Wednesday, 01 June 2011 16:26

Turning searchers into sales

For the past few years, Richard Rubin has done his holiday shopping online. The contents of his virtual shopping carts don’t quite match those of the industrial customers he serves as president of Maxi Container, but he sees his personal habits signaling a bigger change. If he’s buying online, what about his customers?

“I noticed that more and more of our business was moving to the Web,” Rubin says. “More and more of our customers were communicating to us via e-mail. More and more of our customers wanted us to do electronic data interchange or electronic funds transfer.”

This observation came at a crucial time, especially for a Detroit-based distributor like Maxi that traditionally relied on the automotive business. Cold calls from a four-person sales team wouldn’t cut it anymore. Rubin realized that long-term survival depended on the company’s ability to explode its customer base into other industries and geographies. And a web presence was key to doing that.

But making the website an effective sales tool to convert searchers into customers — especially when they’re industrial manufacturers — that’s another challenge. And across the business world, it had resulted in plenty of “websites that were just, for lack of a better word, horrendous,” says Linda Rigano, executive director of strategic services at Thomas Industrial Network, which connects buyers and suppliers of industrial products and services through its sourcing site, ThomasNet.com. “It was just a picture of the facility, a picture of mom and dad, how great we are but not really delivering on what the buyer wants.”

Enter Thomas’ Web Solutions group, which was created to help those companies improve the performance of their websites.

“How do I get my website to sell more for me?” Rigano asks — a question she gets from companies that recognize traditional print resources aren’t holding up. “Always be where your buyer is looking, and then make sure that you’re delivering the answers that they’re looking for.”

Replicating your sales process online

Sounds simple enough. In fact, Rubin can sum it up in three words from high school.

“My 10th grade English teacher always said to me, ‘Know your audience,’ and that’s true in everything,” Rubin says. “You need to know who you’re trying to reach in a Web strategy, and you have to tailor it to get them the information they want.”

Merely by being online, Rubin was tuning into his audience’s requests for digital services. But Maxi’s first website wasn’t tailored at all — in fact, it was basically a print ad with a Web address.

“Before, it was a very static website,” he says. “It listed our name, our address, our e-mail. It listed products we offered. But it was not interactive. You couldn’t click through to get more information. It didn’t send an e-mail. It didn’t do anything. It was just information.”

Maxi was already listed on ThomasNet’s directory, so Rubin sought Web Solutions help to turn referred traffic into sales. First, he had to understand what customers search for online and how.

“Buyers want to be able to answer the same questions that they were once getting on the telephone,” says Rigano, who helps manufacturers and distributors deliver answers by replicating sales processes online.

Her advice: Envision your website as a new sales rep, and equip your virtual salesman by arming it with the right information. ThomasNet uses a VSET strategy as a formula of that information.

First, buyers want to verify that you have what they’re looking for — fast. Thomas’ research reveals that you don’t have much time to make that first impression. Industrial buyers spend 3 to 5 seconds on a homepage verifying you have what they seek before moving on.

“If I’m replicating my sales process at my website, I’ve got to figure out: How are they getting to me? That’s the first step,” Rigano says. “What are the words that they’re typing into a search engine to find me? I’ve got to make sure that that information is in my website; otherwise, I don’t even stand a chance at being found.”

These questions marked a crucial shift in the Web strategy at Keats Manufacturing Co., which also works with ThomasNet. Its first website focused more on the company and its processes than its products.

“Understand what it is that they’re putting into Google. That’s how you’re going to come up higher in their searches,” says Matt Eggemeyer, Keats’ vice president and COO. “I don’t think they’re putting in, ‘small, family-run operation in Chicago.’ They’re looking for a tin-plated 006 automotive terminal.”

Once he understood this, Eggemeyer revamped Keats’ website with less emphasis on company history and management team backgrounds, and more on products like terminals, clips, wire forms and lead frames.

“The way to hook them is to show that you can make the part and make it exactly how they want it,” Eggemeyer says. “You need to stay industry-specific, talk about your products and talk about how you make the products.”

With attention to detail, Eggemeyer launched Keats to the top of search results in several categories on ThomasNet.

“I come up in the top 5, if not No. 1,” he says. “No. 1 translates into over 1,000, sometimes as high as 1,500 unique visitors a month.”

Those numbers dwarf the dozen or so visitors he saw at trade shows — each of which cost more than his entire website.

“Traditional search methods — Yellow Pages, trade shows, all that kind of stuff — is dead and gone,” Eggemeyer says. “This is where you need to be.”

