Business Development/Sales Management & Sales

Selling 101

Posted in Business Development/Sales Management & Sales on July 9th, 2013 by Keith – Be the first to comment

Selling 101

Never offer the prospect a solution until you have them verbalise the problem

Ouch – That’s Some Ear-Splitting Feedback!

Posted in Business Development/Sales Management & Sales on May 10th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Funny thing, feedback.  In the sound amplification context, feedback is generally an unpleasant experience, especially for the listeners.  The high-pitched kind often causes ear pain and horrendous headaches, not to mention sending every canine within a ten mile radius howling.  The low-pitched kind makes the walls, floor, and rib cage vibrate (a lot like living in California, actually).  In any case, most of us don’t enjoy being subject to that kind of feedback.  And truthfully, I don’t think many performers like subjecting listeners to it, either, unless they are deaf, sadistic, or so absorbed in their own personal experiences that they have little awareness of the impact on the listener.

Now, let’s talk about feedback in the work sense.  Most of your workforce think of “feedback” as negative, so it’s unpleasant (positive feedback usually is considered praise, right?).  It can be downright painful, depending on how much the feedback contradicts one’s self-image.  And often, the feedback providers (bosses, co-workers, clients) don’t like giving it (again, differentiating between positive feedback = praise vs. negative feedback = criticism).  Most don’t like being the source of others’ pain and discomfort (unless they are insensitive, sadistic, unaware… see above).   Many are afraid of the recipient’s potential reaction (think dogs howling and growling or glass shattering).   Many try to get themselves through it by convincing themselves that intentions are good.  However, impact trumps intent – always.  If the recipient negatively experiences the feedback, they aren’t going to care a wit about the giver’s intentions.

This begs the question:  can feedback ever be a positive experience?  I’ve heard professional coaches and org development peeps say (okay, I may have said it myself when I was an internal OD consultant) that feedback is a “gift” and should be received as such.  I now tend to think of it more like going to the dentist: necessary for health, but not really enjoyable.  That being said, there are tricks to making feedback easier to give and to hear. Pass this on to the people managers in your organization -

  1. Stick to observations (I saw…, I heard…,  I read…) and be descriptive of the other’s behavior about which you are providing feedback.  Example:  I heard you say to your employee / co-worker that Jane isn’t pulling her weight.  Using observation helps put the feedback in the realm of reality and fact, and therefore is less likely to be taken personally.
  2. Be as specific as possible in describing what was seen, heard or read.  Example:  During the meeting with the leadership team, I saw you roll your eyes when George pushed back on your proposal for unlimited sick days.  Specificity gives a concrete behavioral example that can then be thought about and changed in the future.
  3. Avoid using heavily charged words that generally elicit negative emotions.  Examples are:  arrogant, rude, insecure, unprofessional etc.  Example:  You came across as arrogant during that presentation.  First, these are judgments, not observations.  Second, if that’s the extent of the feedback, there is absolutely nothing the recipient can do with it, other than feel badly about it and likely to not want to engage in a similar presentation anytime soon.  A behavior can be construed by others as unprofessional or arrogant, but to effect behavior change, it is critical to know what the behavior was, not just how it was perceived.
  4. Avoid euphemisms that take the place of simple description.  I was once told that I “sold beyond the close”.  Given that I’m not a sales person, I had no clue what this meant.  When I pushed for a description of specific behaviors, the giver couldn’t give them to me.  Therefore, the feedback, though well-intended, was not very useful.

There is a slew of behavioral psychology, organization psychology, and organization behavior research that discusses the ins, out, ups, downs, and roundabouts of feedback, and if the topic is of interest to you from those perspectives, I am happy to provide some references.  Most people though? They just want to give feedback in a way that inflicts as little distress and pain as possible, and employees really just want to hear feedback that is constructive and empowering.  Both are possible.  Just like it is possible to have a less-than-awful trip to the dentist.

Editor’s Note – Suzanne Rumsey is a principal consultant with Knowledge Infusion. Suzanne isn’t just any ‘ole consultant though – she’s a former HR pro turned consultant, who spent time with orgs like Boeing and Health Net where she shaped workforce planning and talent management initiatives… which means she really knows what she’s talking about and has the actual experiences under her belt to back it up and give you advice. Now that’s the kind of consultant we really like.

