Ask for the Referral

19 Sep

referral

Over half of buyers consult third party sources before reaching out to a company (https://www.avanade.com/~/media/asset/point-of-view/the-new-customer-journey-global-study.pdf).

Almost 3 out of 4 executives prefer to work with companies referred by someone they know (https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/business/sales-solutions/global/en_US/c/pdfs/idc-wp-247829.pdf).

Your next customers are likely going to be referred to you. Are you doing enough to seek them out?

Let’s pretend you sell software. Here’s what you should NOT say:

GeorgeI really appreciate your business over the last few years. I’m wondering if you know of any other organizations that might benefit from our software?

“Any other organizations” is really broad. Most people can’t think of a good referral off the top of their head and five minutes later, they aren’t thinking about you or your request. Instead, be very specific when phrasing your question. When you paint a vivid picture of WHO makes a good customer, then they can more easily narrow it down in their mind.

George, we are looking to expand our business next year and our ideal customer is a college or university like yours. Would you be willing to introduce me to another school’s IT Director that might benefit from our software?

Being specific is likelier to increase your referrals. I’d suggest asking for an introduction either over the phone or face to face. I don’t like the idea of requesting this via email as you are asking for a big favor – and you don’t want it to sound impersonal.

How can they facilitate the referral? 

Unlike the last step in making a phone call, I like using email in these introductions. If your customer can draft a 2-3 sentence email introducing you, it’s easy and they are completely off the hook; the rest of the conversation doesn’t require their inclusion. Offer to write a draft email for them that they can simply cut and paste. I get referrals – but I often must remind them two or three times before it actually happens.

If the referrer wants to be more involved, great – but an email is a relatively simple step for them and it puts the onus on you to carry it forward.

How do I thank my referring client?

When you land the business, absolutely send a hand written thank you note. If you know the customer well, then maybe you can customize a gift or send a gift card.  One method that isn’t going to offend the person regardless of their internal policies is buying a donation gift card from TisBest (http://www.tisbest.org) to send your customer that can be used at one of 300+ charities of their choosing.

When is the last time you referred someone to your client?

I’m guessing if you have introduced a prospect to your client, it’s going to be easy to ask them to return the favor. We need to build symbiotic partnerships with our customers.

You don’t get referrals unless you deserve them! So be selective about who you are asking.  Requesting a referral is a small effort that can lead to big results.

Forward, never straight~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

 

 

 

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Stupid Methods for Motivating Salespeople

12 Sep

stupidscaredblog

There are a lot of bad sales managers and bad leadership techniques – below I’ve highlighted some of the dumber methods I’ve seen time and time again. These eight tactics will not only lead towards lower long-term sales accomplishments, but also put a company at risk of losing some of their better salespeople.

  1. Scare them. A manager should be clear and direct – but if your sales force lives in fear of repercussions and erratic management feedback, they will move on to greener, friendlier pastures.
  2. Micromanage tenured salespeople. Starting in year 2, salespeople should be motivated by their manager, feel supported by their company and understand expectations. If they miss their marks, there should be constructive criticism and strategy discussions to help them reach their goals.
  3. Be their buddy. Opposite of micromanaging, I’ve seen too many managers befriend and coddle their salespeople. You shouldn’t be going out for drinks with them on a regular basis – your job is to coach and support them. If they see you as a friend, all kinds of problems can arise once they are under-performing.
  4. Discuss internal problems. 99% of your conversations with salespeople should be about clients, prospects and external problems.
  5. Avoid meeting prospects and customers. I’ve witnessed too many managers completely step away from interactions with their customer base when promoted from salesperson to sales lead. This is a great way to see your salespeople in action and teach in a hands-on manner.
  6. Force them to work in the office. If they are outside salespeople that you want in front of their customers, let them be responsible for their own 8-5:00 schedule. If they are hitting their marks, why are you worrying about where they start or end their day? If they fall behind, focus on their expected activity not the length of their lunches.
  7. Change their commission structure. I understand commissions may need to be tweaked or adjusted occasionally – but have you changed the commission structure more than twice in the last 5 years?
  8. Never help them hit their goals. As the sales leader, this is your #1 job to HELP your salespeople close more deals. Any way you can do that should be your first priority of the work day.

Are any of these bad habits a part of your routine? Ask YOUR manager to go through this list with you. At your monthly meetings and annual employee reviews, allow your sales employees to give you feedback as their manager.

