Archive for the ‘Sales’ Category

7 (Seven) Ways Market Research Can Feed Into Business Activities

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Most commonly, market research is viewed as a method to improve advertising and marketing initiatives and to develop products that are friendlier to specific markets. However, the true range of uses for market intelligence is much larger than most businesses think. The results of surveys and opinion polls can also be used to inform various company departments to support their diverse activities.

Moreover, advances in technology have brought about sophisticated do-it-yourself (DIY) research products, which means that businesses have more control over the costs, reach, and timing of research solutions. Those DIY offerings also deliver the advantage of instantaneous results that can be monitored in real time, offering a competitive edge when time is critically important.

The distinctive characteristics of DIY market research solutions give businesses an impressive ability to influence operations across multiple departments, especially in the following seven areas.

1. Language and Tone of Communications
In the many ways companies engage with their consumers, language plays a crucial role. Market intelligence can be especially useful in shaping the tone and content of marketing collateral and company communications to appeal to specific groups of consumers without being irrelevant or offensive.

Research can also help organizations working in highly sensitive capacities, such as hospices or charities for terminal illnesses. For example, gathering opinions from a panel of leukemia survivors can help the marketing department of a leukemia awareness organization to focus on the issues most important to patients and to employ appropriately sensitive, supportive, and inspiring language in its communications.

2. Media Buying and Placement
Market intelligence can be used to discover the best arenas in which to disseminate messaging and launch marketing campaigns. Insights into the minds and media habits of consumers can help create a strategy using the most appropriate venues for marketing, public relations, social media, search engine optimization, and other campaigns.

Also, when businesses move into unfamiliar territories, market research can play a vital role in determining the best approach. Surveys could be conducted to learn more about the consumers in this new market. Do they use social media sites or news sites more often? Do traditional print publications still outperform those online? Is one social network more popular than another? The results of such reports could then assist in choosing the best strategy for media buys, article placement, social media content, and so on.

3. Crisis Management
Being able to access immediate results and observe reactions can be critical to proper crisis-response activities. Whether a business is coming to terms with a sudden drop in public opinion, grappling with an event that hurts consumer confidence, facing something that causes a publicity catastrophe, or responding to a natural disaster, the advanced capabilities of DIY research solutions allow for swift deployment of online surveys, improving a company’s image while providing information vital to the formation of the most appropriate response.

Although such application of market insight might not be commonly employed, they can be as valuable as the traditional uses for market research (such as others in this list of seven uses) and should definitely be taken into account.

4. Advertising Campaigns
Market research has traditionally been used to help agencies craft targeted messages in their advertising programs to ensure they are appealing to the right demographics.

Although the subjective nature of advertorial response is hard to measure, surveys and opinion panels have long been used effectively to pinpoint the specific aspects of a product or campaign that will resonate most with consumers.

5. Product Development
Another traditional use for research panels and target audience surveys, product development can be greatly enhanced via market investigation and input from key demographics.

Learning what the consumer believes, needs, and wants can help to create tailored products that satisfy demand. Conversely, maintaining a conversation with current users of a certain product via a managed research panel can help a company become aware of any issues that need improvement or product aspects that should not be altered during product upgrades.

For example, a car manufacturer wishing to update a popular model could deploy surveys to current fans of the car to gauge their opinions on various aspects. Perhaps most people think the car is visually appealing but they are frustrated by the way it handles. Those results could feed into the development process to ensure that the new model will perform well without alienating anyone.

6. Brand Perceptions
Brand outreach, too, has often drawn upon market research to inform strategies. Businesses can conduct investigations into the marketplace to determine which aspects of their brands are being properly communicated. In this way, they can avoid wasting time and money emphasizing brand characteristics that are already common knowledge.

On the other hand, examining a target audience’s opinions of a brand can reveal areas for improvement. For example, a luxury brand might discover that consumers affiliate its products with convenience rather than indulgence, highlighting an area of current brand messaging that possibly needs altering.

7. Service Improvements
Surveys have often been use to gauge whether consumers are satisfied with a company’s services. Now, technologies moreover enable companies to create their own consumer communities, forming a direct and constant source of feedback.

For example, a business could post information and a link on its website for consumers to join its research community. Those who sign up and participate in such a forum can form a valuable source of information for monitoring service performance. Moreover, owning a research panel can extend other customer service areas to enhance overall response to consumer needs.

