When the market is tough and leads are few and far between, sales opportunities cannot be wasted and you need the right sales people on board. This week the best damn sales blog has got a best damn sales tip and a best damn management tip!
Take two sales people sales person A has 10 years experience, sales person B has 1 years experience they have used 10 times! You might want to read that again.
Are you hiring A's or B's.
As a sales manager or a sales person are you thinking and acting like A or B? if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got.
Sales people aren't all born they can be trained, but even the "naturals" keep learning otherwise they become salesperson B.
So when you are hiring you need to be on the look out for evidence of real experience not just time in the job. What training has the candidate attended, how do they keep up to date, how open minded are they to continuing professional development?
There is lots of help, support and insights out there (you are reading one source). Sales person A always puts the effort in to pick up and learn new ideas and techniques. Sales person B they just do the same pitch but on a different day.
The danger in "relationship selling" is that sometimes YOU do too good a job. If you have some deals stalling at the moment look out for this you build such a good relationship with the prospect or client that they don't "have the heart" to tell you they are not going ahead. The sale just seems to drag on, with them putting up seemingly good reasons to stall, and you ending up in "continuation" mode. If you are feeling this is the case then politely tell them (don't ask them) that YOU are withdrawing your proposal as the time does not seem right for them to make a decision. A real prospect will say "hold on not so fast" and give you the real situation. A real prospect but where the timing genuinely is wrong will say "phew! would you, thanks I appreciate that" BUT they DO come back to you. The people you don't ask at all but you end up pestering they are the ones where that good relationship eventually falters, even if they were going to buy they often don't. Never be afraid to offer to walk away!
Betsy thanks for your comments and feedback on my blog "there is work in NetWORKing", tell me why do you think people don't follow up when they have made the initial effort to network?
I think there are a variety of reasons: disorganization, lack of prioritization. It's hard for people to toot their horn. Folks are also insecure they think they couldn't possibly have anything valuable to offer, and don't want to intrude. Following up is barely warmer than a cold call, especially if the encounter fell short in ways one could re-engage with the person. Good face to face is just as much of an art. People try, but they don't study and practice how to network successfully.
So Betsy, what are some of your own experiences of networking?
They've run the gamut. I've had success, and I've failed to follow-up myself. I've assessed potential inappropriately, and I'm sure I've missed opportunities. I've built great relationships from one chance encounter, and I've tried to make things happen that never had a prayer. The critical element for me has been my approachability, and the match in potential with my products and services with the venue and the other participants.
That's a great point matching potental, I never feel you should sell too aggressively at a network event, what tips and advice would you pass on to budding networkers?
Find an association or venue that fits. Have a plan. Study up on how to work a room. Don't hang at the food table or the bar. Move around and look to join conversation. Don't be afraid to make the first move. Don't overshare, or overstay your welcome in a conversation. Look to meet an interesting person or two, not to sell something. Think of networking as developing relationships over a longer term. There's no such thing as an immediate payout.
Bestsy, its been a pleasure getting the benefit of your experience, good luck and good networking on and off line!
You can find Betsy networking and blogging at:
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce holds a monthly "after hours" network meeting great to meet loads of people, outside of normal working hours and not eating into prime time.
In my last blog, point number 6, I suggested following up with people you meet regardless of how valuable a contact they seem.
At an "after hours" last week an attendee, who was a grant writer, was there looking for work. They had no business cards and a hefty resume, that did not reflect what skills they had, a copy of which I declined to take sorry I am not hiring, not a recruiter and I did have a lot to carry already.
BUT I did spend time with the person what's 10 minutes between new acquaintances and I was not entirely sure what a grant writer did so I learned something.
After a few minutes I asked "are you on Linkedin" response "no". I continued "are you using any social networking media response "no".
My reply "OK, drop me an email with your details and I will keep an eye out for you". For those of you that know me this was not an idle promise.
Well, I have heard nothing. No email, no follow up, no "thanks for your time". Guess what, I have found someone that wants ............. you got it .............. a grant writer. But I have no way to contact the "networker".
The lesson from this story don't waste your time networking if you are not going to get prepared, not going to make it easy for people to network with you, not going to follow up OR if you are expecting instant results.
