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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Trying something new to get a better, and more profitable result

Here is an example of a fellow sales professional Amanda, who tried something new this year. She wrote me immediately to share the story and I thought you should hear it too.

Amanda write our offices and said:

“Oh Colleen. Your tactics always work so well. This is a HUGE reseller (VAR) in NY that has been avoiding me like crazy.”

Here is what happened between Amanda and Frank:

Original email:

Dear Frank;

On April 12, I sent you an email asking for you to review the Talkswitch product line and as I haven't heard from you, I can only assume one of the following:

1) You're now not interested and I'm reduced to the status of an annoying piece of spam clogging up your email; or

2) You desperately want to contact me, but you're trapped under a fallen filing cabinet and can't reach your phone or PC.

Your guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Regards, Amanda ,Channel Sales Manager

P.S. If it is #2, please let me know and I'll send someone round to help you out.



That's hysterical. Now I'm going to call you tomorrow.



Result: Frank called Amanda, and the business moving forward.

Lesson, if you continue to do the same thing over and over again you will get the same result. If you want a different result, do something different. Shake it up! Have some fun! What have you got to lose?

Dedicated to increasing your sales,


Monday, February 18, 2008

Control Freaks Unite!

Cheryl Cran is a great friend and colleague of mine. She is an expert leadership consultant and I rely on her to help me and my clients with the toughest leadership issues. You should read her new book The Control Freak Revolution"! Look at what others are saying:

"The Control Freak Revolution is THE book that will show you how to take positive control of yourself, your life and your leadership. The secret to life is to choose what we can control and then take action to achieve what we want." Joe Vitale, author of "Zero Limits", "The Attractor Factor" and contributor to "The Secret"

"The Control Freak Revolution is a must buy, must read and must put into action book. The ideas and concepts of how to use positive control for greater results is a message that everyone needs. You will learn from Cheryl. I do." Dr. Peter Legge LLD (HON) CSP CPAE HoF CEO, Canada Wide Magazines

"The Control Freak Revolution is a must read, must put into action, must pass on book. If every leader had this book BEFORE they started it would have saved so much time and effort. If you are a leader or aspiring to be a leader this book needs to be read, underlined and kept nearby." Randy Sebastian CEO Renaissance Development Corporation
There is hope for me yet!

Friday, February 15, 2008

For Sales Managers: Compensation Plan Best Practices

They say choice is good. Obviously, they have never put together a sales commission plan. Commission plans come in a million varieties - and each one's a disaster waiting to happen. This week, Engage offers some tips for steering clear of commission calamities.

In one way, commission plans are the hammer of the sales manager's motivational toolkit - almost every company uses them to build revenues and reward excellence. But unlike the implements that hang from the average handyman's belt, commission plans come in millions of shapes and sizes. Instead of picking what you need from the shelf at Home Depot, you're expected to work the millions of combinations and permutations into a commission plan of your own. Each is new, unique, and a disaster waiting to happen.

Countless commission structures fail despite the best intentions of business owners. Many plans are too complicated to be properly understood or effectively implemented. More fail when sales managers don't explain their plans properly. The result: everyone comes up with their own interpretation of the rules, and forms a unique opinion of which customers and commissions they share. Before you know it, inside sales is battling with field sales, direct reps are at the throats of the channel team, and you're caught in the middle of the fray. Selling time is wasted, morale plummets and salespeople start to resign. That's no way to grow a company.

In 15 years of selling, I've never encountered a compensation plan that eliminated all conflicts. But with careful design and reinforcement of cooperative relationships, you can have a commission plan that works. Here are things to consider:

1. Keep your plan simple. The more complex the compensation plan, the easier it is to misunderstand or manipulate. For example, if your salespeople are assigned to geographic territories, be sure to develop and communicate clear guidelines on how they can sell to accounts that cut across territories, and how they'll be rewarded for those sales.

2. Understand the plan and all its rules yourself. Review and edit the plan with your sales manager, and bring a non-sales manager into the discussion for a different point of view. Together, you should anticipate the questions your team will have and prepare solid answers. Remember: your salespeople will check whether their potential compensation might decline under the new plan. If that's the case, be prepared to defend the changes.

3. Make sure everybody knows and understands the rules. Introduce the plan a couple of weeks before you plan to implement it, giving your team a few days to digest its contents. Then hold a group meeting to discuss it. Meet with each salesperson privately to reinforce the plan and address questions and concerns that weren't raised before the group. Ask your people about the plan to check for understanding.

4. Encourage team building to ward off conflict before it starts. Have competing reps (for instance, inside and outside sales) meet to establish relationships and build trust. The most successful teams always engage with their selling partners.
Bring teams together to discuss potentially problematic accounts. I have seen some plans that actually required an agreement in writing of how customers can be approached, by whom, and how the commission will be split.

One more thing: your sales team will behave exactly according to how the plan best rewards them, concentrating their efforts on what pays the most. If you have a specific objective (e.g. new customers, more repeat sales, higher levels of customer service), then you must reward the behaviors that pursue those goals. Lucky for you, you have no choice.

