Posts Tagged ‘Sales’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Who Are the Online Influencers, and How Can You Reach Them?

Stocksy_txp89ac3847maA000_Small_295975Is your business taking advantage of online influencers to build your reputation, build relationships and make sales? Online influencers—or people whose opinions are shared online and disproportionately influence others—come in several varieties, including:

  • Bloggers with lots of followers among your target market (check out Klout or Alltop to help you identify these),
  • Journalists who report about your industry (you’ll know these by reading industry publications, major newspapers and business publications), and
  • Decision-makers (and those connected with them) at companies you want to sell to (LinkedIn is a useful tool for identifying these).

To successfully reach and influence online influencers, follow these steps:

  • Know what your goals are. Do you want a key influencer to write about your company in a newspaper, review your product on her blog, or introduce you to someone who can help your business grow? By determining specific goals, you’ll be better able to identify which influencers will be most useful in achieving them.
  • Be active on the social channels your influencers frequent. That includes social media as well as the influencers’ own blog and/or website. Spend some time “lurking” to get a sense of what the person cares about and thinks before you reach out to him or her.
  • Start small. Retweeting or sharing an influencer’s post is a good start to getting yourself on their radar. Then move on to commenting on posts. Don’t just say “Great post!” but offer a brief, thoughtful insight—ideally, you want to engage the person in an online conversation or get a conversation going among other followers.
  • Acknowledge any interaction. If an online influencer responds to your comment, retweets something you tweeted or even just thanks you for a comment, be sure to respond!
  • Move it on up. Once you feel that the influencer is aware of you as an individual and you’ve built up some goodwill on social media, you can reach out via email. To avoid being perceived as spam or a “cold call,” refer to your social media relationship and any mutual connections you may have. You don’t want to seem like a stalker or salesperson, so if email doesn’t get a response after two or three tries, go back to social media.
  • Once you’ve made a connection, be straightforward. Politely ask for what you want from the person, be it an introduction, an article or a review: “I’d love it if you’d review our new product X. May I send you a sample?”
  • Maintain the relationship. Don’t go dark once you get what you want. Keep the relationship going by interacting with your influencer just as you would any friend or colleague. 

Mondays with Mike: How To Prep Your Business For Sale In 90 Days (Or Less!)

I know a thing or two about selling businesses.  I’ve done it both hard way, and the easy way, and it’s not hard to figure out which way I prefer.  Even if you plan on turning your company into a legacy that your children will run after you’re gone, the best time to get your business ready to sell is today!  Before you ever want or need to sell your business – that’s when you should start.  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Identify strategic buyers.  Strategic buyers are those who want your business for some reason other than just your company’s revenue.  They may want your customers, your intellectual property, or even your employees.  If you can identify these buyers, you can learn which of your assets are most desirable – and you can protect them.
  2. Resolve any legal troubles.  Buyers won’t want to touch a business that has lawsuits or liens against it, so you need to clear up any old business and get your company in the clear. 
  3. ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Focus on profitability, rather than debt.  Businesses are often valued by a multiple of their profit, so you’re better off directing extra revenue toward measures that make you more profitable.  Paying down debt with your extra money doesn’t add nearly as much to your value.
  4. Protect your key employees’ positions.  We all have those staff members who are critical to our survival, and it’s smart to make a plan for what you’d do if one of them left.  Whether your discreetly cross-train employees or keep a list of potential new hires, you want to make sure that if one of your key employees leaves, that your business goes on as usual.
  5. Get out of the office.  Not only is your business more valuable if it can run in your absence, but you also need to be out in the marketplace as the face of your company.  You need to continue running your business as if you’re going to hand it down to your children, and that means cementing relationships with important clients and maintaining your market share.  Don’t slack off!
  6. Cut costs.  You’ll boost your selling price if your company is lean, efficient, and profitable.  Make sure you trim unnecessary expenses and eliminate anything that doesn’t directly contribute to the health of your company.
  7. Work with a business broker or investment banker.  You’ll want to make sure your business is ready to sell when you tackle this step, but you’ll often find that brokers have a stable of businesses looking to acquire others.  Not only can you sell your company more quickly, but a broker can also help you get top dollar for it.
  8. Be hard to get.  If you appear to be desperate to sell, your value diminishes.  Cultivate a field of buyers and watch your price go up.  You want buyers to have competition in order to ensure that you get every penny you’re worth.
  9. Keep it quiet.  The news that you’re looking to sell your company can potentially frighten off employees and even deter new clients from signing on with you.  You want your business to continue to grow and flourish … just in case a sale falls through.

