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Is your Business Networking Best Practice?

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Many people have a love-hate relationship with networking. We know we ought to do it, but its time consuming, a pain and wins seem rare. If that sounds like you, you’re probably a networking novice; unfamiliar with the finer points and techniques that can make networking a rewarding and profitable exercise.

Networking should be part of your lead generation repertoire, no matter what business you are in. A common mistake for people doing networking for the first time is that they are underprepared; not so much for the networking itself, but for what it takes to get to a point where business can be expected to be done. They tend to simply show up, try and make the most of the opportunity without understanding enough about what they are getting into and how best to deal with the follow-up activity required to make something of it. The result is that there is no result.  So lets examine how best to make networking a real success.

networking-group

Here are three common ‘no result’ networking scenarios:

  1. You introduce yourself to a number of people, grab their business cards and either never look at them again or quickly forget who the actual card owners were and their relevance to you, if any
  2. You meet someone you like or have things in common with and spend far too much time talking to them, with little or no prospect of an outcome
  3. You meet relevant people, get their details, attempt to follow up but somehow never manage to achieve anything beyond that.

These are just some of the things that can happen. Like any lead generation strategy, if you really want networking to work for you, you have to put some thought, focus and effort into it.

There are two levels networking operates at: primary and secondary. Primary networking refers to the activity of meeting people, with a view to doing business with them directly. Secondary networking refers to accessing the contacts of people you know or people you have met through your networking efforts.

There are basically two types of networking activities you can participate in:

  1. Join a structured networking organisation. This usually requires an ongoing commitment, but the structure and processes improve the odds of you achieving some level of success over a period of time. This sort of networking usually focuses on developing close relationships with people in the group. Whilst there is clearly a primary networking opportunity here, the much bigger opportunity is the secondary network. Whilst structured networking is certainly effective, it takes time to build trust before members will start to give you referrals.
  2. Attend ‘informal’ networking events. These events can vary tremendously in size and scope and the way they are organised. They usually have little or no structure and so it’s up to you to make it work. In this context, virtually any gathering of business people can be considered a networking opportunity. Unless you are a committed hermit, this is an opportunity too big to ignore. The rest of this article will focus on this type of networking.

But before we go any further, here are two basic networking realities that will shape the strategies you should use:

  • Most people that you meet at a networking event that you may be interested in talking to further, will not remember you the next day unless you are specifically relevant to their needs at that moment.
  • There is a high likelihood that your network target will receive a number of emails from other network participants the next day, so yours will not stand out. Even if this is not the case, with most people receiving a great deal of irrelevant email these days, your follow up email may not be read, or may not register with the reader

Group of young executives in modern space smiling and making introductions.

So what’s the best way to proceed? How can you make sure that the time you spend networking will yield results?

It’s best to prepare yourself well; have a plan. Make sure that each step of the plan is organised and in place beforehand, otherwise you will lose the initiative. Here are 7 points you need to have in your plan:

  1. Be clear about who would constitute a worthwhile networking “target”; industry, type of business, role within company etc. Choose events where your targets are likely to be found in concentration. Unless you have a good idea of who you are looking for and where to find them, you are likely to waste time and even confuse yourself as to the validity and value of some of the contacts you make
  2. Develop a ‘script’ that you are comfortable with and practise it. Include your elevator pitch and a few relevant questions to ask when you meet someone. This gets the conversation flowing and them talking, which relaxes them and makes them feel good. Without being rude, try and ascertain the degree of fit they represent to your target, i.e. qualify them. Qualify them for further follow up, that is
  3. Don’t spend too long with each person. The idea is to find as many qualified contacts as you can in the time that you have available, not to try and develop a relationship then and there, Relationship building comes later. Work the room, collecting business cards, where relevant,  as you go
  4. On the business cards you collect make simple notes immediately. Write down pertinent points that you can then use as part of your follow-up. Ideally you should have a quality rating system, say a scale of 1-5 that will help you prioritise your follow-up
  5. If a contact looks relevant to you, ask them if it would be okay for you to contact them after the meeting. In this way when you you contact them, you can say “You said it would be okay for me to contact you” – makes it harder for them to fob you off or turn you down
  6. Immediately after the event, send them a handwritten postcard, expressing your pleasure in meeting with them and informing them that you will be in touch with them shortly. This will make you stand out from most of the other networkers they may have met; they will mostly send emails
  7. Next is to make contact with them. Preferably by calling them or by email. It is good to have a promise of something of value for them; this is sure to trigger some reciprocity, which you can use to move the relationship forward, culminating in a meeting where you can explore the opportunity with them further.

