools that will uncover the traits, strengths, and weaknesses of the people you interview.  A sales specific tool will provide insights as to the candidate’s aptitude towards sales.

If you interview three people, don’t just hire the best of the three.  Always have a list for criteria of the sales position you are looking to fill and then hire against that list.  If no one you interview meets your criteria or scores well on the written evaluation tool that you use, then bring in others to interview.

You invest too much time in training and building relationships with your clients to take a chance on a salesperson that doesn’t have a good opportunity to succeed.  Put your time in up front and hire right.

Training

Many companies have limited sales training.  To build a high-powered sales team you must train your people well.  Sales professionals need product knowledge, industry knowledge, sales skills, and more!  They need to know how their clients use their products and services.  They need to be very savvy about their competition.  They need to be educated as to what happens after the sale and how your company interfaces with the client throughout the entire life of the relationship.

Learning all of this knowledge requires time.  There is no quick fix.  The best companies with the best sales teams provide great training when hiring someone new, and they offer ongoing continuous education to keep their sales team at the peak of performance.

Design a training program for new hires.  You may decide to outsource some of the sales training if you cannot handle it all internally.  Then, think about how often you will need to provide ongoing sales, product, and industry training.  Don’t promise your team something and not deliver.  Be sure and follow up with a great sales training program.

Motivating

Even the great sales professionals need to be motivated.  Sure, you want to hire self-starters and people that want to achieve, but additional motivation that you provide will separate your high-powered sales force from a good or average one.

The key to motivation is to understand that everyone is motivated by different factors.  What may work for Sue might not work for John.  Be sure and try a variety of programs including, bonuses, awards, trips, recognition, and even special parking spots!

The more creative you get the more fun your team will have, and the better they will respond to your promotions.  Many sales managers forget to ask their sales professionals what they would like.  By asking your sales professionals what is of interest to them, you won’t look silly by offering a meaningless award.

The dynamics of your organization and the amounts of money that any one sales professional is responsible for will determine the magnitude of the awards you can offer.  I know of one company that provides a BMW for it’s top producer each month!

The really great sales professionals are driven to increase sales so that they can increase their own earnings, but they also like the status and recognition of winning award programs.  Mix large and small incentives into their monthly activities and watch the team’s efforts explode!

Compensating

The bottom line for most sales professionals is the bottom line.  Most sales people are in the sales field because they like people.  In sales being a people person is critical.  But, I also notice that most sales professionals have figured out that sales is a great way to make a wonderful living.

How you compensate, as well as how much compensation a sales person earns, is very important in building powerful sales teams.  Every industry is different, but you will probably want to consider fixed salary, commission, monthly bonuses, and yearly bonuses when designing your compensation program.

Most people know that they can earn more if they are on straight commission, but it is hard to find individuals willing to take the risk.  Look at what is being offered in your industry, and then think about how you can tweak the system to provide a great incentive for your sales professional and at the same time promote them to produce at a higher level and grow your bottom line.

Be sure to tie compensation into factors that they can control and should be responsible for.  Many times sales professionals are given the opportunity to adjust the price a client pays.  As the price goes down, so does the margin.  Their commission may decline as well.  It only makes sense.

Spend time building a high-powered sales organization and the return to your company will be many fold.  Sales drive most any business.  Get your sales force in high gear, and you’re on the road to Building a Better Biz!

Business Mentors

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No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.

– Ben Jonson -Sixteenth century English dramatist.

 It is difficult to improve yourself if your own set of skills is the only model you have to follow.  To reach a higher level of skills and abilities you must strive for them; but before you can strive for them, you must be able to see them in others.  See those skills and abilities in others first, then, adapt and apply them to yourself.

Someone who is a good role model performs two functions. 

         1)         He/she provides a good example of what you want to be.

         2)         He/she provides an excellent source of information and knowledge.