18 Tips to Accelerate Social Media and Digital ROI

Friday, August 24th, 2012

1. Align your SEO efforts with cross functional marketing team strategies.
2. Focus on measuring quality, not just quantity.
3. It’s not always about the sale.
4. Claim and optimize your Google+ Local page.
5. Align social data with CRM.
6. Collect and leverage social data to make more intelligent, data driven decisions.
7. Build a social media command center.
8. Harness multi-attribution modeling with web analytics.
9. Think email series, not email blasts.
10. Deploy triggered email and dialog tracks.
11. Create landing pages that seduce and convert.
12. Take control of your data.
13. Be smartly efficient about campaign testing.
14. Connect to the search psyche of your potential buying customer.
15. Always test your landing pages.
16. Develop a video marketing strategy.
17. Secure proper budget for digital campaigns.
18. Focus on the right social media metrics.

Selling to SBOs: Three Points to Remember

Monday, August 6th, 2012

So you’ve set your company’s sights on selling to smaller businesses. Sure, they aren’t the heavy-hitters, the star accounts, but their loyalty could provide a nice budgetary cushion for your bigger sales efforts. And they’ll surely be thrilled to tap into your products or services, right?

Well, hold on a minute.

According to Scott Gillum, writing at the B2B Knowledge Sharing blog, that kind of thinking will place you among the many B2B marketers who, despite their best efforts, keep falling back to their “big company” ways when dealing with small-business owners (SBOs).

To encourage a better approach, Gillum has put together a list of 10 points to keep in mind when selling to SBOs, based on his study of a slew of reports from the Executive Council on Small Business. Here are three:

Don’t call them small! Remove the word “small” from all your communications. These are skilled professionals and full-time business owners.

But understand that small transactions are big deals to them. Don’t underestimate your need to prove value or ROI on what you would consider small transactions, Gillum advises. According to his research, the definition of a “major” purchase begins at $500 for SBOs.

Know they love to search. Face it: They’re not waiting for you to show up. “Rather than narrowing their list of vendors, 60% of owners now report expanding their consideration set through research,” says Gillum. And where do they search? Locally! SBOs search for products or services by name, not a brand, and they include their local area in the search, he notes.

The Point: Focus on the “owner” part. Put aside any concept of size, and approach SBOs as professionals with preferences. That perspective is sure to help get you noticed.

Source: B2B Knowledge Sharing.

6 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence and Visibility

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

According to Nielsen, roughly 274 million people in the U.S. now have Internet access. In another study by TMP Directional Marketing, 80 percent of US adults under 35 consider the Internet their main source for local information. A third study shows 97 percent of all consumers use online media to shop locally.1 The point is, if your business still isn’t online yet, you’re missing a wealth of new, qualified and highly motivated leads.

Getting found. Considering online is primarily where you’ll find most of today’s local shoppers, having a strong online presence is extremely important for promoting visibility. Even 58 percent of those buying offline will research products and services online before buying. That number rises to 87 percent among college graduates and those earning over $75,000.2 If your visibility is low, so are the chances of consumers finding you when they’re ready to buy. Here are six ways to increase your online presence and increase your visibility.

Have a website. In today’s world, many would say your business may as well not even exist if it doesn’t have a website. And given how consumers are searching for information these days, it may not exist through the eyes of potential customers if you don’t have one. A website is a basic building block of an online presence and, for many consumers, essentially validates your business. It is the place your business will ultimately be found and chosen. But as many entrepreneurs have discovered, just because you have a website doesn’t mean you’ll get found. A website is an essential tool that should be part of any integrated marketing solution. And since Google reports that 1 in every 3 searches from mobile devices are now local, having a mobile version of your website can only help increase your findability.

Pay for search engine marketing (SEM). This type of marketing improves a business’s online and mobile visibility through paid ad placement. SEM uses a pay-per- click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) model, where businesses select key phrases relevant to their line of work. The business will appear in a search result ad when users search for that key phrase. If they click through to the business’s website using the ad or sponsored link, then the business pays for that lead. SEM offers businesses many benefits including the ability to:
• Maximize online exposure by placing you in the paid search results near the top of the page
• Tailor your ad message and keywords to suit your needs
• Track results with greater precision
• Establish a monthly spending cap
• Pay only to reach consumers who show an interest in your product or service

Use search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is all about figuring out key search phrases customers would use to find your business and incorporating them into your site. The more your website content matches up with the specific searches people do, the more relevant your site will be considered by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. As a result, your business page will rank higher than others and you’ll appear closer to the top of a search results page. SEO allows you to:

• Improve the rank of your website in the free search results
• Raise your position on the page
• Increase your visibility for free
• Grow the traffic to your site

Add custom videos. A video link found online is 52 percent more likely to be clicked than a standard text link.1 In the U.S., we are the number one video consumers in the world. In fact, Alexa ranks YouTube as the third most visited site on the Internet behind Facebook and Google. Consumers like to be able to see your business, your store or office, your staff, and your products in living color and full motion. Plus, videos are 53 times more likely than text pages to show up on the first page of search results.4 Some of the many other benefits of using video on your site include the ability to:

• Tell your story visually
• Increase chances of your content going viral
• Differentiate your site from competitors
• Get 18 percent more viewer attention than TV commercials

Use online banner advertising. Most Internet users have probably seen plenty of banner advertising while surfing online. Typically, they’re the small, rectangular ads seen across the top, bottom or along the side of a page. If you click on one, it immediately takes you to the advertiser’s website or their landing page. Just a few years ago, banner ads looked to be fading in popularity. But, thanks to technology centered on how they are bought, sold and targeted, banner ads are making a big comeback. Today’s banner ads get exposed to the most relevant target audience by strategically advertising on websites that would appeal to the site’s users.

Targeted banner ads reduce wasted coverage and bring in more qualified leads for less. Some of the other benefits of banner advertising include the ability to:

• Guide prospects along the purchase path
• Provide up to a 27 percent lift in online sales5
• Offer up to a 17 percent lift in offline sales5
• Increase brand awareness
• Easily measure results
• Compete with national brands
• Build credibility with future customers

Reputation management. In the world of reputation management, knowledge is power. You can’t manage what you don’t know about. Reputation management is the process of tracking what is being said about your business. It provides an omnipresent electronic ear to the ground so you know what information is being said about your business and allows you to check for accuracy, share the good stuff, and respond—if needed. Reputation management benefits businesses by:

• Ensuring consumers find only the best version of your business
• Allowing you to keep tabs on what is being said about your business
• Providing the opportunity to address any damaging information in a timely manner
• Listening to social buzz about your business
• Helping to keep an eye on the competition

More visibility, more business. Increasing your online presence is one of the best ways to increase your visibility for customers trying to find you. Local businesses need to develop a coordinated offline and online marketing program to reach across the myriad of ways today’s digitally savvy and mobile buyers search and shop. Test your business’s visibility right now for free. Take a few minutes to get your Findability Score by answering five simple questions about your business.

1 – Source: Kelsey Group, Mobile Market Research, 2010
2 – Source: Pew Research Center
3 – Source: YuMe and IPG Media Lab, April 2012
4 – Source: GigaOM 2009
5 – Source: comScore 2008

Don’t Be a Lead Killer: Three Ways to Keep Sales Leads Alive

Friday, May 11th, 2012

In this article, you’ll learn…
• Three way sales reps often kill leads
• Three ways to turn prospects to customers

Sales reps are the workhorses of the sales business. Nothing gets done, and no deals close, unless sales reps pick up the phone, make cold calls, and conduct the appointment-setting activities that ultimately lead to the sale. I love salespeople, and I’m proud to be in the sales business.

But, all too often, despite their critical contribution to a business, sales reps can get in their own way. They are often their own worst enemies when making appointment-setting calls and getting in front of decision-makers.

If not careful, they could be turning qualified sales leads into “not interested” responses. Or, they might unwittingly be turning moderately interested prospects into lukewarm business leads.

Here are three of the biggest ways sales reps kill leads—and tips for getting back on track for successful appointment-setting.

1. Ignoring Business Intelligence

Sales leads come in many flavors, yet few sales reps adjust their sales follow-up process to sync with the latest business intelligence available about those leads. On every appointment-setting call, and on every follow-up contact, the sales rep needs to ask herself, “What do we know about this prospect?”

For example, did the prospect already invest in a competitor’s solution six months ago? If so, was that solution a long-term investment or a short-term Band-Aid fix? Your qualification questions should probe for those pain issues, and when you discover pain use that as your pathway to appointment-setting. In other words, your solution to the prospect’s pain is the logic that drives the appointment-setting process.

How much do you know about the prospect’s specific circumstances and specific pain points? If you are not serving up common-sense reasons for prospects to meet with you, you’ll have a slim chance of getting time on the decision-maker’s calendar.

