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How not to communicate…

Well, I am a great fan of emails. After the invention of wheels, I consider email application as the greatest invention. Even after whatsapp, messenger, skype etc, email still holds its place in this era of instant communication.

But do we really know how to write an email?

That sparks interest in the reader’s mind to know more about you, your company, your products etc.

I received an interesting email today from someone trying to sell me something. This was her second email. The first email from her was received by me on the 19th of last month. I am not letting you know who that is. That’s not important.

In the first email she had said that my company [with name] has been shortlisted as the “most powerful company in XYZ domain” and will be featured in their magazine and she had stated the benefits of getting published in their magazine. Then she had asked me to revert so that she can share the quote. Wow! From “Cold Call” stage to “Quotation” stage in a snap. I wish I can do that as well. Not really.

I replied to her then, asking her to remove my email id from her mailing list since it didn’t interest me. Neither did I subscribe to anything nor did I express interest on any of their services.

After a month, today I received the second email in spite of me asking her to remove my email Id. What’s more. This time it was more stronger in language.

Excerpts [if the language is not right, please excuse me, it is published here exactly as I received]:

In the rare opportunities, I have to work on client acquisition, I have not had much success reconnecting with you. It might just be that you don’t have any interest in talking with me — and that’s okay. I just need to know whether or not to keep trying.

So, to make this nice and easy for you, you can reply with a simple keystroke. Just reply with either A, B, C, D, or E and I’ll know what to do, but please do reply so that I can stop emailing you if you’re not interested.

A. Stop emailing me with attempts to connect but continue to send invites for future opportunities.

B. Don’t send me anything, remove me from your list. We don’t currently and won’t ever need your opportunity.

C. I want to talk, we need some help, but the timing isn’t right. Keep trying.

D. I would like to schedule a time to talk. We need some help. Please send your calendar link.

E. I forgot who you are. What’s this about?

 

The funny part is this: “to make this nice and easy for you…..”. In fact she wants me to make it easy for her. You can’t do prospecting over cold email and also automate it. It is so naive, unprofessional, bossy, accusing, all rolled into one.

Instead, the sender should have used a professional email marketing tool with “unsubscribe” buttons and sent an intro email with few lines and asking for permission to continue writing without any demands. Forget business.

Clients are not waiting in queue with the cheque to handover to you. Stop dreaming.

Write well.

Spark interest.

Serve without any expectation.

Build trust.

Pick up the phone and ask for an appointment.

Meet.

See if they have any problems that you can solve.

Add value.

Propose.

Negotiate.

Close.

Deliver.

Retain.

Where is this sales person right now, in this process? She hasn’t even started yet. But thanks to her for teaching us how not to write emails.

 

Happy Selling !!

 

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Questions to ask yourself about your Sales Function

What Sales methodologies do you use ?

  1. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff, popularly known as SPIN
  2. Keeping it Simple, being iNvaluable, Aligning your activities with your Customer’s priorities or SNAP
  3. Conceptual / Solution Selling
  4. Consultative Selling

Do you have a proven Sales process ?

The steps right from leads / cold calling / known universe to various sales stages till closure including but not limited to Prospecting, Validating, Needs assessment, Budgeting, Mapping Customers Org Structure, Demonstrating, Proposing, Closing, Following-up is a Sales Process. The question is to ask is: Is your Sales Process proven? Has it delivered the desired results quarter after quarter?

Do you need a CRM [Customer Relationship Management] Software? Why?

  1. What problems are you trying to solve using a CRM ?
  2. How are you currently handling sales ?
  3. Where and how do you find your clients ?
  4. Why should customers buy from you ?
  5. What implication will CRM have on your organizational goals ?
  6. Why is it important for your Organization to think like your customers ?
  7. Do you know the things you should keep in mind while implementing a CRM ?
  8. Why is CRM Adoption more important than anything else ?
  9. Do you know that a CRM can be used for Field Service, Channel or Partner Management or even for Product Management ?
  10. And it can be used for Banking and Financial Services Sales ? Have you heard of Vertical CRMs ?

Do you understand the power of CRM Analytics or in other words Customer Analytics?

  1. Why do you think CRM Analytics important ?
  2. Lead stage to Close – how much time did the Prospect spend at each sales stage
  3. Activities Vs Deal size – is your salesforce spending time and effort on high value deals
  4. Weighted Vs Goal, Balanced Vs Goal, Pipeline Overview & Other snapshots
  5. Forecasting, Forecasting Vs Actuals
  6. Is 20% of your prospects giving you 80% of your revenue and vice-versa ?
  7. Have you invested on Customer Analytics ?
  8. How Dashboard Creation can help you and your Top management ?
  9. What is the purpose of Campaign Analysis & Customer Segmentation ?
  10. Why should anyone undertake Trend, What-if & Pipeline Analysis ?
  11. Are you getting actionable insights from your customer data ?