People who have achieved a high level of success will encourage others to go out and achieve similar success.  Take advice from people who have achieved what you want to achieve and who possess the qualities and traits of the successful person that you want to attain.  Someone who has worked for a wage all his life, will be unlikely to advise you on starting your own business.  People who have never achieved high levels of success will be hesitant to tell you to take a chance and work toward your primary desires. 

Successful people are willing to share their successes with those who show ambition.  Don’t hesitate to approach someone who is successful in your field.  They will take your interest as a compliment.  Additionally, you can shorten the learning curve and time needed for success by taking their advice.  You can attain important knowledge from books, but wise men and women give practical advice based on their experiences.  You can learn from the mistakes of others without having to make the same mistakes yourself.  This is an extremely important concept to adopt.

 I have been very fortunate to have been taught by two of the greatest salespeople I know, my father, Rubin, and Tom Hopkins.  After graduating from graduate school, I went into sales.  I trained with my father for two weeks.  It was time to go on my own and I adopted the strategy of just trying to imitate what my father did.  I knew that if I was only 50% as good at using the techniques as my father I would be considered successful.  After time, I could add my own embellishments to the system.  This plan worked for me and in a matter of months, I was the number one salesperson on a team of twelve.  In a short time, I was able to outsell the next best representative by about two to one.  One of the secrets to success is to emulate the best to get immediate and great results.  Then, and only then improve the system to become a superstar.

Later in my selling career, I was introduced to Tom Hopkins.  Tom has successfully trained over one million salespeople.  Tom is a stickler for details.  He helped me refine my selling skills by teaching me to pay attention to details.  It is the little things that can make, or possibly kill, a sale.  Just using one wrong word in your closing sequence can blow the entire opportunity.  Tom also taught the value of scripting out specific closes for any situation.  By writing out closes that are tailored to your particular industry, and then rehearsing them until they become second nature, you are prepared for almost anything the customer can throw at you.

After almost two years of rapport building with an account in Chicago I was in a position to close on a window program that would amount to over four-hundred-thousand-dollars a year.  I felt that the main obstacle to my success would be thirty-thousand-dollars of service credits the dealer was earning as rebates from his existing supplier.  I structured my pricing so I would be able to offer year-end rebates that more than offset my client’s lost credits from his former supplier.  By preparing a specific close for his possible objection, I was in position when the concern was raised by my client, to handle the objection and make the sale.

 Major corporations such as Xerox Corporation use a powerful technique called “benchmarking.”  Benchmarking allows you to gain the most from your mentor relationships.  It has become an important part of many Total Quality Management programs in recent years.  Xerox perfected the techniques in the 1970’s and used them to successfully beat back Japanese competitors producing cheaper copiers.

Benchmarking is made up of four parts:

         Identify areas that need improvement.

         Search out examples of other companies or individuals that excel in your area of interest.

         Study the techniques used by those companies and individuals to achieve  the “best in their field” status that they enjoy.

         Apply those same techniques in order to achieve significant improvements in your own performance.

If you were starting a new company and felt that in addition to your industry knowledge and good buying skills you needed improvement in internal accounting controls and marketing, you could use benchmarking to accelerate your success.  Seek out someone who exhibits excellent knowledge and use of accounting, statistics, and controls in his/her company.   Then, find someone else who has a great track record in marketing and product promotion.  Now, speak with these people and learn from them.  By carefully defining the areas where you need help and by “target benchmarking,” you will get a higher level of quality information to apply to your business.

 The best benchmark projects are those that have specific, well defined, and narrowly focused objectives.  Don’t try to analyze the big picture.  Work on specific elements of your plan.  Most of all, implement the information you obtain.  Many times people work hard to make the right connections, obtain valuable information and then do nothing with it

I continue to seek out advice from experts in any field in which I wish to excel.  If I am interested in a something, I am only interested in excelling at it.  Mentors will make the difference in your performance.  Making and learning from your own mistakes is often too costly, both in time and money.  Find people who will share their experiences and knowledge with you.  This will greatly shorten the time it takes to achieve your primary desires.