Solution: Look beyond the immediate urge to conduct appointment-setting and close a deal. Work on understanding the broader picture of the prospect’s challenges.

2. Mismatched Expectations
Many sales leads die within 30 seconds of a call because of a mismatch between where the prospect is in the buying process and where the rep’s expectations are for how closable the lead might be.

Don’t treat every prospect the same, because they’re not. Even qualified prospects are not all eager to buy immediately. In the first 30 seconds, be careful not to put words in the prospect’s mouth. For example, don’t say, “I understand that you are in the market for a new system,” or “I am following up on your interest to replace your current vendor.” Do that, and the prospect will disappoint you.

After all, your lead-generator probed for pain issues and found out, for example, that your prospect is using a six-year-old system and her present vendor doesn’t support the equipment any more. Even though the decision-maker knows she needs a new system, that doesn’t mean she is actively shopping. Therefore, the statement you made in the first 30 seconds of the call puts the prospect on the defensive immediately. If the decision-maker says she is in the market, she is giving you permission to advance your sale.

Instead of assuming too much, open your phone call by saying, “I understand you are using one of the older x45 processing units. Those were great machines in their day. Is it still running well?” Ease into the lead by building rapport. You have a sales cycle to deal with that’s most likely longer than 30 seconds. You cannot afford to assume that every prospect with pain issues is going to be a slam dunk.

Solution: Don’t force the issue or apply a hard-sell approach. Don’t approach your prospects with a sense of neediness and urgency. Remember that the focus of the call needs to be the prospect’s pain, not making this week’s quota.

3. Asking About Budget Too Soon
The dreaded “budget question” can quickly snuff out a promising deal. Too many sales reps are overeager to talk about budget. By asking up front, “What is your budget?” the sales rep will undermine her credibility and make the prospect feel pushed.

Of course, you don’t want to waste your time trying to sell to unqualified prospects, but addressing the budget issue has an appropriate time, place, and process. Prospects want to know that you care, first and foremost, about solving their problem, not calculating your commission.

Solution: Instead of asking up front for the prospect’s budget, talk about costs and benefits. Show them how your solution can save them money. If you build trust and establish a relationship with prospects, they’ll be eager to tell you more about their organization’s specific needs—including, when the time is right to buy and what their budget is.

Telemarketing Companies Are Some of the Best Among Providing Sales Leads

Friday, April 20th, 2012

In-house telemarketing services are some of the best you can employ to help you have a telemarketing campaign. And when it comes to making more sales, telemarketing is without a doubt one of the best marketing strategies you can make use of. But when your telemarketing campaign can’t seem to bring in those desired results, then it may be a result of you not having fresh B2B leads.

To remedy this problem, having lead generation done may be a good option however, buying a telemarketing or calling list is also something you can choose. With only a limited number of staff, adding on lead generation to their assigned tasks may be too much for them to handle. Aside from that, your employees may not have the know-how on how to effectively do so.

Once you have decided on getting one however, another thing to consider in making the choice is who to have as a provider, who you can buy from to get quality results. Well, one of the best choices you can make is going with aprofessional telemarketing firm.

With their capabilities when it comes to doing lead generation, they are an optimal choice for many other firms that need lead generation services. Because of this, it also makes them one of the best when it comes to the creation of a telemarketing list. Well-known and large telemarketing firms that have been already in the business for a long time have already managed to employ a large number of telemarketers.

Also, they have been in the industry long enough to learn, create and train their telemarketers in the art of making asale through the phone with ease. Aside from that, cold calling is one of the most widely used methods in terms oflead generation and skilled telemarketers can do it better than anyone else. When it comes to talking to prospects, many have also learned that smart calling is a more effective way of generating leads.

By doing research on their prospect and having an ample amount of knowledge on the target company, these telemarketers are capable of engaging in long and meaningful conversations with the prospect thus allowing them to easily make the prospect feel at ease because they are able to speak on equal terms. Due to this, they can easily obtain the information they need out of their prospects and turn it into a lead and placed on your telemarketing list.

Telemarketing firms also pride themselves with the quality of service they provide: quick and quality results. Although they do employ a large amount of staff to make calls and minimize the time needed to get results, rest assured, they do not compromise the overall quality of the lists that they provide.

They will also make sure to find prospects who are highly interested with your products and services, find prospects that are willing to buy and find those who are in the market and looking for such; they assure to bring you fresh B2B leads to increase the chances of you making a sale with every lead on your purchased telemarketing list.