Sales Training and Motivation:

  1. When was the last time your Sales Force attended a Training program?
  2. How often do you train your Sales Force?
  3. Are they equipped to take your company to the next level?
  4. Are they motivated enough?
  5. Who fixes the compensation for your Sales Force?
  6. What incentives do you give them?
  7. Do you recognize your best sales persons?
  8. What plans do you have to continuously educate your Sales Force?
  9. Is your back end team [Product Management, Delivery Teams] taking regular feedback from your Sales Force?
  10. Are you occasionally involving your Product / Delivery people  to meet prospects and customers along with your Sales Force?

I am sure these questions will help you frame fresh Sales Strategies, Process and Methodology. Spruce-up is not just desired but mandatory for growth.

Happy Selling !!

 

 

Pic Courtesy: http://www.freepik.com/free-vector/businessman-agreement-cartoon_774932.htm

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Step by Step Guide to Prospecting

What is Prospecting ?

The process of identifying prospective or potential new clients for your business is called as Prospecting. It is during this process you qualify prospects [or leads] and see whether there is a fit between what he/she needs and what you have got to offer.

Why should you undertake Prospecting ?

Prospecting is done to identify new customers. It is very important to do Prospecting on a continuous basis. New customers are very important for a business to grow. It is also worthwhile to remember that existing customers have to be retained at any cost since the cost of acquiring new customers is too high compared to the cost of retaining existing customers. But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing prospecting or stop acquiring new clients. The only way to Growth is to acquire new customers at whatever cost.

Sales people normally do cold calls to identify prospects. But traditional Cold-calling, as we know it, is dead. In today’s world, one does a lot of homework before picking up the phone. Whether one is calling a list from a database or calling on the leads that have come in through their website or Ad campaigns, one has to do plenty of homework before connecting with the Prospect.

Let us now take a look at how to do Prospecting.

Step by Step Guide to Prospecting:

  1. The first step is to define your target market. Or your target segment.
  2. Then undertake a study of your target market or target segment.
  3. Understand what is causing them headaches or what goals do they have for their organization this year.
  4. Find the right set of people in Organizations within the target market, those who are most likely to have a need for your products/services.
  5. You may use LinkedIn and/or any other service that gives you access to your target segment including the decision makers direct phone nos.
  6. Understand the Buyers’ Persona.
  7. Make a list.
  8. Run a campaign. Whether yours is a B2B or a B2C. It can be an Email campaign or an Ad campaign on the web or both.
  9. Now, get your Story ready. [Not the pitch.] People like stories. Let the Story be inspiring. Let it make the buyer sit upright and take note of it and let it induce the buyer to take action. The buyer will then help you sell to their organization. It will be his/her baby from then on.
  10. Attend Trade Shows, Road Shows, Industry Conferences, Workshops, Seminars where your target segment is likely to participate. Network. Exchange cards.
  11. Make a refined list. Include those who came through your Campaigns and those whom you networked with recently.
  12. Invite them over to Breakfast meetings on Saturdays. Make Powerful and Inspiring Stories and Tell them these stories. StoryTelling is an art.
  13. Story Telling & Other Ways to Engage a Prospect.
  14. Generate awareness. On your Products and/or Services.
  15. Qualify your Prospects.
  16. Questions to ask your Prospects: What Questions to ask your Prospects ?
  17. Prepare a Qualified List of Prospects, those who are a fit and those who are most likely to buy your products or services in the near future. With this, Prospecting is completed. But the Sales Process continues. Keep doing these steps on a regular basis to have a constant supply of Prospects for your Business.

Happy Selling !!

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You can close more sales, if

We all want to close more sales. Right ? Let us understand what it takes to close more deals. First and foremost, I am sure you have heard this: Don’t rush the sales process. And don’t delay it as well. The right speed is what will determine the outcome. The speed that matches your prospect is the one that will help you land the deal. Customers would like to buy and don’t like to be sold.

