Monthly Archives: June 2007

A new kind of social networking site…

I was on LinkedIn tonight and I saw a post about TravelersTable.com a social networking site that encourages real time meetings between people over coffee. I did a bit more research and also found http://www.zoodango.com/ a competing site that seems to be a bit further along in the growth process. I have been on LinkedIn for quite a while, and have recently joined MyBlogLog; both of which have been very helpful to me despite the lack of real time interaction involved. Real time meeting perked my interest though because I am a true extrovert, and I love meeting new people, so I did a bit more research and found an interview with the CEO of ZooDango James Sun ( Apprentice Season 6 contestant).I think this is a compelling new way to go about social networking. It makes me a bit nervous because you never know who you will meet, but I guess that could also be the fun part of it. I am curious to see what others have to say about this and here stories from anyone who has tried it out. I am planning on signing up and will blog my own tale of adventure soon.

How will I ever get anything done?

We all ask ourself this questions from time to time… In the book The accidental Salesperson Chris Lytle said “Management is a series of interruptions constantly being interrupted by other interruptions.” And I can not possibly agree with him more. In fact, when I look at most organizations I sometimes wonder how anything gets done at all. Look at your week and add up the number of hours you spend putting out fires and sitting in meetings you would rather not be in, and suddenly it is clear why most managers put in way more that the normal 40 hours our companies say we should be working.

In order to get all of the things done in a week we need to complete there are two simple tasks we need to do. First, make a list, and second prioritize and stick to that list.

This is what I do:

First, I write a list of everything I need to get done this week. Then I break down that list by day. And finally I prioritize the daily list based on importance with the most important tasks on top.

The next step is the key. When I get blind sided by a fire, I look at what I am working on now and ask myself “Is this issue more important than the task I am working on?” If it is, I will take a break and try to solve that issue or at least cool down the fire enough to get back to the other task. If it is not I will properly prioritize it in my list of things I need to do and move forward with the current task at hand.

One of the least used features in Microsoft Outlook is the task manager. This tool will allow you to keep lists, prioritize them, and sort them by a variety of fields. It will even let you assign them to others and follow up on the status with a click of the button. I highly recommend you learn how to use this feature. You can get started by clicking here.

The key to this system is discipline. You must have the discipline to do what you say you will, when you say you will, and be willing to hold off on dealing with an urgent but unimportant issue if the thing you are currently working on is truly of a higher priority.

I will be doing more on time management over the next few weeks. Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks by leaving comments here.

The 10 Commandments For Leadership.

It is not very often you find a blog post that is so simple yet so completely covers a a topic that you have little more to say about it other than WOW! Thanks! Don Boykin achieved that with his post The 10 Commandments For Leadership. In this post he gives you 10 rules that if followed will, in my opinion, lead you to a highly successful career in management. Don has successfully covered in one paragraph what some have taken hundreds of pages to cover. Truly simple, to the point, effective writing.

Thanks Don!

Anatomy of a voice mail.

Many sales people blow off leaving voice mails because they believe they are a waste of time and no one returns voice mail. I would argue that it is not voice mails themselves that are ineffective, but rather the method in which they are left that causes the perceived ineffectiveness. The purpose of this article is to share with you the basics building blocks needed to craft highly effective voice mails.

The first and most important thing to remember when following up on an inquiry via voice mail is we usually do not know why a customer inquired or what will be important to them until we have done a needs analysis, so I compare leaving voice mail to trolling for fish. I write five to seven different voice mails each focused on a different feature / benefit statement and then cycle through them in a planned cycle until I get a response, much like a fisherman would troll a lure behind a boat.

Here is a bare bones picture of what a good voice mail looks like when following up on an inquiry:

1st        Introduce yourself

2nd        Reason why you are calling

3rd        Feature – hook

4th        Benefit – Bait

5th        When you call me back what will I do for you

6th        Urgency

To script this out more formally it should look something like this:

Hello, my name is _________ from the XYZ Company; my phone number is 555-555-5555.