7 Steps to Outperforming Competitors

Posted in Business Development/Sales Management & Sales on April 19th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Apr 09, 2010 -

It’s times like these, when your competitors are distracted, that you can get the jump on them. If your competitors have had to lay off staff, or cut expenses, they may be just limping along.  Marketing was probably one of the first things they pulled back on – even while knowing they shouldn’t have.  Chances are they haven’t invested in new technology … trying instead to “get by” with the computers and systems they have. By the time their business picks up (if it ever does), they will have a lot of catching up to do.

You, on the other hand, can be putting this time to good use. Strive to outperform your competitors while they are distracted.  Here are seven steps that will help you get ahead of the competition:

1.     Set clear growth and profitability goals. Not just a fuzzy idea of where you want to be next week, next month or next year – your goals must be much more specific. What are your sales targets? What steps do you need to take each week to meet your sales goals?  Break it down into small steps.  The problem most small businesses face is too much distraction, too many projects at once, too little focus. It’s a lot easier to beat the competition when you are focused on it.  Here are some resources to help you with goal setting and planning: Plan-As-You-Go Business Planning and SCORE Business Tools.

2.     Know your customers’ needs and wants better than your competitors. If you haven’t done a customer survey within the past 12 months, it’s time for one.  And communicate the results widely through your company – a survey is no good unless you use the data gathered. Most companies do not share their survey results widely internally – you’ll be better than average if you do. Use tools like SurveyMonkey, Constant Contact or QuestionPro to perform surveys painlessly online.  Or go on customer visits. Call on your customers to see how they are doing, or whether they have any problems you can help them with.  You’ll get a chance to see them in their working environment, which will help you understand their needs better.

3.     Find out why customers leave. Are you spending more time bringing a customer into your sales process than figuring out why they left?  You’re not alone – many companies (including competitors) put their efforts on filling the sales funnel, but never bother to track or analyze lost sales or lost customers. This dooms you to an endless replay of the same mistakes over and over, like something out of the movie Groundhog Day. Put in place a formal process to ask customers why they are cancelling your service or why they chose a competitor’s product. This can be done by phone or by online questionnaire. Compile the results into a report that is shared with managers and other key personnel each month.  You’ll soon spot patterns suggesting weaknesses to fix.

4.     Focus outside the 4 walls – and use social media to help. Know your competitors, what they are offering, their marketplace reputation and their weaknesses and strengths.  Insist that your product development, sales, marketing and customer service personnel become and stay familiar with competitive offerings.  Comparisons should be to external standards – i.e., how your company stacks up against competitors.  Don’t compare progress to internal standards. Checking out what competitors are doing…and even their reputation in the marketplace…has never been easier with social media. Review sites such as Yelp! can be a goldmine.  Also, read: How to Monitor Your Competition Using Social Media and 11 Competitive Intelligence Tools for SMBs.

5.     Know your “customer numbers.” Do you know your customer retention rate? Do you know your acquisition cost for new customers, i.e., how much it costs to get each new customer?  These metrics can be eye-opening, and may cause you to rethink how much effort you place on getting new customers once you realize the typical high cost.  Companies that track these two metrics better appreciate the value of keeping existing customers happy. Read: The Cost of Acquiring New Clients and What is an Acceptable Cost Per Acquisition

6.     Benchmark. Have you measured your progress against others in your industry? Sure, you want your business to be unique/original/one of a kind.  But it makes sense to measure how your business performs compared to others with roughly similar products, services or business models. Knowing how your business stacks up can tell you how much and where to improve. Read: How to Use Benchmarking in Business.

7.     Review, review, review. None of this stuff will be any good to your business if you don’t track your results and review your findings, not just day to day in the beginning while it remains a shiny new priority but monthly/quarterly/yearly to determine whether you’re on the right path. Learn more: 60-Second Guide to Using Your Business Plan to Monitor Progress.

So, the tools and techniques to outperform competitors are at your disposal. Will you wait for the tide to rise buoying up both you and your competitors –  or chart your own course of growth and prosperity?