Unless there is an immediate and obvious fit, most chance encounters such as those one has at networking events, are not memorable enough for people to remember who you are, or care. For this to happen there should be several follow up contacts done in such a way as not to make yourself a nuisance. Working this all out before you go-a-networking, is a good way of bring consistency and results to your efforts.

7 Key Tips For Business Networking Success

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There is no doubt about it, it’s getting harder and harder to prospect by phone and by email. That’s why networking has become such an important and effective way of generating business. For some businesses, this is all they need to do. For others it’s just one of several lead generation strategies that they may be using.

Networking

Networking is not an activity that should be trivialised. It is a serious lead generation strategy that takes thought and planning in order to achieve success. Getting a good business result from networking is not as simple as it may at first seem. One has to do much more than simply show up and be friendly. Even within structured networking organisations, it takes effort and skill to find the people who meet your needs who either go on to become star referrers or perhaps customers.  So it does not stop at meeting them. You will need strategies for developing partnerships so that you end up with a win-win relationship that endures and you will need to clearly understand the law of social reciprocity to be successful.

So here are the top 7 tips for successful business networking:

  1. Don’t go looking for people who can help you. Go looking to help others. Showing a genuine desire to help others, will make them be more open to trusting you, and being willing to do business with you. The very first thing you should do is provide something useful to the person you are looking to get referrals from. If you do, they will feel obligated to you and much more likely to give you referrals.
  2. Don’t just go and network. Have some goals and have a plan. An exercise that is goal directed will always be more productive than one that is not. Keep track of how you are progressing and adjust your efforts and technique accordingly.
  3. If you are planning to join or are a member of a networking group, make sure to choose your networking group carefully. You will be investing time and effort over a long period of time with your networking group. So check out different groups and make sure the one you choose has the right sort of contacts that you are looking to work with. Remember, the real objective in networking is to gain access to your network partner’s contacts and not necessarily the partner themselves. Make sure that the group’s members are a good fit before committing.
  4. Make use of the Law of Reciprocity. Good networkers understand that time has to be invested in getting to know one another before sufficient trust has been developed and a referral can be expected. So if you fail to invest time with them, don’t expect any referrals. From a different point of view, according to the law of reciprocity, you are far more likely to get a referral once you have given one, or at least made a sufficiently valuable gesture.
  5. Be super clear and concise in articulating the value you provide, and concentrate on making a good first impression. If you are not, you could find yourself being passed-by or not taken seriously.
  6. Make sure you practise proper referral etiquette, or you may risk losing out on future referrals. When you get a referral, act quickly and keep the referrer in the loop in relation to the progress you are making. After all, he is risking his reputation in referring you, and is looking for kudo’s if you do well.
  7. Build a network of trusted referral partners, so that when you meet someone new, you can be resourceful by introducing them to people you know and trust. This will make them trust you more and have more confidence in you, and help you greatly in gaining another new source of referrals.

Of all of these, I think point No 2 is the most important. Most of the people that I talk to that express frustration with the outcomes they get from networking, are guilty of just turning up.  If you are already putting in the networking time, doesn’t it makes sense to use that time as part of a bigger picture plan?

How to Become an Effective, Modern Sales Professional

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The Modern Sales Professional does not look much like he did 10 or even 5 years ago. The world of sales has changed forever. It had its first revolution in recent times when the Internet gave buyers access to precious information. Information that was previously in the custody of salespeople. The next revolution was the advent of Social Media. Buyers no longer need to even access the source of the information they are after. In most cases, the source of influential information is often a highly regarded 3rd party expert or influencer. As a sales professional, you may never get the opportunity to present your value proposition!

This development has been picked up by the world of marketing. They have integrated content and influencer marketing strategies to stay effective. At the same time, marketers have figured out that to best communicate their message, they have to measure and analyse. In the on-line world, marketers have become data scientists, counting and comparing clicks, links and rankings, to figure out what adjustments to make, to increase their target customer with the budget they have.

