Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

By Jeff Bowman

The frequency of sales have increased over the past several years since the economic slowdown reared its ugly head. More specifically, the usage of the word “sale” has increased by businesses of every product or service imaginable.  The degree to which the price has been reduced or in proper terms the perceived value proposition has increased for the buyer is sometimes questionable.  The “sale” is more often a factor of the marketing mix designed to stimulate the buyer.  The standard marketing mix has been around for decades, The Four P’s.

Kotler’s Black Box Model took this many steps forward to include internal and external stimuli, as well as decision influencers. Click on for better view

The word “sale” falls under the promotion area of the marketing mix, and then influences the perception. It is our perception of what a sale is that drives us to purchase.

To most a sale indicates something is cheaper than the normal price, or the retail price, which is usually heavily marked up anyways.

To others a sale may mean the end of a certain product’s life cycle and the clear out in anticipation of something new such as 2010 model cars. No matter what it means, we now feel pressured to buy and then feel good about saving money.

Paul Harrison, in his post Sale – Read this post, now! defines the reaction to a sale more clinically.

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex , which is the part of our brain that handles rational thinking, deduction, and abstract thought, requires a significant amount of energy to fire up. So when we see a sale, we give more weight to that particular stimuli, and trust that we will be rewarded for responding.”

I was recently lured to not just any sale, but a “warehouse sale” expecting all sorts of bargains since my perception was thousands of items at unbelievably low prices, shipped in from hundreds of stores. (My imagination is fueled by sales!) I was disappointed.  It turned out to be  a large room full of a single manufacturer’s product stacked high in boxes and bins. The prices were more expensive than if I bought the same products on sale at any store, however people had carts full, simply because they perceived that a bargain was to be had.

In one row there were several bins marked $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00.  When I inquired, I was told there was no mixing and matching, even though they were all the same price, made by the same company. I felt like Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, but I moved on.  I walked around for fifteen minutes, then I left with nothing, however I had the same feeling as if I had scored a bargain.

When you see that big SALE sign, control your impulses and check things out as an educated consumer! The “sale” may simply be a company selling you.

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

When you approach a potential client about doing business are you ready to answer WIIFM? “What’s in it For Me” is the closer. Without it, you don’t have much of a pitch.

Depending on your business, what’s in it for me can take many forms. It’s cheaper, faster, smarter, more effective, includes a great gift, fits your lifestyle, exclusive, provides hours of pleasure, saves time, saves money, is more convenient, new and improved, keeps on ticking… I think you get the idea…it’s the why I should buy your product of service.

So, why do so many people have trouble with such a simple concept?

Think of it as your elevator speech.

It must be BRIEF -50 words or less and in plain English and not some marketing blather that sounds good but says nothing. Tell me what you do and WHY I need your product or service? Be clear, specific and honest. There must be a compelling reason for people to switch from your competitor(s) so the why I should choose you is the most important question to answer.

BE POSITIVE – Fear was once a great motivator. Who wants ring around the collar? Today it’s too easy for people to find solutions on the Internet. Tell people how you’re going to help them and not what might happen if they ignore your sage advice.

It’s a simple question. What’s in it for me?

Reposted from The Marketing Pad

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full-service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers provide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Michael Hepworth

“Instead of selling what we wanted to sell, we sold what people wanted to buy and then figured out how to make money selling it.” – CEO at Best Buy

I believe there are only three reasons why a prospect won’t buy from you:

  1. They don’t want what you are selling.
  2. They can’t afford what you are selling.
  3. They don’t believe you.

The key is figuring out the reason and adopting the appropriate strategy to overcome it.

For example: If they don’t want what you are selling or can’t afford what you are selling you have a problem with targeting. One of the first steps in marketing successfully is to understand who your ideal prospects are, and diligently focus on selling only to them.

Trying to sell to everyone is a recipe for disaster. Remember, the smaller the niche, the greater the opportunity to dominate that niche.

By definition ideal prospects have the need for what you sell and the means to pay for it.

However if your prospects don’t believe you, you have a different challenge; you have to focus on establishing better credibility.

