Don’t Pull The Fire Alarm!

We are into the back half of the 2014 now and many sales professionals are looking and are seeing that their pace isn’t going to get them where they need to be by the end of the year. DON’T PANIC…

A Pebble In My Shoe

Photo courtesy iStockPhoto

Photo courtesy iStockPhoto

Do you have a pebble in your shoe?

More importantly do you have a pebble in your shoe and you are ignoring it acting like it isn’t there?

I did…my pebble was my 2014 goals.

As in previous years, 2014 is off to a fast start. The demand for increased sales revenue by your organization or customers if you are running your own group is beginning to resurface after a pause for the Holidays.

Mixed with that, many business owners, sales leaders and sales people have a strong desire to improve in 2014.

Sound familiar?

So how do you meet these objectives? You can wing it in some cases for a while, but for how long? This is cute, but will lead to disaster.

Like many sales professionals I receive a lot of my fuel from my goals. I keep these as simple as possible and cover four key areas of importance:  spiritual, family, financial and business.

As January has progressed I just felt that something was missing from my three business goals for 2014. They needed to be revised- now. By the point, I had a stone in my shoe.

Much needed solution.

After our Wednesday morning (January 22, 2014) conference call I felt the urgent need to revise my business goals, so with my next meeting at 11:30 a.m. I started immediately to see what improvements could be made.

Starting the process..

Goal 1 was very easy, very obvious just the right thing to do- easy revision.

Goal 2 was the same, but required a little more thought- a slightly challenging revision.

Goal 3 was where I hit the wall. What I had originally written was sincere, but it needed to be destroyed and I was at a fork in the road- torn between fear and comfort. I revised it again. A little better, but not quiet there. Frustrated, I pushed back from my desk and thought ‘what is missing’?

I walked to the kitchen for another coffee refill and couldn’t get back to my office fast enough.

Within a matter of moments five thoughts came to me out of the blue.

  1. Avoid the same path although it has been successful.
  2. Trust your creativity.
  3. Listen to others (regardless)
  4. Stand by your convictions.
  5. Persist and persevere.

With this insight my third goal fell into place within a matter of moments.

It was there all along, I just needed to change my thinking- more specifically I had to let go of some residual fear that has been there longer than I care to admit. I had to remove the pebble from shoe.

This had to be done; I have family, my company and our customers depending on me.

Just the day before a friend of mine shared with me that his 13 year old son had written a unique definition on ‘perseverance’.

When I heard it I was amazed as I think you will be as well. My first thought is how can a 13 year old bring this level of insight and encouragement, with limited life experience? Hey at 13 I was riding my bike, and playing Little League Baseball.

Great insight

“Perseverance is a quality formed in the crucible of trial and hardship.

Without tragedy, no one can persevere.”

Danny Pearson, January 2014

To reach my third goal I knew that it was the best step for my company and our customers.

It will take each of the five above qualities with a healthy dose of “step 5- persist and persevere”.

The pebble is gone; I feel more focused and deliberate now than in recent years.

Guess what… YOU can too!

What lessons can you learn from this move?

  1. When you harness your fears and set your goals correctly, they will provide direction and encouragement when it gets tough- and it will.
  2. When you fully commit to goals that really define your passion and creativity they will help you reach unprecedented growth.

Questions

  1. Is there a pebble in your shoe as well?
  2. Are you willing to make the needed adjustments?
  3. What will it take for you to take the next step?

Go ahead, stop now, and remove the pebble from your shoe. You will be glad you did.

Now you are ready!

Hey, you don’t have to travel this road alone. If you want to connect and chat that works too.

Let’s go create our best year ever!

Strength in numbers,

Andy

4 Words to Create Sales Growth for You in 2014

Credit: iStockPhoto

Credit: iStockPhoto

As the New Year approached you have received several newsletters, and blogs encouraging you not to make a resolution but to choose ‘one word’ to focus on in 2014. The ‘one word’ approach is simple yet powerful. Jon Gordon does a tremendous job with this approach.

Now that the New Year is in full swing you will quickly recognize that your ‘one word’ will sharpen your focus beyond your wildest imagination. The results is another story altogether.

If you haven’t yet chosen your ‘one word’ and are looking for perhaps a word or words that will create sales growth for you, then let me suggest the following four words.