But what about you out in there the world of sales? This market transformation has had an enormous impact on the role of modern sales professionals. Information-rich buyers can be 60% -80% through the purchasing process before you get to speak to them. They come to you with the balance of power tipped in their favour and able to buy on their own terms.

As a modern sales professional, you know that it’s imperative to get a dialogue started. Apart from direct referrals, traditional outbound sales strategies, such as cold calling, are becoming less and less effective as sales targets make themselves less contactable.

 

The Modern Sales Professional

Just as successful marketing has made the transition to modern marketing, the successful sales professionals of tomorrow are making a similar transition. So what does the modern sales professionals look like? What do you have to do to become one?

1. Listen

The fact that buyers have access to lots of information means that the sales professional has access to it too. Conversations are happening across the social web about your product, brand and market. By following these conversations you can find out who’s on the market, what the key topics are, the trends and the players driving the conversation. The insights you can uncover will greatly help you in your conversations with would-be buyers. You may be able to find opportunities within those conversations to add value to the conversation.

2. Join in the Conversation

Old-style communication is largely over. People don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers and your emails and voicemails are unlikely to go unanswered. But conversations are happening on the social web. Join in, connect and engage. You will find opportunities to provide value, earning you the right to connect an develop relationships with qualified prospects.

3. Thought Leadership

The holy grail of interacting on the social web is to develop your persona as a thought leader. By following influencers and sharing their content, you will become known as a person of authority. From your vantage point you will have a unique perspective on how your products solve customer problems. By creating content that buyers find useful, not only will you attract more of them to you, but you will naturally become the target of their questions and the gateway to their knowledge. And before you know it, they will ask how you could help them directly.

Does all this sound a bit like marketing? You bet it does. Used to be that sales professionals followed the ABC; Always Be Closing. Perhaps that should now read Always Be Connected?

Why a “Sales System” is Essential

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The fast-paced, connected world of today makes a Sales System a success imperative. As customers gain more and more sales decision making independence, businesses need to seriously adjust their approach to cope. For the best outcomes, your system needs coherence and consistency to deal with the changing demands of the market. Only a systematic approach can produce this.

 

So Why a Sales System?

Your sale system is all the principles, processes and tools you set up to deliver revenue for your business. Every business, no matter how big or small has to give some consideration to this. The more attention and the more focus this component of your business receives, the better the sales function will be. Many businesses never develop this to the level of sophistication they need for it to run smoothly and productively, providing them the peace of mind they crave and the ability to fuel their business’s growth.

In a business where there is no formalised sales system, it is difficult to coordinate, harmonise and optimise the actions of the various people and processes involved in the various aspects of sales. In these situations, sales people operate in an uncoordinated fashion, sometimes independently and sometimes in isolation. This creates inconsistencies for customers, complications for management and erratic and unpredictable results. Above all, this approach does not scale. The management challenge will always be to improve the performance of the sales operation as a whole. Unless systematised, this is difficult, inefficient and time consuming.

The benefits of having a sales systgears_gray_smallem in place are:

  • A clearly understood (documented) process so that every person involved in it can know their responsibilities and be accountable for them
  • The ability to measure the performance of each element of the process, so that low performing elements can be identified and fixed
  • A scalable entity that can grow with the business
  • A structure that is well suited to a team environment and able to capitalise on the diverse abilities of its members
  • A manageable entity that can be effectively tuned to the environment it operates in
  • Lowers the organisation’s need for highly skilled sales people
  • Performance consistency over time. Team members coma and go. A system keeps running.

 

Let’s illustrate this by means of a case study:

Company X was selling a range of software products that addressed the needs of corporate human resources management. The products all addressed similar issues but there were different versions to suite the varying needs of different organisations. The sales cycle varied from product to product and was considerably longer and more complex for the more costly versions. These were subject to more stringent requirements and more detailed examination by prospective customers.

The business was owned by a software engineer who understood each product intimately. In order to achieve their sales objectives, a team of 4 was required. They all reported to the owner. The business had a basic web site and promoted their products principally at industry conferences. Website traffic was quite good but it was poor at generating leads.