Virtually kicking the tires

The verify step is a broad brushstroke drive traffic. If you want to keep it there and turn it into sales, consider the next two steps in ThomasNet’s VSET strategy: search and evaluate.

“Once you hook them, then they want to kick the tires to get the warm fuzzy and see that this is a company that we want to develop a relationship with,” Eggemeyer says. “All the other superfluous stuff like the history and the management team needs to be on the website but maybe a little deeper. If they really do care, they’ll dig deeper.”

On his website, Eggemeyer went beyond the types of parts that Keats makes.

“We enhanced it one step further by adding the specs that are involved in making those parts: how thick are they, what kind of plating do they get, all the different sizes and dimensions — which make my website that much more attractive, especially when it comes to the search engines,” he says.

What type of information should you provide? Customer service reps are good sources of the knowledge you’ll equip your virtual salesman with because they have vetted the questions over the phone that you’ll face online.

“Let’s anticipate the questions people are going to ask, the information that they’re going to look for, and make sure that your site is armed with this information,” Rigano says. “I would want to have information on my products, on the materials that I use, on the amounts that I could run. How is it being used? Is it a bearing that would go into a wheel, a conveyor belt or a pulley? All of these things are going to be relevant to that market.”

Consider showcasing your offerings with detailed product information in an online catalog, where you can add descriptions, specs and photos. Maxi replaced stock photos and shot its own, with a common background, to create uniformity.

“What we had before was basically just a static one-page website. It didn’t change over time; it didn’t allow you to get more information,” Rubin says. “With Thomas, we created a front end and a catalog that work together seamlessly. We put more information in with secondary and tertiary pages. You start out very generally, and then you drill down to get the specific item you want.”

For Maxi, this was an also opportunity to showcase its core beyond containers — through sustainability. Rubin illustrates this online with videos of involvement in local green fairs and blogs about donating to boost local school recycling efforts.

“Know your core competencies and let the Web strategy complement what you do,” he says. “We’ve tried to graft a new way of communicating this information to customers, both our existing and new, but we’re still keeping our core values as a company in terms of what we do with our products and how we conduct our business. … You can’t lose sight of who and what you offer.”

Tracking online action

You’re drawing visitors to your website and providing answers to their questions in hopes that you’ll convince them to take the next step — the T in VSET, take action. But it doesn’t necessarily mean making a sale.

For Keats, it means a request for a quotation. Whatever your next step, provide tools for visitors to make the next move — like functions for contacting you, uploading CAD drawings or ordering online.

Those tools can get highly technical, but Rubin thinks they beckon offline tradition — and that’s the secret to converting traffic. In his strategy, the website doesn’t replace the sales cycle, but assists it.

“That’s where the old-fashioned stuff comes in,” he says. “The website has to be interactive. It has to have the ability to send e-mails. It has to have the ability to send RFQs. It has to have the ability to click a button and contact us. We wanted the website to give information, but then also have the ability to send a request for more information.”

Keep in mind, as your online strategy mimics your traditional sales cycle, it should closely reflect your overall business goals, as well.

“If a company sets up a website without going through the process of saying, ‘What are my business objectives, and how is my website going to support me in doing this?’ they will have missed the boat,” Rigano says. “My objective is not to make a killer website; my objective is to generate 5 percent more business in Korea and India this year. My objective is to increase my product sales. Then, you have to say, ‘How can my website help me do that?’”

Develop these goals at the onset of Web development so you can chart your online course and track progress along the way.

“You always want to build in: How do I know what success looks like? We don’t build a website without putting a tracking system in place so that you know how to evaluate what’s happening,” says Rigano, who recommends evaluating your tracking at least monthly. “Take all the key actions that you want somebody to do at your website — we call those conversion actions — and build in tracking so that you can look at those. You can look at how many people came into my site, how many people went past the homepage and searched for something, how many people clicked on ‘Download a CAD drawing,’ how many people clicked on e-commerce, how many people clicked on RFQ.”

But measuring results goes beyond in-page analytics. ThomasNet’s research shows that half of the time, online buyers still pick up the phone and call for more information, so make sure you include those callers in your tracking. Maxi has different 800 numbers for different ads on and offline, so Rubin can tell which ad drove the call by which number rings.

“If you don’t have a separate 800 number for your website, call your phone company tomorrow and get one installed,” Rigano says. “Then you know how many people are coming directly from your website. That’s the beauty of being online: The end measure is so definitive. It’s not like, ‘Gee, I had 10 percent impressions.’ It’s how many came in and how many bought. You know what success looks like.”