Four simple words:

Three years ago our team began to implement each of these to grow our business and suggested these to our customers. The outcome has been phenomenal in terms of enhancing account management growth with existing customers and acquiring new business as well.

These four simple words are: Sustain, Develop, Regain, and Acquire

What do these words mean to you the sales professional?

Sustain

This group of customers within your territory need to be sustained, and are vital to your organizations survival, yet at the same time this group of customers offers little organic growth opportunity. Nurture and protect your customer but spend your time wisely.

Develop

This group of customers within your territory offers organic growth opportunity that will propel your sales to another level. Creating a solid plan around each of these customers and available product or service that can be added can further fortify your position and increase your commissions. Simply put, it’s about taking market share and a plan to get you there.

Regain

With the downturn in the economy in 2008 several customers of your downsized immediately this was a natural response to what they were facing. Today, many of those have survived and are looking to grow, they need to grow. It will be to your advantage to revisit those offering new opportunity. The upside is they know, like and trust you.

Acquire

The health and vitality of any sales organization is created by new business acquisition throughout the year. Once you consider your annual attrition rate this hits home quickly. Time for action.

The first two words sustain and develop focus on existing customers while regain focuses on former customers. Acquire focuses 100% on new business acquisition.

Hitting our sales goal in 2014 is a top priority for all of us.

Creating your sales strategy and tactics around one or all the four words will take your sales to new and exciting levels.

True confessions… my ‘one word’ for 2014 is PERSIST. My four words forever in sales growth will be sustain, develop, regain, and develop.

How can you use these 4 words to create sales growth in 2014?

-Andy

1 Closing Secret Every Sales Professional Should Know

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Receiving an email that stated “Please find attached agreement requiring your signature” was the highlight of my week earlier in the month. When you receive a similar message you know that you have met your goal.

Before that happy moment arrives, you may be faced with a last step that you didn’t see coming. This step above all of your previous steps of success in the buying cycle requires patience, a key ‘closing secret’ that every professional sales person should be prepared for.

One thing that keeps a sales professional charged and recharged is the adrenaline rush of opening up a new piece of business. This not only protects your future and your organization but it heals the bumps and bruises that you have received along the path of the buying cycle. These bumps and bruises may stem from the customer and can also come from within as you are pressed to meet ‘your number’. Sound familiar?

The closing secret before the actual dotted line is signed is patience. Just before the ‘big decision’ is made, your decision maker (purchasing manager, claims manager, QA Manger, etc.) regardless of their given industry is at their most vulnerable point. Their antenna is up and they may test you one more time before they place their final approval.

You may ask ‘why’, you have meet and exceeded their expectations. Your question is fair and reasonable. Let’s take a look at their decision dynamics.

A Real Example

Out of the blue, I received an email from a key prospect that we have been working with since July 2012. We have tested, presented, met, they have visited our office, etc. in fact they have more of my business cards than I do. Their ‘last minute’ request was to ask if we could customize training into smaller sections and write the content that would address the issues in three separate departments. My first thought was really? Are you kidding me? I have answered that, and demonstrated that capability on many occasions.

Patience is a virtue, or so they say.

None the less my answer was “sure”, and they requested one final demonstration to address their full buying committee in less than 48 hours. My first thought was has the incumbent flanked me, or perhaps is there a decision maker that I had not met, or unaware of? All legitimate questions, but no changes that surfaced. The delay came from one decision maker that simply wanted to be reassured before they cast their vote.

Rather than press the issue, it was time to demonstrate patience and stay the course.

At the end of our final demonstration we discovered that the delay came from one decision maker that felt vulnerable and simply wanted to be reassured before they cast their vote.

This was a great experience that served as a great reminder. At the end of a buying cycle and just before the decision is made your prospects are at their most vulnerable point. Asking for additional information or unusual requests is a strong buying signal. This may be test or it may be a legitimate request. It doesn’t matter; your patience is required.

There are 3 ‘take a ways’ to 1 closing secret that every sales professional that I would like to pass along to you:

  1. Adaptability – are you willing to adapt to last minute requests?
  2. Timing – with the above step in your back pocket, what is your response time in creating a working solution?
  3. Consistency – does your final working solution match the solution that you have been proposing all along?

The next morning, we received an email from the committee chair person stating “Please find the attached agreement for your signature”.