Dedicated to increasing your sales,


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love the One You're With!

Happy Valentines day! Today, many of us are many of us are finding ways to communicate our love to our freinds, family and colleages. Don't forget about your clients! The following 9 Tips are the best ways I know to consistently and reliably exceed your customers’ expectations, and build greater love, loyalty – and higher profits – for life:

1. Be nice – and say thank you!You'll be surprised how much this matters – and how dramatic the results can be!

For new customers, always say "thank you" within days (or if it's online, within hours) of receiving your first order. After that, if it doesn't make sense to offer thanks for every order, make sure you do it at least once a year.

I encourage you to use handwritten thank you notes – preferably ones that aren’t branded with your logo to look like an advertisement. Depending on the size of the order, you might also encourage your managers or executives to thank the customer as well. In addition, many of our clients have gone one step further and developed a special “welcome kit” for new clients, complete with a thank you note, a small but meaningful present and useful information or perks for doing business with them. For instance, my karate school includes a 20% discount coupon for Dairy Queen in their welcome package, as a reward for having a good workout!

2. Make it easy to be a customer.Find ways to remove the voice mail maze, long login forms and other barriers you set up for prospects (or “suspects”). For example, get a dedicated phone line for repeat customers, or even have a separate customer-only Web site that makes it easier for them to re-order.

To make your business more customer-friendly, start by pulling in 1 person from each department (preferably not management) for a brainstorming session, and ask each of them what changes they would implement to make it easier to do business with your company. Prioritize the list, and then starting working on the new ideas one at a time.

If brainstorming isn’t reasonable at your office, consider hiring an outside firm to “mystery shop” your organization. Have them act as a prospect or client to see what an outsider really experiences when they deal with your company. Then take their findings, and take action to improve those things that need fixing.

3. Reward loyalty.Most companies make the mistake of rewarding only new customers. I know that I for one always get irked when my current suppliers give a better deal to new customers who may only be with them for a single order, than they offer to me, a client who has already proven my loyalty.

No matter how thin your profit margins, you can afford to give your best customers discounts, special services and even the red carpet treatment. Don't think so? Just do the math. Remember that new customers cost you up to 15 times more than repeat customers, and factor that into your profit-loss equations.

In many cases, it's not even necessary to invest in a formal "loyalty" program. Simply invite your best customers to "inner circle" events, focus groups or exclusive training. Even if the customer has to pay for the trip, at least they’ll feel appreciated, and many of them will go out of their way to attend.

4. Make it about them.Think about how good it feels when the waiter at your favorite restaurant greets you by name, brings you your favorite aperitif and always remembers exactly where you like to sit. You tend to return again and again, and always tip a little more than usual, right?

Believe me, that waiter knows exactly what he or she is doing. The good news is, the same approach works just as well with even the most battle-hardened buyers. Give them advice, counsel and content specific to their needs, without being asked. Make sure any emails, phone calls and special offers are customized to them, and their needs. And remember, it’s all about them – not you.

5. Ask them what they want.Most people want their opinions heard, and love being asked for their point of view. That’s why simply surveying your customers will not only gain you some valuable information and insights into their needs and preferences. It can also communicate that you care what your customers think – and what they want.

While you don't want to conduct surveys too often, you can ask for feedback after a particular transaction, or on an anniversary date. Remember: your clients care more about their own opinions than they do about yours. If you also report the results of the survey back to them, you’ll give them a double confirmation of your concern.

6. Ask them how you can help.Be truly interested in your customers, and show them that you sincerely want to help them. After all, they can’t continue to do business with you if they don’t continue to have a successful business of their own!

One client of mine doubled her referrals almost instantly just by asking, “Now…how can I help you?” at the end of every client meeting. By putting the needs of her customers first, she demonstrated how much she cares about them. You’ll find that many of your customers are genuinely surprised by a question like this, because as often as not, no one has ever asked them that before! And that’s why your follow-up question is indispensable:

“You’ve helped my business grow by becoming part of our family network. I would like to help your business grow, too. So let me ask you, what type of people do you want to meet to help increase your revenues?”

7. Get “buy” with a little help from their friends.The happier your customers are, the happier they will be to refer you to their own friends, colleagues and associates.

A referral from a customer is the highest form of trust. Trust is built on consistent behavior over time, starting with continuously showing your customers that you’re focused on their needs. Once you’ve established that level of trust, identify "apostles" among your most loyal customers, and empower them to crusade for your product or service.

Of course, always reward customers who send business your way. At a minimum, a handwritten thank you note will show them you appreciate the effort they made. At the maximum, a gift will help you secure that relationship – and likely lead to even more referrals in the future.

8. Get your customers involved.Build a customer panel or advisory board, and invite your customers to join. You'll be surprised by how many will be more than happy to join – and how many of those who do join will also start to share, refer and buy more as a result of their participation.

As an added bonus, if you listen and act on what they have to say, you’ll not only build their trust and loyalty, but you’ll also make them more willing to reach out to new prospects on your behalf.

