Perspective

27 Apr

perspectiveWe all have our personal “angle” on life and the world in which we live. Mine happens to be a middle-aged white male living in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Furthermore, I’m a college educated, middle-class entrepreneur and divorced father of three wonderful children. I had a paper route at the age of 10, worked as a dishwasher and table “busser” at 15 and have worked in business since I was 16 years old. I’m the middle child with two brothers who live in Europe, my parents are divorced and my father recently passed away. I’ve traveled to most U.S. states as well as 24 countries in my life. The list can be further expanded and quantified by my background, religion, political beliefs, social circles and status in life. These distinctions all give me a certain BIASED perspective in life.

My perspective isn’t wrong… nor are the perspectives of most of you reading this blog. ūüôā It’s our views and belief systems – and it makes us righteous, dogmatic, stubborn and a whole laundry list of terms that we would probably consider negative.

What’s my point? I think we all need to continually consider our own perspectives as we work, parent and play with others in our universe. We probably aren’t as open-minded as we think we are. We all need to consider others’ viewpoints as potential possibilities worth listening to.

  • Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Listen.
  • Compromise.
  • Listen again.
  • Kill them with kindness.

For me, it means slowing down a little and, given my personality, being a little less of a bull on a daily basis. When I want to debate, it needs to come hand-in-hand with listening, asking questions and practicing objectivity… or else, I am wrong. For example, as a fast-talking extrovert, I think SO much differently than a typical introvert. I think and talk at the same time. Introverts typically think, then talk… and it may take them minutes, hours or even days to express their true thoughts and opinions (and they are probably thought through much better than my own).

We might all be right… it’s just dependent upon our perspective. It’s great if you have an opinion, but just for fun, assume you are wrong about every one of those beliefs. If we continually strive for more respectful communication, we may discover a better “right”.

Forward, never straight~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

 

Sales Intelligence

31 Jan

business-intelligence-systems

I’m often asked by companies about purchasing or renting sales and marketing lists (sales intelligence software). First of all, a company needs to determine if and why it’s even a good idea. Clearly, a list is a strategy for the top of the sales funnel. If you have telemarketers or inside salespeople that aren’t making 6 figure incomes, then it might be a good option. If you are paying high end salespeople to cold call from these lists – that are often inaccurate – then you are probably not focusing on ROI.

I’ve worked with a lot of different solutions and below are my suggestions.

Better Intelligence Software:

  • DiscoverOrg
  • RainKing

Good Options at a Cheaper Price:

  • Nimble
  • InsideView

The more popular options that I’d recommend you do not purchase:

  • com (Salesforce)
  • Hoovers
  • Salesgenie

Email Lists: If you are considering buying a list for email campaigns, I would suggest that you don’t. Email marketing companies don’t let you send emails to these lists, the contacts don’t actually know you, your email deliverability will be low and your SEO ranking could be damaged. I’d suggest focusing email marketing on opt-in contacts. Here is a blog which provides 10 ideas for building an opt-in list from Kissmetrics: ¬†https://blog.kissmetrics.com/get-more-email-subscribers/

Higher level salespeople shouldn’t waste their time cold calling. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t pick up the phone every week and make calls into prospects they’ve never spoken to in the past; I just don’t think picking a name out of the “phonebook” (and hoping that it corresponds accurately with company, title and contact information) is a valuable use of their time.

The best salespeople build their own lists. Besides the usual networking and attaining referrals, I think the best solution out there is LinkedIn (and LinkedIn Sales Navigator). In 2017, if you aren’t at least using the free utility of LinkedIn’s basic platform, then you don’t understand modern sales.

LinkedIn isn’t the only option, but it is currently the best “live” social media tool in business. High end salespeople don’t work off of huge lists, they build good contacts one by one through tools like LinkedIn. It’s hard work but it’s effective.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on lists and an effective use of a salesperson’s time gathering sales intelligence.

It’s Time to Grow Faster~

Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Canine Sales

15 Dec

sales-dog

Let me start out with a disclaimer that I’m a dog not a cat guy. I’ve had three wonderful dogs in my life and am allergic to cats – but that has nothing to do with my belief that a salesman needs to be a dog.

