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Category Archives: Sales Tips

Be the Consultant of Tracking Your Sales Contacts – 3 Tips

by on August 8, 2012  

Sales Strategy Organize Your Sales Contacts Like a Wardrobe ConsultantHave you ever gone to purchase a piece of apparel – new slacks (guys) or perhaps a new jacket (ladies) and after purchasing, you  found that you already had something very similar tucked away in your closet? Once I organize my wardrobe or clean out a closet I tend to find similar items to what I purchased, and I know I am not alone on this.

I usually think, “I need a wardrobe consultant to help me stay organized.”

The same is true with your highly valued sales contacts. You’ve made great efforts to connect with some of them – either at trade shows or online, and then work happens – and you tuck them away. You don’t follow up with them and they don’t follow up with you. Just think of all the great deals you might have if only people kept in contact. It’s likely you could grow your business by 10-40% just by being better at following up with high value contacts and setting next actions.

Let’s take a minute to think about how all of your business contacts  are sitting in various  sorts of containers – here are a few:

The stack of business cards on your desk

The 500+ contacts you were once so proud to have accumulated in LinkedIn

Your Google+ business contacts

Twitter followers

Your mailing list and CRM system (for some companies it is one in the same)

Oh, I could go on and on, but for now will simply encourage you to jot down where all of your prized and valued relationships are kept. Do you respect and value these contacts?

Why are they tucked away and you never (or rarely) reach out to them?

It’s a new day if you really want to create gold with the contacts you already have. My point today is to stop looking for more until you’ve followed up on who you already have a relationship with.

I know that sounds counter intuitive for me since I am always encouraging clients to work on “net new” business. But net new business can be gained from those who already know and trust you. Heck, they may even like you! (if they don’t, I would work with some new contacts.)  As a company that has gained our last 3 new clients from LinkedIn and Twitter, we encourage you to exchange conversation with the people who know you and are out looking for what it is that you do. For the people who know you but are not currently looking, your nurturing of the relationship will keep “top of mind” awareness for when they DO need something you provide.

Here are 3 tips to help you get started. [There is a complete webinar on this later today as part of Sales Summer School.]

1. If you do collect business cards you may have a stack of them on your desk, a shoebox, or a file drawer. Make an post-work hours event to get them sorted out and dealt with. Do this on a regular basis – sort, if important get entered into CRM and set a next action.  If not important, toss.

2. Make a practice to reach out to your LinkedIn connections – if you have connected the way Linkedin created their system, you will be connecting to people you know and trust. 5 Contacts to reach out to each week x 50 weeks = 250 connections over the course of a year. (I gave you 2 weeks off for holidays) Create a message that shows you are thinking of them, customize as much as you can.

3. Build your e-mail list with as many of these folks as possible. When reaching out to your LinkedIn contacts, for example, have a link for your company newsletter so that ultimately everyone will be there. An e-newsletter, when well done, is extremely valuable, and when segmented is an amazing asset for your company.

What tips do YOU have for following up with existing contacts?

Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson speaks, writes, and trains on sales strategies for B2B mid-market technology front-line sales teams. Why not sign up for our twice-monthly newsletter, “Sales Ideas In A Minute or the award-winning blog rss feed?

Analyzing Sales Opportunities in Your Pipeline

by on May 16, 2012  

Sales Funnel (Pipeline)

Do You Have a Sales Funnel?

Are you part of a B2B sales organization proactively looking each week at what deals are in your sales funnel (or sales pipeline)?  You probably fall into one of three camps:

A. You have a robust, helpful CRM tool that gives you several helpful reports which you can review each week, and lists you can easily pull up on a just-in-time basis.

B. You have a poor CRM tool, perhaps not cloud-based and it is difficult to use with poor reporting capabilities. Basically you work around this system if you work in it at all.

C. You have no CRM system and use some combination of e-Mail, Excel, Outlook, and/or sticky notes to “track” your prospective sales opportunities.

Whichever scenario you are in, there is hope as long as you are clear on two points:

1. Finding ways to shorten your prospective customers’ buying cycle which brings revenue in sooner is a very good thing.

2. Making improvements in all aspects of your sales efforts should be a critical part of your sales plan.

What to do if you have a very good system in place already: First, be appreciative because a lot of sales teams are still working with sub-par tools. Your goal is to take advantage of the tools you have, and find ways to leverage them and gain knowledge that assists in bringing deals to closure sooner.  Most systems are under-utilized because of a poor roll-out and non-existent ongoing training.

Example: Look at how and when follow-up is happening and how it is happening. One company had a sales rep who would only do e-mail follow-up. Once we were able to see a report on how reps were following up, we encouraged this seller to start picking up the phone and engaging in valuable conversations. The result? Two of his deals moved forward, and one closed simply because of awareness and creating a plan of action.

What to do if you have a poor CRM / reporting system: See what you can accomplished with the tools that you have already. Don’t spend selling time researching your dream sales enablement tools.  Instead, focus on understanding what sales opportunities you have, and what stages they are in so that you can create a plan of attack to move them forward. It can be very frustrating when you see other companies with other systems in place – especially if they are your competitors. There is a lot of selling that can go on even without great tools – so no excuses in place of getting your job done. If you were hired for sales, that is what you need to focus on. Make a case for what you need, and help build the ROI for it, outside of the normal work day. Learn what your peers and colleagues are doing to enable more sales, better.