Sales, Business Development

Posted in Business Development/Sales Management & Sales on April 8th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

There are many places you can find new clients for your products and services if you know where to look.

The main locations for prospects are:

1.  Existing clients - within organisations and associated divisions and companies.  Maybe grab a copy of their Annual Report and find out who their related organisations are.

2.  Referrals from existing happy (and even unhappy) clients – don’t presume that your clients will recommend you unless you ask them to, or to give you referrals. It’s not that they don’t want to its just that they are busy and it doesn’t come into their head until you ask or suggest it to them. Even not so happy clients will give you a referral if you ask.

3.  Trade publications – not necessarily your industry publications but likely to be those of your best customers.  Remember “birds of a feather flock together”.

4.  Networking – trade fairs, field days. Work the room introducing yourself, making an impression, exchanging your elevator pitch and swapping cards. Go with a goal in mind (“my goal is to get 3 first class prospects from this evening’s function”).

5.  Media - general news media outlets, picking up on events and opportunities which might offer opportunities. Take the time to scan the Business and Financial sections.

6.  Associations - cross section of industry and auxiliary associations where business people congregate. Get to know the movers and shakers and make yourself known to them.

7.  General Observation – if you haven’t decided to look for opportunities as you travel around your community you will be blind to the many opportunities that you begin to see once you have decided that this is an area that offers prospects of new business. Check billboards, signs, delivery trucks, new construction sites and job adverts.

8.  Social Media - this new and exciting area of client prospecting is rapidly growing for those who invest the time in building their online presence and communities.

Whether you are salesperson, sales manager or managing director, you are responsible for bringing in new prospects to your product and service. Choose two or three areas from this list weekly to set and achieve your prospecting goal to create an endless cascade of prospects to you.

Instead of Selling it should be called Prospecting.  For without a prospect to meet with and subtly persuade to become your client, you will have limited success in the future!

By Keith Millar

The Power of Pausing

Posted in Business Development/Sales Management & Sales on March 29th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Brian Tracy

Master Sales Trainer & Personal Development Guru, Brian Tracy

One of the most important skills of listening is simply to pause before replying.

All the top salespeople ask good questions and listen carefully to the answers. One of the most important skills of listening is simply to pause before replying. When the prospect finishes talking, rather than jumping in with the first thing that you can think of, take three to five seconds to pause quietly and wait.

Becoming a Master of the Pause
All excellent listeners are masters of the pause. They are comfortable with silences. When the other person finishes speaking, they take a breath, relax and smile before saying anything. They know that the pause is a key part of good communications.

Three Benefits of Pausing
Pausing before you speak has three specific benefits. The first is that you avoid the risk of interrupting the prospect if he or she has just stopped to gather his or her thoughts. Remember, your primary job in the sales conversation is to build and maintain a high level of trust, and listening builds trust. When you pause for a few seconds, you often find the prospect will continue speaking. He will give you more information and further opportunity to listen, enabling you to gather more of the information you need to make the sale.

Carefully Consider What You Just Heard
The second benefit of pausing is that your silence tells the prospect that you are giving careful consideration to what he or she has just said. By carefully considering the other person’s words, you are paying him or her a compliment. You are implicitly saying that you consider what he or she has said to be important and worthy of quiet reflection. You make the prospect feel more valuable with your silence. You raise his self-esteem and make him feel better about himself.

Understanding With Greater Efficiency
The third benefit of pausing before replying is that you will actually hear and understand the prospect better if you give his or her words a few seconds to soak into your mind. The more time you take to reflect upon what has just been said, the more conscious you will be of the real meaning. You will be more alert to how his words can connect with other things you know about the prospect in relation to your product or service.

The Message You Send
When you pause, not only do you become a more thoughtful person, but you convey this to the customer. By extension, you become a more valuable person to do business with. And you achieve this by simply pausing for a few seconds before you reply after your prospect or customer has spoken.

Action Exercises
Here are two things you can do immediately to put these ideas into action.

First, take time to carefully consider what the customer just said and what he might mean by it. Pausing allows you to read between the lines.

Second, show the customer that you really value what he has said by reflecting for a few moments before you reply.


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