Evolving to maximize ROI

The road to a solid Web strategy doesn’t end when a searcher becomes a customer. Now, you tweak based on the actions you’re tracking.

“With all those quotes we get, we just need to pay attention to: What’s the latest and greatest?” Eggemeyer says. “We seem to be getting an awful lot of requests for the widget so we need to make sure that on our website we talk about how we make widgets.”

Companies won’t survive without adjusting to changing customer needs; so must websites also stay current. Analytics make online success and failure obvious, so they can help you optimize your strategy.

“You want to get your return on your investment,” Rubin says. “You want to look at what your cost-per-click comes out to be, and then you jettison those programs that don’t work and you invest more in those that do.”

As you think ahead to adding new digital components like social media, e-mail newsletters and blogs — which Rubin only added, one at a time, after the website was up and running — keep the overall strategy cohesive.

“It all has to work together and provide seamless integration across different platforms,” he says. “We also have a small pay-per-click program with Google and we’re working with Google Maps, but they all lead back to our website. It all has to reinforce each other. It all has to be consistent.”

You’re probably wondering when you’ll see these pieces come together into a return on investment. Eggemeyer saw his ROI pretty quickly after Keats’ site went live in April 2009. A former customer that had lost touch with its one-time supplier reunited when discovering online that Keats still had tools to make a certain part. One quick order paid off the new website.

The home run, though, if you ask Eggemeyer, was the phone call from a military contractor in Alabama, who had seen Keats’ site. The call led to a million-dollar order to develop a metal clip for a plastic bullet.

“Would have I been able to get that customer back with the traditional sales methods?” Eggemeyer asks. “No, because they wanted to see that I could do the zinc plating and that I could hold certain tolerances. And that isn’t on a brochure I’ve ever done, and they probably wouldn’t be asking that of me at tradeshow — and I don’t know if I could have given them that attention to sit down and talk engineer to engineer. But that stuff was on my website, and that gave them the warm fuzzy that Keats can do it.”

All in all, Keats’ sales are up 30 percent since the launch, and the number of quotes more than doubled from 600 to 1,400 in one year. Maxi similarly grew sales by 37 percent while setting four consecutive months of records, bringing in customers from new industries and locations. In fact, Rubin faces a wonderful problem because of the growth.

“The next step is moving to a bigger building,” he says. “We’re actually at full capacity in terms of the throughput in our warehouse. We’ve been so successful with this strategy that it’s difficult for us to add new customers.”

Rigano hears similar stories frequently, another sign that effectively leveraging your website as a sales tool is a crucial ingredient of growth.

“We’re asking people, ‘How did you (grow)?’” Rigano says. “The majority have said, ‘The strategies for success were developing business in new geographies, developing new innovative products and services, pursuing business in new industries, increasing online marketing. That’s how they’re continuing to grow, and that’s all through web strategies.”

How to reach: Thomas Industrial Network, (866) 585-1191 or www.thomasnet.com

How to reach: Keats Manufacturing Co., (800) 532-8763 or www.keatsmfg.com

How to reach: Maxi Container, (800) 727-6294 or www.maxicontainer.com

Want to hear more stories like this? Read more on:

How Matt Eggemeyer’s web strategy keeps customers coming to Keats Manufacturing.

How Carmen DeLeo crafted an online strategy for CDM Electronics.

How Don Ascione successfully put all his “eggs in the Internet basket.”

Published in Chicago
Saturday, 30 April 2011 20:27

Steve Goodman

Marketing executives are stretching their dollars in new and creative ways, from utilizing social media to investing time and resources in the latest technology. Budgets are being reassessed for effectiveness and impact. Never before has ROI been so top-of-mind. That is why hyper-local marketing makes perfect sense for today’s businesses that are looking for ways to more directly impact customers.

Hyper-local marketing has been around for a long time — and though there are new ways of activating it, the concept remains the same: Focus on a well-defined, community-related area, concentrate on the concerns of the residents, and highlight the businesses in a limited radius. Small is better — you can tailor your message and achieve far better results than making a generic pitch to anyone who might hear, read or see it. Here’s why it works.

First and foremost, the national or regional approach no longer provides the proverbial bang for the buck. In today’s fickle marketplace, these methods are considered too widespread and, thus, become a “throw it against the wall to see if something sticks” game. How do you solve this? Narrow the focus, find the end user that will find your information valuable, and go there.

Targeted marketing is the precursor to establishing personal relationships. When working in such a limited geographical location, the consumer response will likely develop into real business relationships. In a small town, people know each other and are happy to do business with someone they know. That same theory holds true in a larger city, when the hyper-local element pares it down to manageable units.

