Less=Much More

A successfully executed sales strategy will, at some point, dictate the need for expansion.  In past teams I managed, expansion was never well-received by the existing sales reps.  Expansion in the sales team meant a re-organization of sales territories.  To add new reps, we had to realign the territories of the existing reps.  Sometimes this meant realignment geographically, sometimes it meant specializing in a certain segment of our market.  Sales reps always feared that shrinking their sales territory would mean they had less opportunity to meet their quotas.

The reality was, most of the time, the sales reps were not even coming close to reaching and engaging all of the potential prospects in their marketplace.  This is why it is important to select a tightly defined niche (geographically or by segmenting the market) and go after it.  Here are three reasons a niche market works:

It is easier to write marketing material that is specific to a niche.
“We provide financial planning solutions for single parents.”
“We know the real estate needs of the upper peninsula better than anyone.”

It is easier to position yourself as an expert in that niche.
“I specialize in helping single parents save for their child’s future.”
“I know more about real estate in the upper peninsula than any other agent.”

It is easier to charge a premium.  People are willing to pay more for a specialist than they would for a generalist.

I recall, after one extremely successful sales year, adding 10 new sales reps across the country.  Every one of the reps that were already there (the very ones who complained they would never meet their new quota with a smaller geographical territory), exceeded their quota the following year.  More focus = more sales.  It is a simple and trustworthy equation.

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Nobody Cares Not Even Your Mother

I realize networking events are designed to be about networking, but often at these types of gatherings you can learn a lot about sales by simply observing the sales activities of those around you.

While doing my very best fly-on-the-wall impression at a recent event, I watched a golf professional talk about his services for a solid 15 minutes straight to a golf lessonsprospective golfing client. He told him all about his lesson packages in great detail, down to how many lessons are in each one, the length of the lessons, etc. He spoke about group lessons and individual lessons. On and on and on. Never once did he ask the prospect about his golf game. Not a single question to gain insight into the challenges the prospect might be having with golf – or a word about why a golf lesson would benefit him specifically.

Here is a news flash for you, and this is one of the best lessons a sales professional can learn: Nobody cares about your products and services. Not even your mother.

Prospects, customers and good ol’ Mom care about the problems they have. The sooner you understand that you are in the business of fixing their problems, the better off you will be.

Talk about your products in relationship to the problems they solve.

Categorize your products and services into problem-solution categories.

It is a simple concept. Yet, too many marketing materials still focus on features, features, features with little attention to the problem the feature solves.

At the end of the conversation I mentioned above, the prospect politely asked for a business card and moved along. Is he likely to call? Probably not. That business card will take up space until it is eventually tossed in the recycling bin. Your business cards are too valuable to receive the same fate. Help them get the attention they deserve by accompanying their hand-off with clearly defined solutions to their recipient’s problems.

Now, go call your mother, she’d probably love to hear from you.

What can you do in 11 minutes?

What can you do in 11 minutes?  I hope it’s a lot, because a study by the University of California (Irvine) found that the average employee can devote a mere 11 minutes to a project before being interrupted.  If the worker is distracted long enough, he or she is not even likely to return to that task on that same day.

Are you able to write that proposal, complete that report, make those prospecting calls or devote brain power to that strategic plan in an 11 minute window?  Me neither.  Early in my career, it would take me 11 minutes to get psyched up to even begin making prospecting calls, let alone get any of them done.  And for projects?  I need time for my thoughts to percolate (much like my coffee) and I need time to get into my groove.  11 minutes is simply not long enough for the creative juices to flow.

So what to do?

Do Not DisturbI used to recommend my sales people hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on their door or outside of their cubicle to let their co-workers know when they are in serious need of time to get momentum going with a project.  Now, with distractions such as email and online networking tools it is critical to hang a virtual “do not disturb” for yourself!  It is just too easy to get swept away into the virtual world at the neglect of the things you must do to pay the bills.