Sales leaders should be good listeners, motivators, mentors, and parrots (repeatedly discussing sales targets and expectations). Your salespeople are already stressed by their goals, prospects and clients – don’t add to their stress. If you help them solve problems, they are destined to surpass expectations. So, spruce up your leadership tactics and build that better sales team.

Make it a great day~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

It’s time to grow faster.

Time to Purchase a Sales CRM?

23 Aug

Customer Relationship Management

The short answer is, YES.

Last year, Salesforce, the largest sales CRM provider, grew their revenue by 26%. Companies are getting on board with CRM’s earlier than ever. If you are a small company in a growth stage, I would strongly recommend that you implement a basic program like Salesforce immediately. I honestly don’t have a strong opinion about the best CRM – there strengths to all of them and I’ve consulted within many business using different programs. 

Here are 3 resources for investigating the software that works best for your business: 

https://zapier.com/learn/crm/best-crm-app/

https://www.nutshell.com/blog/infographic-capterra-best-crms/

https://www.softwareadvice.com/crm/small-business-comparison/

We can’t afford it right now. They aren’t that expensive relative to other software purchases and there are many options at a reasonable price. A business with 2-3 users can find a basic SaaS CRM for less than $100 a month.

Our business is too small. I’m amazed at how many companies are still using Excel or another type of spreadsheet! If you only have two people selling inside your business there is a daily need to share information on prospects and customers. Simply put, you are never too small for a sales CRM.

My salespeople don’t like using it. Too bad – it’s a part of the job in 2018. It won’t slow them down and, in fact, should help them with pipeline management and efficiently sharing information with colleagues and management.

If your sales team is battling you on using a sales CRM, then you have some training ahead of you. Technology isn’t a burden, it’s a necessity… and this expands way beyond the use of a CRM. More selling than ever is happening via email, social media and eCommerce and not on the telephone or in person.

As a manager, the sales CRM will provide you with better visibility to customer/prospect analytics, pipeline revenue, real-time insights and long-term forecasts. With the ability to automatically convert your current information, it’s a much easier implementation than you realize.

If you are putting this off, bite the bullet and get this in place before the end of the year. Or how about tomorrow? Let me know if you have any specific questions that I can answer regarding purchasing and implementing a sales CRM. 

Forward, never straight~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

It’s time to grow faster.

 

I was a BAD Salesman

7 Aug

snakeoil salesman

About 15 years ago, I went to a sales training course and on the first day, took a sales assessment. Despite selling for over 5 years, I scored below average on the assessment and really took it to heart realizing that I had to make some changes. Since I started my business almost 10 years ago, my close ratio has steadily increased (and I aced the same sales assessment when I retested two years ago!).

Below are 8 things I’ve changed in my sales process:

  1. Be real. Being authentically ME was the #1 thing I’ve learned over the years. They buy from the genuine Drew – so I don’t say anything I don’t believe. I never “act” when I’m in front of the buyer. I laugh and tell clean jokes (most people like them!).
  2. Be curious. I was already curious but talked too much – and therefore didn’t listen enough. Today, I ask more open-ended questions and really listen to the prospect or customer’s words (and body language). A universal truth: if you are listening, people immediately like you more.
  3. Be willing to lose. Often, the worst thing a salesperson can do is be overly-persistent with the wrong prospects. When I stopped caring about failure, my work became much more efficient.
  4. Don’t cold call. 99% of my clients know me or are referred to me. So, I stopped knocking on cold doors.
  5. Say NO. I can’t do it all and have disappointed many in the past. Now I only make promises I can keep.
  6. Help them see the big picture. I enjoy selling to small and mid-size owners and CEO’s because they understand the overall goals of their business. If I can get them to discuss the connection between sales and their long-term goals, we are having a unique conversation that they aren’t having with my competitors.
  7. Go slow. I always persist until the sale does or doesn’t happen, but I give them time (when it’s clear that they need time). Many of my sales happen 6-18 months after the initial conversation.
  8. Follow a process. Salespeople hate scripts, but I’m a believer in repeating what works. I have certain verbiage I use for initial prospect calls over the phone. I have standard questions I ask on every first appointment. I follow something similar to the Sandler Sales process. You don’t have to memorize everything but I believe there’s a “science” to sales that we can’t ignore.

Your quest to become a great salesperson should never end. What do you need to work on?

Forward, never straight~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

It’s time to grow faster.

 

Lessons from my World Travels

1 Aug

earth junk

I accomplished what few Americans do before 65 – I took two vacations in one month. I’m not bragging as it comes with its share of challenges (being away from Minnesota for 3 out of 4 weeks requires a little juggling of the demands of work and home, plus you really miss your kids if you don’t bring them along!).