Additionally, convenience is a huge factor in decision-making. Marketers are well-advised to access the dedication that Americans have to convenience. We may criticize the younger generation’s lack of knowledge of geography — and laugh at its inability to find Kuwait on a map — but today’s youth know where the local Aeropostale store is. In fact, all generations have a keen sense of their own neighborhood. From the bank and the florist to the doctor and accountant, community geography becomes second nature. This is why hyper-local marketing is effective — it is tapping into a knowledge base that virtually everyone has.

The Internet has tried to convince us that we are a global economy, and in many ways, this is true. But food shopping, going to the dentist, buying a birthday cake and meeting for coffee are still major parts of family life. Those activities rely on proximity, and proximity is the essence of hyper-local marketing. More than 80 percent of business transactions occur within a 15-mile radius of the consumer. This statistic lends tremendous credibility to the benefits of hyper-local marketing.

The key to hyper-local marketing is identifying the segment you want to approach. Once identified, create a message that is meaningful to the largest sector within this segment. There will be one group that stands out — whether it is an age group, such as a senior citizens community, an ethnic or religious base, or even a group with a common occupation (think Silicon Valley).

As an added benefit, hyper-local marketing begets word-of-mouth. People often recommend a vendor, business owner, shop, artisan or professional to someone in their neighborhood. Simple proximity indicates a number of factors — convenience to the center of town, the same weather, similar school systems and so on. If an individual had a good experience, he or she is likely to share the information with someone else who may benefit from that experience and want to duplicate it.

Like any message or marketing strategy, nothing works perfectly without perseverance. However, hyper-local marketing does work if you deliver the message, and stick with it. Though by its very nature it proves a more limited audience, it also offers unlimited potential.

Steve Goodman is the president and COO of Welcome Wagon International. The company utilizes the strategic benefits of hyper-local marketing in more than 1,600 markets across the nation. Reach him at (800) 779-3526 or steve.goodman@welcomewagon.com.

Published in Florida
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 12:24

Maritime advice

Are you still waiting for business to fall in your lap? If so, good luck. The day of the order taker is over. It is up to you to make it happen.

Unfortunately, salespeople feel that the company is obligated to provide them with prospects or, at the very least, a list to call from. There are several things that you can do immediately to generate new prospects with little to no effort or cost.

  • Make one customer service call a day to an existing customer to make sure you are meeting his or her expectations. You have now created an opportunity for additional work or to ask for a referral.
  • Network strategically. Don’t waste time in areas that are not providing you with a return on your investment.
  • Fish where the fish are. Make sure that you are spending time with prospects that have a high potential of doing business with you.
  • Consistently ask for referrals of new customers or even from prospects who don’t buy from you.
  • Last but not least, don’t be a secret agent for your company. Some of my best clients were acquired during nonwork hours. Make it a focus for 2011 not to wait for your ship to come in — swim out to it.

Marvin Montgomery is an author, speaker and sales training consultant at ERC, where he has assisted hundreds of organizations in improving their productivity. You can ask the Sales Doctor a question at SalesDoctor@ercnet.org.

Published in Cleveland
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 11:58

Selling sense and sensibilities

Storytellers create interest in their tales by showing the opportunities and desires of characters set against the conflicts and challenges that confront them. Throughout the course of the story, a character grows to resolve these challenges.

Storytellers and story-selling

The same can be said of the stories of selling value in complex sales cycles.

Jane Austen famously used the phrase “sense and sensibility” to refer to human motivations and behaviors in her novel of the same name. Senses and sensibilities identify and provide information and discernment to people. They shape and form character and predispositions, which are impossible to fully describe.

However, insightful authors, such as Austen, have managed to show how the various human sense and sensibilities influence one’s life and behaviors in unimaginable ways.

Seller sensibilities don’t sell

To effectively sell value, the seller must understand the buyer’s senses. The seller must understand what it is that each person involved in a buying choice explicitly seeks.

To do this, the seller must view things from the personal perspective of the prospective customer. This means that the focus should be on buying motives and preferences, instead of selling.

And yet, most businesses and many sales reps forget that the customer wants to buy — not be sold.

The buyers’ perspective

These differences in perspectives cause difficulties for marketing and selling and some of the largest frustrations for buyers. To allay some of these frustrations, the seller must remember that buying and selling are one process, separated only by a difference in perspective.

Sellers tend to sell features and benefits, but buyers want to buy value. However, their idea of value does not necessarily mean a return on investment.