The time you spend preparing your business will give you one additional benefit other than just getting you ready to sell, and it’s actually a huge one.  Your business will be healthier.  Much of the advice I’ve listed here is stuff you should be doing anyway – measures that make your business more efficient and profitable, in addition to making it more attractive to buyers.  


Should salespeople be doing customer service?

Prosser BlogThis is a question of great importance to companies with 20 to 50 employees. While there are exceptions, companies with only a few employees don’t have the resources to allocate separate people to sales and customer service. Larger companies tend to divide up these roles, providing different training and compensation plans for employees that do sales and customer service. But, there is not necessarily a clear path for companies in the 20 to 50 employee range. Here is why my former company decided not to separate these functions at first, and then went with a hybrid solution in which certain types of support were done by specialists.

My former company was in an industry with a really bad reputation (ten years ago). The industry was known for high-pressure sales tactics and shady practices. Our company was different.  We wanted to create a reputation for outstanding customer service, instead of pushy sales people.

We believed that having the sales professionals handle responsibilities for both closing the sale and dealing with any communications that occurred afterwards would dramatically change the way they approached selling. It would encourage them to do a good job setting expectations and educating customers prior to closing the sale. If they didn’t, the salespeople might have to deal with unhappy customers later on.

This approach was “mostly” successful, however, it did create some problems:

  1. Great salespeople tended to dislike this system and felt they were undercompensated. Some left the company, because they could make more in a “pure” sales job where they wouldn’t have to devote time to customer service.
  2. Many of our customer service oriented salespeople did not make any effort to close sales.
  3. Resolving certain types of customer service issues like a hard technical support question, sometimes took a while.

Before I discuss how we dealt with these challenges, I would like to emphasize that combining these functions did achieve the intended goal. Our company received very high marks for customer service, and established a reputation as having more integrity than our competitors.

Great salespeople want to both be recognized and rewarded for their skills. The key to both is tracking their performance. We heavily relied on our CRM system to see how different salespeople were performing.  We measured both their performance on the sales side (new leads that opened accounts) and customer service side (how many interactions they had with existing customers, and how frequently they were able to resolve the customer’s issue).  This information was used both for performance reviews and in making decisions regarding bonuses. While salespeople may not have been able to devote all their time to closing, they received praise and financial compensation for bringing new business.

It should be stated that we did not pay salespeople a commission, but a base salary and a quarterly bonus based on both the company’s and their personal performance. We believed that providing commission based compensation would lead to poor customer service.

We did lose some good salespeople, but many good salespeople liked the customer friendly environment.

The bigger problem was getting customer service focused employees to close sales. Surprisingly, the solution to this problem turned out to be “social” pressure. While these employees earned 0 or smaller bonuses, this did not seem to motivate them.  After a few warnings about putting more effort into sales, the company had to let a few of them go. However, there was a better solution that we found only years later. When we put the sales numbers of each employee on public whiteboards, there was a dramatic cultural change, and we saw an improvement in their performance. Because bonuses were based on personal and group performance, the weaker salespeople and their colleagues were suddenly aware of how these people were hurting their own compensation.

As the company grew, we did start separating certain customer support functions. The first area was technical support. Instead of having a general salesperson be the client’s point of contact in handling difficult tech issues, the company created technical support specialists which only dealt with technology related issues. This enabled tech support issues to be resolved more quickly.

Bottom Line: Keeping sales and customer support together sends a message to employees that customer support is not a second class job, but integral to the company’s success. On the other hand, it makes it harder to keep sales stars happy, and can create motivational issues for less sales driven employees. Combining sales and customer services puts more pressure on management and in the short-run can hurt sales.

Marc Prosser is the publisher of Fit Small Business.


