September 21, 2010

Why Should I Do Business With You?

Why should I do business with you rather than one of your competitors?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask when I first meet a business owner or sales professional.  It is no longer surprising that most will tell me it is their customer service that makes them different.  However, nearly all businesses strive to provide customer service and all customers expect it from everyone with whom they choose to do business. 

Thus, even though customer service is an important part of any retention strategy, it is not much of a business development strategy for most businesses.

In the b2b world, the reason people do business with you is that you are UNIQUELY able to help them directly or indirectly make money, save money, or mitigate risk.

 
More specifically, you must demonstrate to prospects that you have ...

  • Unique products or services Bigstockphoto_Be_Different___1204410
  • Uniquely creative ideas
  • Unique and relevant experience
  • or Useful connections

that will help them to make money, save money, or mitigate risk.

Determining why anyone should do business with you as opposed to your competitors is easy for some and extremely frustrating for others.  If you do not have anything Unique to demonstrate to your prospects, then put your entrepreneurial mind to the task of coming up with something.

For a good example read Speaking of Elevator Speaches.

How do you answer the question, "Why should I do business with you?"

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September 08, 2010

Sales Activity, Focus, and Good to Great

Sales activity leads to sales. More sales activity is likely to lead to more sales.  After all, sales is merely a numbers game.  Right?

Many "good" business owners, sales professionals, and sales managers believe that to be the case and they are completely wrong.  However ...

in sales (and in life), "good" activity is often the enemy of "great" activity.

Bigstockphoto_Cd_Writing_513587 The key is to LASER FOCUS.  Here are some steps to take.

  1. Focus on a smaller target market.  Some examples include picking a few vertical markets, narrowing your geographic scope, or narrowing the size of company you target.
  2. Refine your brand or value proposition to be specifically relevant to this narrowly defined market.  The process of becoming "relevant" will help you to brand yourself as an expert and a trusted adviser.
  3. As you grow your expertise in specific target markets, focus how you and where you do your sales activity.  In other words, get your refined "relevant" brand in front of the right people.  At the same time, stop doing "good" sales activity that does not target this narrower focus.

You regular "good" sales activity will become "great" just from narrowing your focus.  You will get better referrals.  You will waste less time seeing "unqualified" prospects.  Your pipeline ratios will improve.

Going from Good to Great is easier said than done, but worth the effort!

How has getting Laser Focused changed your business? 

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August 29, 2010

Increase Sales with ABS, Not ABC

Share Button If you have been in sales for long, it is likely that you have probably been sold at one time or another that you should "always be closing."  "Focus on ABC!"  This statement is as tired as the manipulative closing techniques that fill books and sales training workshops.

It is more effective and fun to focus on ABS ... Always Be Sharing.

What does this mean?  Well ask yourself, as a member of the business community, what do you have to share with your prospects and those who can influence your business?

You can share ...

  • How your products or services make or save business money or mitigate risk
  • Your network through referrals
  • Resources such as articles or white papers
  • Your insight or experience by speaking to groups
  • Creative ideas (unrelated to your products or services) to help the business of others
  • Facilities.  Let others borrow a meeting room for example.

In a nutshell, find ways to be a valuable resource to your prospects and those who can influence your business and they will pay more attention to your sales message and will be more likely to buy from you when they are ready.

Do you have unique ideas for sharing?

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August 16, 2010

Laid Back Networking VII

Beer Bottle It's coming!  It's coming! 

It's Laid Back Networking VI!

Once again, Jeff Garrison of Sales Habitudes and Drew McLellan of McLellan Marketing Group invite you to ...

  • Show up
  • Bring a couple of bottles of your favorite beer (cooler and ice provided)
  • Don't forget business cards
  • Mix, mingle, and meet

There's no agenda, no speaker, and no structure. 

It's that laid back!

Mark your calendars for Tuesday, August 17th.  X marks the spot. (Google Map)

July 28, 2010

Personal Business Brand vs. Corporate Brand

Bigstockphoto_Dollar_Brander_3973787 If my father told me once, he told me a thousand times.  "Jeff, remember, business is for making money."  He usually said this in the context of a "keep your fixed expenses low" speech.  Now I find myself repeating this mantra, but in the context Personal Business Brand discussions with business owners and sales professionals.