Ah, sweet success! Our patience paid off using the above three steps and it will for you as well.

Have you had a similar experience? Share it in the comments below.

Your #1 Sales Tool: Knowing Your Areas of Differentiation

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If you are tired of being outperformed by a less than qualified competitor, or losing margins by competing on price then you will find the next few paragraphs and the video to be helpful.

You have experienced situations where you are in the market for a certain item, and feel that the sales rep is trying to sell you unseen swampland in Florida.

Your heart goes out to this person because they are doing the best they can, and taking a broad approach hoping that one thing will pique your interest.

The ultimate question that you want answered, and perhaps the question your customer is asking you is ‘why should I buy from you’?

You can overcome this by giving your prospect a valid business reason to buy. This is done by identifying your areas of differentiation. Once you lock this in place, then you remove price as the default otherwise your buyer is creating your differentiator for you.

Our customer base at Directional Achievement is supported by a variety of industries. These include chemical manufacturers, workers compensation, industrial fastener distributors, and food service companies.

As a chemical manufacturer calling on a retail grocery chain you may be asked the question: What is so special about your service model? As an ancillary services provider in workers compensation you are being asked: How can you reduce our administrative burden? As an industrial fastener distributor you are being asked: How can you meet our short and often fluctuating lead times?

In a world of perceived parity, these are all important questions that must be addressed on the front end; otherwise you are selling unseen swampland in Florida where price becomes the only differentiator. You have a solution to increase your sales revenue.

Your #1 Sales Tool is Knowing Your Areas of Differentiation

If you have identified your areas of differentiation then congratulations, you are in the top ten percent of businesses.

If you are willing to take the next step you may be asking ‘how’ do we do this, and ‘what’ is the best process?

Step 1

  1. Ask for input from your sales team, customer service and other leaders within your organization, their insight and experience will be incredible.
  2. Create a long list of possible differentiators. More is better.
  3. Reduce and refine until you have a minimum of seven, although you may only use one at a time depending upon your prospect buying criteria and objectives.

Step 2

As you work through the process in identifying certain characteristics of your differentiators there are five factors that must be considered in your refining process.

  1. They must be objective. Anything subjective is only an opinion. For example the way you define trust or stability may often be different from the definition of your prospect.
  2. Are they unique to your industry? Avoid the “me- too” trap.
  3. Are they proven?
  4. Can they be quantified?
  5. Can they be expanded or further developed?

Step 3

Once you pull these together it is time to field test with your customers. Listen to what they have to say and adjust accordingly. Pull your final polished revision together. Now your #1 Sales Tool is ready.

Step 4

Implement your new areas of differentiation and weave them into the culture of your sales team and organization.

Step 5

Go take market share from your competitor that is still trying to sell unseen swampland in Florida.

Now you are in a position to get your prospects attention and land that first meeting by successfully answering these simple but challenging questions: ‘What makes you different’ and ‘Why should I buy from you’?

Conclusion

The fact is unseen swampland was sold successfully in Florida for many years. The success went to those sales reps that had seen the land and knew their areas of differentiation and articulated them well.

If you would like to discuss this in more detailed but are ‘too swamped’ in your day to day responsibilities, please contact me here.

I look forward to speaking with you again soon.

Own your success!

-Andy

Define Your Tie Breaker and Reenergize Profitable Sales Growth

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If you have taken the time to discover what your customers and prospects truly value as differentiators you are well ahead of your competitors.

But why stop there? Why not take the extra step. The extra step is to discover what factors mostly influence your customers buying decisions, more specifically which of your differentiators are relevant to them. Without these you don’t have a ‘tie-breaker’ and commoditize yourself where price is the only perceived area of differentiation.

A live example

Let me provide for a realistic example that happened today. One of my customers is the largest distributor and importer of stainless steel fasteners. In fact they provide fasteners to 85% of the boating manufacturer’s in the U.S.

Needless to say they sell a commodity in the highest order. But they have taken the time to differentiate themselves. Rather than letting price dictate, we have worked together to meet with their key customers to find out what their requirements and expectations are. From there they established their areas of differentiation and value proposition. Rather than price dictating the decision, they sell on the following:

  • Quick and accurate response (in this case they are providing quotes).
  • Accurate fill and on time deliveries.
  • Knowledge-both industry and product.
  • Financial stability of their company
  • Deep inventory levels (no back orders)

Now that these relevant points are established they have defined their tie-breaker. Price has been removed as their customers and prospects safety net in the negotiating phase. Again, without knowing what your tie-breaker is a lower price is the natural recourse that a customer or prospect will always resort to.

