Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Is it worth it?

Today's thought is about the age old topic of price versus quality. I will start with a quote from many years ago that has helped  me to remain grounded when the subject comes up.

"It's unwise to pay too much but it's unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it's well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better!" John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Price is simple - dollars and cents

Quality can be interpreted in several ways, encompassing many things. In every case, a sale most likely to be made when the price is equal to or less than the perceived quality of the product. No one wants to overpay.

From a sales point of view one of the most common objections we face is typically to do with price. Sometimes it is legitimate, but in most cases the prospect is testing us. How hungry are we for the order and are we willing to sacrifice profit margin at the expense of the value of the product/service we are representing.

On the other side of the coin, at what point is the risk John Ruskin talks about too high before the potential customer decides not to buy?

When you find yourself in a situation where the easy way out is to compromise on price, don't do it without giving due consideration to the consequences.
  • The value of the product/service is immediately lowered to that point
  • Decreased profit margins
  • Ultimate quality may be at risk
  • Potential of customer dissatisfaction
  • Continuing profit erosion as a result of lowered value
Is it worth it?

Good selling,

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Assume nothing!

It makes perfect sense... to me anyway.
Just because it makes perfect sense to you does not mean that your prospect or anyone else for that matter shares your interpretation.

Today's thought is about assumptions. They make life convenient and can provide what appear to be good reasons for not getting things done.
Here is a list of assumptions when taken at face value that will inevitably lead to a longer sales cycle or worse, missing out on an opportunity. You can likely add to the list from your own experiences.
  • They understand what I said
  • They know what they need
  • They will be too busy to talk to me
  • My products/services are too expensive for them
  • They are not my customer
  • I am speaking to the decision maker
  • I know what they need
  • They are not interested
  • They don't have the money
  • Only the owner makes that decision
  • They are the experts
  • They can not help me
Before planning your next step ask yourself this: "How do I know?"

Good selling,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Managing your sales time?

As mentioned previously, a common subject of conversation with my clients is the matter of having too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. We all are subject to this in varying degrees and I have written several times on the topic.
Today's thought deals specifically with managing sales call time efficiently to maximize the return on your time investment.
You have targets in various stages of the sales cycle. Taking time to assess the following may help you determine where your time is best spent.
  • Total potential sales volume
  • Total available sales to you
  • Probability of closing in the next 1, 2, or 3 months
  • Value of the order you are working on
With this information you can determine a level of urgency for each your top targets. Obviously you want to spend the majority of your available time working on the potentials that will yield the highest sales in the shortest period of time.
By reviewing your targets and progress on a regular basis your process will become more efficient.

Good selling,

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Getting past the gatekeeper

Sooner or later we all encounter the obstacle commonly referred to as the gatekeeper. Today's thought focuses on overcoming this obstacle.

First off, do not label these people as gatekeepers, they are potential customers and depending on your approach, may not want to refer you, and we all know the importance of referrals, right?

With that in mind, establish rapport, don't immediately ask to speak to someone else. It may be perceived as dismissive, most certainly an undesirable behaviour. Show respect for the person, I reiterate, they are also your customer and might be one of the most important people in your sales cycle.

Do not assume they can not help you, think the opposite; without them you are lost.

Your first sale is yourself. Be successful at this level and look forward to a shorter sales cycle.

Good selling,

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - Tips for your targeted email sales campaign

A targeted email sales campaign is a relatively low cost approach to reach a significant number of your prospects. It sounds simple enough, yet many do not produce expected results.

I client of mine recently ran a very successful targeted business to business email campaign. During a recent meeting he shared with me what he believed were key success factors and I am able to share them with you today for your thought and consideration.
  1. Set clear goals for the campaign - Know why you are doing it in the first place
  2. Know who you are targeting - Conduct your research first, remember we are talking about targeted campaign - a laser beam not a shotgun approach.
  3. Hire a professional copywriter - Unless this is your profession, do not write your own copy. The success of your campaign depends on the ability of your message to engage and promote action.
  4. Have and A/B test protocol for your message - Use what works
  5. Predetermine how you will measure results - Tracking your results will help improve your next campaign. Consider using an email service.
In closing today, if you are planning to run a targeted email sales campaign, the chances of success are greatly increased when you have a clear plan to follow.

For your information my client's initial return on investment was approximately twenty fold.

Good selling,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - A process to consider when looking to avoid wasting time

In recent posts the subject of time has been discussed from the point of view of being in control of your time and potential cost implications to a prospect for a delaying decision.
Time is arguably one of your most valuable resources and today's thought focuses on how you might go about saving some.
When was the last time you took a good look at your sales process? Mapping it out is the first step to discovering how and where your time is spent. The goal is not to produce a detailed map as soon as possible, but to improve your understanding, identify opportunities for improvement and solve problems.
You have suppliers and inputs. Add work and you produce outputs that must meet customer requirements. The work is the process you want to map out. You may want to start keeping a log of your time and activities to be sure no steps are left out or taken for granted. Review of previous experiences is another source for this information.
Once you have a list of steps, add major decision points and any loops and support activities that may be part of the process. Take a look at the map as it is developed and walk through it to validate it and make any changes that are appropriate. At this point begin looking for things in your process that are done again.
  • Repeat
  • Recheck
  • Reenter
  • Redesign
  • Retest
  • Rewrite
  • Redo
  • Return
These are the steps you want to examine in detail and potentially eliminate.

You can quantify your potential time savings by applying a timeline to the steps in your process. Some of the "re" steps e more worthwhile working on than others. When you do not have a definitive time for a particular step, take a best case and worse case approach. Use the best case as your target. The difference between the best and worst case is your opportunity for improvement.

Accurately mapping out your processes and follow up analysis can yield tremendous savings in time.

Good selling,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thoughtful Thursdays - How can I be different from my competitors?

Differentiating yourself from the competition is often easier to say than do. Life is like that - doing is tougher than saying.

My own mantra is to do what my competition does not like to do. But what does that really mean and how do I find out what they do not like to do in the first place?

One place to start is with your existing customers. The fact they are buying from you indicates you have already established a competitive advantage. Your task is to determine exactly what that advantage is. In most cases the behaviour you demonstrate is transferable to your prospects. Your approach may need to be tweaked depending on the personalities involved, but the underlying behaviours will likely be consistent.

What has worked for me in the past is to be up front with the customer and ask them if they would be willing to evaluate your performance and how they measure it. This is part of gaining valuable knowledge on their individual needs. Based on their response you may be able to develop insights to how your competition measures up without actually asking the question directly.

Analyze the information you gather - ask yourself what it is telling you, read between the lines. Sometimes the answer lies in what is not said. The insights gained are the true value of the exercise and will help you understand how you stand out from the crowd.

You may be surprised that it is several little things that you do that add up to a big advantage. Whatever it happens to be, you are delighting your customer.

It may be that you return calls promptly, or send regular industry information that is engaging. Perhaps they do not hear from you frequently, but very regularly and when you do communicate it is always worthwhile.

Analyze the reasons for your successes and translate them to your new prospects. This will help you to differentiate yourself and stay ahead of the competition.

Good selling,