Category Archives: – Win More Business

Dear Diary

Mobile Phone Diary

Every year, for retailers and their suppliers, the customary seasonal countdown seems to start earlier and earlier. But for the rest of us in b2b sales, it will begin proper after this weekend. At least this year – because December 1st falls on a Monday – workaholics and the conscientious will be pleased to see that at least they will be able to fit in a good three weeks’ worth of sales activity before the break.

Focusing on a practical but vital aspect of sales management, whether your sales people use analogue or digital means to schedule their appointments, follow ups and call backs, now is the time to establish good diary habits ready for the early part of 2015.

As you all know, I regard motivation (and self-motivation in particular) as one of the main cornerstones of sales success – and a busy diary must surely be a key feature. Or to look at it another way, who is going to feel a greater compulsion to perform next year? The salesman with a full diary or the one with a blank one?

Don’t hold back from asking your sales managers and reps the following question: “What’s in your diary for January and February?”  If you get a blank look, it’s time for some very tough love…

 

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Bank Holiday Fever

Calendar

With numerous surveys appearing to show that the British work the longest hours in Europe, most of us look forward to our bank holidays. However, for sales-led organisations in particular, the resultant short weeks impact heavily on selling time. How then, do we make the most of what is left?

1.  Forewarned is forearmed. Remind your sales people and their line managers in advance and ask for constructive suggestions they could implement.

2.  Create ‘non-revenue’ targets to encourage and maintain activity: eg a minimum number of new prospect calls/contacts to be made in the month.

3.  Alternatively, you can take the opportunity of a shorter, quiet week to do some serious forward planning. Again, make your management team and/or sales people do the bulk of the thinking by getting them to contribute.

4.  You can do this within the forum of a sales conference with a focused agenda which directs towards a series of measureable objectives. The format of the day(s) and venue can be as formal (and expensive!) as you wish: from using the company boardroom or installing yourselves in the corner of a nearby hotel coffee lounge, to a total no-expense barred ‘away day’. To keep everyone interested as well as involved, plan a mixed programme. For example, brainstorming sessions and pencil/paper business games can be used to vary the pace. Keep up a steady supply of snacks and refreshments to sustain concentration levels.

5.  To maintain productivity, consider getting sales people to swap sales territories or areas with one another. To keep any risk to a minimum, you can set the rule of ‘dormant’ or ‘dead’ accounts only. With nothing to lose, it can be surprising what a different voice or face can achieve. To get everyone focused, create a points system in addition to any targets such as one point for an effective telephone call to the decision maker, two points for a confirmed appointment, three points for a quote, etc.

6.  Finally, don’t underestimate the good old fashioned prize incentive, whether it’s a bottle of wine or a week at the chairman’s Tuscan villa. Again, you can get creative with a points system to keep everyone motivated.

 

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Call me Madam – Part 2

Have a Nice Day 3

Following the Ask Jeeves poll which highlighted the various annoyances of call centres [see Call Me Madam-Part 1 – April 2013], it’s clear there are some aspects of business etiquette which are just too important to ignore. For an easy checklist of how your customer-facing staff should be presenting themselves, here is my Top Ten:

1.  Do they always know the name of who they’re speaking to, and use it? If it’s unusual or unfamiliar, they should ask how to pronounce it and get it right. The same goes for spelling it correctly in any correspondence.

2.  Follow-up and/or thank you emails should be a matter of procedure and sent as soon as possible. In addition to ensuring that the rep or account manager has remembered, such professionalism will reflect well on your organisation.

3.  However boring, do your people show genuine interest in what their prospect or client is saying? As well as adding to their professional ‘persona’, listening to what their buyer has to say will give them valuable information which they can use to sell. Applying sales methods and techniques will keep a prospective buyer on track if he really is droning-on off the issue.

4.  Language! Slang, offensive or abusive language are an absolute no-no – even if describing a disreputable competitor – and can easily slip out. I could write reams on the insults I have heard reps describe the difficult prospects who never buy, together with a long list of their swearwords of choice. Without exception, such language and banter are for the back-office only – and you may need to remind them of this.

5.  The handshake. Still enormously important. Even if they’re unexpectedly introduced to someone in a casual setting, it’s good to be seen to make the effort by standing up (and yes that includes women as well). A handshake should be firm and efficient.

6.  Good eye-contact with customers. Vital. I even come across university graduates who still haven’t learnt this.

7.  Mobiles should be switched off before any meeting or presentation.

8.  No buts. Customers or prospects should never be interrupted.

9.  Following from point #8, if he has a complaint he needs to rant about – let him. However, company representatives should make an assurance that they will investigate/resolve the problem asap – and ensure this is done.

10.  Finally, how often do your staff smile? This underrated feature costs nothing. Everybody looks more attractive when they smile (ok, maybe not the last Prime Minister, but you get my point). A genuine smile signifies sincerity, honesty and openness – positive qualities when perceived in a sales person.

To anyone visiting your premises, a greeting with a smile from the receptionist will convey a warm welcome, giving the impression that your company is ‘nice to do business with’ – something which says more than any carefully written marketing blurb in a brochure or website.

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Going All Mary Beard

Socrates statue 2

“Because it’s two ears and a mouth, isn’t it…?”

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told this by an applicant being interviewed for a sales job I’d be very rich indeed. In case you’re lucky enough never to have had this recited at you, it’s a pre-rehearsed answer to the standard question of what makes a good salesperson.

Thinking back to the many times I’ve heard it, for some reason, my recollection is always of a voice like Ronnie Barker’s in Porridge. Probably because it’s the kind of obvious understatement, made with a sniff, which would be typical of the Fletcher character.

Rootling around the web I have found that the quote – and others similar – can be originally attributed to no less than three ancient Greek philosophers, the earliest, not surprisingly, being Socrates (born around 469BC):

“Nature has given us two ears, two eyes, but one tongue – to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.”

Whether you like to picture an ancient thinker clad in linen robes as you roll your tongue around the original quote, or is someone who identifies more easily with the Norman Stanley Fletcher version, it’s an essential guideline. Two ears and a mouth is a sound ratio, an easy shorthand for a good salesman who listens more than he speaks. No one wants a salesman’s monologue; a recital of what could be looked up in the brochure or website anyway. Selling isn’t telling: it is asking questions and listening carefully to the answers.

As well as being cast-iron advice for selling, it’s also an excellent strategy for those first prospective client meetings when, let’s face it, more often than not, we go in with little idea of what is required and how we might help. Listening carefully will put us in a better position to match solutions to the prospect’s requirements  – and win the business.

Modern day EU member-state Greece may be an economic basket case, but her ancient philosophers’ writings still apply to so much today – even selling techniques.

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