How you can benefit from knowing your tie-breaker

  1. Equip your sales team to hold price levels or perhaps raise them slightly.
  2. A renewed sense of confidence that your service/product is worth more.
  3. A stronger sense of confidence in asking for a price increase with certain customers.
  4. Increased earnings.

Price outweighs value every time, unless you know what your customers and prospects value and how to sell that value.

I would encourage you to give this some serious thought. Set up a simple survey with your key customers and ask what they value and why. Ask them to rank the importance of receiving what you offer into a priority list, I think you will be surprised that to learn that price is seldom in the top five.

Many companies are walking away from additional profits simply because their differentiators and value proposition are not relevant to their customers and prospects; make the choice not to be one of them.

Own your success,

Andy

3 Ways to Respond to a Surprise Request from Your Satisfied Prospect

three_wallDoes this sound familiar?

Out of the blue I just received an email from a ‘marquis’ prospect inviting us to provide pricing for a one day training event. The will be in October at their national sales meeting. Our response is required within the next week.

Here is where it gets interesting, so let me provide a little background for you.

We began our initial conversation last July at a trade show here in San Francisco. Since then we have developed very deep relationships at all levels within their sales organization that understand how our experience and model can benefit them.

However with the internal support of these relationships we were able to schedule an appointment with their key decision maker, let’s call her Pam. I think Pam agreed to our appointment out of courtesy to her peers, plus maybe a little bit out of curiosity. Hey, some of her peers have more of my business cards than I do!

The meeting began with the typical introductory and transitioned to a rich conversation that reveled more about her requirements and expectations. The 45 minutes that was scheduled extended into an hour and a half conversation.

At the end of our meeting while driving to the airport my business associate and I felt that we had connected with Pam and her team, we understand her industry and have a clear understanding of her needs, but we both agreed that the ‘timing’ was simply not in our favor.

Sound familiar?

Moreover Pam was happy with her current training source and had renewed their two year contract effective January of this year. My thoughts were for them to remain in our pipeline and with my new information I am now better equipped to create a strategic follow up process.

So that is the background. In reading Pam’s email, we may or may not have a long awaited opportunity. With the above facts, let’s look at a few potential responses. How would you react?

  1. Do we offer an immediate and enthusiastic response with our standard pricing? Thought process: this may be a trial to see how we will respond and for Pam to compare pricing.
  2. Should I take a moment to call Pam and express our interest and to find out more information about the event, their sales team’s goals and objectives and of course our ‘out of the blue’ opportunity? Thought process: I thought they were happy with their supplier, but their event may be focusing on a set of needs unique to their supplier, or conflicting schedules with company and supplier. Let’s find out more.
  3. Perhaps contact our close relationships; they may have some helpful information. If so we can then respond accordingly.

Thought process:

  • What has transpired internally that has created this request?
  • Has the political climate shifted?
  • Has the incumbent dropped the ball subsequent to our meeting?

What do you think about when a similar situation occurs? Feel free to hit reply. We would like to hear what you have to say.

(You can view the video to see which option provided the best solution.)

Own your success!

-Andy

How your Patient Pursuit can lead to Sales Success

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Congratulations your foot is in the door, you have made the short list of your marquis prospect, now the buying cycle has begun.

Understanding how to ‘patiently pursue’ and win your marquis prospect will change your life and career forever.

Now that you are deep into the buying cycle, the ongoing request for ‘more’ information and adjusting to the timing, personalities and shifting priorities and circumstances of your marquis prospect can take its toll on you and your team.

Today you may be going through the emotional grind of a lengthy buying cycle and the temptation is to back off? Sound familiar? Don’t more than likely your competitor or the incumbent has done so- now is your time to excel.

Hang on

Sometimes all you need is a glimmer of hope and a reason to stay the course. Hang in there, you are almost there. The five steps below will work for you and can offer you a boost of encouragement while you are in the middle of the grind.