If you are operating in a specific niche, I’m assuming you know your target customer and you understand the needs and characteristics of your prospects. Now it’s time to run around the neighborhood and meet those people. Cats are picky and sometimes rude introverts; if you want to excel in sales, below are a few necessary canine characteristics.

High Energy. Today’s business climate requires us to leave no stone unturned. Business development takes a lot of energy and a constantly optimistic attitude. We have to hit the ground running at 8 am and interact with a lot of people until the end of the day. And at 8 pm, we are still peeking at emails on our phone while we carry on with the rest of our lives.

Outgoing. A cautious personality is the last thing you want as you’re going to talk to a lot of people every day on the job. Your easygoing nature can start a conversation; your smile and inquisitive questions will keep that dialogue going.

A Predator. A great salesperson is always on the hunt. It isn’t about knocking on a door once; when you know that you are approaching the right prospect, it’s returning to that door time and time again until you get an order, an appointment, a next step or at least a solid “no” in response.

Playfulness. Let’s face it, many people in the business world are a little boring. A salesperson can bring some humor into a boring meeting or a tough implementation. If you aren’t a comedian, then don’t be -bring your only flavor of fun to your prospects and customers. I’m a HUGE advocate for authenticity and I believe every salesperson needs to bring some genuine excitement to a transaction in order to develop a deeper relationship. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Sensitivity. A prospect or customer also needs you to switch gears at appropriate times in the selling or service process. It’s not always time to push next steps – sometimes you need to sit back and listen or even let the customer cry on your shoulder.

Loyalty. The most likeable canine attribute of a salesperson is being a devoted and faithful vendor. Don’t just service the customer – go the extra mile. Let them know how vital they are to your business. Most importantly, be a great listener in good times and in bad.

Don’t get me wrong, a great salesman has to be smart. You can’t just be a likeable, hard-working person with the dog characteristics above to be a constant performer. Intelligence is an absolute requirement in a salesperson today. You know your product, have done your homework on the prospect and as you listen to the business climate and customers – truly understand the improvements that your product or service can make for the person on the other side of the table. If you are wearing your thinking cap and carry the attributes above, you are going to win over a lot of new customers as well as keep the ones you have in house. Don’t be a cautious feline – be comfortable being a sales dog!

Happy Holidays! ~Drew Schmitz

If interested in a complimentary copy of my sales eBook, click here: Sales Neutrinos or request a PDF directly from me at drew@blueoctopusllc.com. 

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Fire a Client this Month

1 Dec

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

Sometimes in order to move forward in your business, you need to take a step back and look at the landscape of your customer base. Is there a sore thumb taking too much of your time that needs to get the boot?

I work with a company that attacked this problem earlier in the year by asking each member of their account management team three questions:

  1. If you could fire one of your customers this quarter, who would it be?
  2. Why?
  3. If we lost their business, how could we replace that revenue?

The first two questions attacked their primary objective – identifying and generating a discussion on who could be defined as a “bad client”. But the third question ended up leading them to opportunities that they didn’t realize existed (but that story is for another day). It also uncovered some solutions for actually keeping some of their difficult customers. Similar to the simplicity of the questions, they determined that the 8 customers identified had only three possible outcomes: (1) Resolve outstanding issues (2) Raise the rates or (3) Fire the client.

Resolution: Many problematic clients are often mislabeled and shouldn’t be fired. Assuming they aren’t verbally abusing you every week, difficult clients can be serviceable. Sometimes there is an elephant in the room that no one is discussing. Are they are making unreasonable demands? Are they responding to your needs? So often, these issues aren’t explained to the client and therefore the headaches continue. A face-to-face meeting discussing your challenges in fulfilling their needs can often remove the obstacles and change the relationship.

Pricing: If they are just a demanding client, it’s time to raise your fees to the appropriate number that – by the hour – is equitable or similar to your other clients. For companies that sell goods, you can’t always raise that rate, but the servicing fees around the product can always be added or adjusted and guarantees can be better defined. If you are strictly a service company, then your time is your primary asset and it cannot get out of whack for a too long before creating internal problems (loss in productivity, missing other goals and turnover ). If they feel that your rates are unreasonable, they can/will start shopping for an alternative resource.