You can close more sales, if

  1. You don’t rush the sales process
  2. You add more value during your interaction with your prospects
  3. You understand the prospects pain points and provide point solutions to resolve those pains
  4. You Align with your prospects
  5. You have built a good Pipeline of Opportunities
  6. You understand your competitors and have a strategy to counter them
  7. You act more like a Business Partner than like a vendor
  8. You are an Expert and an Authority in your domain
  9. You are willing to help your Prospects solve their problems
  10. You are putting effort in finding a solution that meets the growth demands of your prospects
  11. You keep up your commitments
  12. You can provide Customer References
  13. You can demonstrate your solution and prove that that is the best in the market
  14. You can highlight the value of your products or services
  15. You can offer a solution matching your prospects budgets
  16. You can eliminate the risks for your prospects
  17. You are enthusiastic, disciplined, courageous, entertaining
  18. You are willing to go that extra mile to match customer expectation
  19. You are helping your prospects save money, time and effort with your product or service
  20. You know how to smile from your heart and do.

Happy Selling !!

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I was asked “What is a CRM” and this is what I answered…..

CRM is not anymore a buzzword. It is not just another acronym that an IT Professional builds skills on to grow in his / her career. CRM, as you are aware, stands for Customer Relationship Management. When someone says CRM, they refer to an application software used by Sales, Marketing and Customer Service departments of a Business entity. Typically, CRM has these three modules – Sales, Marketing & Customer Service. Analytics is either offered as another module or as part of all these modules.

Coming to the Sales module, the App helps Sales people of a business close more deals. The Sales CRM application helps in Account Management, Activity Management, Lead Management, Contact Management, Opportunity Management, Pipeline Management.

Typically sales people get leads from Marketing department and start validating those leads. Sales people also generate their own leads as well. Starting from a cold call, qualifying a contact as a lead or validating the leads passed to them and then finding an opportunity with that lead and converting that lead to an opportunity and taking that opportunity through various Sales Stages – for example from Needs Assessment to Closing and beyond, the Sales CRM helps sales people perform their job more efficiently.

CRM is unlike traditional applications used in an enterprise. By traditional applications, I am referring to the transaction oriented applications – say for ex, Financial Applications [that is used to track the finance from order to pay or purchase to pay etc] or Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] application that helps in the back office business processes. These applications capture limited customer information – order and payment details of customers and cannot satisfy the requirements of the sales people.

Sales people are the face of any business. They occupy and run the front office. They are the point of contact when a customer walks into a business. They handle all the customer inquiries that are received through various channel. This is inbound traffic. Customers get in touch on their own and express interest in a product or a service. While sales people handle this inbound traffic, they also run outbound sales to identify customers who may be a good fit for their products or services and can benefit from them. The sales people do a number of activities to acquire new clients.

“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.” – Steve Jobs, Apple

Coming to Sales CRM, it captures customer data in detail and it is mapped to the Sales Process of an Organization. The sales process of an Organization is the process followed from the first contact with a prospective customer till the order closure. It starts with the sales person contacting a lead, understanding the needs and evaluating the needs, checking product fit or service fit, budgeting, Mapping Customers Organization Structure, Identifying Decision Makers / Budget holders / Influencers, Demonstrating, Proposal submission, PoC [Proof of Concept], Closing, Following-up.

The Sales CRM captures all the data through this entire process. It is a complete salesforce automation. Contact management is the basic feature that helps sales people to keep all customer contact details in one place. They can map social media accounts of their contacts as well. They can even create a field to capture the news feed about the customer’s organization from the web.

Sales CRM captures all the leads. Allows one to convert those leads into opportunities as they get qualified. The opportunities then follow a predefined sales process through various sales stages. And sales people can then visually see which opportunity is in what stage. A series of opportunities in various sales stages is a pipeline. And sales people can have multiple pipelines – one each for a specific product or a business entity or a division or a geography.

Sales pipeline management is critical to success of any organization. The low hanging fruits will be taken care of. But it is those warm leads that needs to be nurtured for long term success of an organization.

We sell Pipeliner CRM. It is a Pure play Sales CRM. You can visit this link to download a trial: http://www.pipelinersales.com/crm/free-trial/?referral=926.

Pipeliner CRM is a visual CRM. That is, at any given point, the sales people will be able to see which opportunity is in what stage and the app has a Sales Navigator that intuitively tells where the sales people should focus their energies and what should be done with all the other opportunities and other leads as well.

CRM is useful for any business with either one sales person or 200 sales people. Whether it is a B2B or a B2C. Regardless of whether it sells a capital intensive product or everyday use product. Whether they sell directly or through the distribution channel. Whether they sell online or offline. Whether their sales cycle is long or short. As long as they sell and want to grow by selling more, they need a CRM. CRM is an essential tool in today’s competitive world. Without that, businesses will be doomed.

It is not anymore a buzzword.