Specifically, when creating and heralding your Personal Brand Message, one needs to make sure their message is "relevant."

The key to doing this successfully is to come from the right perspective.  Most people tend to ask themselves, "Why do my current customers do business with me?"  They may go so far as to ask their current customers the same question.  The answers are likely centered around issues such as customer service, reliability, relationship, and trust.

The problem with this is that the answers to this question are based upon their experience that since becoming a customer rather than what beliefs they had that made them consider doing business with the business owner or sales person in the first place.

Look at it this way.  If you ask a happily married person why they love their spouse,they are likely to tell you that their spouse is loving, supportive, that they listen, that "they make me laugh," and so on.  These are answers based upon their "experienc with the brand" so to speak.

However,if you ask that happily married person what attracted them enough to go out on that first date, it is likely to be a completely different list such as we had shared interests or perhaps it was more visceral.

In a nutshell, what is relevant to existing customers is not necessarily what is relevant to a prospect . To put it another way, the Corporate Brand Experience makes for a happy marriage, but the first date most often happens because of the Personal Business Brand of the business owner or the sales person.

Now, getting back to my father's advice that "business is for making money."  When it comes to Personal Business Brand relevance in the B2B market, one has to keep in mind that advice.  To be relevant, one's personal business brand needs to satisfy at least one of the three following criteria.  Your prospects must believe that you personally have things like skill, expertise, experience,and desire such that you can either ...

  1. Help make them money
  2. Help them save money (or time)
  3. Help minimize risk (which potentially saves money)

Who do you know with a Personal Business Brands that makes you certain they can meet the above criteria?  What is it about them that causes this belief?

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July 14, 2010

Selling Ice Cream in February (A Story of Sales Paradigm Shift)

Winning Sales Paradigm has been the subject of conversation a lot lately. Coincidentally, following a lunch of sharing philosophies and stories about sales, Tom Wheeler of Modern Woodman sent me this email.  I want to thank him for his generosity and his permission for me to share this story with you.

Hi Jeff!

Your story about being in the right place at the right time, and someone taking you under their wing is not all about luck. The person that let you write the article with him saw something in you that allowed that to be possible. Which reminds me of my favorite sales story.

There are several different ways that people become successful, but I tend to migrate towards “confidence.” 

NOW my favorite sales story. It was 1988 or 1989 and I was working a ton of hours. I would go in at 4:00 am come home at 8:00 or 9:00 pm. This one particular winter evening I was getting home from work around 9:00 pm. As I pulled in the drive there was a Schwan’s delivery truck in the street across from my house. We had never bought anything from them although we had found books stuck in the door from time to time. I went in the house and shut the garage door. About a minute later the doorbell rang. At the door was a small, cold young man with “Ken” stitched on his jacket. I turned on the porch light and opened the door. Immediately this boy started reading from a recipe card held in his hand all the while he never looked up.

Schwan Foods LogoImage via Wikipedia

His spiel was something like this:

"Hi, my name is Ken and I am the new Schwan’s route driver for this area. I want to introduce myself as well as the many fine products Schwan’s has to offer. (He handed me a catalog without ever looking up or hesitating in his presentation.) This month we have a special on four flavors of our award winning ice cream. (A special on ice cream? This is February!) They are very delicious and if I sell enough I can win a bicycle for my daughter. Would you be interested in trying one?

He finally took a breath but still looked down at his recipe card. I asked him what his daughter's name was and how old she was. He said her name was Beth and she was eleven.  I then asked him how many ice creams he had to sell to win her a bike. He didn’t know. I asked if he had the information with him and he said he did and it was in the truck. I asked “how can you win something if you don’t know what you have to do to win it”? I told him to get his information on the prize. He ran out to his truck and returned with a prize catalog with the prizes that could be earned. He showed me the bike and how many quarts of ice cream needed to be sold in six weeks to win the bike.

He needed 50 quarts.

I then asked him how many he had sold so far towards his goal. He did not know. I asked if he had the information.  Again, it was in the truck. Again, I sent him to get it. When he returned we found he had sold seven quarts in four weeks. 

