Tag Archives: sales pipeline

The Friendly World of LinkedIn

19 Mar

gif smile

In February, I wrote a blog that I thought had a shot at being featured on a channel of LinkedIn Pulse (link to article here: The 50* Largest Groups on LinkedIn). It’s not really an “article”, but a list filling a void that I couldn’t find updated anywhere on the world wide web. After publishing and getting some organic steam, I decided to drive as much traffic to my post as possible. I did some considerable research on the topic of getting featured on LinkedIn Pulse and certainly got a lot smarter along the way as I interacted with a lot of friendly connections…

receive

The primary way that my post received a lot of attention was by reaching out to my network one by one and asking for their support with the article. I certainly didn’t have time to invite all 14,000 of my connections, but I asked about 400 people and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support from my network.

I used the opportunity to reconnect with 100 people that I hadn’t communicated with in some time and I shared it with 50+ clients asking them for a ‘like’. Then I rolled up my sleeves over the weekend and really dug into mining my connections and asking the biggest influencers in my network for help.

Who were the last 250 people I asked?

lion1. LION’s aka LinkedIn Open Networkers. I may go a little overboard as a recruiter connecting with other LION’s (I have over 2,000 of them), but they have real value and I saw this in action. I didn’t invite all of them, given this was actually me doing the invites (I don’t let my virtual assistant touch my LinkedIn due to it containing many real relationships, so I don’t want them to feel spammed). Instead, I searched through the LION’s that were most active, the ones that had the most connections and the individuals that also wrote articles that I could help to cross-promote. LION’s typically have a lot of connections so their resharing value is exponential.

I sent them different versions of this message (within LinkedIn):

Hello Susan, I’m trying to get this article featured on one of LI’s Pulse channels. Is there any way I could get you to reshare it and/or comment on the article? Let me know how I can return the favor. Many thanks! ~Drew

bee1

2. The Busy Bees. I asked people that were more active on LinkedIn. I view my newsfeed almost every morning, so I’m aware of who is most involved in using LinkedIn. These connections certainly got an invitation.

3. Recruiters and HR Professionals. They use LinkedIn probably more than any job title. All of the recruiters and HR folks that I know well received a message from me.

4. Groups. These weren’t individual people I messaged; I went to almost all of my LinkedIn groups and posted my article there. In turn, this generated a lot of visibility from 2nd and 3rd degree connections. Since I do not promote very often in my groups, I don’t think any took down my post. A lot of them were listed in the article, so it was certainly relevant material.

I assumed I’d get help from 1 out of every 10 people but that ratio ended up being closer to 1 out of every 4. The number of reshares was my biggest surprise and more than not, they reposted with a nice plug on the blog post and me. The comments were awesome as well and many of them came with thoughtful questions and meaningful feedback.

thumbsblogOngoing, I realized who in my network could help again if I asked. I’m guessing half of the aforementioned connections would be annoyed if I asked for another “favor” this month, but the other half offered to help anytime. These 75 or so connections (you know who you are) recognize the enormous value of a supportive community on LinkedIn. I will be liking their posts, reading their articles (and reposting if I like the material), joining some of their groups and likely asking for their help in the future.

As of today, I have over 800 views of my article, 168 likes, 47 comments and 97 reshares. Woo hoo! Of course, it never got featured on a channel of LinkedIn’s Pulse, which was my original objective… but it did garner a lot of attention, my answer on Quora is on the first page of results when you Google “largest LinkedIn groups”, I have a meeting with a new prospect and last Friday, I got a call from a radio host that wants me to be featured on his program. Listen to me live on Cover Your Assets with Todd Rooker on ESPN 1500 AM 8:00-9:00 am on April 13th!

I have been loudly reminded all over again of the utility of LinkedIn and the value of my 1st degree connections. The key is to actively engage with them on a regular basis. We all have only so much time… but I don’t think you can afford not to comb through your relationships and communicate with them on a regular basis. Thank you, Microsoft and LinkedIn, for your imperfect but valuable social media site. A thousand thank-you’s to my network for your ongoing support!