Each sales person was responsible for their own prospecting which comprised following up leads collected at conferences and also cold calling companies off a list that had been compiled for this purpose.

Their sales process was basic: Find a lead – someone who expressed interest in a product. Prepare a proposal and submit to the prospect. Arrange a demonstration and keep following up until a sale was made or the sales person gave up in frustration.

The average cost of each customer acquisition was 9.4% of revenue.

The problems:

  • No standard proposal documents. Apart from pricing, each sales person tried their hand at writing a convincing piece about the product and the benefits to the customerOffice chaos
  • Sales people were expected to do prospecting by phone – which they all detested. As a result, there were too few prospects in the pipeline
  • Each salesperson followed up their own leads – irrespective of the product or customer
  • Salespeople crossed paths in the market often
  • Ineffective follow up saw many sales fall through, especially when they were busy
  • The overall conversion rate was too low
  • Other than revenue and conversion rate by sales person, no additional statistics were measured

The analysis

  • Too few sales opportunities being generated => too few opportunities at any given moment
  • Inadequate qualification => Opportunity quality too low, conversion rate too low
  • Inconsistent and erratic sales process => difficult to improve efficacy
  • Inefficient use of resources. 20% of sales people’s time spent selling, 80% spent prospecting. Should be the reverse
  • Too expensive. Acquisition cost should be much lower

The System solution

  • Focus on improving efficiency by standardising the process and all collateral, reduce time spent in non customer-facing activity
  • Employ dedicated telephone prospecting specialists; cheaper than sales people and more productive. Liberate 80% of sales people’s time
  • Introduce clear qualification criteria for prospects so that time is not wasted on poor quality opportunities
  • Organise the sales team by product/market and avoid crossover.
  • Redesign the website for better conversion and pace the manual sales process in line with customer’s time line.
  • Introduce multiple measuring points throughout the sales process to make it easy to identify inefficiencies and make it more manageable.

These steps made getting a better result much easier and far less costly. Over a 12 month period, the following results were recorded:Sales Growth

  • Conversion rate improved by 36%
  • Acquisition cost was reduced by 23%
  • Sales revenues improved by 32%
  • Month by month revenues were stabilised

A major benefit of introducing a proper sales system was the reduction in stress of all people engaged in sales. The morale improved and the business owner was considerably relieved.

If you are involved in the running of a sales operation, is this something you have given enough attention to?

Five Steps to Qualifying Sales Leads

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You may not have thought about the need for qualifying  sales leads much; in fact you may be rather a good salesperson but for the fact that you’ve never focussed on qualification.  Qualifying sales leads is a threshold issue: it defines a true prospect, and without paying due attention to it, selling can be an exercise of abject frustration.

Overselling

Have you ever had the experience where you have been cornered by a salesperson, who has gone on to oversell you, when you had absolutely no intention of buying from him? The salesperson thought you were going to buy and was disappointed when you did not? This is an example of not qualifying the prospect.

Selling nowadays is more subtle and sophisticated than in the example above, but the principle remains the same. Companies invest a lot in setting up an effective sales system to maximise their opportunities and ROI. They will build a sales “funnel” that is fuelled by qualified prospects. If the leads that are tipped into the funnel are not qualified, nothing will work.

We live in an age of super specialised products, each focussed on a particular niche where they can stand out as being the best. There is an abundance of choice available to the buyer. To make a sale there needs to be a good match between function and requirements, otherwise the probability of making the sale is low.

Maximising the probability of the sale is what qualification is all about. With every sales transaction attempt conducted, whether face to face, over the phone or on-line, there is an associated financial and time cost. Minimising those costs is a consideration, making qualification all the more important.