Here are 10 actions you can take to establish credibility with your prospects:

  1. Educate them on how to buy your product of service – No matter how frequently a customer buys your product or service, you have more experience and knowledge than they do on this subject. You sell what you sell all day, every day, gaining insights and experience as you go. Prospects and clients don’t have this advantage and the less frequent the purchase the more they need help in making correct buying decisions.  Help them understand what their buying criteria should be and teach them how to buy.
  2. Tell the truth – If you always tell your prospects the truth, even when it is to your detriment, trust will grow and so will your business.
  3. Be sincere – While truth and sincerity are closely allied, they are different. Being sincere is about being believable and presenting the facts in a way that prospects understand.
  4. Use specifics – Precise numbers and details are far more believable than generalities. For example; “27% lower cost than the market leader.” is more believable than; “lowest price.”
  5. Reverse the risk –Don’t expect your customers to assume the risk. Offer a guarantee and shoulder the risk yourself. And remember, the more generous and the fewer conditions surrounding your offer the better.
  6. Provide testimonials –Few people like to be the first to use a product or service. Testimonials provide social proof that others have used your services and have had good results. The better known the person giving the testimonial, generally the better impact it will have when your prospect sees or hears it.
  7. Establish yourself as an authority – Writing articles on your specialty; also speaking at trade shows and association meetings are great ways to build much-needed credibility. Now might be the time to write the book you’ve always wanted to write.
  8. Support your sales with editorial and articles –PR is very important in building your credibility. People generally believe more of what they see and hear in the media than what you tell them in person.
  9. Tell prospects why –If you are offering a discount or a special deal don’t just give it, but give a reason for it. Tell them you are overstocked; tell them it’s a shameless bribe to get them to try your services. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, but make sure you give one. Also give reasons for why your product is premium priced if it falls into that category.
  10. Point out a non-fatal flaw in your product  – Sometimes you can find a flaw in your product, which justifies giving a discount but one that you can use to your benefit in promotions. A local mattress store has a special annual sale giving a discount on mismatched box-springs and mattresses. If you point out this flaw you can justify your discount or offer and you also build trust as a reputable supplier.

Michael Hepworth is a serial entrepreneur, with a history of successful start-ups and exits. His newest venture is Alternative Fuels Corporation. www.alternativefuelscorp.com

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By Michael Hepworth

Life in the world of building a new business is a passing parade. At anytime there are collections of potential customers or possible financiers:

  • a small % of potential ready to do business with you now
  • a bigger % who are interested in what you are offering but are not yet committed to any action
  • an even bigger group who has potential, but is not yet interested.

Many of these have the potential to become interested if they were educated about how your product or service can help solve critical problems.

Most of us, quite rightly, try to focus our attention on finding the few people who are ready to buy into our dreams.  In the process, we meet countless people who fall into the other categories.  Instead of tracking these and nurturing our relationships with them, we often put these names into a database and then ignore them or worse still, discard them.

It’s important to remember that each person not yet aligned with our offering represents someone who is potentially interested in helping finance our business or in buying our products or services at some point in the future. This group can represent one of the most valuable and often the most under leveraged asset in your business.  They can be your future gold mine!

Think of your market like a rose garden.  Some rose trees bloom readily and easily with little care – they bloom early in the season, and usually will bloom often.  When you know they offer repeated blooming, you cut those first and often.  It’s natural to give them lots of attention and ignore the others.

What about the other bushes that require careful nurturing, pruning, watering, spraying and fertilizing?  These trees will nearly all produce flowers at some point in the season, so with proper care, they can provide an ongoing source of roses for a long time.  Some trees may not even bloom for a season, no matter what you do; however, they will flourish next year.

It is the same with finance prospects or for that matter prospective clients, but what most firms do, is pick the easy blooming flowers, and ignore the others.  We pick the easy ones and then leave for greener pastures.

Very few businesses focus any attention on the prospects that aren’t ready to buy now.

Most entrepreneurs have a sense that some of the people they meet along the way, will buy sometime.  They set up either a tickler file or a reminder in their contact manager. Every now and again they phone the prospect to find out if they are ready. This kind of call is not only ineffective most of the time; it is downright annoying, as it seldom adds any value. Who among us has time for the regular, “Are you ready yet call”? Few of us use the opportunity to nurture the prospect with useful information. Instead, they simply become commercial pests.

Savvy entrepreneurs know that eventually almost every prospect will bloom and decide to buy. They need education, encouragement, advice and guidance. If you do a good job of this you can pick every one instead of a few.

Use smart marketing to continue to nurture these customers, and to guard against them going to the competition.

  • Offer them special educational reports on your specialty
  • Provide regular updates on your progress
  • Invite them to relevant seminars and workshops
  • Give them free audio CDs of your presentations.

When these prospects bloom, they will let you know, because they will see you as the logical choice and that is when you can  close the sale.

It is much cheaper and more effective to focus on qualified prospects, than to continuously forage for new leads

Michael Hepworth is a serial entrepreneur, with a history of successful start-ups and exits. His newest venture is Alternative Fuels Corporation. www.alternativefuelscorp.com

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By Jeff Bowman

There has always been discussion about the value of sales training, the ROI on investing in people.

Although managers love to measure and see immediate results from their investments, it seldom works that way. Sales training is an investment in your company’s future.

Most businesses understand the value of developing long-term relationships with customers. The salesperson is often the face of the company, so it makes sense to develop highly trained and motivated individuals, who best represent your interests.

