Friday, March 30, 2012

Watch for the Signs

Looking for signs you are on the path to sales success?  Check out the most popular video on the Sales Is Not For Sissies YouTube Channel.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Free Shipping Offer

Have you ordered your copy of "The Sales Pro's Guide to Using LinkedIn"?  If not, for a limited time we're offering free shipping if you order the book through TTBooks. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Invest 5 Minutes and Make a Better First Call on Prospects

There are three critical pieces of information you should know before you meet a prospect face-to-face for the first time. Most of the time you can collect this information in 5 minutes or less. Simply Google the prospect's name or search for them using LinkedIn.

The three things you want to know are:
  1. What is their exact title? Knowing a title gives you insights about a person's goals, responsibilities and the kind of problems they want to solve. Titles offer clues as to how much authority the person has, and whether or not they are the purchasing decision-maker.
  2. What do you have in common? Do you have the same alma mater, know the same people, or belong to the same organization? By finding a commonality, you jump-start relationship-building.
  3. What is their history? Have they changed jobs three times in five years, or had a rapid progression inside their company? This could signal ambition and ambitious people are agents of change and open to new ideas from salespeople. Did they formerly work at a company where you have contacts? This gives you the opportunity to drop names and build on existing relationships.
Taking the time to do this research makes first calls to new prospects go better, and helps you sell more.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fewer now use business cards

Another interesting article to round out the week.  Curious to hear what your thoughts are on this...

Fewer now use business cards
Revenue from the printing of business cards has declined 13 percent in the last five years.
BY MATT STEVENS Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — Chalk up another looming casualty of the Internet age: business cards.
Ubiquitous as pinstripes, the 2-by-3.5-inch pieces of card stock have long been a staple in executive briefcases. 
Exchanging cards helps to break the ice and provides a quick reference for forgotten names.
But to many young and Web-savvy people who are accustomed to connecting digitally, the cards are irrelevant, wasteful — and just plain lame.
Diego Berdakin, the founder of BeachMint Inc., a fast-growing Santa Monica, Calif., e-commerce site, has raised $75 million from investors without ever bothering to print up a set. He doesn’t see the point.
“If someone comes in to meet me, we’ve already been connected through email, so it really doesn’t feel like a necessity in my life,” he said.
“When I go into a meeting and there are five bankers across the table, they all hand me business cards and they all end up in a pile, in a shoe box somewhere,” he added.
U.S. sales of business cards have been falling since the late 1990s, according to IBISWorld Inc., an Australian business data company whose data go back to 1997.
The slide appears to be accelerating. Last year printers posted revenue of $211.1 million from the segment. That’s down 13 percent from 2006.
Many under-30 tech entrepreneurs see the paper rectangles as an anachronism, so they are turning to digital options.
About 85 million people have a professional network on LinkedIn. Some 77 million smartphone users have downloaded the Bump app, which allows them to bump their phones together and instantly exchange contact information.
Others carry a personalized quick-response code that smartphones can scan like a hyperlink. And, of course, there’s always Face-book, email and digital business cards.
If they do take a paper card, some said they use a smartphone app to snap a picture of it and instantly digitize the card’s information. Then they toss it into the nearest trash can.
“Paper is not so appealing to this generation,” said Kit Yarrow, chairwoman of the psychology department at Golden Gate University in San Francisco who has studied Generation Y: the 20- to 30-year-olds who grew up with the Internet. Sam Friedman, co-founder and chief executive of Parking in Motion, which sells a mobile app for finding open parking spaces, said his San-ta Monica firm’s digital presence is its most effective communication tool.
“The business card is your website,” he said.
Still, old habits die hard. Friedman said he makes sure his employees are issued business cards, which sometimes come in handy at conferences.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Brain Power


Is It Possible to Use More of Our Brains? (From Scientific American)

| March 3, 2012

Is it possible to use more of our brain?
-- Michael Lenneville, Washington, D.C

Barry Gordon, professor of neurology and cognitive science at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, replies:

Yes! Though perhaps not how you might imagine. You can't put more of your brain to work. Your whole brain is working all the time, even when you think you're just being lazy. What you can do is make it work more productively.

There are two proved strategies to make your neural systems more efficient. The first strategy is to focus, which is hard to do. It is quite difficult to force your brain to stay on task and to shut off extraneous thoughts. Yet by concentrating, your brain can muster the neural tools it needs to tackle a complex problem. In fact, intense focus may be one reason why so-called savants become so extraordinary at performing extensive calculations or remembering a slew of facts.