Fire the Customer: ABC Silver is a mythical customer that makes up 2% of your business and takes 15% of your company’s time. As the problems persist, the issues are addressed in two in-person meetings. The challenges continue and the client continues to not listen or respond to your needs. ABC Silver is a client that needs to be fired. I know you are worried about losing 2% of your sales but flip it upside down – you are going to gain 15% of your time and should easily be able to recoup that lost revenue by focusing on better customers and more business development.

How do you fire a customer? Here are three scripts that may help if you make the transition with a client: http://www.nicholasreese.com/problem-client-scripts/. I personally don’t believe firing has to be as painstaking as you might make it out to be.

Make it a great week~ Drew Schmitz

If interested in a complimentary copy of my sales eBook, click here: Sales Neutrinos or request a PDF directly from me at drew@blueoctopusllc.com. 

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Sexy or Great?

15 Nov

peacock

I attended a conference several years ago and heard a fascinating Swedish economist break marketing and sales down to two simple concepts for success: (1) Sell a product or service that is sexy like a peacock – or (2) Sell something that is great like a lion.

Are you the sexiest in the world at something? Or are you the best in the world somewhere in your service or product offering? The economist’s¬†point was that if you’re not the best in the world in your market, your category or in the differentiators you offer, then you need to stand out like a sexy peacock.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on awesome. You aren’t Google – or Apple – so you have to dominate a space in the market in another way. There are areas in which you can be great. You have to be better – or strive to be better – than anyone else in your category. Maybe it’s in your area of town or maybe it’s a differentiator in your business that no one else offers. What is your niche?

And sexy… this doesn’t mean we need to be Victoria’s Secret (although that category can certainly work for a few companies or individuals). Does your brand resonate and make your audience truly excited? For example, Harley Davidson is a great motorcycle, but there are a lot of extremely good motorcycle companies out there. What they have built is a brand that inspires their fans to hang out with like-minded packs of people and even permanently tattoo its name on their bodies! They get their loyal audience excited to do something more than any other brand in the world. Harley consumers typically commit to buying only this motorcycle for life.

So the basic question to ponder this week – are you Sexy – or are you Awesome?

Make it a great week~ Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Strrrretchhhh Sales

3 Nov

Lion_stretching_at_Ouwehands_2010

 

So you have a sales goal. As a manager, do you regularly set a stretch goal? As a salesperson, do you have an objective you aim for beyond your expected mark? It’s time to have three different numbers that your team is discussing.

Sales Managers

Goals aren’t rocket science. Hopefully your business has already put the work into realistic sales projections. Now, it’s just managing to it over the course of a quarter tied back to activities and the sales funnel. I personally like to have three separate numbers.

1 – The primary sales goal. This is what we need to accomplish to earn commissions and move the needle forward this month and quarter. Is there enough in the pipeline to realistically hit the sales and gross margin numbers? Are you hitting this mark on a regular basis? Do you as the manager believe in the plan?

2 – The fallback position. We don’t like to talk about this one, but halfway through a month or quarter, this may be the one you need to discuss. I call this the save-your-jobs-goal. What is break even? What is acceptable in a down period? You still need to have a measuring stick to pump people up as the current sales goal appears to be losing its luster. We don’t want to be talking about this goal very often but there are objectives that simply define whether your salespeople should even be employed with your business – and everyone needs to understand those minimum expectations.

3 – The stretch goal.¬†And this is the one that we all want to be talking about. Rather than giving everyone an extra “atta-boy” when you are on pace for the primary sales mark, what is the extra 5% or 10% going to do for your business? Wouldn’t it be great to get ahead so that you have some wiggle room later in the year? Does everyone know the stretch goal? Are there rewards for hitting it? For example, your salespeople could move from 5% commissions to 7.5% for everything they sell over the primary sales goal. Maybe incentivize them with an extra day off? Or offer a $500 bonus or weekend trip for surpassing the primary sales goal? I know of one business that allows their salespeople to take off the rest of the month when they exceed their personal plan by 10%. Why not encourage above and beyond?

Salespeople

I would look at these marks in the same light. For example, if your goal this quarter is to hit $250K, what are the ramifications if you hit $200K? Is your job secure if you miss the primary mark two or even three consecutive quarters? Do you have a personal goal that pushes you beyond that mark? Is there an extra reward for doing so? Even if your company doesn’t offer an increase in commission or other reward, it’s time to set your own stretch plan. Maybe it’s time to reward yourself with that new toy you’ve been hoping to buy when you hit $300K this quarter?