A good salesperson is a skilled relationship-builder and solution-provider, who cares about their clients as much as they care about their company. They need training on an ongoing basis and most appreciate the company investment because they understand that in the long run it  means more revenue for the company and themselves.

So, do you invest in training, or do you offer coaching? My first question is always “who is the coach”? It often falls on the sales manager, who may not be the most polished salesperson on staff. They may not know how to provide an environment where feedback is well received and leads to changes in sales behaviour. What do you think about when you hear that your boss is going to work right beside you all day?

Sales people get a bum rap sometimes. When things are slow sales people take the heat. Some companies actually believe the cost of training is too high, or sales people don’t work very hard anyways or that anyone could sell these products. Usually that opinion comes from someone who has never had a door slammed in their face, or never had to explain a delivery screw up or price increase.

Sales training should be ongoing, regular and re-inforced through ongoing coaching.

Imagine an investment that leads to new clients, higher- value sales, increased return purchases, referrals from your own customers and increased profitability for the company due to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

That’s what good sales training gets you!

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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By David Pasieka

We can’t but admire Mother Nature and this Great Canadian Weather. As the weather turns cold – many of us are stopped in our tracks. The same” stopped cold” phenomena exists for early stage companies who are faced with making those dreaded first- time calls to prospects and potential partners.

The Frigid Cold Call is the most dreaded part of any sales or business development process. Understanding the dynamics and tuning your approach can be one of the more satisfying experiences for a Senior Executive. With a number of start-up and turn-around companies to my credit, I thought it was timely to provide some “snowshoe tracks” to guide you through the snow this winter. I break the process down into three Blocks of Ice.

“It’s Cold Outside”
In this block, you know that making these calls will be paramount to the long- term success of your company. You have been sitting on the sofa by the warmth of the fire thinking about going outside and physically exerting yourself on the trail. Like many examples in life you know it will feel good after you have completed the task.

Overcome the resistance and get on with it! Your first steps include:
Build your Lists – Whether you are at the Prospect or Suspect stage you will want to create a list for your potential clients and one for your strategic partners.

Research your Targets – It’s a good idea to know as much as you can about your Prospects. Warm introductions, web research and industry publications can contribute key content.

Set your Call Objective – It is not  feasible to close a sale or partnership on the first call. There is industry data that suggests that it takes up to 5 calls / visits to actually close a new sale. Think about your situation and set your objective bar at a high but realistic level (“The objective of this call will be to fully qualify a Suspect into a Prospect and / or obtain a Face to Face meeting.”)

Story Board your Pitch – Prepare a crisp 30 second story that describes who you are, what you have and why you would be compelling to meet . The Pitch should not be completely scripted or read verbatim on the call. I suggest having a block diagram with a couple bullet phrases in each block. Anticipate some key questions about your company and what makes you different. Think about some open-ended questions that you would like to deliver to enable an ongoing engagement throughout the call.

“It’s Snowing Really Hard”
In this block you have completed all the necessary preparation and you are ready to start making calls. You have moved off the sofa and have your hat, scarf and mitts adjusted appropriately. With snowshoes in hand you venture into the cold crisp air. Tips to avoid “frostbite” include:

Block your Calendar – Think about the time of day to make your calls. I am a morning person and I like to do them when I am fresh. Many executives arrive early to get some work done before the staff arrives. Your hit ratio may be enhanced at this time.

Polish your Manners / Adjust your Attitude– Dave Kurlan -author of Baseline Selling -suggests that the formula for a successful call is 50% phone manner (Warmth, Sincerity, Pitch, Speed, Pace and Volume), 32% Attitude (I know I can do this) and 16% Script (Message content and call to action). Remember that many executive assistants are there to manage the executive’s time – ensure that you are treating all live interactions with the highest level of respect if your call is intercepted. One UK-based blog suggests that if you “smile while you dial” you reduce the tension in your voice. Try it for yourself – it really works.

Check Your GPS Positioning – In real time, assess where you are in the process of achieving your end objective. Make necessary course corrections and utilize your know how about your prospect and your value proposition to converge on the close. “If not you, can you suggestion a more appropriate contact? Can I use your name in my next conversation?”

“Pushing Through the Snow Drifts”
The hard work doesn’t stop after you have completed the call. You need to clean off the ice from your snowshoes and place you mitts in a place where they can dry out.

Follow Through / Follow Through – As the conversation unfolds, highlight the appropriate next steps. Be sure to summarize the actions before you hang up. If you make commitments to deliver something by a certain time frame – ensure you do.

You Can’t Remember It All – Invest in some tracking software that helps you remember the call, its associated action items and any other relevant facts about the Prospect that may be relevant down the road (plays golf, has 2 kids, hates pushy sales executives etc.) Many companies start with Excel and graduate to Salesforce, Microsoft CRM, Goldmine and ACT! to name a few of the available options.