I asked him to describe the ice cream to me once again and this time, tell me why he liked it. He went through every flavor and his description made my mouth water, even in winter time. I then looked Ken in the eye and told him I believed him when he said that it was the best ice cream and that I wanted to buy some. He asked me what flavor and I said “all of them." His eyes beamed as he asked, “You want four quarts”?

I responded, “No, I want forty-three quarts and I need you to pick out the flavors." 

Ken was in shock and did not know what to say or do. I had to ask him if he was going to get the order in the truck. He flew to the truck and dug through the products looking for the ice cream I ordered. He came back and said he only had eighteen quarts and would have to return. I told him that was OK because I had no place to put it. (Luckily it was cold enough to leave it outside). I wrote him a check for $168 and we gave ice cream away to everyone we knew and many we didn’t.

Ken went on to be a very successful sales person and would tell me repeatedly that my order was the boost in confidence he needed to “feel” success.

Many of us have been helped by someone who made a difference in our lives. That help built our self confidence allowing us to accomplish things previously not thought possible. It is what we do with that success that can make a difference in others lives.

Thank you for making me remember a story that is dear to my heart.

Talk to you later.

Tom

Do you have any great stories? Please share them in the comments section below.

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July 06, 2010

In This Economy, I Just Can't Sell ...

Recently I participated in a conversation with a few sales people during which one was asking the other, "How do you sell a product that is twice the cost of mine?  I can't get anyone to buy in this economy."

Poor Economy In "this kind of economy," the danger for business owners and sales professionals is that they start to buy into statements like "nobody is buying" or "nobody can afford our products or services."  The truth is that tragically, many businesses have been devastated by this economy.  But thankfully, most businesses are surviving and some are thriving.

What is certainly true across the board is that b2b buyers are seeking more value for their dollar.

So, that begs the question, why have some sales professionals experienced a much steeper drop in sales than some of their peers and competitors?  Here are four possible reasons. 

Paradigm

Some business owners and sales professionals have an abundance paradigm.  They believe that there is enough business to go around for those who are good at what they do.  Thus, they have maintained or perhaps even increased their sales activity.  They are the sames sales professionals who still make phone calls even though "nobody ever answers their phone anymore" and they are the same people who get out and network even though "networking doesn't generate business anymore."

On the flip side, those with a scarcity paradigm, deep down, don't believe that they can sell in this economy.  They prefer to just go through the motions every day until things get better.

Disciplined Focus on Margin

Some business owners and sales professionals focus on margin per sale.  They expend most of their energy on clients and prospects to whom they can provide the most value.  For many reasons such as internal efficiency and client appreciation, this work is the most profitable.

Business owners and sales professionals that focus on gross sales are apt to chase opportunities that are not as closely aligned with their competencies, thus they expend disproportionate amounts of energy on marginally profitable clients.

Branding

Business owners and sales professionals with a strong personal business brand (one that has F.O.R.M.) tend to get more and higher quality referrals and they are able to build trust and credibility faster.  This results in a faster sales cycle and higher margin.

Those business owners that focus on pure "sales activity" and ignore or put little effort into their own brand tend to get fewer referrals.  Those referrals that they do get tend to be more price sensitive rather than focused on ultimate value.  Furthermore, because their own brand is not distinct, they are poorly positioned to command "full price" in a weak economy.

Sales Process

Finally, business owners and sales professionals with a solid sales process are able to demonstrate a greater understanding of the impact they have on their client businesses.  They design better solutions for their clients thus they can close more deals at higher margins.

Those business owners and sales professionals with a poor sales process struggle to understand and demonstrate the full impact that they can have on client businesses.  They tend to provide undifferentiated solutions, thus they must compete upon price rather than value.

What other thoughts do you have as to why some business owners and sales professionals find it harder to compete in a weaker economy?

Photo on flickr by annie9641
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June 30, 2010

Sales and Prospect Stalking

As a business owner or sales person, do you ever feel like a stalker?  Do you ever feel stalked by another sales person?

Look at your prospect list in your notebook, on your white board, Excel spreadsheet, or the "opportunities" tab on Salesforce.  How long have the same prospects been on that list?  Has there been any movement?  Are they moving thought your sales process? 