9. Ensure everyone in your company is involved.Last but most definitely not least, make sure everyone in your company knows how important the customer is, and develop a foolproof communications plan that puts that knowledge into practice.

It takes years to build a great relationship, and just one big mistake to end it. The last thing you want after putting all this work into building loyalty is to have one of your representatives thanking a customer one day, and then having another treat them like an anonymous prospect the next!

Remember: whether they’re responsible for shipping products, setting up accounts, collecting payments or running a marketing event, everyone in your company who will talk to your customers at some point is a customer service rep. So make sure they all know who your most important customers are – and how they should be treated.

In fact, many of my clients find that putting all of their employees through basic customer service and sales training can be an exceptionally profitable investment. Every time anyone talks to a customer, they have the potential to either earn more business and loyalty, or lose it. Make sure you maximize every opportunity you have to treat your customers well, and the results will speak for themselves.

It's easy these days to complain about needy, demanding or high maintenance customers and clients. The only thing worse is not having needy, high maintenance, demanding – or any – customers at all!

My advice? Get over it! Refocus your time, energy and budget on building profitable relationships with your existing customers, and do everything you can to keep the people who keep the lights on happy.

Dedicated to increasing your sales - and your love,


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Do You Know How To Shut Up?

Seems as if all my friends are publishing books this year! This is another great one I encourage you to read. Having been called "a Rebel with a Cause", Mike is known for being a resistor of conventional wisdom, canned solutions, and tired clichés. In his new book, Mike will push you to radically look at your life and your organization in revolutionary ways. With 52 of the most insightful life lessons that Mike has learned, you can read a different lesson each week, or read them all at once. Either way, you'll feel like Mike is sitting right there challenging you and entertaining you at the same time. Get a copy of Mike’s book now!

Get Your Copy Now

Stop blaming the economy

A client asked me recently whether sales results can be improved - and sales targets met - even in what some call a "soft economy." The answer is an unqualified yes. But first, we have to stop blaming the economy.

Sure, the economy plays a role in sales success. But it's only one element, and definitely not the most important one at that. At its most fundamental level, sales performance is about one thing and one thing only: performance. Today's top sales performers understand that fact, just as they understand that their performance is a direct result of how they demonstrate Attitude, Integrity and Caring towards their customers, each and every day.

Yes, some clients have a poor perception of sales people. But that, too, can be changed. Don't believe me? Then read on - and please enjoy the last of our three-part series on how you can re-align your sales tactics, to fuel your success in any economy.

Successful sales people come from a wide variety of backgrounds, sales styles and techniques. But almost without exception, there's one thing they all share: successful sales professionals understand that honest communication is the secret to increasing sales effectiveness.

These sales people focus their efforts on creating a positive customer experience, based on openness and trust. As a result, 98% of their customers never even think of looking elsewhere when they need to reorder.

As the old saying goes, there are two kinds of lies: those of commission, and those of omission. If you want to establish a reputation for honesty, never lie to your prospects or clients either by what you say, or what you choose NOT to say. And no matter how tempting it may be, never rationalize a lie by telling yourself that it's "no big deal" or that it "won't affect the outcome of the deal."

Take my word for it - it will! Sooner or later, the customer will realize that they've "been sold," and once they do, they'll turn the tables and start playing games with you. Once that happens, your relationship will become based on distrust, and reestablishing trust can be a nearly impossible task.

As Steven Gaffney (www.justbehonest.com) and I discuss in our upcoming book on Honesty In Sales, the easiest way to have a more honest and open working relationship with your customers is to first learn how to separate the facts, from what you simply imagine or assume to be true. For example, say a prospect hasn't returned your phone call in two weeks (FACT). You imagine it's because they've decided to buy a competitor's product instead of your own (ASSUMPTION). But there could be an almost endless number of equally plausible reasons why they haven't returned your call, including:

* They bought from someone else;
* They've been too busy;
* The contract or funding was cancelled;
* They're sick or on vacation;
* They haven't made a decision yet; or
* They're ignoring you.

These are just the first six possibilities that came to mind. Spend a few minutes, and you could easily come up with a dozen more. The point is, we sales people are particularly vulnerable to the mistake of making decisions and taking action based on what we assume, rather than what we really know. Sometimes we're right. But all too often, our assumptions are wrong, and the consequences of acting on an incorrect assumption can be severe.

So how can you avoid making this mistake? By changing your mindset to allow for the possibility that you may be wrong. Try entering your next sales call by saying to yourself: "you know, I might be right that Colleen is not interested in my product, or I might be wrong. Either way, I'm going to find out."

Simply allowing yourself to admit that your assumptions might be wrong will ensure that you get to the truth before you make a firm decision, or take action. Has a customer ever been less than open with you? If so, step back and look at your own behavior. If you've ever lied to them, then your communication style may be to blame for their dishonesty.

For more tips on how getting to the truth can get your call returned, re-read our article on THE GATEKEEPERS: PART I - How to Stop Blaming Voice Mail for Poor Performance, and Start Closing More Sales.

Dedicated to increasing your sales,