It’s time to grow faster~ Drew

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

blueoctopusllc.com

P.S. Can I still get featured? If you like this post, please give it a thumb. If you benefit from reading my articles, please go here and give me a like, comment or reshare: The 50* Largest Groups on LinkedIn

 

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/friendly-world-linkedin-drew-schmitz/

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

 

 

 

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.

 

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

 

11 Ideas for Generating Leads

6 Feb

Leads Week 2

I’m following up on my last blog “Generating Leads” (http://bit.ly/2nOpCSt) where I lamented the constant struggle of small businesses in finding enough balance to be able to focus on the top of the sales pipeline.

I asked the question – Who inside your business will be selling on Monday morning and is focused on lead generation?” Lead gen is MUCH more effective if your customer service/operations and sales & marketing functions are divided. With that in place, we can tackle some of the following actions…

11 Ideas for Developing More Sales Opportunities:

  • Referrals. The best lead is one referred by a client. Offer an incentive discount program for these. You should be asking every happy client for referrals on somewhat of a regular basis.
  • Affiliate Programs. Are there others in your industry that can introduce leads in return for a small percentage of the sale?
  • Testimonials & Reviews. These are crucial and can be shared on your website as well as various places on-line; they will generate exponentially more leads than any brochure about your company.
  • Understand SEO. Whether it’s organic or through a Google Adword campaign, this is no longer an option but a necessity. The success behind search engine optimization lies in understanding the keywords pertinent to your company (and your customers). They are the words that you should be repeating over and over and over again online. This should be the #1 focus on your existing website (as well as most of your online content). Check out this great video specific to Google Adwords: http://bit.ly/2E6ky2S.
  • Write a Blog! Who is the best writer on your staff? Using topics relevant to your customers, what stories do you have to share? Consider guest blogging on other sites – or pay an industry expert to promote your company through their blog.
  • Offer Free Education. What do your potential customers want to learn in 2018? Create a video, a presentation or offer a free consultation. Videos are cost effective and can be shared online through your website, YouTube and countless other platforms. Use Slideshare to broadcast a presentation. Consider sharing the information through a series of emails.
  • Be Effective on Mobile Devices. More than half of your visitors are probably viewing your online content from their smart phone, so be certain it is compatible with mobile browsing.
  • Collect Info. Be sure you are gathering information on prospects who are visiting your site. Offer a quiz or white paper for signing up. Add pop-ups to capture their attention and increase the probability of them sharing their name and email address.
  • Social Media Mining. Uncover and interact with prospects on various social media platforms. Twitter, Facebook and many other sites offer a wealth of information in regards to topics and trends being discussed surrounding your business solution. These also provide an ability to interact with others discussing that content. Go back to your keywords under SEO and you’ll quickly be on the right track to drumming up leads through mining.
  • Public Relations. Share a feel-good story for potentially free PR. It takes a special story if it gets picked up by others – but give it an hour of brainstorming and you might have a great experience to share that is right underneath your nose. Start a pro bono program – or community service project and you have the start of a PR story.
  • Industry Conferences. Attend one either as a displayed vendor or attendee as these are great opportunities for helping you zero in on your best prospects. You’ll likely return to the office with a stack of warm leads.

You can’t do all of the above immediately… but you need to do more if the top of your sales funnel is light. The beginning is focusing on some new methods and brainstorming the best way to implement. It requires some time, but probably not as much as you think. Then you’ll have to answer the next question – WHO is going to follow up on all of these leads? That will be a more exciting challenge!

I’d love to hear from you on some of your successful lead generation programs. Each of my bullets could probably be a blog unto itself… so drop me an email if there is one that you’d like to learn about in more detail.

DREW SCHMITZ
It’s time to grow faster.

If interested in a complimentary copy of my eBook, Sales Neutrinos, please let me know.