Bounce Back Quickly – All of your calls will not go as planned. The key will be to recognize that it is not personal and that you need to move on. When pushed into a pile of deep stuff, you need pop out quickly or suffer the cold wet consequences.

It’s time to take that breath of brisk air and get into a serious Canadian snowfall. See you in the lodge.

David Pasieka is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the RIC Centre. Learn more here.  Visit Our Contributors page for more information about David. Read his blog at www.cedarvue.blogspot.com

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By Jeff Bowman

Santa Claus. I know him, I’ve met him, I went to his training school and I impersonated him on many memorable occasions. I know for a fact that he is the king of consultative sales. “What do you want for Christmas little boy/girl?”, “Have you been good this year?” His interest in what others want and need is unsurpassed in the world of childhood icons. The tooth fairy brings money whether you want it or not. The Easter Bunny leaves chocolate eggs, even if you wanted some other type of gift. And the Sandman, well he just puts stuff in your eyes every night.

Father Christmas, like all good sales people, asks and listens. He then decides upon the best solution and agrees, making each and every child part of the process.

I had occasion to meet Mr. Claus when I was quite young, in fact I met him several different times and I have the pictures to prove it. He would ask me what I wanted for Christmas, and I always had a ready answer. Things I actually needed, like Rock-em Sock-em Robots, boxing gloves, a microscope, a hockey net. There are  times that I guess Santa actually consults with parents because I never did ask for socks, gotchies, shirts etc., but I often received them. And as I look back on it now, I figure nobody really wanted to see me out boxing in the nude (and probably still don’t) or going to school in ripped hand- me-down clothes.

I decided in my later years that I had taken advantage of a great relationship that Santa and I had, so I thought like in all good business relationships (and it was a good relationship, he gave me what I wanted in return for being nice, cleaning the house, not fighting with my brothers and sister etc) it was time for me to give a little back.

I attended the Santa Training School and learned a series of valuable and difficult lessons – the ins and outs of being one of the Jolly Old Fellows assistants, (I prefer this to the more common denotation of Elf in training) who takes his place at public appearances such as Breakfast with Santa, photo opportunities and of course the ever popular office Christmas Party.

Many a time I sat upon my Red Velvet throne with children of all ages and nationalities sitting on my lap, discussing the important aspects of the holiday season. Unfortunately, STS (Santa Training School) doesn’t prepare you for some of the questions you are asked by the super intelligent children of today.

Even the best consultative sales approach leaves little room for suppressing the odd laugh or following up a great open-ended question with a closed ended question to narrow down the options. “Where do you go to the bathroom Santa?”, “If my house doesn’t have a chimney do you break a window to get in?” “How many glasses of milk does it take to make you sick?” And if the questions don’t get you, the statements of fact will. “You smell old” (page 13, lesson 2 “Santa stays cool under pressure.” Yeah sure, see what you smell like after 3 hours, 100 kids on your lap and polyester suit that makes you perspire) , “What did that last kid ask for, cause he’s my brother and he is bad”, “Do you have kids?”

My Santa experiences took quite a different turn when adults got involved at parties. Building solid, mutually beneficial relationships took on a whole new meaning. The lap visitations seemed more prolonged, a few extra pictures were taken and the wants, needs and desires were often expressed with more clarity than you might imagine. I called it liquid bravery. It wasn’t just visions of sugar plums dancing in the heads of many a fine adult who graced my throne. One never really thinks of Santa blushing, but I tell you it was a good thing I had that beard.

As a public domain figure, you can’t escape seeing Santa around this time of year on every package, in every ad, flyer and newspaper. He has his own department at the Post Office, his own television shows with huge royalties that allow him to build more toys every year for the increasing population, and he symbolically represents huge corporations like Coke every Christmas. He gives his stamp of approval to many new Seasonal Songs every year, and even goes as far as having his likeness on a PEZ dispenser.

Now I am at an age where it appears my debt has been paid off to Santa, younger plumper individuals are taking my place. The consultative sales go on. The job of Santa selling never seems to be complete, as we now see him in tropical vacation commercials; he is urging us to go green with real trees this year and to use bags instead of shiny wrapping paper for gifts.

Santa continually grows and changes with the times, but his consultative sales approach remains the same – probe, listen, offer solutions and develop relationships. I’ll always remember the lessons I learned at STS, the great times I had as an assistant Santa, my personal encounters with him, and like always, I will listen for the NORAD reports on Unidentified Reindeer-propelled vehicles being spotted over Northern Canada on Christmas Eve. (now available at the Official NORAD Tracking Site for all you parents)

See you soon Santa!

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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