I am giving you a call because you requested information from us earlier today.

My job as a YOUR JOB TITLE is to make sure that you receive all of the information and guidance you need in order to make an informed decision about… YOUR PRODUCT

 (Hook)  One of the great things about…(Bait) What that means to you is…  

CUSTOMER NAME what I can do for you is assist you in the process of exploring (Whatever it is you do). Give a compelling Value Statement, As well as give you all information you need in order for you to make an informed decisions.

Give me a call today.  I am in the office until ____ (time). Again, my name is ________ and my phone number is 555-555-5555.

Thanks again for contacting XYZ Company, and have a great day!

When you call, make sure to smile when you speak. Surprisingly, your customers can tell the difference. If you sound passionate and excited about what you can do for them, they are more likely to call you back.

This voice mail is ideal for following up on people who have inquired about your product. In a future post I will cover voice mails for the cold call, follow up calls, and general voice mail etiquette.

Are YOU LinkedIn?

It was probably 18 months ago when a good friend of mine Pete Wright, sent me an invite to join LinkedIn. My initial reaction was what a waste of time! How could anyone use a silly thing like this to advance a career or sell more widgets? I didn’t accept the invitation right away, but we talked a few days later and he was so excited. I had to join just to see what all the hype was about. You know what? I am REALLY glad I did! It turns out the MySpace for professionals is everywhere. If you are not familiar with LinkedIn here is a great introduction from Business 2.0 Magazine. In the last year and a half I have developed 83 quality first level connections giving me access to a network of over 1.7 million professionals. That’s right… 1.7 MILLION! From these people, I have been able to ask for professional advice, seek out hidden career opportunities, open up closed doors to advance sales, and help out a lot of friends.

I had not thought about LinkedIn for a while until today when I read this post on Web Worker Daily and it reminded me just what a gem this free service is. That led me to read to a big circle of blogs and now instead of implementing what I learned I am sharing it with all of you! Don’t think for a second that later this week I will not be implementing some of the changes I read about in this great article on Guy Kawasaki’s blog though. So, now that you know what LinkedIn is for, and how to create a good profile here is one last post on how to build your network.

Please feel free to let me know how linked in has worked for you! I truly believe if you want to be successful in sales this is one tool you can not live with out.  

On what level are you trying to compete?

I was on Warren Greshes’ blog today and I found a very compelling 60 second video about price as a model of product comparison. The short and sweet of it is, it is easy to compete on price alone, and that is why so many people do it. It takes very little effort to reduce price. Legendary customer service on the other hand is easy to talk about but much more difficult to put into practice.  If you want to excel in sales, marketing, or any other business you need to find some way besides price to separate yourself from the pack. The four things he talks about are quality, service, convenience, and value. Click here to see Warren’s video.

Starbucks is a great example of a company that really takes these four principles to heart. They offer one of the most expensive cups of coffee you will buy anyplace, but they frequently have a line out the door. They have focused on very high end coffee grown by socially responsible growers and are known world wide for quality coffee. As for convenience… they are everyplace! On my way to work I pass one intersection with a Starbucks on three of the four corners! The service at Starbucks is outstanding. Have you ever spilled your drink? If you do they will replace it free! They will also do that if you do not enjoy what you ordered. And finally, value… Starbucks gets customers to pay three to five dollars for a .50 cup of coffee because they help their customers see greater value in what they sell and the experience that is Starbucks.

It is important to remember that we may not have the least expensive product on the market. If that is the case we need to find other ways to separate ourselves from the pack and place emphasis on other things that are more difficult to compete with, such as customer experience, quality, convenience or value.

Thank you Warren for a reminder of what’s really important in business!  

Creating Feature / Benefit Statements That Work.