Procrastination

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Even if you’re on the right track-you’ll get run over if you just sit there.

– Arthur Godfrey -Radio and television personality.

 Procrastination is a bad habit.  It is the destroyer of goals and dreams and achievement.  If you procrastinate you should look to replace the habit of procrastination with the habit of action.  A good slogan to remember is “You can’t be great if you procrastinate.”

 The best day to start a project is today.  In school, students often put off until the last minute writing a report or doing an assignment.  Finally, when the fear of failure outweighs the discomfort of having to do the report, they are motivated to start and find that the project really isn’t that bad.  Sometimes they realize that if they only had started earlier, they would have had more time and might have done a better job.  Then, they swear that next time they will start the day the assignment is given and get it done earlier.  But, next time they fall into the same procrastination trap.

 People procrastinate because they pay closer attention to the comfort of the moment than to long term pleasure and long lasting satisfaction.  For example, it would have been much more comfortable on those cold, windy mornings to stay in bed rather than to get out and run.  However, it would have been impossible to achieve my long term goals of running the Boston Marathon if I hadn’t exercised diligently each morning.  The long term satisfaction of accomplishing my goal outweighed any short term pain or discomfort of early morning training.  When I did, in fact, qualify for and subsequently run the Boston Marathon, all the work and sacrifice was more than worth it!

 Remember, your mind can only focus on one concept at a time.  To move from a life of procrastination to one of immediate action you must shift your focus from the pain of the immediate action to the pleasure of the eventual outcome.  By placing our attention and emphasis on the pleasure to be derived, you will be motivated to move forward with your project.  The anticipated pleasure will generate the passion, energy and commitment necessary to complete your project and achieve your primary desires.

 As soon as you identify a project, take some action, no matter how small, to begin the project.  A project is much easier to complete, once it has been started, even if the first step is small.  If the task is large or complex, break it down into several smaller projects that will be easier to tackle.

 Establish deadlines for each part of the project.  Make it a game.  If you finish a project before a deadline, reward yourself.  As you begin, you may start slowly and with small steps.  But as you move forward, you will pick up momentum.

If “any job worth doing is worth doing well,” then any goal worth having is worth pursuing now!  Procrastinating only creates “negative momentum” (see Momentum) and actually pushes you further away from the achievement of your primary desires.  You can either move forward or slip backwards.  Which direction are you moving?  What are your primary desires?  Make a small start today!

Blackout Blues

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In 2003 there was a huge electrical blackout.  Over 50 million people in the United States and Canada were without electricity.  Industry experts said that the systems in place are over taxed, outdated, and not sufficient to handle the current demand.

For years, experts have called for updating the current systems.  They knew that problems existed, but no one ever took the time or made the investment to correct the situation.

Old systems will work for only so long before problems occur.  It is the same for your business.  Outdated methods will catch up to you and leave your business in the dark and less competitive.  Old information will lead to bad choices and costly mistakes.

Evaluate the following four areas.  Make sure that you are current in what you do.

 

1. Computer Hardware and Software

Is your hardware up to date?  Are you taking advantage of faster processors and modern technology?  Have you moved from a dial-up to a high-speed connection?

Your most precious commodity is time.  Information systems are a part of your life whether or not you like it.  As long as you are going to need computers and the internet, make sure you have fast equipment, and that you are taking advantage of new technological peripherals.

Look at your software.  Do you have an effective accounting package?  Do you use the management features it contains?  Are you taking advantage of your accounting system to monitor critical numbers and best manage your company?

Whether you use Quicken, QuickBooks, MYOB, or another package, there are many features from online bill paying, to budgeting capabilities that many business professionals overlook or choose not to take the time to learn.  These features offer the real power of accounting software packages.  You have made the monetary investment in this software, now make the time investment to get it set up and working effectively for you and your business.

Do you use a contact management system?  Are you still working off of little pieces of paper scattered all over your desk and post-it notes stuck on the walls?

