Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Boost Sales Fast

During the holiday season I get overcommitted, overtired and overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. It's the same feeling you have when your sales are down and you are trying get them up - fast!  You feel the urge to make cold calls, take customers to lunch, ask for more referrals, create email campaigns, order promotional products, print more brochures, start a new social media campaign, advertise in the newspaper... and you feel the need do these all at once!

What I've learned from helping people market their businesses for the last 8 years is that to recover from a sales slump or help to avoid one you must choose 1 or 2 marketing initiatives and do them really well, consistently, over a long period of time.  Marketing is a marathon not a sprint.  Spending your time exhausting every marketing channel will leave you tired and burned out after a few months. Timing and consistency are more important.

However, Christmas shopping for me tends to be a sprint! :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Honesty Can Cost You a Sale

I used to love Flu season...especially a really bad one!

When I worked for a medical diagnostic company one of the diagnostic tests I sold was for the Flu. Every September the company would have a big promotion for customers on Flu test kits where they could prepurchase tests prior to the Flu season hitting and receive a substantial discount.  This promotion was also a contest for the sales reps.  The reps who sold the most Flu test kits were highlighted every week and received a nice bonus at the end of the promotion.

One of my best accounts had a new lab manager and placed a huge order.  I knew it was too large of an order based on the prior Flu season. Even though the order would've made me a "shoe-in" winner of the sales contest I talked the lab manager out of his order. I convinced him to order fewer Flu tests because he could end up having unused product left over at the end of the Flu season.  This was a counterproductive move in the world for most salespeople (and even my boss). But, the lab manager appreciated my honesty and subsequently refused to talk to any of my competitors about their products.

Customers appreciate honesty. Being honest with your customers can cost you business - but only temporarily.  Dishonesty will cost you business - permanently.

Here's to a bad (or good, depending on how you look at it) Flu season!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

3 Ways to Know When You Are Being Used & What to Do About It

Quick note: This blog post may sound cynical - which I am not. :)

Customers use sales people. They use you to educate them about your product/service, they use you to help them get the best deal and they use you to help solve their problem. All are understandable reasons to be used. Proceed with caution if you are being used for reasons that aren't so justifiable such as:

  1. A prospect asks you to bid work/provide a proposal  but refuses to meet with you in person to allow you to present your proposal. You can be tipped off to this type of "using" because when you ask the prospect questions up front about his needs he is vague or short with his answers.  In this case, the prospect has already decided to work with your competitor.  You are being used to provide an additional bid to help your prospect negotiate a better deal with your competitor. Or, the company may have a requirement to get 3 bids before awarding a contract and they are only trying to satisfy that requirement.

    What to do:  Tell the prospect you need to hand deliver the proposal and meet with him.  Most salespeople hold out hope that we can persuade the prospect in favor of our proposal. If you know you are being used, it is acceptable to decline to bid. You might say, "Thank you for inviting us to provide a proposal but we feel that what we provide isn't a good fit for your needs."

  2. A prospect (who is not a customer) calls and asks you for tickets that your company gives out to customers for a professional sporting event, like a Dallas Cowboys football game.

    What to do: Invite the prospect to go with you as your guest (include spouses if appropriate). This will give you a chance to develop a relationship with the prospect.  Just giving the tickets away won't help you gain business in the future.

  3. A prospect requests a quote with a detailed proposal because he isn't sure what he needs. In this case you are being used for free consulting. The  prospect will take your proposal, mark out your price and give it to other companies to bid the same work.

    What to do: Give the prospect the benefit of the doubt. Sell your capability and benefits by providing a really good proposal - and, if possible, include requirements you offer that you know your competition isn't capable of providing.

When getting used in these ways, customers are taking advantage of you, wasting your time and don't have legitimate intentions. It happens to all salespeople. Use these experiences to help you determine the most effective way to spend your time to boost your own sales.  Work twice as hard to keep your existing customers satisfied as you do to attract new business.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

What Marketing Is Not

Marketing is the science behind growing your business. Many business owners think marketing is advertising and brochures.  If they designate money for newspaper or TV ads and design a nice brochure then marketing is complete - right? Well...not really.

I majored in Marketing in college and never took one advertising class. Then I worked in sales for over 15 years and never reported to anyone in the Marketing Department. And no on in the Marketing Department ever closed a deal.

Many business owners think you have to be creative to work in Marketing. Interestingly, the highest percentage of my Marketing college courses were based in statistical analysis with considerable quantitative measurements (i.e. lots of math!).

After 20+ years of working in what most people would call "Marketing" I can tell you what marketing is not:
  • Marketing is not sales calls.  The objective of a sales call is to convince a buyer to give you money for what you provide.  Marketing is what supports you on your call - brochures, name recognition and a decent product or service to sell.

  • Marketing is not free stuff with your logo on it. Promotional products provide name recognition, are fun to hand out and everyone is glad to take them  from you - this doesn't mean they like your product or that they will ever buy anything from you.