With a telemarketing firm at your side and as your provider, you can expect to keep on getting high-quality leads and lists. If ever your in-house telemarketing program may seem a bit slow and not capable of bringing in the required amount of sales, then consider buying a telemarketing or calling list filled with fresh B2B leads from a professional telemarketing firm. This is sure to provide you with the best results.

Engagement Energy: 10 Ways to Power Up Sales and Marketing to Capture Attention and Drive Action

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In this article, you’ll learn…
• 10 ways to make marketing and sales communications more engaging
• How engagement energy can influence prospects and drive sales

Engaging buyers is a regular theme in sales and marketing conversations these days. Social media marketers are driving participation and encouraging customers to become so engaged with a brand that they own the responsibility of creating content to share their enthusiasm.

Loyalty and relationship marketers are encouraging enrollment in their programs to keep people continually engaged with their brands. Advertisers are trying to break through the clutter to get people to notice their messages.

Salespeople are looking for ways to gain attention from prospects so that the prospects will remember how and why their product is worth considering.

Sound interesting? Then read through the following list of “engagement-energy” boosters and think about how you can use them to create more compelling content and communications.

What is engagement energy?
For the purposes of this article, engagement energy refers to activating a person’s brain when she is exposed to any form of communication. Imagine having a switch that activates your buyer’s brain and gets her to pay attention to what you say. Better yet, what if you could get your buyers to say “yes” to what you’re asking them to do?

The following techniques are based on findings from a collection of psychologists and neuroscientists who study ways to stimulate the brain. Here I’m sharing an overview of some action-oriented tools… with just a little of the psychology.

Are you ready to capture your audience’s attention and generate laser-focus on your message?

If so, here are 10 ways you can add engagement energy to your sales and marketing communications.

1. Ask questions
Are you asking your audience enough questions? Questions are a powerful brain stimulator. Our natural tendency is to answer a question when it’s asked. Asking questions is a technique I use in the marketing classes I teach, and it works to gain the attention of today’s multitasking students. Ask skillfully crafted questions that heighten a buyer’s need to consider your product.

2. Present problems
What would you do if the fire alarm in your building went off as you were reading this article? The decision-making brain solves problems quickly. Chances are you would have no problem deciding what items to take with you, grabbing them and scooting out the door and building. Activate that reflex in your audience by presenting the problem that your product solves. Hopefully, prospects will view your product as the solution to their problem.

3. Tell stories
People love a good story. Stories are easy to listen to. They add emotion to situations, they develop characters that readers can relate to, and they help people remember complex details and content. When told well, stories allow listeners to jump into a situation and imagine themselves in that situation. What well-crafted brand stories can you tell that will leave a lasting impression with your buyers?

4. Make comparisons
Why would someone’s life be better with your product than without it? How is your product better than your competitors’? Can you create a timeline to show people how they will benefit from using your product over time? The decision-making brain is good at making comparisons. Point out key differences and the advantages of using your product. Doing so makes it easier for customers to choose you.

5. Provide proof
Many of these engagement-energy boosters are designed to create an almost-instant reaction or decision from people. (That is why people sometimes say decisions are made irrationally.) Provide proof that the initial arousal of interest a prospect is experiencing about your product is right and the decision can be supported rationally. An aroused buyer wants to know that her decision to buy is a good one.

6. Paint pictures
Parts of the brain respond very quickly to strong visuals. Images are an extremely powerful way of capturing attention and engaging someone’s mind. What pictures can you use to highlight the need for your product, demonstrate a key advantage of your product, show your product in use, or highlight the types of people who enjoy your product?

7. Mirror customers
Have you read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie? It, and similar books, stresses the importance of establishing rapport with people quickly. When someone meets a person similar to herself, she thinks, “There’s something about this person I like.” Mirror your prospects; show them others who are like them in realistic product situations. That establishes rapport and builds trust.

8. Encourage imagination
What if every sales presentation you make were attended by bright-eyed audience members who are enthralled from start to finish. What if every letter or email you write were read from beginning to end. How many more sales do you think you would have made? Create opportunities for people to imagine how their lives will be better with your product. Reflection has powerful persuasion effects.

9. Use props
I learned the power of this tactic early in my career when I sold Maytag appliances to retailers and trained their salespeople to justify a higher price. One of my favorite props was a quarter. I challenged salespeople to chip the top of a Maytag washer or dryer by attacking it with my quarter. They loved using that demonstration with customers and remembered details about the top’s high-quality finish.