When sales are slow the temptation is to try and sell to everyone. Sometimes we forget about "prospect qualification" and we end up wasting time. The prospect has to have a Need for what you are selling, they have to have the desire to do something about the need and a desire to do something about the need with you. The prospect must have the Money and the willingness to spend it. Finally you must be dealing with someone who has the Authority to say yes.
Who's the MAN? The person with the Money Authority and the Need of course! Or as one my lady colleagues says "actually its the WOMAN Who Own the MAN!"
I am a real fan of face to face networking as a business development tool to compliment your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Myspace social media network strategy. Chambers of Commerce, local and national, and business community groups can be great places to network. But you only get out of a network what you put in.
So here are 6 tips some of these are a BGO but they are good reminders:
1. Get a list of people attending in advance, scan the list to identify people who could be useful contacts. Go with a plan. Work out what you could say to them that might get their attention or be of interest to them. I target new small business owners, especially new franchises. I always say "Welcome to town, great business idea, what made you pick that one?"
2. If you can't get a list in advance get there a little early and ask the organziser for a look at the list, identify the people who are likely to be decision makers especially new members or first times attendees. Go and make them welcome. Ask open questions to get the conversation going.
3. Take plenty of business cards and something small to write on. OK, OK, OK so no one would go networking without business cards right? Wrong, also take enough! I always have a little pocket note pad with me (about 2" x 3" nice and discreet) for when the contact I want to get info on has not bought cards, has run out or, as happened this week, I am given a 3rd party to contact.
4. Don't be afraid to move on, even when you have found a good contact and you want to exploit the opportunity you need to make more contacts so does the other person! They won't thank your for keeping them talking and reducing THEIR networking time.
5. Don't blatantly sell or inadvertently badger and pester, that's not what networking is for. Make contacts sell later. Yes sow seeds, mention ideas, give out (brief) information but no hard sells.
6. Follow up regardless. No contact is wasted, everyone WILL know someone who can use what you sell, even if they can't. So its only courtesy and it keeps you in their thoughts (and database) to send a quick email to EVERYONE you meet "I was pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about your business at the network event, I look forward to meeting you again, in the meantime here are my contact details".
People buy from people, NOTHING beats face to face networking as a component in your marketing mix and it gets you off that keyboard for a couple of hours too! There is a lot more I could add about networking but remember you only get out what you put in.
Some customers and prospects are very receptive to your ideas, questions and sales pitch some are not. Have you ever wondered why?
Four stages of learning
There are four stages of competence we go through when we learn something:
Stage 1. unconsciously incompetent
Stage 2. consciously incompetent
Stage 3. consciously competent
Stage 4. unconsciously competent
Learning to drive
Stage 1. Your teenager is reaching driving age, they look at your car with envy, "no more walking, no more rides from mom and dad I'll be free!" At this point in time they don't know, they don't know how to drive.
Stage 2. They get in the car, can't get the engine going, they are badly coordinated, they stall the engine at this point they get a rude awakening now they know, they don't know how to drive.
Stage 3. You pay for learner ed, they pass the test and, although lacking experience, the teenager knows they know how to drive.
Stage 4. Have you ever got to the office in the morning, sat at your desk and suddenly thought "Gee, which route did I come this morning, did I run the red lights at the intersection?" You don't know, that you know, how to drive. You are on auto pilot, driving is second nature, almost instinct.
Competence, Comprehension and Acceptance
So what has this analogy got to do with selling well, you try telling a teenager, especially a boy, that he does not know how to drive your message is falling on deaf ears, try and tell an experienced driver who has never even had a parking ticket, they could be a better driver deaf ears again.
At Stage 1 and Stage 4 human nature makes people unwilling to be receptive they don't see the need to be.
Communicating your sales message
Identifying what stage the customer is at is critical. Your first sales job is to create some sort of motivation, reason or "disturbance" to move the customer forward to Stage 2 or backward to Stage 3. At Stage 2 and Stage 3 people are more willing to be receptive.
Once you have got the customer receptive its down to you, but at least you have got a their ear!
There is never enough time in a day and once the day has gone, its gone! Don't forget "Prime Time" the time when prospects, clients and customers are most likely to be available and receptive. This will vary from industry to industry, market to market, job to job.
If you have a "sell / do" role lawyers, CPAs, consultants, sales engineers put time aside that is only for selling. Just because its the beginning of the month, don't fool yourself, watch out for the time bandits that steal your business development and sales time. You should NEVER be doing anything except pro-active sales activity in Prime Time.