  • Marketing is not a project you finish. It's a long term, systematic, intentional effort.  Don't confuse true marketing with short-term campaigns that focus on certain product offerings.

  • Marketing is not just for creative types. Consistency is more important than creativity in marketing.

  • Marketing is not what you do when you aren't busy. I've heard business owners say that they never have time to do "marketing" and that they will start doing it when business slows down. This is precisely the wrong time because marketing is a long-term process. If marketing is done correctly and consistently, you can prevent the peaks and valleys in your business cycle. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Not to Say on a Sales Call

A sales representative from a very popular social networking website recently called me selling advertising.  I work as a marketing and booking manager for professional speakers and I'm frequently the first point of contact for sales people who are marketing to my clients.  I also help my clients figure out the best ways to market themselves.

This particular sales person gave me her spiel and I listened patiently. After all, I can empathize with her.  I asked a few questions and she gave me vague answers. So I asked what sales people hate - I asked for the cost right up front so that I could get a straight answer.  Her response was, "Are you the decision maker? Do you have the final say?"

 Riipppppp - I could hear the needle ripping off a record player and my defenses immediately went up. This is a question all sales people want to know the answer to - but how you learn the answer takes skill. My answer, through gritted teeth, was, "No. My. Client. Makes. The. Final. Decision. But I will be the one learning about what you are selling and I'll be the one you end up working with on this." 

The sales person had made a mistake - she insulted the influencer. She insinuated that I might not be worth her time or that I didn't have authority in the buying decision. I immediately (and amateurishly) thought, "I'll show you."

Actually, I plan on finding out more from this salesperson so that I can advise my client accordingly. However, it was a lesson to me, as one who frequently makes sales calls, about what NOT to say.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Do Funny People Sell More?

This Jordin Sparks commercial cracks me up:
I love funny TV commercials and even though I can recite the commercial later - I don't always remember what the ad was selling. However, the goal is for the product to be memorable - not just the ad.

Does humor really increase your sales? The stereotypical salesperson is usually funny, wouldn't you agree? He/she has a good personality, is outgoing and knows how to get a laugh and when to laugh. But I believe there are certain businesses where humor can decrease sales such as:
  • Financial services
  • Accounting services
  • Medical facilities
  • Physicians (except maybe a pediatrician!)
  • Mental health services
  • Banking institutions
The above businesses are dealing with serious or confidential issues. Customers may interpret humor as too casual or informal for the the private nature of the services being provided.

While humor is a way of creating common ground with others and diffusing conflict, it has to be used properly. Stay away from:
  • Off color language
  • Racial or politically charged humor
  • Gender-biased humor
At the root of why funny people sell more is that to be funny - you have to be smart, quick-witted and able to process information quickly which are qualities of successful salespeople. Good salespeople understand the importance of timing, which is also a key element of being funny. But mainly, funny people sell more because they are better looking which causes more people to buy from them. (Did you catch my humor? Bloggers can be funny too!)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Nail Salon that Missed the Point

Who do you think this sign is advertising? Yep - Kroger! And the nail salon directly behind the sign is missing a nice advertising opportunity.

Marketing research shows that any mention of your name or product, whether positive or negative, can increase brand awareness and sales.

One of the largest neuromarketing research studies ever conducted studied the effect of tobacco warning labels and warning ads on the behavior of smokers. Even though most smokers checked "yes" when asked if tobacco warning labels worked, brain scan results (using the fMRI) showed that cigarette warning labels activated the nucleus accumbens in the brain, also known as the "craving spot," and encouraged people to light up. One of the largest anti-smoking campaigns ever actually caused an increase in cigarette sales.

In the case of the parking lot sign, I argue that this is a subliminal ad for Kroger. Kind of like when an actor pops a Coke can in a movie and you suddenly feel the need to run to the snack bar. And kind of like this sign in Florida made me want to do the opposite of what it said. But it also makes the nail salon look a little bitter. Do you really think a women going to her nail appointment is not going to come in because the parking space directly in front of the salon is taken?

Instead the sign should say, "Not Nail Salon Advertising."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Don't Call Me, I'll Call You

...Isn't the motto of the local Ulta store. I called them recently asking for a certain type of mascara and the store employee told me, "I don't know if we have it. Call me back in 10 minutes." Unbelievable.

It was almost like I was calling to see if a friend can come over and play. Remember when you were 8 and you'd call a friend and they'd say, "Let me ask my mom. Call me back in 10 minutes."

I chalked up this experience to lack of employee training at the store. Certainly if the owner (or someone who felt ownership) answered they would have said, "Let me check and call you back. What's your number?"

It brings up a point about being in sales - your customers are doing YOU the favor, not the reverse. No matter how hard you work to provide your customer with what he/she needs, how much you have to go out of your way for them or how many strings you have to pull - they are still doing you a favor. Keep that in mind.