Do you know the difference between a feature and a benefit for your product and how the two types of statements build on one another? My experience has show that most sales people are great at rattling off a list of features but are relatively inept at describing how that feature actually benefits the client. In the next few minutes I will offer you a quick primer on how to turn your list of features into a series of statements used to turn shoppers into buyers.The 40,000 ft view is this: A feature tells your client what your product does, a benefit tells your client what your product does specifically for them, and the interest check makes sure they see value. Let’s take look at how you can pair features with benefits to create situations where you clients are excited to buy from you.

The first step is to summarize and or clarify the need. This will show your client that you have been listening, and will ensure that you truly understand what it is they are looking for. A good summary would be structured like this: Mr. Client, what I am hearing is… or am I correct in saying… if the answer is no, ask a few more probing questions until you are certain you understand.

The next step is to present your feature. A feature is the thing about your product that would prompt me to want to buy. It could be how your product would reduce my costs, save me time, reduce my employee turnover, etc… This is where most sales people stop.        

You however, being the stellar sales person you are will go one step further and give them the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). This is the statement that matches up your feature with their need thus establishing benefit. The easiest way to start a benefit statement is to begin with: What this means to you, is…

Finally you end with a temperature check to ensure this item has been sufficiently dealt with. An example would be: How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

So a bare bones model would look like this:

  1. Summary

  2. Feature

  3. Benefit

  4. Interest check

1.  Mr. Client, Am I correct in saying you are having an issue with X?

Yes I am.

2.  Ok, I just wanted to make sure I was clear… One of the great things about (your product) is it produces Y outcome.

3.  What that means to you is you will spend less time focusing on x problem and have more free time to focus on other issues.

4.  How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

Let’s put it into a real scenario we are all familiar with…           

Summarize:

Mr. Client, what I am hearing is that you are frustrated with your current bank because you are paying high fees to get your money because you are currently working with a small bank that does not have an extensive network of ATM’s. However, you do enjoy the level of customer service you receive because you are with a small local bank that knows and understands your needs, is that correct?

Yes, in fact it drives me nuts! Last month I spent $75 on ATM fees, but I don’t want to get lost in the shuffle of a large national bank.

Feature:

One of the great things about working with XYZ Credit Union is you can not only use any of our 75 no fee ATM’s but you also have access to our co-op network of ATM’s giving you access to an additional 10,000 no fee ATM’s around the country.

Benefit:

This network allows us to give you big bank convenience and maintain the small credit union level of customer service you currently enjoy enjoy.

Interest check:

How do you think this would be of benefit to you?

Action Plan:

  1. Create a list of as many features as you can think of for your product or service.

  2. Match that list of features to a benefit that makes your product or service worth buying.

  3. Practice this list until it become second nature.

This is one of the basic skills of professional selling. In future postings we will discuss how to use feature and benefit statements in voice mail, overcoming objections, and closing situations to provide greater customer service, and increase sales.

Choose your attitude!

Since Friday of last week I have had one bad day after another and it really stinks! Unfortunately, so has my attitude! I’m sure we have all been there, what is surprising about this is the fact that I am one of those people who is “always in a good mood”. I am usually the person people who are having a bad day turn to when they need an uplifting comment. In general my “bad moods” last about an hour!

The great news is one of my sales people said something to me that I say at least three times a week and it really turned around my day. Three simple words really did change everything for me… Choose your attitude!

Everything started last Friday when I had enough deals fall off my roster to the point that it was obvious to me that I would not beat my market plan for the first time ever… Then I was told to do something by my boss’s boss that I strongly disagreed with. Finally when I tried to take my wife and daughter to the drive in to catch a movie and take my mind off things, three hours of my life were taken away when the theater could not get the sound functioning! In my own mind things went from bad to worse all day long. Needless to say when I went in for a special event at work on Saturday, which went well, it still didn’t lift my spirits. Finally, Sunday I was an hour late to a party after driving around lost for what seemed like forever! Needless to say, by Monday morning I was DREADING the thought of going in and sure enough I was greeted by 3 more sales that would not close until next quarter.