I’m certainly oversimplifying some of this. The primary sales goal is often too high or too low – so first off, you have to have confidence in history, average output per salesperson, territories, pipelines and the state of the economy so that the primary mark is realistic and achievable. If that is the case, it’s time to start focusing on the fallback and stretch goals simultaneously. If they don’t exist, create them. You’ll usually be surprised by what people are able to accomplish!

If interested in a complimentary copy of my sales eBook, click here: Sales Neutrinos or request a PDF directly from me at drew@blueoctopusllc.com. 

Forward, never straight,

Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

TRUST

27 Sep

hillary-trump_4

Oh, how I hate discussing politics – especially this year when our two candidates are the LEAST TRUSTED Presidential candidates in my lifetime (http://fortune.com/2016/08/04/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-trust/).

Today, I want to talk about TRUST instead of politics. If your company earns the trust of your clients, you can probably keep a customer for a lifetime. If you are a Sales Director with a number of people reporting to you who like and trust in you, they will fight for you, stay with your organization and be willing to deal with all types of trials and tribulations. If you are a salesperson that develops trust early on with your prospects, your chances of landing them go up astronomically.

4 Keys to Earning Trust in All Relationships

Authenticity – This is usually the first word I use when discussing how to develop trust with your internal team, outside prospect or existing client. Be honest. Be real. Be you. If you approach working relationships similarly to your personal ones, you will develop solid connections with people; AUTHENTIC relationships.

I have a simple rule when it comes to furthering my relationships with people Рwould I want to have a beer or coffee with them outside of my work day? I develop a strong alliance with people who open up and express their challenges. Take a risk and be the first to share a personal weakness and deeper relationships will develop with clients and  co-workers. You just might find yourself looking forward having a Saturday afternoon cup of tea with these people!

Transparency –¬†It sounds simple, but people can more often be passive aggressive instead of being a straight-shooters. Sometimes a prospect doesn’t fit your business model and you need to move on to better possibilities. Sometimes there is a piece of your solution that is flawed for that prospect and you need to confess the gap early on so that it can be overcome. Sometimes hidden costs aren’t revealed – and your new client ends up upset in the early stages of working with you. Be transparent or you will lose trust.

Money comes to mind when I think about transparency. Discuss it early and figure out if the prospect understands their complete investment and has the budget to afford your product or service solution. Sharing the costs in the beginning will avoid wasting a lot of your time as well as the time of your prospect or client. You need to convince them of your value and ROI as opposed to dancing around the $ numbers. 

Keep Your Promises – We aren’t always keeping them. If you tell an employee/prospect/client that you are going to do something by Friday, then do it. If things change, make sure you communicate that on Thursday before the promise fizzles on Friday afternoon.

I’ve made a lot of promises that I shouldn’t have made because they ended up costing me more time or money than I really want to invest. Sometimes you need to take the hit on the project’s cost or delivery time frame, “bite the bullet” and just do it. Other times you just need to come back to them and renegotiate the terms BEFOREHAND and discuss why you are having difficulty delivering on a specific promise.

Learn from mistakes WITH your customer¬†– We are all human and things happen within our companies that are sometimes out of our control. Often, you develop better relationships with your customer having gone through problems together (and displaying authenticity, transparency and keeping your promises as you overcome the challenge). They aren’t deal-breakers if you are willing to put the work into it.

I remember a number of years back when I placed two salespeople with a marketing firm in Minneapolis. The employees came back to us after being hired and shared that the workplace was a mess. The entire office was cluttered and unclean and the garbage was typically overflowing. This basic problem was a little embarrassing to address with our client. But guess what? The management team showed concern and the office was dramatically cleaned up within the month. The employees were pleased and are still working there to this day. The client remains a repeat customer and in the end, thanked us for this outside feedback. Crisis averted!

Act like your children are watching you from 8-5:00 every day. My 13 year-old understands these basic rules. If only Hillary, Donald and other politicians acted on these principles, we wouldn’t be in such an embarrassing political pickle!

It’s time to grow faster.

~Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

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