If you have the “MacGyver”, (American action-adventure television series that ran from 1985-1992), pieced-together notes about potential customers, on paper, on sticky notes, and in your email or accounting system – you need executive buy-in on a modern system that will help you identify, win, and grow revenues. At the very least, you must know what sales opportunities you and your company have, and you need to set next actions on an ongoing basis.  Having a snapshot of what you are working on as a seller is critical to keep you on track, on focus, and motivated.

No matter what system you have, put your top opportunities on a white board on the wall to further motivate you and keep them in your view. You and those around you will know what to focus on this way, and you also post a list of target companies you’d like to make progress on over the next few months.

Visuals can be very motivating. Use them, in conjunction with a great sales system to make your numbers.

Read this post for “3 Productivity Tips for the Sales Pipeline”

godaddy analytics

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Sales Lessons from New York City

by on April 25, 2012  

Spending some time in New York City might not seem like the place to get inspiration about customer service, but my experience is almost always inspirational.

The conference I’m attending is for women entrepreneurs and is a very nurturing, energizing event – going against what I was ever told about coming from a small town to “big NYC”.

When I got out of a cab this morning, the cabbie had stopped in the middle of the street (ok, he was busy talking on his cell phone and that wasn’t an inspirational customer service event). Another cab was behind him, patiently waiting to go on this single lane road. The cabbie behind waited for us to get out, then when our cab still sat there, the cabbie behind started honking. Not for us, which was obviously clear – but for the cab. It was a great moment.

Last night, getting food to go, the local pub near the hotel efficiently took the order, then offered a beer while we were waiting. The gentleman kept using our names and made us feel like we were old friends.

Even the Starbucks on Union Square moves people through the line like nothing I’ve seen – in a friendly, helpful manner – greeting customers by name as they are recognized. Coming from Seattle, this is a big deal, since my now local Boston Starbucks does nothing of the sort.

Here in NYC they know how to make things happen – and the growing companies are treating customers well, with respect, and in a most efficient manner.

What customer experiences have you had in a big city? Share them and you might see your story posted here.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

5 Steps to Build Alliance Partnerships, Grow Your Connections and Your Sales

by on December 13, 2011  

After working with thousands of businesses over the past twenty-five years, I’ve learned a lot (often the hard way) and seen some great things. A big issue has been problem areas around growing sales and ultimately growing  revenues and profits for many businesses.

One of the biggest areas of potential for a professional seller is in building much stronger alliance relationships with those who can recommend you in your community. Community is where you are online, where your market niche is, or your geographic area – depending on the business that you are in. Endorsements from others are so much stronger than your own endorsement — heck, you get paid to say good things about yourself. Others don’t. The value in having business acquaintances and what we call “master alliance builders” in your network is H-U-G-E. By having this team in place it can totally keep you from using another option to growing business — calling on “cold” contacts, with an aggressive prospecting strategy. Even professional sellers have some call reluctance around this – and for good reason – it is the much slower road to success. In 2012, I’d say that any calling without pre-research or recommendations is totally out-of-date and wrong.

People buy from those they know and trust – and also quite often from those they like. It is a foundational element in professional selling. If someone YOU trust recommends to you that you contact a business for a product or service you are looking for, doesn’t that recommended company have some immediate credibility, since they were referred by someone you already know and trust?

But how to do it? It is one thing to tell others what to do, and quite another to tell them how to incorporate it into their already busy work plan.  Here are some quick ideas:

  1. Track your prospective customers in a CRM (customer relationship management) program or database or pipeline tool. This is so easy with the advent of web-based pipeline tools that are very inexpensive and simple to use.
  2. ALSO enter and track your alliance partners – these are the people who don’t do what you do, but they may do an add-on to what you do, or they serve the same market. They may just be really energized by your service and support and want to refer others to you.  Record all of these people – these, “trusted partners” and tag the record to denote that they are an alliance partner.  Work to have at least 20, and as many as 100
  3. Create a plan to “touch” these contacts on a regular basis – it doesn’t need to be frequent, but it does need to be consistent. Think of a quarterly newsletter just for alliance partners, or scheduling  an in-person or virtual coffee with three of them each month. Whatever works for you – keep it easy and sensible, but DO KEEP IN CONTACT.
  4. When you are in contact with your referral partners, ask them what they need – what are they looking for, and do they have new products or services that you should know about? You are a potential referrer for them – and they must know this. Remind them that you will do whatever you can to help generate more interest for them. It is the old “giver’s gain” formula. Give first – help your colleague’s business, and that in turn will help yours. The kicker is that as you help others, help for you can come from other sources. It is uncanny – and it works.
  5. Be interesting, and be someone that others enjoy talking to. Have value to offer them. Look always to talk with interesting people.

If you put some minimal but consistent effort into creating a group of alliance partner relationships into place, AND if you have a clear message of what you offer that adds value – you will see more referral business due to your partners’ understanding what you do, and acting as “feet on the street” for you. Some small businesses and niche products have whole teams of people who regularly refer others their way. Just look at some of the top brands, and the “brand ambassadors” who are users of the product. They create videos, endorse online, and champion on behalf of a brand. Make it easy for your team of supporters, and easy for others to do business with you.

This system will enable you to dramatically increase the number of referral prospects your way, and it will help you refer others to your alliance partners too. When customers get good value from you or your referral partners, it is WIN-WIN-WIN.

(Updated from an original post by me at Top Sales World called Winning Teammates.)

Lori Richardson speaks, writes, trains, and mentors companies on ideas that grow revenues which are simple but elegantly implemented. Follow the Score More Sales sales blog for easy tips and strategies to help you kick off 2012 sales with a bang.