10. Add WIIFM
The decision-making brain is self-centered; it is constantly scanning the environment, asking, “What’s in it for me?” So a powerful way to add engagement energy to your pitches, letters, emails, website content, etc. is to convert every “we” or “I” into “you.” That shifts the sense of the message from being all about you to being all about your reader or listener. People really care about themselves.

So, now what?
When I coach brands on applying these psychological principles to skillfully craft stronger sales and marketing messages that capture attention and stay top-of-mind with prospects, we usually start with an audit of a current communication piece.

Then, we look for ways to infuse more engagement energy into the piece, allowing the brands to get a before-and-after look. We do that interactively in workshops. But, if you want to try the same thing, audit a presentation, email, or a page from your website. After reading this article, see whether you can immediately make the piece more effective by applying one or more of these techniques. I’d love to hear how it goes. Will you please make note of my contact information and share your experience?

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11 Ways to Maximize Sales With LinkedIn

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Think you know all there is to know about LinkedIn? Even expert users can squeeze out more productivity and sales with LinkedIn’s ready-made tools.

We have all experienced that attracting new customers can be expensive and time-consuming. According to the Customer Service Institute, 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, and attracting a new customer costs five times more than it doest to keep an existing one satisfied.

Still, all businesses need prospects. And properly qualifying prospects is one of the biggest challenges most sales people face. You need to know what problem you’re solving for your prospect and how to communicate to them that you can solve it. LinkedIn can help you pre-qualify your prospects, save time and frustration and even improve your closing ratio for current and new clients alike.

LinkedIn sales training consultant Barbara Rozgonyi asks training attendees what they are doing now to get sales that they wish LinkedIn could help them with. “One person said they had a list of people to call and knew nothing about them,” says Rozgonyi. “LinkedIn profiles give you insights to your contact, their co-workers and the company itself. It’s a great resource where you can do some research and get know more about your prospects before making the call.”

Rozgonyi was kind enough to share with us her 11 tips to maximizing the value of current customer relationships on LinkedIn. My personal favorite is No. 10—what’s yours? You can let us know in the comments below.

1. Find out who’s who.
Take a look at your top-20 customers’ LinkedIn profiles. What makes them top customers? Is it number of sales, volume, or lifetime customer value? What do they have in common: problems you can fix, a need for something specific, an attachment to your brand? Make a model customer profile based on these answers and then overlay location, industry, interests, groups and title. It’s okay to have more than one model. Just be sure each one is cohesive and consistent.

2. Confirm your connections.
Send invitation requests to all current and past customers. Add a note that includes their name and mentions your business connection. “Hi Bill—great working with you on the launch project! I’d like to add you to my LinkedIn network. Thanks for your consideration.” To broaden the connection, add in assistants, vendors, suppliers, and anyone else at their company that you interact with.

3. Sync with SlideShare.
An application that allows you to upload PowerPoint presentations, SlideShare automatically shares your sales presentations on LinkedIn. A monthly customer success story allows you to feature your customers and builds goodwill. You can also use SlideShare to explain product upgrades and answer service questions.
4. Request recommendations and referrals.

Ask two questions: “What’s the biggest pain I solve for you? What do you say when you refer me or my company to others?” The best time to ask for a referral or a recommendation is when your clients are happy, like right after you have closed a sale. They’re too busy? Ask the questions over the phone, write down the answers, and email them with a request for a recommendation. Make it easy for them to be your best advocate.

5. Get into groups.
What groups do your best customers belong to? Join these groups and recommend or refer your customers’ services when you can. In your communications with them, talk about the latest group activity. Connect with group leaders to let them know who you are and start discussions. Invite your customers to join in the conversation; they will see you as an active leader. You can start up to 10 groups on LinkedIn.

Now, after you’re connected with all of your existing customers, it’s time to start prospecting on LinkedIn. Here are tips to follow for pain-free prospecting for new cutomers on LinkedIn.

6. Search for significance.
What are people searching for when they’re looking for your company on LinkedIn: location, industry, specialty, service? Type in keywords that your customers use to search for you in LinkedIn’s advanced search function. Compare how you come up against the competition.