Generating Leads

16 Jan

LEADS

One of the business development problems that I see all too often is a failure by companies to create enough leads at the top of the sales funnel.

  • A business tends to worry first about their existing operations – servicing existing customers and fine-tuning their product or service. With leadership typically spending a majority of their time here, business development lags behind…
  • When some companies talk about “sales”, they think it means interactions with existing customers (which is customer service) – and the closest they actually get to sales is working on expanding their business within these accounts…
  • In sales meetings, a majority of the time is usually spent on the aforementioned customers and prospects in the middle or bottom of the sales funnel that are ripe for closing – versus efforts in finding new leads.

None of this is “wrong”… BUT WHERE IS THE LEAD GENERATION?

Large companies have the luxury of hiring people in sales and marketing at many different levels:

Level 1 – They have customer service and operations completely separate from the sales function.

Level 2 – Bigger businesses have outside salespeople, consultants and “closers” that are typically in front of the customers closing deals. They also have a marketing department supporting the efforts of these roles.

Level 3 – They have marketing employees that are constantly focused on generating new leads.

Level 4 – AND they probably have an inside sales team also generating new leads.

If you are an organization with 100+ employees, this probably describes you, but what about those of us in the 1-99 employee category? Who’s worried about lead generation in your business on a Monday morning? In small businesses, this isn’t easy. We are wearing a lot of hats and roles are often crossing over between the operations and sales teams.

I would strongly recommend that you separate the service and salespeople in your business. The salesperson shouldn’t ignore existing customers, but there needs to be a different daily contact for the customer.

With that accomplished, you then need to develop a balanced pipeline. The top, middle and bottom of your sales funnel requires a three-pronged effort of time and resources. Your marketing and sales teams are working together on a weekly, if not, daily basis – and management is leading an organization that has a consistent focus on lead generation, account penetration within existing accounts and closing new prospects.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss specific methods for making this happen. In the meantime, I want you to contemplate once again – Who is worried about lead generation within your business on Monday morning?

8 Paths to Better Team Selling

31 Dec

team-selling

Organizations simply aren’t team selling often enough. Here’s what I mean by team selling…

  1. Include Everyone Involved on the Prospect Side: This includes the buyer whom you start with and initially pitch, the people whose problem you are fixing with your product or service, the influencers and the people who control the budget. If anyone on their end says “no”, “maybe” or “I’m not sure”, you will likely lose the sale.
  2. Also, Include Everyone that can Aid the Sale from Your Organization: In bigger deals, always include a manager or higher exec (the owner if privately held), the technical experts and those involved in servicing future customers. They are included in all stages of the sale.
  3. Introduce Yourself to the CEO Early: You need to respect their buying process and avoid “stepping on toes” in selling to the C-Suite, but MOST OF THE TIME you don’t lose a sale because you call the CEO once and introduce yourself. If actually lose it, you’d hate that client anyway! Let the initial buyer lead the sales process, but never give your final presentation if he/she doesn’t own the budget. One way to stay above board, is emailing your contact that you will be calling the CEO (or Exec) in the same hour that you are making the phone call.
  4. Keep Your Team Informed: As you include everyone from your organization on the big deals, over-communicate with everyone via meetings, strategy discussions, CRM documentation and via email. If you have a strong project management software, this is a great communique for keeping all informed.
  5. Ask your Executive to be Involved in the Final Pitch: Major presentations should always include management, a technical expert (regardless of your product or service) and someone from the servicing team. A team approach of four or more presenters also achieves several benefits: (a) the prospect is impressed that you are taking them seriously (2) all of their questions can be answered (3) if you are smaller organization, a quality presentation with multiple people involved makes you look robust and qualified to handle their needs (d) multiple presenters makes it a lot easier to focus on everyone you are selling to in the room.
  6. Emails: I have a very particular way of selling in a team environment – over-communicate until you are told otherwise by the prospect (again, you rarely lose a sales when keeping the top brass informed). Once it is determined that the prospect is interested and they are a fairly large target, you need to determine all the individuals involved in the sale. Yes, sometimes it may only be two people, but you need to understand their buying process. After a one-on-one introduction to each of these people, keep them CC’d on the major steps moving forward (demos, target dates, information and movement towards a final presentation date). Also, CC everyone on your team that is involved. It’s not ridiculous to send an email to one person and CC seven or more people when you are making a $50,000 sale!
  7. Daily or Weekly Action: How can you not have a next step every week if you have four people selling to four or more decision makers? Action steps create movement. Sales is all about staying in front of them until they say yes or no. You are the ring-leader in the sale, so lead and don’t let it slow down!
  8. Focus on the Ultimate Decision Maker: If he or she doesn’t feel confident in you and your company, they ain’t buying. At the final presentation, focus the presentation on getting all of his/her questions answered first. You have others in the room with you, so your job is to focus your efforts on that one person (and make sure your executive has a similar focus). Understand the budget earlier (I’ll be blogging about this in an upcoming January post), and make sure the money isn’t the reason if the sale doesn’t close.