Qualifying sales leads can be achieved simply by following a simple five step process:

  1. Positioning.
    Understanding where the product or service fits in the market and defining the ideal customer for the product or service. This will help to most efficiently direct one’s efforts; looking for opportunities where they are most abundant and least expensive
  2. Need.
    Developing a set of questions aimed at testing the fit between the prospects needs and the product or service’s capabilities. This requires a proper understanding of product capabilities and usage cases. If the customer does not have a clearly identifiable need, then all the selling in the world will not fill it, and no sale will take place.
  3. Authority.
    Some sales can have a long cycle-time and may require protracted effort and negotiation. So it really pays to make sure that the person that is being sold to is in fact the right person – the decision maker, before embarking on the journey. If not, you are effectively delegating the sale to someone else, and surrendering control of the sales process to an agent of your customer. Not good. Qualifying the contacts authority should ideally take place as close to the beginning of the sales process as possible. If the person is not the decision maker, then the sales strategy should reflect this, and the real, hard selling reserved until access to the decision maker is possible.
  4. Budget
    Clearly, whatever the product or service, it must be affordable to the customer, otherwise no sale can go ahead. Note that budget is not the same as price. Whilst at first glance, the customer may not have the cash, there are always ways to structure a sale to fit the budget constraints of the customer.
  5. Time-line
    Often a prospect will appear, and in all other respects may look like a good opportunity. If their time-line is outside of your parameters, then pursuing a sale is not prudent until there is a time-line fit.

Points 2-5 can effectively be viewed as a Qualification Checklist.  Unless all four items check, then the lead is unqualified, and further sales effort will not produce a sale.

Qualifying correctly makes your sales process efficient and un-complicated. Selling to unqualified prospects is demotivating, costly and frustrating. Make sure that all sales efforts are preceded with proper qualification as described above.

Why You Need a Good Value Proposition

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Whenever a selling opportunity arises, whether face-to-face or online, there is a critical moment of truth… It’s at this moment that your value proposition needs to score a bullseye in relation to your potential customer. This is arguably the most important instant in your sales process – the first red-light-green-light moment that will either see the process moving forward or stopping dead in it’s tracks.

Nowadays people generally are spoiled for choice when it comes to making purchases. One can buy virtually anything you want from a variety of suppliers, local or international. So, as a seller,  you have to be able to show, clearly and quickly, why anyone should buy from you and not from someone else. It’s your value proposition that will be key in determining their next move.

So what is a value proposition?

Simply put: a value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered.

It usually takes the form of a statement that states:

  • how your product solves a problem or produces a desired result

  • how the customer will benefit

  • differentiates your product from alternatives available in the market

What are the common mistakes people make when they present?

As simple as it sounds, unless you have payed special attention to crafting your value proposition, chances are you may botch it.

Firstly, get clear about what in fact your value proposition is. Hard facts. Not words. Don’t set out to compose something. Set out to identify what it is that you do that represents value to your customer. Only when you have that can you start to work out how to best communicate it.

Secondly, your value proposition should not be confused with other branding statements such as your vision, mission or other slogans. Clearly the piece below is not a value proposition.

 

Whereas:

“Harley-Davidson stands for independence, freedom, individuality, expressing oneself, adventure on the open road, and experiencing life to its fullest.” Joanne Bischman, VP of marketing for Harley-Davidson.

Clearly a value proposition.

Thirdly, your value proposition must be written from the point of view of the customer, almost as if he/she was saying it. So avoid using words like “We pride ourselves…..”. You see, the customer is already thinking about your product in their terms, your value proposition must fit in neatly with that internal conversation.

The format of a value proposition

There are no rules here; you can do whatever fits best, as long as it is clear and succinct. It could be a single sentence, a couple of sentences, a heading and two or three bullet points or even a visual image. Avoid cliches.

Why is it important that you have a formal value proposition?

Anyone looking to buy something is looking to get the best value they can for their hard earned dollar. The buying trigger will only be pulled when the balance between value and price tips towards value in their mind. A well articulated value proposition will do that job for you.

So have a look at how you present to new prospects, do you have this covered?

Will your Trade Show be a Balanced Triumph or a Lop-Sided Tragedy?

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Ever presided over a trade show participation that turns out to be a tragedy when you hoped it would be a triumph? It would not be an uncommon occurrence.  There are so many details to worry about, sometimes you can loose your perspective. Where do you direct your effort and how do you make the most of it overall?

[lightbox link=”http://evanrubenstein.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/trade-show.jpg” thumb=”http://evanrubenstein.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/trade-show.jpg” width=”480″ align=”center” title=”trade-show” frame=”true” icon=”image”]

 

Your Trade Show Purpose

Clearly, every company participating in a trade show has their own objectives and work accordingly. Some are happy to simply wave the corporate flag and do a PR exercise, whilst on the other extreme, some are selling off-the-booth, as hard as they can. Most however, exhibit at a trade show hoping to recruit new prospects, who they will then follow- up in the hope of making a sale further down the track, or perhaps gaining a steady customer who will continue to do business for a long time.