I was very frustrated when I sarcastically announced that I was going to my office to cry! Shockingly this is where everything turns around… One of my reps turned to me and said “Hey man… Choose YOUR attitude!” My reply was still a bit sarcastic, when I said I was choosing to cry… a few people laughed, but when I went back to my office I really did feel much better. There were several reasons for this. First, I have said that SO many times and I was elated to finally know someone else had picked up on it and was obviously taking action on a very simple concept. In addition to that, while I may not be in the running to make market plan, I am going to close 125% of same quarter prior year and that is nothing to sneeze at! And finally, this quarter is not over! I still have 2 weeks to drum up some business and make up some lost ground!

I spent the rest of the day trying to uplift my team and encourage them… With the attitude I had before there was no way we could make our goal because I was already telling myself we couldn’t. Brian Tracy talks a lot about the Law of Attraction and I was falling right into the trap. Basically it states that you will attract into your life things that fall in line with your dominant thoughts. If you think you stink… You probably do! If you believe you will always be poor you most likely will be. I believe you can change your stars if you believe in yourself, work hard, and study to better yourself every day.

The key to success is attitude. Before you can be the best salesperson in your office you have to believe there is no reason you can’t be. Then you have to start to actually believe you are… even if the numbers do not support it yet! In sales every transaction is independent to one another. Your customers are not calling each other to collude against you! The only constant is you and your own attitude. You need to pick up the phone every time like it was the first call you have made that day. The second prospect you talk to has no idea if the call before them was good or bad. Every second of every day we are making choices and they all stem from attitude. If you want to be consistently successful you need to ask yourself… Am I choosing my circumstances or am I letting them direct me?

When to NOT close the deal…

I think it only fitting to start this blog off with a post concerning values. Far too often sales people find themselves in a position where they feel very conflicted as to whether they should “close the deal” and get paid or do the right thing and tell a client about a product that is better suited to them but is either out of the clients price range, or not available from your sources. I assert that it is always better to be open and honest with your clients at all times, and that doing so will win you far more customers than you will ever have to turn away.

 

As an example I will use my personal financial planner. She works for a very reputable and prestigious Wall Street firm and I am sure is under considerable pressure to grow her business. I met Pam not to long after I was married when I discovered that I was not adequately prepared for retirement,  emergencies, or able to take care of my wife in the event of a debilitating injury or death. I was genuinely freaked out when I called her, and honestly would have done anything she advised based on the high recommendation I was referred to her with. After looking over all of my investments, debts and the insurance provided by my employer, she informed me that while I did need to develop a considerable sum of cash investments for an emergency, I did not need the large amount of whole life insurance I was prepared to buy. I insisted on trying to buy $500,000 worth, and she insisted than not only did I not need it, but that she was not willing to sell it to me until she felt I did. At first I was very put off by this, but later on it occurred to me how much money in commission and residuals she was throwing away, and I gained a tremendous amount of trust in her judgment and advice. Because of that one decision she made not to close the deal with me, she was able to develop a referral source that fed her deal after deal for many years. Even more important to remember is that I myself was also a referral, meaning she was getting referrals from referrals from referrals.

 

This kind of good will and reputation can not be created by a corporate marketing department implementing a good ad campaign. It can only be developed over time by consistently doing the right thing for every single customer. If you are inspired to always do the right thing for your clients and provide legendary customer service, you will set yourself apart from your peers, and people will remember you and your business. More importantly, they will feel comfortable sending you referral after referral.

 

I have seen many sales people in my day, some of whom made more money than me. However, I have always felt comfortable and happy to see my clients in the grocery store or at a ball game because I know in my heart I did a good thing selling to them. A wise business partner once told me “Brad, are you doing something for the customer or to them?” If your answer is “to them” you should immediately reevaluate and change your position… Unless you intend on being one of the people who jumps from job to job constantly hunting for the BIG commission job, and hiding from your former clients in public.

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