This isn’t that complicated. Hopefully, you are already doing most of the above – if not, rethink your team sales process. Have a safe, healthy, blessed, lucky and successful 2014!

Happy New Year!

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/131nqty

These 8 Steps Lead to More Closing

25 Jul

keep-calm-and-close-the-deal-3

In my last blog, I discussed the top of the sales funnel. Now, we are assuming you have secured the prospects interest and an in person meeting is set…

Here are the “only” 8 components left to worry about:

1. Metrics: Every sales organization needs to start here with the data and number crunching – the analysis of all historical sales data from the initial leads with suspect to the deals you close. Does it take 2 good leads or 100 until you close a deal? This is a mark for expectations (the odds) and areas for improvement in the process:

  • Total # of leads pre-call (management will want to know the breakdown of these methods and $ per lead)
  • The percentage of these leads that convert to phone or email conversations (qualified as interest)
  • The percentage of the email and phone conversations that lead to meetings, presentations or demos
  • The percentage of meetings that lead to proposals
  • The percentage of proposals that convert to a sale

Compare this data to your peers. Feel free to add more metrics unique to your sales process if it will help you understand your efficiencies. Maybe you need more leads… maybe you need to put more work into your presentation. If you aren’t looking at the sales metrics, then you have no idea if your goals are realistic – you will have no idea how many phone calls or meeting it’s going to take.

2. Listening: How many times have you heard that you have two ears and only one mouth? How many times have you found yourself talking through more than half of a meeting? 1/3 is your time to speak and the other 2/3’s is for the prospect – this is especially crucial if you are meeting with more than one person! We talk when they ask questions. Otherwise, it’s a 60 second pitch and open-ended questions. Writer for Forbes, Sharon Michaels, describes sincere listening as one of the three most important components of successful selling (http://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2011/08/22/3-powerful-skills-you-must-have-to-succeed-in-sales/). If you suck at listening, you suck at sales.

3. Client Meetings: Woo Hoooo! We are finally to the exciting part! What’s the plan? Go in and shake their hand, talk, and hope you charm them? Hopefully, you have a preset agenda, an intentional work flow, and a series of open-ended questions. I have a favorite that I picked up years ago from sales classes at Slattery Sales Group (http://www.slatterysales.com/) and similarly at Sandler Training (http://www.sandler.com/#):

  • Meeting Agreement: “I’m not sure if I’m visiting at the right time, but what I’d like to do is just ask you a number of questions about your business and I’d encourage you to do the same. I can take whatever time you need today or in the future to go as deep as you wish. If it looks like there is no value, we will probably both realize that at the same time and we can end the discussion and get on with our days. Are you comfortable with that approach?”
  • Three Probing Questions: (uncover pain): “I’m never sure which is more important, but usually when I’m talking to a CEO, they’re often dealing with X issues and it’s usually one of two things:” (next should be a money and time problem that is related to your product or service’s solution).
  • A Catch-All Question: Is there anything else keeping you up at night in regards to X?”
  • Summary: “In regards to evaluating (their challenge), what were you planning to do next?” OR summarize issues and ask “What would you like to discuss first?