  1. Continue to prepare, prepare, prepare and adjust to their changing needs. Once you create new ideas and solutions you are ahead of the curve.
  2. Pursue with prepared patience. It is here that you build upon your foundation of trust that will take you into the future. You will be viewed as more consultative- because you are.
  3. Avoid taking slow progress personally especially if the timing and need aren’t right, or if there is internal political issues associated with changing.
  4. Find and expand on common ground like sports, food and education and build upon those.
  5. View and treat your prospects the way they prefer to be viewed and treated. If they view themselves as successful and influential then treat them that way. It’s a common courtesy.

A quick story for you

After a fourteen month buying cycle on Wednesday of this week we met ‘one more’ time for a Q&A with the committee of decision makers. This is always fun. One of our competitors is behind closed doors meeting with the committee-I’m giving it all that that have in hopes of success.

Directional Achievement is next in line.

As we entered the room and settled in it first appeared that this would be yet another meeting to discuss well known information. However this morning was somewhat different their CEO was present. Also ‘out of the blue’ we were asked to present our implementation strategy should they decide in our favor.

At the end of our presentation, we all shook hands and offered our thanks. The leader of the committee asked if we could remain in the room for a few minutes. We certainly agreed while the others left offering kind words of appreciation. I had a feeling that a decision had been made, and may have been made prior to our meeting. Sure enough the committee chair stood came over to shake our hands and indicated that we had won the business.

Wow! What a feeling. Our group has been blessed and will advance to yet another level of growth and service simply because we patiently pursued our marquee prospect through the buying cycle.

You can do the same. You and only you own your success.

See you in a few weeks.

-Andy

5 Easy Steps to Connect with Your Decision Makers

Man Drinking Coffee with Laptop

I hope your day is going well and you are enjoying your success. I just took a seat in the Albuquerque airport in a quiet area with a Starbucks vanilla latte. It’s time for a small celebration.

Directional Achievement just completed an initial sales call after three months and several email exchanges with our prospect’s decision makers from engineering, finance and purchasing.

Sound familiar?

Working through the clutter, we were able to leverage relationships with two of our leading customers in an industry similar to our prospect’s. As often is the case, this added additional credibility with our prospect’s management team.

It was critical that we make a strong connection with each decision maker and begin our meeting from a position of strength and mutual respect.

There were five easy steps that lead to the success of our initial appointment and will work for you as well.

1. Clarify in the beginning of the discussion by asking ‘how much time do we have?’
2. Ask for permission to take notes.
3. Revisit the key ‘trigger points’ that you made during your email exchange.
4. Use your lead-in questions to dig deeper into their requirements and expectations.
5. Ask for their input on the ‘next steps’ in the buying process.

Fortunately we completed our meetings with a greater understanding of their requirements, expectations, and how offing can help them meet their objectives.

I wanted to pass these 5 Easy Steps along to you. I am confident that you can use these to connect and create a high level of success on your next sales appointment.

My short celebration is coming to a close. They are boarding our flight and my vanilla latte was perfect for the occasion.

I look forward to our next discussion.

To your success,
Andy

5 Steps to Create a Buyer Persona

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There are many benefits to developing a buyer persona with your customers and prospects. A buyer persona creates a strong connection upon first introduction by having the knowledge that enables you to ask the right questions. The tool also allows you to remain connected with your buyer or decision maker since you have a strong understanding of their requirements and expectations.

The following questionnaire will build your buyer persona:

Name: ____________________

  1. Background/Skill
    • Interests, hobbies, accomplishments
    • Educational focus, school(s) attended
    • Social media activity – who are their LinkedIn connections? What groups do they belong to?
  2. Demographics
    • Estimated age – this is important to determine their generation as each generation thinks differently and priorities vary
    • Gender
  3. Position
    • Title
    • Current job role
    • Previous positions with current company or with previous employers
  4. Organization
    • Specific industry focus
    • Niche areas
    • Research company’s online presence (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) to gain insight on corporate culture
  5. Vision and Direction
    • New offices opening
    • New product offerings
    • New business expansion
    • What problems are they trying to solve?

Now that you know a little more about your customer, you can use the buyer persona to find out what excites them and what they are trying to accomplish.

The next big step is to apply the above information and formulate your pitch on how you can deliver a solution. With your buyer persona in hand, you are ready to create a list of questions for your initial appointment. Stay tuned for a blog post on developing focused questions that will fully leverage your buyer persona.

To your success,

Andy