The second approach is optimization. The human brain is far from an ideal "thinking machine." Our mental processes are slow, and the accuracy of our memory is far from perfect. Our intrinsic limitations are compounded by the simple mental blunders we make; these unhelpful tendencies, however, are correctable. For instance, you can become a better problem solver by looking beyond your personal biases and blind spots to consider alternative solutions. The more you learn to recognize and seek a variety of answers, the better your brain will be at finding optimal solutions.

Some proof that focus and optimization can improve the brain's performance comes from research on video gamers. Neuroscientists at the University of Rochester have shown that even novice gamers can improve cognitive skills such as perception and attention by playing action video games. These games can strengthen players' mental acuity because they require intense concentration and ruthless self-correction (otherwise, your friends shoot you!).

Sometimes, however, you may think better when you're not trying so hard. (You have to consider all the alternatives.) Periods of artistic and scientific creativity—when people often tackle the biggest, most open-ended problems—usually require letting your brain meander, percolate, chill. It may not feel like you are using more of your brain when you unleash it in this way, but one virtue of the human brain is that it often does its best work when it does not seem to be working at all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mark Potter: Be An Original

Another thoughtful post by Canvas Publisher Mark Potter.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter @markricepotter.

I was driving up to Nashville last week to visit with a client and attend a conference.  On the ride up, I was jamming to some classic rock.  I'm talking about iconic bands like Led Zeppelin, The Stones, AC/DC, and Journey.  I swear I sounded just like Steve Perry when I was singing "Just a small town boy...Living in South Detroit". 

As other drivers chuckled at this 40-something acting like a complete dork, I couldn't help wonder what made these bands iconic.  They have stood the test of time. In fact, many of the kids today know the words better than I do and wear t-shirts with the bands’ logo on the front.

So, what gives?  Why have these bands become iconic? I can't think of any band in the last 10 years that has become more than a passing thought.  My opinion is that there was and continues to be an aura around groups like Led Zeppelin.  People talk about seeing them in concert like it was an event that changed their lives.  Millions of us never saw them and have to picture what it was like in our minds.  There was mystery to the group and we actually had to use our imagination to think about how cool they really were.

Seeing them in concert or hearing their songs conjures up images that become bigger in our mind than they may have actually been.  Think about it, there was a time when someone could tell a story and embellish it with some half-truths to make it a bit more entertaining.   Today, people can't take those liberties.  The ability to validate facts at a moment's notice doesn't allow a little creative leeway.

The immediacy of the Internet and all of the corresponding media has diluted our imagination, while simultaneously killing the mystery of who we are.  The great rock bands of yesteryear may just be great because of the lack of exposure they received and the mystery that the absence creates.  Today, the fact that even the most meaningless piece of information receives constant and immediate exposure makes them less and less interesting.

Take back your mystique.  Just because everyone else is doing something, doesn't mean we have to. 
Stop tweeting every 10 minutes.  It is boring and generic.  In contrast, why not try to be an original?  Rather than pumping out social drivel and creating a tune that becomes played, why not say something when you have something relevant to say?  Stay true to who you are and keep some of it for yourself.  That is what is cool.  That is being an original.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Online To-Do: March 2012

Considering a Facebook strategy for your business?  While consumer brands have a very easy time engaging with customers on this social media platform, it can be a bit more challenging to find success if you are marketing B2B.  If you're interested in launching a company Facebook page, check out this month's online to-do,

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...What if you’re not the incumbent?

When you’re selling to a customer, you have an advantage because you have established a prior relationship. Customers already trust you and are aware of your expertise. When you’re selling to a prospect, they are more concerned about risks, particularly when the sale qualifies as a big deal.

Don’t get discouraged about selling big deals to prospects simply because you don’t have a prior relationship. Plenty of prospects purchase innovative solutions as long as the salesperson proves the benefits, puts fears to rest and offers value at a fair and reasonable price.

Unfortunately, there will be times when the deck is stacked against you, so watch for these warning signs:
-The customer requires complex pricing or an elaborate proposal, but refuses to engage in any real discussion about the opportunity, either face-to-face or on the phone.
-Prospects agree to meet, but it quickly becomes obvious that they’re just going through the motions—either so they can say they did their due diligence or to appease their boss—not because they’re honestly interested in a potential partnership with you as a vendor.
-The specifications have an obvious slant and you can tell they were written to benefit one particular vendor.