7 Lies Entrepreneurs Tell Themselves

Posted on by Barry Moltz

Stocksy_txpd72b69c8tH5000_Small_100354In order to stay positive, entrepreneurs need to lie to themselves a lot. Unfortunately, this can get them in trouble when they have improbable expectations and surprising outcomes. Here are the 7 biggest lies and the truth about what to do instead:

  1. Sales will be better next month. Many entrepreneurs believe that sales will always increase in the future. They reason that with more revenue, there will be more profit. The truth is that they don't change their sales and marketing efforts to give their company a better chance actually increasing sales. To boost revenue, companies need to be there when customers want to buy. Only a systematic sales and marketing effort will accomplish this.
  2. The next big customer (or product or employee) will change their company forever. The belief is that the next big break will take their company to the next level. The truth is that progress in companies typically build slowly and success doesn't usually have a tipping point. Think about the essentially building blocks that will grow the company step by step.
  3. Big money means taking big risks. They read the urban folklore of the few who took big risks and made billions. The truth is that most people fail. The success in business comes from taking small steps, evaluating the results, and taking the next action.
  4. Competitors are slow. Many entrepreneurs think that their competitors are not innovative and can't react quickly. Tell that to Blockbuster and Borders. The truth is that there will always be a competitor thinking up a better mousetrap. The entrepreneur needs to know what their competitive advantage will be when that day comes.
  5. Keeping the financials in their head. Many entrepreneurs believe that they do not need to review their company financial statements. The truth is that most of the time  their expectations do not match what is actually going on. This is why it's important to read and understand these statements every month.
  6. Getting paid last in their business. They reason that they are investing in their company and this is how they justify living off of savings while running a start up. The truth is that if an entrepreneur does not draw a livable wage from their company, they have a hobby, not a business. Always include the owner's salary in the monthly budget.
  7. Being busy means being productive. Many entrepreneurs believe if they are busy at work then they must be adding to the value of the company. The truth is that with all the distractions and interruptions that can enter an entrepreneur's daily life, they need to be very disciplined that they focus on projects that will make a deep impact on the company. Pick the two things that need to get done today and complete them before starting any other task.

What lies do you tell yourself?  


Mondays with Mike: What Sunsets Can Teach You About Sales

imagesI’m going to tell you a story that never happened.  A man and a woman didn’t stand and watch a sunset and exclaim, “That’s the ugliest sunset I’ve ever seen!”

Think about it.  Have you ever heard someone complain about how unattractive a particular sunset is?  The fact of the matter, though, is that some sunsets have to be better than others, right?  They’re not all created equal, but there’s something about their nature that only makes us remark on them when they’re beautiful. 

Wow.  Think about that.  If you could infuse some of that positive power into the products or services that you sell, you’d have a much easier time marketing your business.  So what is it about sunsets that makes them so powerful, something that we typically only comment on in order to praise it?

Not sure?  Here’s the answer:  it’s scarcity.  Scarcity?  You may be thinking that sunsets happen nearly every day.  They can’t possibly be considered scarce.  But scarcity is the reason we prize these daily, ever-shifting light displays.  We know they’ll only last for a few moments, and then they’re gone.  We know that we have to savor them while they last because there will never be another exactly the same. 

That’s the kind of scarcity you want to cultivate for your business.  Here’s how you do it:

  1. Limit Access.  Reserve certain products – or unique bundles of products – only for your best clients.  If you create a special club of sorts, whose members get access to products other clients don’t, then they’ll see more value in those products.  They’ll feel special and will be predisposed to find their exclusive offers to be valuable.
  2. Create Beauty in your Business.  If you display your special offering for a limited time only, then consumers will be more apt to snap it up right away.  Limited time offers give customers a sense of urgency for the purchase, and a sense of relief when they receive their exclusive product.  Showing the special benefits that your customers with exclusive access receive makes other customers want that privilege as well.  Whether it’s a section of your website, or a special area of a retail store, find a way to showcase your special offers.
  3. Raise your Prices.  We value that for which we spend more money.  If you create an exclusive, limited time offer for your customers, then they’ll be willing to part with more money in order to secure your special deal.  Pack in tons of added value, and it’s a win for everyone.  They key here isn’t just to slap a higher price tag on the same old product.  You must create an authentically more valuable offer, and your customers won’t be able to resist it.

The ultimate marketing win is when you can get consumers so excited about your product or service that they start to market it for you.  We see this happen all the time on Facebook.  People “share” books they’ve bought on Amazon or “share” the outrageously expensive eyeshadow palette they just bought from Sephora.  Why do websites prompt shoppers to “share” their purchases?  Because we see value in the things our friends buy.  Use the sunset effect in your marketing, and you’ll start to see excited customers sharing the news about your brand.