7. Build your list.
Use your ideal customer model components to search for people. Then, plug these parameters into LinkedIn’s advanced search function. You can target companies by finding people, or you can use LinkedIn’s company search and then look for people within your target companies. Once you have a target company list, then you can follow the companies, and find out whom you want to connect with inside.

8. Share today.
Subscribe to your industry’s channel news on LinkedIn Today, a content aggregator of all the top news shared on LinkedIn. Inside your network, share stories and articles you think your customers would be interested in. They’ll begin to recognize you as a leading resource for relevant information.

9. Promote products.
Complete your company’s LinkedIn profile if you haven’t already. On your company’s LinkedIn page, list out products and services. Use your best customers as “before” and “after” stories. Ask them to leave you a recommendation and to follow your company.

10. Export to email.
Manage your connections by exporting your list every quarter. Merge the contacts into your customer database. Start a newsletter, or add to your current list, by inviting your connections to subscribe. Use a double-opt in service that sends out a confirmation request.

11. Expand your reach.
Adding new connections gives you a greater reach. While you may not choose to be an open networker that accepts invitations from everyone, the more people you connect with, the bigger your network will be. It’s simple math that compounds with the power of LinkedIn. Check out this list of 20 ways to add LinkedIn network connections.

Too often companies assume that their sales people maximize the full power of LinkedIn. Even expert users can squeeze out more productivity and sales with LinkedIn’s ready-made tools for prospecting and sales. Sales teams can meet to compare notes and build customer models together. When you use the power of LinkedIn to maximize your sales performance, you’re sure to outrun—and outsell—your competition.

Top 5 Trends in Sales 2.0

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It was a jam packed day at Sales 2.0 in Santa Monica today. It was a great opportunity to meet with and learn from some of the brightest in the Sales 2.0 community. I have summarized my key takeaways for Sales 2.0 leaders below:

#1 – Attract many, then focus on filtering

If your prospects do research online, will they find your company, or your competitor? Mark Roberge, VP Sales from HubSpot argued that you should keep the top of your sales funnel as broad as possible. Attract as many people as possible to your website through good content. HubSpot itself is attracting 50,000 leads a month, of which 40% get passed to the inside sales team and about 400 (or less than 1%) convert into new customers. The leads that don’t convert still help to reinforce the HubSpot brand and trust. With so many leads, strong filtering and lead scoring algorithms are keys to sales success.

#2 – Give all sales people a social media address

Scott Holden, Senior Director at argued that not just companies need to be discoverable, but also individual sales representatives. Social pages are often the first ones to come up in search results. Darren Suomi, VP Sales from HootSuite called it “giving all sales reps a social media address”. He said it is no different from issuing a rep a cell phone and e-mail. IBM indeed has done just that, said Douglas Hannan, BU Executive at IBM: all 1,000 IBM sales reps have a web page with built in 2-way video and chat. They are also asked to get on Twitter and LinkedIn. IBM marketing maintains a social messaging calendar to make it easy for reps to find content to post.

#3 – Deliver value first, sell later

Jim Cathcart, the well-known author of “Relationship Selling”, defined what customer relationships are all about: in a relationship people know each other and have an exchange of value. Ask yourself: who is truly glad to know me? In a sales relationship, provide value first, sell later. Don’t talk about up selling customers, but rather up serving them. If you do a good job others will vouch for you and recommend your services. Scott Holden summarized this as moving from self-promotion to social referrals: “trust me, he is a great lover” and not “I am a great lover”. I expressed a similar sentiment in my blog earlier this week on Genuine Customer Engagement.

#4 – Use online demos to drive sales recently did a survey of 1 million influencers in the buying process and found that 50%-70% of sales processes start long before a sales person ever gets involved. The most important deciding factor in the sales process was “online demos”, not sales person interaction. HubSpot data points in the same direction: the most reliable indicator that a lead will convert into a customer is a request for a demo (46%) as compared to download a white paper for example (22%). As we discussed in many blogs including Trial Conversion is Top Priority in SaaS, I would add that interaction with a free trial version of your product has an even higher correlation with conversion to customer.

#5 – Consider a territory model based on social proximity

A somewhat radical idea was presented by Michael Lodato from Network Hardware Resale. He argued that in a commodity business (he sells network hardware) buyers are deciding based on personal relationships and customer service. Therefore he moved to an open territory model, where leads are assigned based on the personal relationship of a rep to the lead, rather than geography. On paper this social proximity model sounds great, but in reality it is still difficult to implement. Michael admitted to have a team of marketers manually assigning leads based on social parameters.