When you have concerns about the opportunity being a waste of time, you may want to push the matter and have a heart-to-heart talk with the prospect and ask, “Do we have a real opportunity to win this business?”

Michael Jordon, basketball star and fierce competitor, said, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” That’s good advice for any selling situation, but it’s particularly apt when you’re working on elephant-sized deals.

Big opportunities exist for sales professionals who know how to eliminate the customer’s biggest problems—sales professionals like you.

Monday, March 12, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...Put one big deal under the microscope

Many years ago, I sold a single-sourcing arrangement to a large consumer optical products company. This big deal was worth more than $2 million in annual sales. At that time, the client had several vendors, but I was the preferred partner.

One of my primary contacts was in purchasing. One day at lunch, she confided her department was going to be restructured, and she was going to lose a staff member. She was worried because that person handled many administrative tasks including routing proofs, issuing PO’s, and bidding projects. Everyone else on the team was very busy, and she saw no easy way to reallocate tasks.

This turn of events opened a door for me. I asked if her company would ever consider a single-sourcing agreement. In return for the larger volume of business, I could provide preferential pricing plus an on-site customer service person to handle administrative tasks.

At that point in time, I was bidding on all the projects and receiving more than 50 percent of the total volume of work. It was well established that my pricing was competitive and fair. My company delivered consistent quality, and we had demonstrated our willingness to go the extra mile many times.

The customer knew she could count on us.

My client was very interested, but she wasn’t the decision-maker. She arranged for me to meet her boss, the vice president of Purchasing. We discussed and negotiated, and they finally agreed to buy.

The timeframe from the first conversation until the contract was signed was about six months. It was a great deal for the customer and a fantastic deal for me. I closed this sale because:
-The customer solved a major problem.
-The benefits I offered were high in value.
-Pricing was perceived to be fair.
-I was able to talk to the decision-maker.

Since my company was a known entity and the preferred vendor, the customer considered the risks of a deeper relationship to be low.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...Which big problems can you solve?

To sell a big deal, you need to find a match between the customer’s problems and your company’s products and services. Generally, bigger problems are solved with a bundled offering providing an end-to-end solution.

Selling an established solution is easier than selling a brand new concept. Prior sales offer proof of your expertise, making it easier to open doors and start conversations with potential customers.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...Identify your customer’s big problems

Big deals come about because smart salespeople eliminate big problems related to:
-Inefficient processes
-Low productivity
-Excessive cost
-Missed opportunities for higher revenues or increased profit

When hunting for big deals, remember you’re always selling against the status quo. To structure a big deal, you need big problems, because clients will only make major changes when they can significantly improve their circumstances.

Monday, March 5, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...Know why customers buy

Both Starbucks and McDonald’s sell coffee. Beyond price considerations, there are many reasons why some buyers prefer Starbucks while others prefer McDonald’s. McDonald’s has more lunch choices on its fast-food menu and caters to kids. Starbucks, with its upscale coffee-shop vibe, is more likely to be the destination of choice for business people meeting for coffee.

You know why you prefer Starbucks or McDonald’s. To sell big deals you need to know why customers prefer you. What value do you provide? Starbucks attracts a business clientele because customers can linger over coffee, and that benefit compounds Starbuck’s value with their customers. What substitutes are available? McDonald’s added coffee bars because top management believed a significant percentage of coffee-drinkers would opt for a less expensive cup of coffee if it was easily available. They were right. What competitive advantage gives you an edge? Both Starbucks and McDonald’s offer a variety of coffee drinks, but Starbucks has a competitive edge when it comes to the magnitude of choices.

Friday, March 2, 2012

To Sell More Big Deals...Know exactly what you sell

Big deals are built by bundling products and services into a single high-value solution. To identify winning combinations, hone your expertise on all the products and services your company offers. Sell on your strengths. Understand your weaknesses and be prepared to answer related objections.

To close big deals requires more demonstrated knowledge about the solution you’re selling. Buyers who are willing to take a chance with a new vendor on a $1,500.00 brochure job won’t buy a complex print-on-demand online storefront from sales reps who can’t confidently and competently answer questions.