I am a big fan of tools like Freedom that allow you to turn off contact with the outside world so you can give your proposal, calls and projects the time and consideration they need.  Additionally, find the blogs and discussion groups that add value to your day (like this one!), spend a few minutes with them and then move along.  Try not to get swept up into the online activities that are nothing more than distraction from the more difficult parts of your day.  Balance is important.

Now, I am going to grab a cup of coffee and flip the “do not disturb” sign.  Happy selling!

Step Away From The Apostrophe

Three separate times this week I had the thought, “Whoever proof read that copy should be shot.”  Actually, “shot” is too weak of a word.  They should be beaten, given paper cuts, bathed in lemon juice and THEN shot.  There is an epidemic of epic proportions running rampant throughout newspapers, on billboards, in blogs and on websites everywhere…  the curse of the apostrophe.

An apostrophe followed by the letter s is an indication of possession.  Something belongs to the thing that has the apostrophe s.  Kim’s book.  Dave’s coffee.
Words that are simply plural – meaning you are referring to more than one of them – simply require an s.  No apostrophe, please.  Mondays.  Photos.  T.V.s.  Moms.  Dads.  They should not be Monday’s, photo’s, or mom’s when you are referring to them as a mass group.

Of course there are exceptions.  (Mom’s purse, for example)  But in general, the apostrophe has gone out of control in advertising and article-writing alike.  The erroneous facebook status and twitter posts will likely always contain hideous grammatical errors… but if you write copy for websites, advertisements, blogs or articles – take care to follow the basic principles of punctuation.  When I see obvious, glaring errors I wonder if the attention to detail in something as important as your marketing material – which you pay money for – is so wrong, are you going to be blasé about something that I am paying for?

A Tale Of Two Garages

The two garage doors face each with only a small parking lot in between. Both companies do auto repair – but that is where the similarity stops. Both have large bay doors that allow cars to move continually through the service bays. As you can see from the photos, one owner sees the garage as the perfect place to post a warning. It is the same kind of warning people see continually as they drive around town. The other company sees the giant white doors as an opportunity to reinforce their brand. It is a sign that people won’t see on other businesses.

What opportunities are you missing to market your business? Your invoices, your building, or maybe even what your staff wears. All are opportunities to show prospects and customers that you are different and the experience that they receive will be different.

Checking Your Connections On LinkedIn

In our webinar “Using LinkedIn To Generate Sales” one of the things I suggest you do is to check who your connections have added to their network on a regular basis. This is a great source of new connections as you will uncover people you know who might have just joined LinkedIn and connections you may have forgotten about.

LinkedIn provides you with a simple way to quickly check who your connections have added to their network:

  1. Click on ‘Contacts’ at the top of your home page. This will take you to the ‘My Connections’ page.
  2. Select the ‘Recent Activity’ filter in the left panel.
  3. Click on the ‘Connections With New Connections’ filter in the left panel.
  4. Click on their name in the middle panel to refresh the right panel with their mini-Profile.
  5. Click on the number in the ‘Connections’ field of the connection’s Profile.

If you do this every day you will be a better idea of what your network is doing and who they are connecting with.

Just Because It Seems Simple To You…

I have this conversation on a regular basis, so I was happy to see this blog posting from Seth Godin this morning. Seth wrote:

“We think direct written and verbal communication is clear and accurate and efficient. It is none of those. If the data rate of an HDMI cable is 340MHz, I’m guessing that the data rate of a speech is far, far lower. Yes, there’s a huge amount of information communicated via your affect, your style and your confidence, but no, I don’t think humans are so good at getting all the details.

Plan on being misunderstood. Repeat yourself. When in doubt, repeat yourself.”

Most clients I encounter write and talk about their products or services as if everyone understands the features, benefits and values as well as they do. They assume that everyone knows as much about the industry as they do. So the copy of their websites, brochures and even newsletters are such that only an industry insider can understand.

Remember: Your audience needs information presented clearly and concisely. Your goal is to make your message as simple as possible and then rewrite it to make it even more simple.

Happy Selling