4. The BudgetHopefully this can all happen as a continuation of the meeting above. In many cases, you can cover this over the phone as a qualifier.

  •       Discussion: What do these issues cost you per month“?” They won’t know. “How could we find out?” What do you think that problem is costing you every year?” They answer and you respond “Interesting. Where did that come from?” (their guess or actual number). “On a scale of 1-10, 1 not being a problem, 10 being a must change, what number would you give your intention to fix the problem?”
  •       You Must Ask This: What is your process for making a decision on this in the present quarter?” Somewhere in here you should find out their process for deciding on you or other vendors. If there are a lot of steps and decision makers, ask “How long can you wait to grind down the vendors while it’s costing your business even more?
  •       Get them to Commit: Assuming we came back with a solution that (1) fixed the problem(s) (2) stayed within your budget and (3) we answered all your questions – What action would you take?” If you don’t get a commitment, say “Tell me more about that” or “I’m not sure I understand.Shut up and work through an often uncomfortable moment and let them talk.

This meeting and budget process works.If you ignore all of my other steps, figure this one out and perfect it. In an ideal world, you can work through all seven steps in one single meeting and come back the next week to sign the contract. If your sales meeting is a demo or showy presentation, great, but work through these seven steps before you put a lot of work into an organization that is still only a prospect.

The proposal should include unique solutions catering to a prospect’s needs. It’s your “canned” proposal with unique answers to their business so that it doesn’t look like your competitors template.

Negotiation – consider never negotiating. If you are a profitable company, I don’t know why you should bother. If you do make sure it’s quid pro quo – a little less of this for a slightly lower price. Here’s a good article on negotiation: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/print-edition/2013/03/01/one-rule-of-negotiating-is-never-to.html?page=all

5. Team Selling: How does team selling work in your organization from the lead generation to close? You should not be an island. Maybe one salesperson can handle 90% of the deals, but what about the big ones? If you are selling something worth more than $10,000, then ownership or management should be involved. In emails beyond the initial stage, cc 3-4 people in your company so the prospect understands they are a big deal and the entire company wants their business. Management can call the prospects when they are primary targets to make their introduction or ask the prospect if they have any questions. The implementation team or project managers that will do the work or deliver the product can make a phone call as well. You may get some internal conflict here, but what’s the point? You are in business to sell services or cool stuff and that means the receptionist and mail clerk may need to get involved in wooing the prospect. Your customers pay their salaries and give everyone job security, so I won’t accept a lot of push back on this part of the sales process. Make sure before the big presentation that someone else is helping you sell and close the big deals.

Are you selling to the entire team on the other end? My teamwork mantra goes both directions. Don’t sell to one person. Figure out their organizational chart and make sure others understand that you are here to make their life easier if their company purchases your product. Obviously, that means keeping the money decision makers involved (ownership or C-suite). It also means finding a co-worker or report that you can cc in those emails, ask questions, and make your introduction and share information and materials. Encourage others to come to the in-person meeting. Your main contact has a 10% chance of getting the measles or leaving the company – do you want to start all over again then? Have your entire team sell to their entire team!

6. Jedi Mind Tricks: Interactions with prospects are opportunities you can learn to control. Before selling your amazing product or service, understand your body language and master the sale. Here are 10 of my favorites:

  • Don’t sit across the table – try to get the spot next to them. This may be difficult to maneuver in a meeting with just one person, but usually you can grab a chair so that you are only looking across the corner of the table (don’t sit down until they are seated).
  • Move slower. Breathe. Pause. Talk slower… Everything in your confidence mode is probably slower than you think. Because you are so comfortable, you aren’t startled by everything and you move slower than the other people around you.
  • Your hands should usually be ABOVE the table and seen when listening or writing. Put your hands on the table with palms up when not writing or talking to show openness that you are listening. Feel free to hold a pen or brochure in your hand when you are talking.
  • Don’t cross your arms. We tend to do this more often to stay warm, but your client or prospect may take it as disagreement (see Brad Pitt in Fight Club).
  • Don’t touch your face when talking. It is a sign you are shy or indecisive. Only Malcolm X can get away with this one!
  • Hold your head and eyes up. Your neck should feel like it is exposed.
  • Don’t lick or bite your lips.
  • Don’t smile or laugh excessively. I’m all for someone smiling, but if you do it too often, it can be taken as a sign of nervousness.
  • Use direct eye contact, but not too much! It can look a little weird if you don’t look away. Your eyes should be on the person or people you are meeting with about two-thirds of the time optimally.
  • If you are thinking in response to a question, you will appear more confident looking directly at the person or to the side (not down).

7. Authenticity: Be yourself! I have all kinds of formulas and scripts, but at the end of the day they need to sound like you and include your personal brand. If you are funny, tell clean jokes. If you are a nerd, then listen better and follow-up better than anyone in the world. Strengths Finder 2.0 is a great book with an online personality exercise that highlights your top 5 strengths. If you like people, these are the only five traits you need to succeed in sales. Capitalize on your strengths. If you don’t like people or pursuing a sale, then we have a bigger problem.  If you can’t have fun selling, you shouldn’t be in sales. Salespeople like winning, competing, helping and interacting with other people. Make sure this isn’t just a way to make more money but an occupation that you can really enjoy.

8. Closing: And then you close. You need to learn and hone this skill. It’s about confidence – confidence in yourself, your company, your product or service, and your comfort with your sales process. There are too many competitors out there and closing is the most important sales attribute. Closing faster than your peers is the mecca.

Practice your meeting work flow over and over and over (did I say over?) again. Record yourself a few times and you will probably hear yourself “um” or “ah” and notice clumsy body language that you’ll want to fix. The great part is, no one was really born understanding how to close. Other salespeople might be more aggressive than you and maybe they learned earlier from a parent that was constantly selling around them – but the reality is you can learn how to be a great closer if you will put the work into it. My #1 suggestion is the script you need to follow in my meeting and budget sections above. The rest of it is about making the little adjustments here and there. Work your ass off, read more about sales and your industry, relax and become a real closer.

Before you start pounding the phone and meeting with anyone that is willing to meet with you, start at the top of the sales funnel in my last blog and move onto this blog and take a day to analyze your sales methodologies. I guarantee you will save yourself days, weeks, and months in the long-term. Good Luck!!

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

@drew_schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

8 Fundamentals of Outbound Lead Generation

15 Jul

BLOG IMAGE edited

I consider outbound lead generation to be everything at the top half of the sales funnel – up until you get in front of the customer for a meeting, demo or presentation. This is “back to the basics”: from total suspect – to that first long conversation you have with a prospect – to asking for the appointment (note that we’re skipping over marketing and inbound lead generation). Even the most successful companies are far from perfect in working through the leads to close process. So don’t worry about the bells and whistles – I suggest perfecting the sales basics.

The 8 Fundamentals You Need to Master at the Top of the Sales Funnel:

1. Targeting: the #1 component of lead generation is taking aim at a very specific audience.

  • Do you know the definition of your best prospect before you waste time throwing darts and selling?
  • What is the niche of your ideal customer?
  • What is their SIC code?
  • What size organization (by employee count or annual sales)?
  • Where are they located?
  • Which titles are you calling on? (we don’t believe in selling to just one)
  • What is unique about your current customers that can carry over to similar organizations?

If you can’t answer these questions quickly, stop selling and update your marketing plan. If you are an employee who has no control over this (and your manager can’t answer these questions), I recommend defining it yourself or looking for a new employer.