On the first trip, I traveled solo to Sweden to visit my brother’s family living there and the second trip was to Colorado with my girlfriend. June was a fantastic voyage, but I’m more than happy to be back to the “norms” of Minnesota summer!


From a business practicum, what stands out to me about this past month is people. Being a traveling extrovert, I met many great Swedes and Coloradans, plus a horrible woman in Denver. There were many transactional exchanges at airports and gas stations that even surprised me.

I was reminded that I’m always in the “elevator” with the next potential client… and if I don’t think of that, then I miss opportunities. I imagine that a prospect could be sitting on the park bench right next to me. There were two connections I made in Colorado that could lead to new business for Blue Octopus!

The Good 

  • Many kind people and fellow travelers. Especially outside the U.S., I was blown away by some of their helpfulness. a.) One man walked me four blocks out of his way to help me with directions. b.) On a bike ride in Sweden, I was stopped by some locals and offered a beer as they sat on a bar patio. c.) In Stockholm, I met a woman in their legislature who chatted with me over fish and chips. She returned to the restaurant to make sure we connected on LinkedIn.
  • Even more great customer service people. a.) A bartender walked into the restroom to quietly warn me about the drunk we were sitting next to in Denver (suggesting we slide down a couple spots). b.) I think the woman from KLM airlines held an entire flight for me for 5 minutes; at the very least, she made sure my bag got on the plane as I ran to the gate. c.) I was navigating the light rail in Denver one day and this woman helped me figure out the confusing transfer to a second bus (“come with me, I’m going that way!”).
The Bad 

  • I’m not going to get into specifics on Mariah in Denver, but it was the worst customer service I’ve ever received in my life.
  • I had six flights in total – I was bumped twice and two other times the plane was delayed by more than 90 minutes. Apparently when you check that little Terms & Conditions box, you are agreeing that they can overbook the flight and you might get bumped. Airlines like United, Spirit and Frontier are unbelievably bad… I’ve always had more luck with KLM, Delta and Southwest.

 

The 8 Things I Learned:
  • You never know when/where you’ll find the next client – and you don’t have to be wearing a suit. So always be friendly and say please and thank you.
  • The Mariahs (sorry nice Mariahs) are everywhere. They wear the same face at work or play. I try to stay as far away from them as possible as they’ll pull you apart (clients, candidates, family or friends).
  • When meeting someone for the first time, assume their dog died today. I’m a spazz that jumps to conclusions. People have good days and bad days – if you return their attack on the bad day, they will reciprocate (often understandably).
  • Never ever visit the IRS office (a story for another day).
  • Ask for help. From my experience, 50% of the world LOVES to help their fellow man. So, if your Google Maps isn’t connecting, then ask the first friendly-looking person for directions.
  • Don’t ask the other 50% for help. They are Mariah. They carry a neutral or negative vibe (i.e. people who don’t make eye contact) … and it is easy to see by their eyes and body posture or words that they are exchanging with the person next to them.
  • Don’t refinance your house in between two vacations. I won’t bore you with the details…
  • Be brave. Fear is the #1 reason we don’t discover new opportunities or meet new people. Get comfortable asking for help and looking stupid. It’s all in your head. If your mind gets foggy, then take a nap or go to bed early (you are on vacation!). The only other reason you don’t ask for directions is laziness.

Make it a great day~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

It’s time to grow faster.

 

 

The Dog Days of August

31 Jul

dogdays

How was your summer? Nope, it’s not over, but it is getting closer to Labor Day…

When it comes to my business cycle, August is always similar to the January turn at the beginning of the year. It’s still a bit slow – but we all know a busy season is approaching us. Given the Blue Octopus’ pipeline, it may be the busiest fall/winter yet! So… I can stall a few more weeks – or get “back on the horse” and prepare as if I’ll have no time September through December.