#6 – Move towards a lower touch model

Gerhard Gschwandtner pushed speakers to learn from B2C selling models: Amazon has $30 billion in sales with ZERO sales reps. B2B companies need to learn from this and move to lower touch selling models, wherever possible. One of the speakers, Rini Das from PAKRA, has achieved just that. She is closing 95% of her business based on social media leads. She has hardly met any of her clients in person, but is still doing $30,000 to $150,000 in revenues per customer each year.

How to Close a Sales Call

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Remember the last time you were being pressured into doing something you didn’t want to do? Whether the pressure came from a boss, colleague, spouse, or child, your natural response was to resist and push back. It’s human nature to resist high-pressure tactics. So, how should the closing of the sales call be structured? The answer is to create a primary closing strategy, utilize fallback positions, and select the appropriate technique to deliver the close.

Your primary closing strategy should be based upon securing the main objective for the meeting. The objective could be to be granted a follow-on meeting, have the customer start a product evaluation, receive approval to conduct a site survey, or negotiate final purchase terms. You also need fallback positions, alternatives you prepare ahead of time to present should the customer reject your primary closing strategy.

Your primary closing strategy and fallback positions are based on choosing to issue a command or presenting foreground and background suggestions. A command is an instructional statement that creates a binary type of yes or no response from the recipient. It is typically associated with a hard close and “take it or leave it” mentality. Foreground suggestions (medium close) are explicit, but they deflect the source of the request from the demander. Background suggestions (soft close) lead recipients to believe they are acting of their free will when in fact they have been directed to follow a message.

Let’s pretend I am a passenger in your car and I feel you are driving too fast. A command would be “Slow down!” A foreground suggestion would be “You know the speed limit is forty five miles per hour and police ticket a lot of speeders here.” A background suggestion would be “A speeder was in a horrible accident last week in this exact spot.” While the background suggestion may be more subtle in its delivery, it can trigger a more profound reaction.

In a sales situation, a command might be “We always recommend you benchmark the products you are evaluating.” A foreground suggestion might be “Consumer Reports gave our product the highest rating and recommended it as the best buy.” An example of a background suggestion is “One of my customers tried the other company’s product and recently switched to ours.”

After you have determined your primary closing strategy and fallback positions, select the delivery technique to be used during the meeting. Here are some examples, assuming the main sales call objective is to close the business deal:

Time-based technique. This technique incorporates a time-based deadline.

* Command (hard close). “This is the last time we’ll be able to extend this offer and we need your answer now.”

* Foreground suggestion (medium close). “My boss told me that this pricing expires December 31 at midnight.”

* Background suggestion (soft close). “Think it over tonight and I will call you at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.”

Linkage. This technique connects different events, subjects, or ideas.

* Command (hard close). “If we give you those terms, then you must have our contract signed by the end of our quarter.”

* Foreground suggestion (medium close). “I’ll talk with my boss and if he okays the terms, could we have the purchase order by month end?”

* Background suggestion (soft close). “Our implementation team will be fully booked starting in September, so to complete your project by year end, we’ll need to have the contract signed in the next couple of weeks.”

Power of Print. This technique leverages a document or printed company policy.

* Command (hard close). “Our new price list is coming out in thirty days, and I can’t hold these current prices for you after that.”

* Foreground suggestion (medium close). “Here’s our volume discount schedule. If you spend another $100,000, you’ll receive an additional 10 percent off the entire order.”

* Background suggestion (soft close). “Should I send you a formal quotation that details the purchase price and terms?”

Always maintain control of the sales call so you can employ your primary closing strategy and be prepared with fallback positions should your primary closing strategy fail. You can sequence your primary closing strategy, and fallback positions with commands (hard close), foreground suggestions (medium close), and background suggestions (soft close). For example, your primary closing strategy might be based upon a hard close; first fallback position, a medium close; and final fallback position, a soft close. Or, your strategy could be completely opposite depending upon the circumstances and the type of person you are meeting with.

If you are a senior salesperson, you’ve already closed your share of business and know many different closing techniques. You also understand that your closing strategy must vary depending upon the customer’s background, your competitive position, and the circumstances that are unique to the sales cycle. Sometimes, you need a commanding hard close for your meeting. For example, if the sales cycle for the products you sell involves only one or two customer interactions. With experienced buyers, consider a softer close because how many times do you think they have heard “this is our best and final offer” and every other type of hard close before?