2. Data Mining & Management: Many people would throw this under marketing, but most small and mid-size businesses ask their sales reps to do a lot of this. Now you know WHO you are looking for, but all you have is a web site and a phone number. Don’t call the receptionist and ask “Who would I talk to about…”. It’s time to do your homework. Never contact a company without knowing the specific person you are targeting. Sam Richter writes a heck of a great book on this topic that we would highly recommend – Take the Cold Out of Cold Callinghttp://www.amazon.com/Take-Cold-Out-Calling/dp/1592982093. Here are some cheap and easy research sites to find contact names, email addresses and more:

  • LinkedIn
  • Jigsaw
  • Data.com (a Salesforce.com add-on)
  • The Dun & Bradstreet Million Dollar Database
  • Just-in-time mining via Google Alerts, Twitter and other social media tools

Database Management is almost as boring as cold calling, but even more important. In addition to documentation, more than half of sales people don’t use a task list – which is unbelievable. All the components below really don’t matter without building your database for future calls (and calls NOT to make again). We’re assuming you don’t have a photographic memory and your close doesn’t happen in one call like a car salesman. Commit to better documentation and task-listing. Build a broader base at the top of the pipeline by religiously using your database tools.

3. Cold Calling: Since January 1st, we’ve surveyed 176 recruitment candidates asking them the following question: “Which part of the sales funnel do you dislike the most?” 63% said cold calling. We clearly hate doing it. Ideally, your business has mastered the marketing side of lead gen and your outside sales reps or consultants don’t have to make a lot of them; or you have interns or entry-level employees doing this (and ideally, the marketing department is doing the data mining). One option we’d recommend is working with a lead generation company like Volkart May (http://volkartmay.com/). This isn’t about making your sales force’s life easy! If your closers spend too much time making cold calls, they simply won’t have enough time to close more deals.

Read Marketo’s blog post Is Cold Calling Dead?http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2011/09/is-cold-calling-dead.html.

4. Warm Calling: Ideally your sales team is making a lot of these calls. Warmer prospects move so much faster than the suspects developed from scratch. Here are several types of ideal warm calls:

  • Someone you know through a friend, co-worker, business associate, neighbor, mailman, or even your sister’s second cousin once removed!
  • A new contact within a current customer’s organization
  • Referrals from current customers
  • Past customers
  • Follow up contacts from trade shows or networking
  • Introductions through partnerships
  • Second degree connections on LinkedIn

Once the email or phone “conversations” begin with a prospect and they appear interested, it’s time to quickly educate them on your strengths and abilities (a 30-60 second elevator pitch should be sufficient). It is also time to ask questions and learn about the prospect. Every company needs 5-10 “Stage 1” Fundamental Questions that are ALWAYS asked. If your prospecting sales representatives don’t ask these questions, then retrain or fire them. If you don’t have them written down, then do it today.

5. Qualifying: The suspect is interested enough to talk to you for 10 minutes. Now it’s time for the next set of questions. Do you have 5-10 “Stage 2” Qualifying Questions that your sales team is expected to ask? Are they documented and known by everyone that is involved in business development? Are they memorized and practiced so they don’t sound like a script? These questions should be easy to slip into any conversation.

What you are driving at in these qualifying interactions: 

(a) Making this your last conversation with the suspect or

(b) Moving them into the next stage of the sales funnel.

Give your prospect permission to say “HELL NO”. Do not be afraid of “no”! They save you time; maybe’s can waste away your sales career and commission potential. Dependent on their profile, it may be time to simply call on another contact within that same organization.

6. The Pitch!: What are you telling them? Hopefully you aren’t saying much. The best salespeople are often borderline introverts/extroverts that listen, shut up, have attention to detail, and navigate a creative solution.

  1. Ask a lot of open-ended questions that help you understand their needs and drive toward your solution. If you know more than your competition, you can customize your add-on services in your pricing and proposal. If you understand their needs and solution sell, you don’t have any competition.
  2. Tell your stories. Again, these are scripted and PRACTICED stories that sound natural and describe what you have done for similar customers in the past. Tell the stories where you’ve gone over and above for your customers. These are stories they won’t read on your website (which they probably don’t bother reading anyway).
  3. Show them testimonials, references and your product and services. 65% of all people are visual learners (even higher among men). Give them a tour, give them materials they can touch, wow them with a unique presentation, share articles about their industry, or introduce them to your CEO – SHOW THEM SOMETHING!