An August To-Do List:

  1. Email, Paperwork, etc. Are your files in order? If you don’t clean out that inbox this month, you are going to find July emails at the bottom of your inbox in January! Delete ’em, refer them onto someone else, file them away or take action.
  2. Finances. Personally and professionally, where is the cash flow going to fall for the rest of 2018? Match this up with the planning that I suggest below in #8.
  3. Networking. I vacationed twice in June and July and my networking plummeted. I have a lunch, three meetings and a networking event set for the first half of August. I’m shooting for at least 12 of these in August before I start getting comfortable.
  4. Marketing. I have a nearly finished second sales management book that I’ve been sitting on since April. It’s time to finish proofing and editing so I have a prayer of getting it out this fall. Partnering with Elite Holding Co., I also released a YouTube video last month (https://youtu.be/jkMq-HS-iZM)… and we need to get two more done this month.
  5. Sales. Not everyone is working hard this month, but those that are in the office aren’t getting as many emails and phone calls. This is a great month to keep the sales push going. Catch them now and you probably double your chance at a meeting with them in September.
  6. Old Connections. A different bent on sales & marketing is simply dropping an email to those that you haven’t talked to in the last few months. My best clients and referrers are practically friends. Don’t forget to proactively reach out to them regularly (and ask in return if there is anything you can do for them).
  7. Management. My personal responsibilities are to my recruiting team. I’m the salesman and they do the bulk of the recruiting and screening work. It’s time for a simple 2-way review. I certainly evaluate their performance but a one-on-one with each of them is important to make sure (a) Are we on the same page? (b) How is your boss doing? (c) What do you need in order to hit our numbers the rest of the year? This one hour interaction goes a long way towards better retention of your employees.
  8. Planning (and Thinking). It might sound stupid, but this could be your last chance to really think before the boss, clients, spouse and kids start dictating most of your schedule. Lay out your year and 4Q goals. Are they still achievable? What actions need to take place?

People are generally happier in the summertime (particularly here in Minnesota), so it’s a better time to catch them on a good day and bend their ear.

Don’t let your August blow away without some serious planning as well as taking action on that plan. What are you going to accomplish before Labor Day??

It’s time to grow faster.

Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

 

How to NOT Sound Like a Salesperson

16 May

Stopx

Before you meet a prospect, or even speak to them, you are probably trying to catch them via email or LinkedIn (or in some type of written format). You may get lucky reaching the decision maker through a call or knock on their door – but usually it’s not that easy if you have any type of complex solution.

Here are two examples of how I was approached by salespeople this week:

#1) Hey Drew! I’m curious – how long have you been a coach and who is your target audience? I ask because I see Business Coaches being incredibly successful here on LinkedIn in terms of finding new clients and winning new business. The key is replicating the real life, 1-on-1 relationship building you do with prospective clients here on LinkedIn. (I have a whole system I teach on how this works and the Business Coaches I’ve shown it to have had great success.) Happy to share some free tips and strategies if you’re interested. I can send over some free resources. And if you’re not interested, no worries at all. Joe.

Good:

  • He started with a question.

Bad: 

  • He starts out with “Hey” (too casual) and an exclamation point. Salespeople shouldn’t use !’s in an opener. It’s salesy.
  • The question is followed by a bunch of “blah, blah and blah” (too long).
  • Joe tells me in detail, his opinion of why he’s awesome.
  • There’s no call to action at the close.

#2) Drew! I am doing a giving experiment… What’s a challenge or question you’re facing right now related to Facebook Ads or acquiring more users for your SaaS company? My agency helps numerous SaaS companies to dramatically increase user acquisition with Facebook Ads. How can someone like me help you? I would love to help solve your challenges. Be in touch, Aaron

Good:
  • It’s short enough that I read it all the way through upon receiving it.
  • There is a promise that Aaron may reach out again… but it’s still not necessarily a call to action.
Bad: 
  • EEEEEEK – exclamation point.
  • “Doing a giving” is a weird start and I had to take the time re-read it to understand his message.
  • I’m not a SaaS company.
Email Tips:
  1. Keep them short and sweet. Greeting, 2-3 sentences, a call to action and signature.
  2. Make sure your messages are clear so an 8th grader can understand it (the Star Tribune is written at a 5th grade reading level and the Wall Street Journal at an 8th grade level).
  3. Make sure you understand your prospect’s company and role.
  4. Don’t use exclamation points when prospecting.
  5. Ideally, get an introduction – or approach them with some commonality through LinkedIn. Now it’s a WARM lead which tremendously increases your odds of a response.

Note that I generally love exclamation points! I literally remove a couple of them every time I re-read a message before sending – as I typically have 3-4 of them. It makes us sound dumber and too familiar to a stranger. I use them with my internal employees and long-term clients, but not my prospects.

Whatever you say, keep it short and sweet – or they may not even read it. If you’ve established them as a strong prospect, follow-up 5-6 times afterwards (emails or phone calls). Persistence often pays off.

Good Luck! ~Drew

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com