A contact management system will allow you to greatly increase productivity.  This modern marvel allows you to keep all of your contact information in a single easy-to-get-at place.  With the push of a few buttons you can look up any client or prospect and see when your last conversation with them was and what was discussed.  When you come to work in the morning you will have scheduled calls and you will always be able to follow up on time and as promised.

I have been using a contact management system for over fifteen years, and I could not run my business without it!

 

2. Your Product Information

I have bought a lot of cars over the years, and every time I go into an automotive showroom I discover that I know more about the car I am looking for then the salesperson that works with me.

It is very frustrating for the buyer to know more about the product then the seller.  If you are to be a true professional, you need to be very well versed on the product or service that you offer.  Your expertise needs to be very detailed, although you will not need to use all details with each client.

A professional has a technical understanding of their offering and tailors the information provided based on the needs and desires of the client.  Someone purchasing a home may want to know about the specific energy savings characteristics of the water heater.  Another person may just want to know that the water heater is 75 gallons and will easily handle a family of five.  Someone buying a car may be happy just knowing they are getting leather seats.  Another buyer may want to know the tanning process used to make the premium leather used in her car.

 

3. Industry and Competition Information

Not only must you know more about your product than your client, you should also know more about your competition’s product as well.  It is not uncommon to see someone who is knowledgeable about their products and services, yet not be up to date on what is going on in their industry.

Remember, your client, in their mind, is positioning you against your competitors.  They are comparing the benefits they receive, the price they will have to pay, and the service that they perceive they will get.

If you are to put yourself in a strong position, you will need to be very knowledgeable about your competition.  You never want to talk bad about your competition, but if you know their strengths and weaknesses you can promote the strengths that your product possesses that will exploit the competitors weaknesses.

Ideally, you should be so knowledgeable about your competition that you could go to work for them!

 

4. Current Events and General Knowledge

Are you up to date on national and international events?  If someone strikes up a conversation about the situation in Darfur, can you hold up your end?  What about the current election, or the buyout attempt that InBev made on Anheuser Busch?

Business is built on relationships.  Relationships are based on communication.  If you want to communicate effectively, you need to know what your customers like to talk about, and you need to be knowledgeable about those subjects.

One of my favorite sales professionals is constantly reading magazines.  He may read about SCUBA diving one day and gardening the next.  Yes, he has a thirst for information and knowledge, but he really enjoys being able to speak with any of his clients about a variety of subjects.

If you work in a narrow niche, find out what your clients are reading, and at the very least read those publications or books.  To be a real resource for your customers, dig deeper and read or learn about issues that would be of importance or assistance to them.

I keep my valued resources close.  If you are a true resource for your clients, they will want to keep you close as well.

 

Don’t let your lights go out.  Keep up to date.  Make sure your systems and information are current, and you will stay on the road to Building a Better Biz!

Communicate for Rapport

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How you communicate with others will often determine the success you have in business. But communication is more than simply your ability to relate ideas. A key aspect of communication that many business people neglect is their listening capability. The fact is that without highly-tuned listening skills, your business and client rapport will often suffer.

Why is listening so important? Clients these days want more than polished sales presentations. They don’t want to be trapped in a conversation where the other person dominates the talk. They want to work with people who seem to truly care about them and their needs and who listen to their concerns and work with them to deliver the best solution. That’s why your ability to effectively listen to others can make or break your business. 

It’s important to realize that listening involves much more than simply not talking. It’s a matter of understanding the other person, giving him or her your full attention, not interrupting, and making the other person feel important. 

Below are three simple listening techniques you can implement today to improve your client rapport tomorrow. 

 

1. Listen for the other person’s communication style

Everyone learns information with one of three dominant senses: sight, sound, or touch. As a result, people communicate in a style that matches their learning modality. In order to effectively communicate with others, you must identify which style your client is using and then respond to him or her accordingly. 