7. Creativity: Robotically, you can do all of the above, check off your lists and still not have the opportunity to present or meet with the prospect in person. This is your fault. If you qualify your prospects appropriately and then they drop off the map, either (1) they didn’t like you or (2) you weren’t creative enough. Some salespeople are naturally creative. Others need to read a few books and hang out with other salespeople for creative ideas. Stuck and know they are a great prospect? Get away from just making calls and sending emails. It’s time to TAKE A FEW RISKS. All they can do is ignore you or say… “no”.

I once sent a shoe to a prospect asking if I could “get a foot in the door” and it worked. Another time, I delivered donuts to 20 prospects (about 8 years ago when Krispy Kreme was all the rage and had just opened in Minneapolis) – and I ended up meeting with 15 of those 20 prospects face to face.

Personalize your interaction and really get to know your prospect, not just their title, department and tenure. There are a million possibilities if you would only take the risk of looking stupid. Send a golf shirt or box of cigars to the golfer or cigar aficionado (it still works!). Wear some Loudmouth Pants while you are calling on prospects on a Friday afternoon this summer (and bring a cooler full of ice cream sandwiches). It’s called differentiation!

8. Persistence: The last key ingredient is about moving everything to the appointment or presentation stage. They are interested and qualified, but really dang busy. Most prospects don’t immediately agree to meet or look at your demo; they want to see some literature and “get back to you”. Refuse to send them materials unless they agree to pen in a next call, introduce you to other decision makers, or sit down with you for 30 minutes.

This is when you need to get aggressive.

This is where you begin to close.

Great salespeople speed up the sales cycle. 

If they are honestly interested but ask you to call back in two months after they “complete the merger” or “wrap up their quarter”, you obviously need to respect their wishes and follow-up at a later date (but this is why you are selling to more than one person within their organization, right?). Always get a next step set at an agreed time and get it on the calendar.

Movement and everything above demands that you are authentic and are always making a human connection. Ask about their hobbies, challenges, goals and obligations. Remember, you are a mere .1% of their life, so you need to not only understand the company, but intimately connect with the individual(s) as well. If you have to fake it, then find a new career. Great salespeople like people!

Good luck with the top of your sales funnel! I’m looking forward to sharing the next blog on presentations and closing in a couple weeks. Stay tuned!

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

http://www.blueoctopusllc.com

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

@drew_schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/

A Cold Day in Heck

21 Jan

coldThey don’t want what you are selling, they don’t need it or could never “perceive” that they will need it. You call two other people within the organization and realize you probably don’t fit what they need. What do you do? Argh… You call them back in 3 months because you have them on your list and you waste another 12 calls every year of your life on them (and 100 others like them).

Do yourself a favor: give up on a few more. It’s a rare salesperson who can put away bad prospects and focus on other opportunities. A great salesperson can efficiently snuff out the good prospects from the bad, based on a prospect’s budget, level of interest, overall fit and their timing. Be persistent, but when you get to “HECK NO, we don’t need your stuff…”, give it a rest.

QUALIFY BETTER and LISTEN – build up that sales pipeline with another, better prospect that will potentially buy from you in 2014. Are you armed with the best questions for qualification? Are you encouraging them to say YES or NO? The more NO’s you receive, the better your sales pipeline or funnel. The faster you get to NO, the more efficient you can be with your time going forward.

It’s -19 degrees Fahrenheit in Minneapolis this morning and we are suffering and smiling through the day. Here’s to the new, hot prospects that are a phone call away today!

Make it a great day~ Drew Schmitz

drew@blueoctopusllc.com

@drew_schmitz

www.linkedin.com/in/andrewschmitz/