Mondays with Mike: The Tier Method for Increasing Revenue

A disclaimer of sorts:  This method of boosting revenue is intended for entrepreneurs who own businesses that are already making a little money.  This strategy can help you look down the road if you’re just getting your business up and running, but the method I describe in this article is intended for established businesses, rather than those just starting out.

More money.  It’s an appealing prospect, but it’s not always easy to achieve.  One of the most versatile solutions I’ve ever found is the tier method, and it’s successful because it’s such an elegant and simple strategy. 

Here’s how it works:

Your business is established, and you have a good product, but you’re looking to increase sales.  The answer is simply to create additional, higher quality (and higher priced) offerings. 

Let’s look at some examples:

  1. ????????????????????????????????????????You own a restaurant, and you’ve found success with your weekday, prix-fixe menu.  Folks love coming in and selecting three courses for a set price.  How do you step it up?   Add on the option for wine pairings for each course (with an additional fee, of course.)  You’re adding an additional tier of services that will entice your existing customers.
  2. If you own a cleaning service and have regular customers, but need a way to get more from them, create tiers of service.  Your existing contracts – let’s call that your Silver Service – is offered at the current price.  You add Gold Service with additional services – periodic window cleaning or carpet shampooing, as well as Platinum Service – where you clean everything that doesn’t move.   You’ll inevitably find some clients who want to step up to a better plan, and your new clients are likely to settle for the option in the middle, so you’ll be starting them at the Gold Service – it’s your new default setting, complete with higher price tag.
  3. You sell original artwork, either online or in a brick and mortar store.  Your customers love your work, and you decide to offer additional options.  Your first tier is the watercolor painting – the work your clients know and love.  You offer one option of adding a frame, and a second option of high quality mats and a custom frame.  You’re adding tiers of service that save your clients the time they’d have to invest in selecting the perfect frame that shows off your valuable artwork.  

Why is the tier method so successful?  You’re starting with an established brand – a product or a service that your customers already trust and enjoy – and you’re offering a better version of that product.  We all want the best, and we’re conditioned to think of selecting the least expensive option as settling for less than the best.   Airlines make bank on pricier seats in first class.  People pay extra to buy iPhones with more memory than they’ll ever use.  If you offer your customers pricier options, it is inevitable that some of them will take you up on it.

The key here is to offer authentically better options.  We’re not talking about smoke and mirrors  — playing games with your clients is a tactic that can alienate loyal customers.  Rather, you want to develop tiers that are meaningful and offer additional value that’s appealing to your customers.  You’re finding a way to enhance your existing high quality offerings by creating options with added benefits to your clients and added revenue for your business. 


Sales Contests: 6 Planning Questions to Consider

Sales contests can be excellent ways to motivate your team members, add some excitement to the office environment and, ultimately, boost revenue.

Here, Lauri Flaquer, owner of Saltar Solutions, a business consultancy based in St. Paul, Minn., offers her top questions small business owners should ask themselves when launching a contest.

#1: What is the objective of the contest?

While increasing revenue could be one objective, contests can also be effective ways to retain former customers and to build a more cohesive team. Establish a clear objective before diving in, recommends Flaquer.

#2: What prizes will you offer?

“Figure out what specific prizes motivates your group. Not everyone will be motivated by money, so consider offering days off, trips or merchandise,” she advises.

Not sure what motivates your employees? Just ask them. The more involved they feel, the more excited they will be to perform.

#3: How will you structure your teams?

Team sales contests are far more effective than individual sales contents, says Flaquer, adding that three-person teams can create the best scenario.

“Engagement is really important with these situations, so if you pit one person against another and the same person wins all the time, the other person will just think, ‘why bother?’” she says. “I recommend pairing strong staff members with weaker ones to allow them to learn from each other.”

 #4: How will you track results?

Visible results make the greatest impact. Post results daily in your break room or on your company’s intranet homepage. Share a link to the results page with your whole team so people know where they stand at any given time.

#5: How will you keep participants engaged along the way?

Consider giving out incremental prizes to help keep your employees excited about the contest, recommend Flaquer. Gas cards and silly gifts from the dollar store can suffice.

Keep the grand prize top of mind in your office by making it visible. “Put the prize in a case in your lobby or keep a photo of it sitting in an entryway,” she says. “It will keep people subconsciously thinking about the contest and the prize at the end.”