If you are constantly chasing and putting your hopes into a short prospect list, then you may be Prospect Stalking.

Dreamstime_8552330 Danger!  Danger!  Danger! A short prospect list will send you on a downward spiral and eventually out of business.

This is an obvious sign that a company and its' sales people do not have an adequate system for generating new leads.  Without a systematic way to consistently fill the pipeline, an inordinate amount of hope is put into the aging leads that are on the list. 

Of course, nobody wants an empty prospect list and many companies and sales professionals don't know what to do with the "maybe's," so they just stay on the list with the hope that something "will get things moving." 

This is a sign of a second problem.  The company and its' sales people do not have an adequate system for nurturing leads.  A lead nurturing system allows a company to recognize and do something with the "maybe's" and "not now's" while they also concentrate separately on generating new prospects and those already engaged in the sales process.

To avoid becoming a Prospect Stalker and to maximize sales, take the time to develop a quality system for lead generation and lead nurturing.

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June 24, 2010

Keeping the Pipeline Full--A Sales Habitudes Overview

Woman with Chart

For a limited time, this Sales Habitudes Overview video will be available on this blog.  Hopefully it will provoke some deep thinking about your business development and sales practices.

Your feedback regarding the content and presentation would be greatly appreciated.

(Note that it may take a few seconds for the movie to start.)

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June 15, 2010

Sales--The Impact of Authority

Being an authority (i.e., having subject matter expertise) will increase referrals, sales opportunities, and ultimately ... sales.

The fact is, the perception that obedience to authority constitutes correct behavior has been instilled in us through systematic socialization.  It is so strong, that we respond to mere symbols of authority rather than to its substance.

For example, imagine observing a group of people at a busy downtown intersection.  If a teenager in droopy jeans and a t-shirt decides to cross the intersection when the traffic signal reads "don't walk," it is unlikely that anyone will follow him.  However, if a fifty year old male dressed in a suit carrying a briefcase does the same thing, many people will follow him.  (For a fascinating look at how people will blindly follow authority, read about the Milgram experiment.)

What's the difference?  He looks like someone who knows what he is doing. 

Every business owner and sales person needs to ask themselves, what percentage of my prospects perceive me to be a true authority?  How do I compare to my competitors?

First, do you look like an authority?  Do you dress and act like someone who is successful and knows what they are talking about?

Public Speaker More importantly, however, how you demonstrate that you are an authority? 

Questions--Lots of people can "tell" you what they do and what they know.  A real authority likes to ask intelligent questions (and listen to the answers).  Intelligent questions are refreshing.  They provoke thinking.  They can cause people to attribute authority to the one asking the questions.

Writing--Few people are inclined to get their thoughts written down in order to share with others.  Just by doing so you can become an authority.  Write an article and submit it to a trade magazine, newspaper, or a blog.  Write a short white paper to distribute to prospects and customers or to make available on your website.  Write something new at least a few times a year.

Become a Resource--It is harder to get in front of prospects in the internet age because the information the salesperson used to provide is accessible online.  Ironically, this is also an opportunity.  Find relevant information online and point your prospects and customers to it.  Find ways to make smart introductions among people in your network.  The person who helps others leverage their time (instead of wasting it) will be perceived as an authority.

Public Speaking--Being a GOOD public speaker is perhaps the best way to position yourself as an authority.  First, it forces you to figure out what people would like to hear about.  Second, it forces you to organize your expert thoughts in a relevant and interesting way.  Third, if you have done one and two well, you instantly become a credible and authoritative resource.

Passion--Love what you do.  This leads to conviction.  Conviction leads to confidence.  We attribute authority to those who are confident. 

A Word About Transparency

Everything I have mentioned above is about establishing real, transparent authority.  If you are new in your industry or in your role, don't fake it.  It only takes one person offended by your act to make a comment on twitter or facebook to really hurt your reputation.

The business community will be patient with a rookie ... for a little while.  For many jobs, it takes around six months before you have seen maybe 80% of everything you are ever going to see.  It is a short time before you reach that fork in the road.  One path leads to becoming average.  The other path, the one less traveled, leads to establishing your authority.

Why do you perceive certain people to be authoritative in their industry?  How have you established your own authority?

Photo on flickr by tonylongoria

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