For example, people who are visual learners will use visual language patterns and will say things like, “I see what you mean,” “This looks good,” and “I want my (boss/wife/husband) to see this before I decide.” Their focus is on how your proposal “looks” to them. When you identify a visual learner, focus your conversation around visual aids, such as brochures, flip charts, graphs, and diagrams. These people will need to “see” the facts before they commit. 

Auditory learners will use phrases such as “This sounds interesting” and “I want my (boss/co-workers) to hear this.” These people will be less impressed by your visual tools and will need more verbal explanation from you. 

Kinetic learners are those who rely on touch or motion to comprehend the information. They’ll typically use phrases like, “Let’s touch base on this tomorrow” and “Run that by me again.” These people will need more hands-on interaction. They learn by doing and may need to do calculations for themselves or write their own changes in the contract. 

Always listen to the speech patterns of those you talk to. You’ll be able to judge their communication style and then respond to them in a similar fashion in order to make communication easier and more effective. 

While it’s important to know your own communication style, your primary focus should always be on delivering information in the style most preferred by the person you are speaking with. When you can talk to clients in their own language patterns, you’ll gain their attention and their trust.

 

2. Ask appropriate questions

A key to listening is the ability to gather information. To do this, ask your clients key questions that will invite them to share information with you. This will also better enable you to assess their needs, wants, likes, and dislikes. You can then develop a solution tailored especially for them. 

To begin, ask some basic fact-searching questions—those that begin with “when,” “where,” “what,” and “how many.” These are usually easy for people to answer and the ones they are most comfortable with. Some common fact-searching questions are “What style of house are you looking for?” “When would you like to retire?” “How much would you like to invest in a stock plan?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Carefully listen to the answers so you can continue with some deeper questions.

Once you establish the facts, begin to ask “why” questions. These will reveal more personal information and will begin the rapport building process. Some examples are “Why would you like a larger house?” “Why do you want to retire at that age?” “Why is this investment important to you?” and “Why did you set those goals for yourself?” 

The more you listen to their answers, the more you’ll uncover the motivation behind their needs. More important, by asking questions, your clients will sense that you are genuinely interested in them and will be more apt to do business with you.

 

3. Confirm your comprehension

To show the speaker that you are indeed listening, rephrase and repeat key points from the discussion. This will help validate opinions and will show that you understand. Also, be sure to interject with “come on” phrases, such as “I agree,” “Please continue,” “I understand,” and “Oh, really.” Phrases like these encourage people to continue, and the more the other party talks, the more they’ll sell themselves on your solution. 

Your relationship will also better develop if you use gestures while listening. This can include maintaining eye contact, smiling when the other person is talking, and nodding in agreement to points. By doing this, the speaker will see you as an active participant in the conversation, and the developing relationship will have more meaning.

Finally, hold any in-depth comments you may have until the speaker is finished speaking. Nothing turns a person off more than someone who interrupts the conversation. Furthermore, to ensure that you fully comprehend all that your clients say, refrain from formulating your responses while they are still talking. If you’re continually planning what you’re going to say, you will inevitably miss some important details the other person reveals. Constant rebuttal formulation will also put you in a defensive mindset. In order for your client to view you as a partner and not an opponent, you need to keep an open mind and gather all the information possible. Your clients will appreciate this common courtesy and will place a higher importance on the relationship you develop.

 

There’s no doubt that listening is an art form that must be mastered in order to attain long-term business success. You’ll discover that when you build relationships rather than continually hard-sell your products and services, your clients will reward you with future business and continual referrals. By practicing these three steps, you can make all your client interactions much more enjoyable and much more profitable for you and your company. 

Now you’re on the road to Building a Better Biz!

Business Back To The Basics

Sam Articles 0 Comments

My garage is full of junk.  That’s right.  If you opened my garage today you would see junk piled high.  It goes half way to the ceiling!  Wood, insulation, drywall, light fixtures, dirt, and cabinets that had been torn out.