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Things to remember during a follow-up call

Marketing department in an organization uses 4P [Product, Price, Promotion, Place] to plan and execute its marketing strategies. And its aim is to create a market for their company’s products and services, if it is a new product or a service. If it is not a new product / service, then their aim is to create a market share for their company. Their job does not end with acquiring leads and passing them on to Sales. They need to validate the leads and qualify them as well. But that’s not all. They need to evaluate their campaign effectiveness, understand which channel delivers the maximum bang for the buck spent, analyze how the market responds to various campaigns and accordingly fine tune their campaign strategy in future.

Sales gets the leads from Marketing plus they also generate their own leads. Sales get references from their existing clientele. Due to word of mouth, sales people get calls from prospects that are hot.

Sales puts all the leads together and starts managing them. They need a good lead management tool [that is part of a CRM] to make their job easier.

While the leads are qualified as either hot or cold, there is a need to classify them as warm as well. In my experience, I have found that I had a competitive advantage over my competitors when I handled such warm leads very well over a long period of time.

Let us now take a look at things to remember during a follow-up call:

  1. Don’t say you are just following up.
  2. Don’t say you are checking in or just wanted to touch base.
  3. Say things that will arouse his/her interest in your products/services.
  4. Highlight the benefits of your products or service.
  5. Repeat the value your product or service delivers or the USP. Let it remain etched in his/her memory.
  6. With every touch, learn something new about the prospect and record it in your CRM.
  7. If you say something that resonates with the prospect, the deal will close faster than you think.
  8. Don’t educate the prospect on your product / service during a follow-up call. Unless, he asks you to.
  9. But definitely add value – give him information on your recent client acquisition or share news from your industry or the prospects industry.
  10. Ask the prospect, if this proposal is still in their high priority list.
  11. If it is still in the high priority list, ask when is it going to be taken up and what is it waiting for and how can you help.
  12. Get commitment from the prospect on the next date and expected progress from his side by that date else you commit to get back with some important information on a certain date.

Happy Selling !!

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How to eliminate the resistance to buy ?

As mentioned earlier in one of my previous posts, the buyer is anywhere between 60 and 70 % of his buyers journey when they decide to contact you or your company. But there is still some resistance to buy. Let us find out how to eliminate the resistance to buy.

But let us first understand your sales situation and then the current market situation.

You have a product or a service to sell. And your marketing team does a fantastic job using the 4Ps of Marketing [it is still relevant] or the Marketing Mix, as it is famously called. They also used all the latest fad in Digital Marketing. They even hooked up a film star as a brand ambassador to create brand awareness. All this is fine.

Your company then starts attracting leads. And these leads are then passed on to you, to work on it and close those deals.

The problem is that your competitors also do the same thing. Branding. Marketing Mix. Star campaigns. All the works. Absolutely. But they commit mistakes and I am going to tell you what are those mistakes and how not to commit those mistakes. And how to remove the resistance to buy and Close the deal.

  1. Your competitors follow some dumb process. Without any respect for the customer.
  2. They sound very corporate and treat prospects like buying machines that exist only to buy their products or services.
  3. They are arrogant.
  4. They are absolutely unemotional.
  5. They are good at complicating things.
  6. They are not truthful.
  7. They have no regard for the prospect and don’t pay any attention to what the customers say.
  8. They are good at promoting themselves without knowing that the customer has just rejected them.

Today’s buyers are very knowledgeable. They have plenty of options. And they evaluate each one of them very seriously. Before they talk to you, they identify their problems and also get to learn why your product or service is a good match to solve those problems.

But you still have lot of work to do before the client can sign on the dotted line. Here are some pointers for you, with a focus on how to eliminate the resistance to buy:

  1. Differentiate your offering from the competitors.
  2. Simplify things and do not complicate.
  3. Highlight real long term benefits to the prospect. Not the honeymoon. Or the discounts.
  4. Be truthful. Accept your shortcomings. Your credibility will then improve.
  5. Say only what you can do. And do what you said.
  6. Find out the prospects’ real reasons for considering your product or service and highlight the same to them. People like to win and they won’t shoot down their own reasons.
  7. Make a short statement that is memorable to remember and make sure that it summarizes what you do and why should people buy it.
  8. Remove the risks for the prospect. This is the deal clincher.
  9. Resistance to buy is a sign of fear. Remove the fear and the deal is yours.
  10. Promise to handhold the customer in case of any issues. Stand by that promise.

Happy Selling.

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How to align with your prospects in their Buying decision process – Part II

It is not about you anymore. It is about them. The dialogue starts with them, their needs or problems, their Industry, the challenges in their industry, their competition, their achievements, awards, recognition, their goals etc. How you align with your prospects during their buying journey and how enjoyable you make it for them will determine your success. You exist for your customers and because of your customers.