 

It is often said that participating in a trade show will bring out the best and the worst of your business. Its best abilities and worst failures. Trade shows are like a business Petri-dish, a temporary laboratory where all the potential business gremlins duke it out. It all happens in a very small space, in a very short time. You meet many people. They often appear enthusiastic and keen. Thy ask all kinds of “buying signal” type questions that get you excited. Then they vanish.

 

Clear Process

Any business worth it’s salt will have a well defined sales process designed to move sales opportunities along a path that will culminate in a sale. It all starts by qualifying the opportunity according to predefined criteria. Selling to unqualified prospects is a waste of time and effort. This is a fundamental principle of sales. Trade show visitors often look, sound, even perhaps smell qualified, but may not be. You see, a considerable proportion of trade show visitors are really just browsing with no intent to ever buy.They ask questions and want details. They look keen, they sound promising. The conversations you have are short and sharp. They give their details, you promise to follow up…..  Qualified? Well, didn’t quite get there so to be on the safe side – we’ll just follow them up. Seen this movie before?

 

Many exhibitors at Australian trade shows are small to medium businesses. They don’t have big teams or big budgets.  The guys who plan the stand, build the stand and man it. They are there for the entire show. They then take everything down, pack it up and go home with their enquiry sheets and business cards. They are beat. It’s a big effort. But the real work has not really begun.

 

The Follow-up

The “real work” is all about how you follow up and who you follow up.  Typically there are lot’s of “leads”; more, many more than you normally get in a similar time period. Following up is time and effort consuming. Uncoordinated or badly planned follow-up will have your sales team haphazardly chasing lots of red-herrings simply because the follow-up process is not properly worked out, coordinated or properly resourced and many of the “leads” are poorly qualified to begin with.

 

If you look at where the planning and effort goes in preparation for trade show participation, most of it is organising and preparing the exhibit. Getting the latest products and equipment organised and coordinating a myriad of details. It’s typically a big rush. The follow-up planning is left for later.

 

Here’s how it should work:

  1. Start your trade show planning by planning the follow-up first. To be effective, your follow-up will require thoroughness and solid implementation. If you take too long to follow up on a genuine buyer, you may find that you are too late. They will have returned to their normal routine and may have lost interest.
  2. Design your exhibition strategy such that it understands and dovetails with the follow up strategy. You will be able to get away with less booth effort and less cost.
  3. Devise a reliable classification system that will identify the A, B and C opportunities that your follow-up system will systematically deal with.
  4. Start following up on the day the enquiry was made at the show. Nothing impresses a trade show visitor more than receiving your first follow-up the very next day. You will stand out.
  5. When you follow up, never use the words “follow up”.

 

Don’t over invest in the exhibiting part of the trade show at the expense of the follow-up. Balance your efforts carefully so that you can shine when you get in contact with those trade show prospects after the show.  A good follow-up process will be well organised and coordinated. It will understand the buyers journey and engage the prospect. The bonus you get when you implement a good follow-up process for a trade show, is that you get a good process to use all year round. Your trade show Petri-dish prototype develops into a fully fledged treatment; a tonic for you sales effort.

 

Get more trade show and exhibition tips and techniques

What you need in a Sales Manager

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By Evan Rubenstein

Of the myriad issues faced by business owners, the job of sales manager is the one that most think they have under control, where in fact this can be very far from the truth. Depending on your business and the type of selling required, this could be an issue of major significance. Whilst not always easy to achieve, a professionally run sales operation is a thing of beauty.

 

In may cases, the sales manager often ends up being promoted from the ranks of the sales team. But as many have learned, the skill set and often the personality profile required to be a good salesman is very different to that required for sales management. In many cases, previously successful sales people fail to make the transition into management. In many cases training, education and coaching may be necessary to accomplish this; in others it may never work out.