The master bathroom in my house is being remodeled.  It’s a gut job.  We’re taking it down to the raw studs, and then creating a brand new bathroom.

Initially, we were going to re-decorate, but that really didn’t seem to solve our issues.  Sometimes you have to go back to the original studs and build what you want, just the way you want it.

In business, it can be the same way.  Over the years you gradually build your business.  You implement systems, and you adjust your systems.  Marketing generates leads, and you close them.  Some ideas work.  Others don’t.

Many times, the ideas and techniques that had worked in the past get modified.  After several changes you don’t even recognize your original thought or process.  And then some time down the line you wonder, “Why don’t we do that anymore?”

It is easy to get off track or just try so many new things that the old proven techniques get covered up or forgotten.  Maybe now is the time to get your business back to basics.

Look at these three areas and evaluate what you have done in the past, what you are currently doing, and what you want or should be doing as you move forward.

 

1. Marketing

All too often I work with companies that have had several successful marketing campaigns over the years, but then they move on to something new.  I truly believe in trying out new marketing ideas.  I also believe that you should keep a log of what works, what doesn’t, and when you have used various marketing techniques.

There is a difference between “resting” a marketing tool and failing to remember that it has worked for you before and probably would again.

Make a list of all the different marketing ideas you have used over the years.  Then, next to each one mark whether it was cost efficient, a loser, or just break-even.  Also, mark down when you have used those techniques.  Going forward, add to the list as you try new marketing ideas.

Now, are there some ideas that have worked in the past that you haven’t used in a while?  Have you been successful with a program in the past but failed to use it in a long time?  Maybe now is the time to pull out that proven technique and put it back into your arsenal.  What a great way to implement a successful idea and not have to reinvent it from scratch!

 

2. Sales

After over thirty years of sales experience, and over one hundred million dollars in product and service sales I’ve learned several undeniable truths.  Two really stick out.

First, it takes a proven sales system to be able to achieve your very best in any selling environment.

Every great sales professional that I’ve ever known had a system.  They had a step-by-step approach that they followed to achieve their success.  Some of them created their system, but most of them were taught a system by another proven sales professional.

Selling is a planned campaign.  You don’t just “wing it” and make it big.

Second, over time sales professionals tend to take shortcuts.  They get away from their proven sales system.  They think that they are good enough to eliminate this step or that.  The truth is that they are good because they have all of those steps in their system.

What I’ve discovered is that in the short-term you may continue to enjoy success as you trim steps or take shortcuts, but long-term, the changes add up.  Before you know it you have significantly deviated from your proven system.

After a while, sales level off or even decline.  The sales professional starts thinking that the market has shifted, that customers are changing their buying habits, that competition is growing, or that their price is too high.  In reality, the only problem is that the sales professional needs to get back to the basics.

Look at your sales system.  I teach a nine-step system.  Some people I know use a seven-step system.  What do you use?  Have you adapted your approach over time?  Are you taking shortcuts?

Make a list of the steps in your sales system.  Is there something missing?  Are there some basic steps that you need to go back to or include?  Get back to the basics and get your sales moving up.

 

3. Strategic Planning

Before most people go into business they spend significant time planning.  They create a well thought-out sales and marketing plan.  If they have a retail store, they plan the layout and flow of that store.  They plan for financing, and they plan for challenges along the way.

There is a lot of time spent thinking not only strategically, but also tactically.

After someone opens his or her business it is not uncommon to see the tactical thinking completely take over.  The strategic thinking is pushed out the door.  The rush of everyday problems is the only thing that the owner has made time to deal with.

Many times, the owner is experienced in a trade or skill and doesn’t have the business training to think or plan strategically.  Delegating and creating time to work strategically may be the most important commitment an owner can make.  It is great if you can think and plan strategically on your own, but if you can’t, then get a coach to guide you.

Strategic thinking is what you build your business foundation on.  What are your company’s values and goals?  What is your company vision?  How does everyone around you fit into your vision of the future?  What will have to happen this year for you to be happy next year?