Sales is getting complicated. Companies now have multi channel to sell their products or services. To name a few, you have field sales, inside sales, customer service, loyalty programs, corporate website, partners, resellers, social media channels etc. It is essential to speak with one voice and ensure that the prospect gets the same look and feel [in other words, same experience] whichever channel he chooses to get in touch with your company.

Listen

Listen to your prospects. When they talk they are giving you information about their thought process, their values, their expectations, their style of working, their experience, expertise, their problem statements, their idea of a solution etc. Unless, you are attentive and keenly listening to your prospects, you will miss many of these things.  And you may miss the information on how he expects you to sell.

When you listen, you listen and pay attention and not just pause and wait for an opportunity to make a pitch.

Why should you listen ?

  1. That is the only way to start aligning with your prospect, if you want the deal, that is
  2. To understand their needs or problems
  3. To get to know their expectations
  4. To understand their buying decision process
  5. To find out the stage the prospect is in, in their buying decision process
  6. To understand what is the perception he holds on your company or products or services
  7. To get to know their perspectives
  8. To know their priorities and urgency

Introspect

Instead of asking yourself – Why should this person buy this? Why should they buy from me? Why should they buy at a particular time? etc – ask yourself the following questions, if you are aligned with the prospect :

  1. Why this company / organization exists ? How is their current problem statement / need aligned to their “why” ? Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why” says “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters Why you do it.” If you take a re-look at the problem statement with this understanding, a new perspective may emerge out of it. You will then buy the idea of your prospect. Now you will start thinking like your prospect. Perfect alignment. Great start.
  2. How can I add value or help them so that I can join them in solving the problem together ? How can I make the prospect “want” to take me into confidence and consider me their trusted consultant ?
  3. How urgent is it for your prospect to get the problem solved to continue to inspire their customers and add value to them ?

Help

Your prospects are looking for your help in the following :

  1. How to do things in a much more easier, simpler way and save time and money
  2. How to get more business with less and less effort and also spending lesser and lesser
  3. How to get more done with less
  4. How to make it easy for your prospects to buy, implement and use your products or services

Provide Value

What is value? It is an individual perception and it denotes the greater importance or worthiness that something deserves.

  1. Show them increase in efficiency in shorter time frames
  2. Provide something that helps them do things in a more powerful manner
  3. Give them that which no one else is offering for the same cost or for a little more
  4. Provide them tools that will help them become a leader in their industry
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What Questions to ask your Prospects ?

Here are some questions for you to ask your prospects early on in the Sales process [but not during the first call]. The answers can help you qualify the prospect. This is not in any order. You should pick and choose to suit your sales situation. You are the best judge of your situation. Sales people are the entrepreneurs in an organization and are capable of making quick decisions.

No one has any time to waste. And that includes You. Your time is important as much as the prospects’ time. If there is no product match or service match there is simply no point in wasting everybody’s time. You can say there is no match and move on. Clients will respect you for that. There are hundreds of other customers wanting exactly the product or service that you are offering and are searching for you. Go, find them.

Now, the questions:

  1. What inspired you to initiate a dialogue with me / us ?
  2. What is the problem statement ?
  3. How are you solving this problem [XYZ] today ?
  4. How much money is set aside for this project ?
  5. When is the latest you want to have this project initiated ?
  6. Are you working on any deadlines to complete the project ?
  7. How important is this project to your top management ?
  8. How is this project helping you in achieving your Organizational goals ?
  9. What are some of the ground shaking things that are happening in your Industry ?
  10. What does your client look for in you ?
  11. Are you currently driving this project full time ?
  12. Who else besides you has a stake in this project ?
  13. And how do we get them also involved ?
  14. What is the biggest obstacle, you currently foresee, for this project to kick-off ?
  15. What skills are you looking at, in a partner working on <XYZ> ?
  16. What metrics are important to you ?
  17. What targets have you set for yourself, in terms of <ABC> for the year YYYY ?
  18. What are some of the most important non-negotiable criteria to choose a vendor for this project ?
  19. What are your thoughts on our Organization and/or our product <xxx> or service <yyy> ?
  20. Can you help me champion this project within your Organization ?

Prospects will start looking at you with utmost respect and they would love to work with you and will definitely call you whenever they think they can engage you and your organization, in the future. You will always have a special place in their minds than your competition. You will be regarded as someone who is very knowledgeable in your field.

Undertake your research on your Prospects’ Organization and the Contact Person before the first meeting and go with an open mind. Always think how you can help your prospect in any given situation.