#6: What is your post-contest celebration plan?

Organize a fun event for the final day of the celebration—be it a pizza party or a picnic at a nearby park.

“Be sure to celebrate the entire contest, not just the winner,” Flaquer suggests. “Everyone should feel good about having participated.” 

a8_header


How to Sell More in Less Time

Small businesses waste a lot of time selling to the wrong people. As a result, their company either does not grow or their sales drop. Here are 3 ways to improve their sales yield:

1. Focus on the right prospects. People only buy when they are in pain and have money to solve that pain. Every prospect should be asked:

  • What pain does your company need to solve?
  • What is the cost of that pain to your company? (or What will it cost your company if the pain is not solved?)
  • Who in your company can make the decision to solve that pain? (or Who has the money in their budget to solve the pain?) 

Many sales people make the mistake of not getting these questions answered up front and waste time with non-buyers masquerading as prospects. 

2. Be there when prospects are ready to buy. Companies actually don’t sell their products or services, but rather customers buy from them. As a result, companies need to be there when prospects are ready to buy. They need to be found and put into the “maybe pile” when a customer is making a decision. In order to achieve this, every small business owners needs to establish long term relationships with clients by offering them valuable knowledge at least monthly that showcases the company’s brand. For example, a dentist may send information on how patients should floss their teeth or a comparison of toothbrushes. Remember, this is not marketing communication that sells product, but a friendly offer of knowledgeable help.

3. Practice the rapid release strategy. Any company can reduce their selling time by 90% and improve their sales yield by only focusing on customers that are ready to buy. Many prospects say yes to a company and then never respond to complete the sale. These people should be contacted a few more times and then put back into the marketing funnel. Sales people waste a lot of time “hoping” these “closed” prospects will contact them and get started. They get stuck here and stop looking for new prospects to meet their sales targets. If they have not heard from the prospects after several calls or contacts, they need to be let go and move on.

How does your company improve its sales yield?

Anxious Businessman Looking at Office Clock


Do You Walk Your Talk in Business?

More than ever before, people are inundated with all kinds of fancy marketing campaigns, tactics, offers and strategies via online media, print media, television, telemarketing and even billboards in just about any place that you can imagine (I have even seen ads in restroom stalls!). Businesses put lot of time, money and effort into these over the top advertisements and offers, each seemingly trying to capture the increasingly elusive attention of potential customers.

Don’t get me wrong; getting the word out about your business is extremely important, because as I always say, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. And having some kind of flashy gimmick may help your business break through the noisy, overcrowded marketplace. But while your slick new offer or campaign may get someone to walk through your door or purchase from you one time,  if your products or services aren’t up to par and you can’t meet (or exceed) the expectations of that offer for that new customer, they won’t ever purchase from you again. And they definitely won’t tell all of their friends and family to purchase from you either. 

bullhorn-guyEven worse, if you really can’t back up the offers or assertions that you put forth in your marketing campaigns, that unsatisfied customer will tell everyone that will listen about their bad experience. And with internet comments, reviews and tweets so prevalent now, that one bad experience can multiply into a storm of negativity with worldwide ramifications, far beyond the scope of someone just telling a few of their local friends or family members, like what was the case in the past. This can be a huge disaster for any company and is extremely difficult to overcome, not to mention just bad business overall.

And this isn’t just true for marketing. It goes for live events, conventions and conferences, too.  You may think that bringing in a big name host, entertainer or speaker will be enough draw people to your event and make a big splash. But if that individual doesn’t do a good job or doesn’t deliver useful content to the audience, your event will suffer the same negative consequences of not living up to attendees’ expectations. And once those negative comments and reviews get out, it’s nearly impossible to get people to attend your future events or do business with your company, whatever your ultimate goal for the event was.

So, no matter what your offering is, make sure that you put your energy and focus on creating the absolute best product, service or experience that you can. Approach it from the perspective of what your target customers truly want and need. That way, when you craft your marketing campaigns and offers, you can really back up your claims with confidence.  This will keep your customers happy and coming back for more. And these happy, repeat customers are the real key to a successful business.

Did you have a bad experience with a marketing campaign or offer that didn’t deliver what it promised?  Please share it below.




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon Sales phone-icon Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2014 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, Patents, Sitemap