These are all tough questions, and you must spend time dealing with each of them.  Strategic planning is at the heart of every great organization, from a one-person sales company to a company with thousands of employees.  Make the time to create your successful future!

 

In the rush to get ahead, don’t forget what has worked and what events have brought you to where you are today.  Maybe it’s time to take your business back to basics, recapture successful ideas, and put yourself on the road to Building a Better Biz!

Close More Sales

Sam Articles 0 Comments

For a customer to make a purchase, there are three key questions that must be answered in their mind. If you can answer these questions in a positive manner, you can make the sale. If you shortcut your presentation, don’t hit on all of the important issues, and don’t answer these questions for your customer, then you cannot make the sale.  Take the responsibility of providing the needed answers so your clients can buy your products and services.

 

1. Why should I buy?

A customer will only make a purchasing decision to satisfy a need. The good news is that the need can be real, or it can be perceived.

If someone has a hole in their roof, they have a real need to have it repaired. If a client wants a new roof to dress up the look of their home, then the need is more of a perception. Wanting your house to look nicer is different than solving a problem like a leaky roof.

Someone that goes into a Mercedes dealership is addressing a status need in addition to a real need for transportation. Surely, a Chevrolet or Volkswagen would provide adequate transportation, but those automobiles may not provide the perceived need of having a prestigious car.

Your job during the sales process is to make sure that your client is aware of their needs. You should make them aware of real needs that exist as well as any perceived needs that you can build upon. The more need you can create, the greater the chance that the client will move forward with your proposition.

Do you know what needs your product or service addresses? Create a list of the real needs your product satisfies. Now create a list of the possible perceived needs that you can apply your product to. Be sure and make every client aware of his or her needs!

 

2. Why should I buy from you?

There are many reasons that someone should buy from you. Below is a list of some of them.

Expertise – What do you bring to the table?
Bonding – How good is your relationship with your client?
Price – Some people buy from the low price provider, some from the high price provider, and some from the middle price provider. The key is to be able to substantiate your price.
Security – What type of warranty or guarantee do you offer? Your client is going to give up their hard earned dollars. They want peace of mind as well as the product or service you offer.
Quality – Does your product have greater quality than your competition? Are there features and benefits that you could elaborate on which would answer this for your client?
Solution – Ultimately, making a sale is solving a problem for your client. They have a need. You have a solution. Is your solution the best possible choice for your client?
Service Uniqueness – Do you offer a unique level of service or support for your client?
Value – Value goes deeper then price. Value is the relationship between their investment and everything they receive in return. Your client gives you money. You provide a product, a warranty, service, support, and more.

Your responsibility is to provide your client with as many “why’s” as possible. Remember, it’s not enough for you to know all of this information. Your clients must have the information if they are to be able to determine that they should buy from you.

 

3. Why should I buy now?

We all want to put off purchasing decisions. We don’t want to part with our hard earned money. Maybe the price will drop. Maybe the need will go away. It’s a tough decision, and we dislike making decisions.

It is critical that you give your client a reason to make the purchase now; today! One time I was selling replacement windows. The customer was someone I knew. I closed the sale. They said to send them the contract to sign. “Take your time. Whenever it gets here we’ll sign it and return it to you,” they said. I took my time and by the time I got around to getting them the contract, the husband had been transferred and I lost my sale. If I had gotten them the contract that day or the next day at the latest, then we could have measured the window and they would have been in production.

Needs change. If you client has a need today, then make the sale today. Give them a reason to move the process forward. Maybe there is a special offer or a sale. Maybe you expect the prices to go up. Availability can also be an effective motivator. Discontinued products are only available for a limited time. A house in a very desirable neighborhood will not be on the market for long. Laws and governmental regulations may eliminate opportunities in the near future. Whatever the case, let the client know that it is in their best interest to move forward right now.

If you are successful in answering all three questions in your clients minds you will close more sales, make more money, and be on the road to Building a Better Biz.