Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: HOT PROSPECTS by Bill Good Makes Me Wish Life Was a Bowl of Cherries

Bill Good, author of HOT PROSPECTS (Scribner, 2008), knows the secret - he knows that reading a book about how to find sales prospects is just as painful as actually finding the prospects. Almost as bad as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick! So he interjects enough humor to keep you engaged. The same sense of humor one has to have when cultivating prospects for one's own business.

Right off the bat he discusses the Old Way of prospecting vs. the Good Way. With the Old Way you basically take a "no" to mean "not yet" and proceed to bug your lead to death forcing him to say "no" until he slams the phone down in your ear. All the while wasting your time and energy on a prospect who just isn't (and never will be) interested in buying from you. The Old Way assumes that buyers are liars and that when they say "I'm not interested" that means, "Send me more info." With the Good Way "no" means "no" and the conversation ends immediately with a "thankyouverymuch."

Prospects are classified as being hot prospects (smokin' hot), red cherries (pretty hot), green cherries (might be hot some day but not now), and then a few more classifications which are basically the pits. Mr. Good advises working with the red cherries because they will be fun and interested in you. If leads are unpleasant don't deal with them. (What a concept!).

Information in the book is reinforced on his website. Mr. Good inconveniently hides the passwords in the chapters so that one can't "tell all your friends." This makes it a little tough for those of us who may be reading in an airplane, on the exercise bike or any other place where a computer isn't at our finger tips. To go back later and try to find the passwords is time taxing. If I were ├╝ber-rude I would list all the passwords right here - but I won't. The information is worthy. Remember to read the book with a highlighter.

Two quick points that I highlighted:

  1. People buy benefits, not features. (Duh, we all know that) - BUT the spin Good presents is that clients ask questions about features, not benefits. AND, people must ask questions to buy. They want to ask questions to demonstrate they are "reasonably sophisticated" and prove they are "analytical, not emotional buyers." The lesson here is to withhold features in your initial calls and presentations so that your prospects can ask questions about them. Don't leave your prospect with no questions to ask because then they will not buy.

  2. Dripping. This is the series of "low-key messages and phone calls designed to keep your name alive" with a prospect. I've always called it my excuses for reaching out to touch a prospect. I blogged about this topic last year. A phone call, followed by a letter, followed by an email, followed by a postcard, etc. He presents dripping on the last 4 pages of the book. Be sure to read these pages even if you have to skip to the end.

Mr. Good reveals his extensive work with lead generation in the financial services industry. Depending on your business you may find some techniques not relevant to your industry. HOT PROSPECTS is a great how-to book complete with access to scripts, sales letter templates, sample direct mail letters and tons of checklists. You can always cherry-pick the sections most relevant to your business whether it's a small server hosting company or a large firm.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Watch out for Sins of Commissions

There's a great article in this month's Inc. magazine called Sins of Commissions. In a nutshell it says be careful not to provide sales incentive plans to employees that can be achieved at the expense of customer service, morale or goodwill. The author provides an example of a sporting goods store pushing $12 sneaker spray and how employees at the register told customers the spray was free but then discounted sneakers by $12. The net gain to the sporting goods store was ZERO - but someone at the corporate office was getting high-fives for boosting sneaker spray sales.

Some examples of incentives that could have adverse affects on sales are:
  1. Contests to see who can achieve the "Most Number of Anything." Quality usually trumps quantity. Think through short cuts or business that might be sacrificed just to achieve the "number."
  2. Short-term programs. Closing a quick deal can be done at the expense of customer service. Make sure an incentive program keeps the big picture in mind and promotes long term customer loyalty.
  3. Complex incentive plans that frustrate employees. Keep programs simple.
  4. Taking too long to provide the incentive program reward. Give people their stuff FAST - the faster the reward is delivered the greater the enthusiasm will be.
Even if you are a solo-preneur (like me) you could fall into these "sins." For example:
  • If you are focused on the bottom line you may cut costs in areas that give your customers less value.
  • If you are desperate for some sales revenue you make make promises that are hard to keep or make deals that don't provide adequate profit.
  • If you need to increase your client base you may take on a new client/account that isn't a good fit or drains your energy.

Watch out for the above sins and your chances of having long term happy clients will increase.