The job of a sales manager is understood and practised differently by different people, and differently by different organisations. The parameters and philosophies of sales management vary a lot depending very much on the knowledge and experience of those practising it. If you were comparing sales manager training programs, you would find a great deal of variation between the various offerings available. So what is right for your organisation? If the sales manager reports to you, then what do you need to know to provide the leadership required to ensure that you are getting the best from your sales manager?

Wikipedia defines sales management as “a business discipline which is focused on the practical application of sales techniques and the management of a firm’s sales operations.

It can be divided up into the following main areas:

  • Sales Strategy and Planning
  • Sales Team Recruitment
  • Sales Training
  • Sales Performance Improvement

These are in themselves big topics.

Sales Strategy

As with most things in business, getting the strategy right is crucial. Many do not.  Most sales managers when asked to articulate their company’s sales strategy will fumble. The real pro’s will not.  In general, sales strategy tends to be addressed “after the fact”; meaning that only once it has become clear that sales efforts are not yielding the desired results does strategy receive proper attention, and even then may not past muster.

To get this right, the sales manager must address at least the following:
  • Territory management
  • Remuneration structure and incentive plan
  • Activity and Performance Standards
  • Measurement and Reporting
  • Meetings and Communications
  • Prospecting systems
  • Sales Conversion process
  • Average sale value maximisation
  • Repeat business maximisation
  • Management intervention triggers and steps

Members of a sales team can change; sometimes quite rapidly. The business needs consistent and predictable sales results. This means that a structured and consistent management approach is required and that all team members work in a similar way, otherwise the team and its outcomes become very difficult to manage. This is very much part of the sales manager’s job.

Clearly there are important decisions to be made in developing a good sales strategy and in many cases this ends up being a matter of evolution. In others, for various reasons, it remains static and business plateau’s and eventually decline in the face of stronger competition.

Sales Team Recruitment

There is no denying that certain personality types are better at sales than others. Understanding exactly what your business requires is key to building an effective sales team. An effective team takes time to build and become effective and to some extent will depend on the nature of the sales strategy being used. This aspect of sales management requires a systematic approach for consistent and reliable results.

It remains quite difficult to predict success in a sales person when recruiting. Sales roles often end up being the default career of some candidates, but for others it may be a very deliberate career choice. For the good ones, a career in sales can be extremely lucrative and a stepping stone to a business career. The really good ones, may outgrow you and leave; the poor ones will hang around too long. The reality is that selecting a good candidate that will perform and be loya,l in an interview, is not at all easy. Having candidates psychometrically tested is a very good idea. This will give you insights into how they are hard-wired and how well suited they are to a sales role.  Even then, your recruitment system should incorporate a “blow off valve” component so that you can rid of dud’s as quickly as possible.

Sales Training

Proper and ongoing sales training as an absolute must for any sales professional. Success in sales requires product knowledge, knowledge of sales techniques, a range of sales tools and aids, and a good understanding of the customer’s buying psychology.  It also requires that sales people understand and can manage their own emotions and mindset. Without the tools and techniques that training can provide, consistent results, let alone growth may be hard to come by. Continual re-education is required simply to keep up with market developments.

Sales training can take place internally or through external organisations, of which there are many. There are also many sales philosophies. You will need to make sure that the external training you choose is a good fit for your business and how you like to sell.

Sales Performance Improvement

No business wants sales to remain static. Growth is always a requirement. Without an ongoing focus on continual and never ending improvement, most sales teams will plateau at the point where their systems, knowledge and ability, reach equilibrium with market competitive forces. A good sales manager will understand this and will vigorously develop systems to keep growing.

A big role for a sales manager is to keep raising the bar on the one hand but on the other, developing the team’s capabilities through training and coaching. In fact coaching is one of the major components of a sales manager’s ongoing duties and is a powerful tool for ongoing improvement. Coaching will help the sales person to narrow the gap between how the business expects them to perform and their own ability to do so. Today’s successful sales manager should have good coaching skills as this will produce a great return for the business.

These are the basics. Many business owners do not pay enough attention to sales. Getting the sales machine working properly is arguably the most important focus for a business owner. A good sales organisation will provide good revenues. Good revenues are the precursor to good profits and with good profit comes the reward of being in business.

