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Wednesday, 06 February 2013 10:07

Top 3 Sales Call Errors

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Whether you get face time or it’s simply a phone call—time with your customer is far too valuable to waste. Customers hate it when you waste their time, even when it's partly their fault that you're wasting it. There are three common, time-wasting pitfalls that you should avoid when speaking with customers:

  1. Letting the sales call turn into a chat session. Yes, building a relationship is part of the selling process, and a little chit-chat can help a customer feel more comfortable. But you're trying to forge a business relationship, not cultivate a new chum. Every sales call should either move the sale to the next step or identify what needs to happen before that next step could happen.

  2. Trying to be your customer's therapist. From a sales perspective, it's usually a good thing when customers open up and start talking about their job challenges. However, if a customer runs on about issues that aren't relevant, a sales call could quickly become (literally) pointless. It's up to you to guide the conversation into areas where you could actually help out.

  3. Interrogating, rather than discussing. Some people become so aggressive in the quest to uncover information about a customer that they come off like police investigators, rather than business people. Instead of throwing out a string of questions, have a conversation that gradually leads to a better understandingon both sidesof what needs doing.

Written by: Geoffrey James writes the Sales Source column on Inc.com, the world's most visited sales-oriented blog. His newly published book is Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies From the World's Top Sales Experts

Monday, 28 January 2013 09:15

Sales Tip: Know All Three Decision Makers

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When selling to any but the smallest firms, you'll need to convince three decision makers that it makes sense to buy. When selling business to business, most people assume there is a single decision maker who has the power to buy what you're offering. If you could only get through to that decision maker, you could make the sale.

However, unless the customer firm is very small, that single all-powerful decision maker probably does not exist. In today's business world, even CEOs try to reach consensus with their direct reports before making any important decision, according to Neil Rackham, author of the seminal and classic "how to sell" guide Spin Selling.

In most cases, the decision-making process for purchase of any product or service of significance is generally split among three types of decision maker:

  1. The Access Owner: This the person in the organization who is prepared to talk to you, to give you inside information and access to the other decision makers. The access owner is absolutely critical to making things happen, because your initial credibility in the rest of the organization will be largely dependent upon his or her sponsorship.
  2. The Problem Owner: This is the person in the organization who owns the problem or challenge that your product or service addresses. The problem owner is unlikely to be an "access owner" or to normally be willing to spend time educating you about the organization. People who own problems are generally too busy to give a sales rep much time.
  3. The Budget Owner: This is the person in the organization who has control of the money the problem owner will need to purchase your solution to the problem. Typically, the budget owner isn't much interested in the specific problem or the specific solution, but whether the budget that he or she controls is going to be spent wisely.

Most major sales decisions are made if and only if these three decision makers agree that it makes sense to buy a particular product or service. The access owner says, "This guy can be trusted to deliver"; the problem owner says, "This product will fix my problem"; and the budget owner says, "This purchase makes sense financially."

Adjust your sales efforts accordingly.

Source: Geoffrey James. A version of this article first appeared on Inc.com

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 08:15

3 Conference Networking Secrets

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Since we’re right now in the height of the conference season, I wanted to share with you three easy ways to squeeze the most networking opportunities out of business conferences.

With hundreds, up to thousands, of attendees at a typical conference, networking time is a scarce commodity. In the past, I was lucky to get in touch with half of the potential suppliers, prospects, agencies, and friends during conference networking events. With so many attendees at these large conferences, I was simply unable to network with everyone on my target list. I didn't want to give up my penchant for deeply engaging conversations in exchange for meaningless handshakes and card exchanges, so I began strategizing to make the most out of each conference visit. Here are three ways that I squeeze the most networking opportunities out of business conferences.

1. The Mini Meal

I invented the mini meal when attending a one-day conference that had too many target contacts for the allotted time. I found that the best networking times are during breakfast and lunch. These are opportunities to engage other attendees through sharing a meal, rather than through a contrived "networking event." In an effort to make the most of these hot time slots, I now break down breakfast and lunch into four to six tiny meals. I hit the meal break as soon as it opens, grab a small portion, and then find my first table. I network as efficiently as possible and move on to the next table. Since my meal is small, I finish very quickly, and this typically provides a nice segue for departure. I run through this routine four to six times per meal break, and I always walk away with more relationships.

2. Targeted Value-Add Content

I always try to obtain a list of attendees prior to the event. This is easier to do if you're a sponsor, but almost always you could at least get a list of companies. After you've qualified and targeted your top companies, think about what these organizations are looking to gain from attending the conference. How could you address these needs? I always create white papers, e-books, or case studies that address my target contacts' needs. This allows you to start a meaningful rapport with your target individuals through giving, rather than receiving. Provide value-add content, and you won't have to ask for the business card.

3. Dynamic Smartphone Target List

It is crucial to keep your target contact list top of mind. I first create my target list of companies that I want to forge relationships with during the event in a simple smartphone spreadsheet app. I then zoom in on the top five in the list, using my smartphone, and take a screenshot. Then I make this screenshot the background image for my lock screen. This makes sure that I have a quick reference and keep my goals top of mind. Once I move through the top five, I repeat this process for the next top five on my list.

Keeping this list dynamic will also provide opportunities to include quick notes about your conversation and log contact information. The spreadsheet format also forces me to keep my notes brief, which keeps me networking, rather than logging details.

If you optimize your conference time through a strategic plan, then you'll engage in quality conversations and create meaningful relationships without sacrificing quantity. What are your networking secrets?

This article has been adapted from Inc.com.  Source: Aaron Aders is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO, a national leader in online marketing, planning, and execution. Aders steers the strategic vision behind software and business processes. @SlingshotSEO

Monday, 14 January 2013 11:55

Prospecting for Quality Versus Quantity

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There are two schools of thought on prospecting for customers. It may not matter so much which school you subscribe to. What matters is that you choose one, and learn to effectively apply your lessons.

Some marketers go for quantity. They believe the way to prospect for customers is simply to fill their marketing funnel with anybody and everybody, and hope something they are selling appeals to some of those people. Other marketers go for quality. They believe it is more productive to target and pre-qualify their prospective customers, before they enter the sales funnel.

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