Why Content Marketing is a Business Website’s Best Friend

By | Articles, Marketing, Sales & Marketing | No Comments
By Evan Rubenstein
Everyone (well almost everyone) in business nowadays has a website, and everyone wants more people to come to their website and give them more business. Right or right?

Not that long ago, the recipe was simple; launch a websites, throw in a meagre ration of mediocre content, add as many links as you could and allow it to rise. On the search results, that is.  In case you have not heard, that does not work any more. Google’s cadre of PhD’s have figured out how to detect and prevent schemes that artificially boost your rightful rankings. Nowadays you have to build a good website that contains high quality content that helps your market and that they value. You also need many more links than before and a lot of social shares to make you rank.

 

All in all, this is now a lot harder to do than it used to be. Building links the way you might have before is now very expensive and time consuming. What’s more, if you don’t have good material worth sharing, you wont get the social shares.
 
So what to do. How do you get natural links pointing to your site and lots of social shares?
 
In a word: Content. Or Content Marketing to give it its new, fashionable name.
 
It has become generally evident that good content produces more links, more quickly that building them manually, and what’s more, it’s cheaper. Not only that, but your quality content will be naturally shared on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ giving you a double whammie effect.
So what is quality content?:
  • Written word content
    • Articles
    • Blog Posts
    • How – To’s
    • Checklists
    • Q & A’s
    • FAQ’s
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Slides
  • Podcasts
Those who spent substantial sums on SEO in the past would have watched in horror as algorithm update after algorithm update decimated their investment. As search rankings went into free-fall, SEO providers responded with more sophisticated schemes that cost more money, but ultimately delivered less and less.
 
You have one other thing to look forward to in this new content centric world. Content does not get affected by algorithm updates. Content is an investment in the future!

Beware the discounting trap

By | Articles, Sales & Marketing, Sales & Opportunities | One Comment

The term “Discounting” in its common usage, refers to a mechanism used typically to stimulate business. It is commonly used, but generally poorly understood.

Understanding how discounting works at a financial level is key to using this successfully as a tactic for stimulating business. Simply discounting prices without proper thought and analysis can be a recipe for disaster.

For a business to be a business it needs to make a profit. This means that your revenues must exceed your expenses by your profit margin. Discounting reduces that excess and can reduce it to the point where is is zero or less than zero. This can easily catch the unsuspecting business person out with costly consequences.

Don’t get the wrong impression. Sometimes discounting can be a good idea. Often it is used in a “Loss leader” strategy, where customers are lured into a store by a low priced item, in the hope that they will make additional purchases, where the overall transaction value is profitable. Even in this case it needs to be carefully analysed, monitored and controlled. Hence the limit-per-customer type of rule that one commonly sees in conjunction with discounted items.

If the discount is applied across the board then here is the information you should understand:

If your present margin is

And you discount your price by

20%

25%

30%

35%

40%

45%

50%

55%

60%

Your sales must INCREASE by the amount shown to keep the same Gross Profit

2%

11%

9%

7%

6%

5%

5%

4%

4%

3%

4%

25%

19%

15%

13%

11%

10%

9%

8%

7%

6%

43%

32%

25%

21%

18%

15%

14%

12%

11%

8%

67%

47%

36%

30%

25%

22%

19%

17%

15%

10%

100%

67%

50%

40%

33%

29%

25%

22%

20%

12%

150%

92%

67%

52%

43%

36%

32%

28%

25%

14%

233%

127%

88%

67%

54%

45%

39%

34%

30%

16%

400%

178%

114%

84%

67%

55%

47%

41%

36%

18%

900%

257%

150%

106%

82%

67%

56%

49%

43%

20%

400%

200%

133%

100%

80%

67%

57%

50%

25%

500%

250%

167%

125%

100%

83%

71%

30%

600%

300%

200%

150%

120%

100%

So for example, if your margin is 35%, quite typical, and you give a 10% discount, then your sales need to increase by 40% to make the same amount of gross profit. It is quite easy to see how risky this proposition could be.

There are scenarios where this effect can be catastrophic. For example: there are many businesses who have used “coupon sites” in their marketing mix. The discounts offered are usually high, often over 30%. In some cases where insufficient analysis has been done, not only has the business that has been generated been very unprofitable , but where volumes are are high, an “overtrading” situation results from which some businesses never recover.

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