Value sells emotionally

It is said that value lies in emotions, not economics. Sellers must objectively determine and communicate the economic value being offered, but the subjective motivating reasons for a choice are often found in the emotional or personal benefits to be gained.

These advantages should be called values instead of value.

Values differ from person to person, time to time and situation to situation. That’s why so much of successful selling involves empathetically oriented personal interactions.

These values can be broken down into a more focused list of three behaviors and motivations: a craving for a sense of personal importance, a fear or dread of loss, or a desire for minimal effort or investment for maximum gain or success.

It is important to note that these three sensibilities are not the most attractive in human interactions. However, the objective is to be realistic without becoming cynical. Those engaged directly in selling processes may agree that these motivations often trigger behaviors that are not pleasant in normal human interactions but are typically prominent in buying and selling situations.

These primary motivational influences are like the three primary colors — red, yellow and blue. Just like red and yellow can be combined to get orange and blue and yellow make green, the influences can be combined in different degrees to create a virtually infinite palette of behaviors and motivations.

The combination of these most often encountered in sales and buying situations might best be summed up by the human behavioral principle taught by author Robert McKee: “With very few exceptions, humans seek to realize the maximum gain, or satisfaction, with a minimum of risk and investments of time, effort and energy.”

This means that on the first try, a person will do the minimum necessary to try to achieve a desired goal. This minimal effort hardly ever achieves a goal to its fullest extent, so the person will choose to give up or invest more time, effort, energy and risk in the project.

This cycle repeats itself until the goal is achieved.

Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, health care and insurance. For more information, visit http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/.

Published in Cincinnati

The sales landscape is changing. To succeed, businesses need to focus on three key drivers of profitable growth — customers, pricing and innovation.

“If you think about those three things, sales is the critical nexus through which they all flow,” says Jim Lane, director of RedBank Advisors at GBQ Partners LLC. “You can’t get a decent price if your sales people cave when they’re pressured. You can’t hear about innovative demands and needs from your customers if your sales people are not listening carefully. You can’t establish customer satisfaction with a sales force that is setting expectations that you cannot meet. Sales is a critical enabler of all three drivers of profitable growth.”

Smart Business spoke with Lane about how to understand the changing sales atmosphere and make sure your sales force can accommodate the changes.

How has the sales environment changed?

If you rewind a little bit, a lot of businesses thought their sales guys were absolutely amazing in the 1990s, and many of those sales people are still in place. Early in this decade, business leaders looked at sales people a more little critically, but then the sales group seemed to recover and hit their feet again. That all changed with this last downturn, and now no one seems to know how to sell.

Have the sales people really been getting better and worse? No, but what’s been happening is that our feelings about sales people track with the economy. So in the mid to late 1990s, the economy was raging along, and all you had to do was show up with a sales book to get an order. In the early 2000s, there was a bit of a downturn, so we looked at sales people with a bit of a critical eye. But we recovered and started to make progress again, so business leaders thought that sales people knew what they were doing. But it wasn’t until this latest downturn when we figured out that they really don’t know it all, and in many cases, are not suited for sales or don’t have the knowledge or skills to be effective at sales. As a result, we’ve seen a bunch of sales managers and sales people who’ve been exposed as not good at what they’re doing.

What are some key things business leaders need to understand about the changing atmosphere of sales and growth?

The key difficulty that business owners have when looking at their sales force and growth curve is that, once they know what their own desires and goals are for growth, they don’t separate out what they’re accomplishing versus what’s being accomplished because of the business environment. In the 1990s, we all thought we were geniuses. But over the last 18 to 24 months, we all thought we were idiots. Have we really changed, or is it just the performance of the economy that’s driving the change in the business? You have to separate out what you can control versus what the economy controls. That will help you determine the difference between an opportunity to improve and factors beyond your control.

How do you work with your sales force to accommodate this change?

The first aspect is getting the right people in place with the right psychological makeup. The second part is making sure that they have the skills and training that they need.

That first part is really a price of entry, it’s really a go or no go. There are a couple of key characteristics of a good sales person’s psyche, which deal with a willingness and commitment to do whatever it takes to make oneself successful. The other one is fortitude and the ability to hear no, keep on going and keep your drive up. If someone is lacking in those two elements, it’s probably not a good idea for that person to remain in sales for a career. You have to evaluate each sales person with a rigorous assessment tool so you can determine his or her potential. Then you can track progress against their potential each year as you go along.

Then you can train your sales force on a whole series of different skills. You can definitely impact these and improve performance through some of these skills in a way that has a return associated with it. When you first look at your sales force, you need to determine if you receive a continued return on investment. You might as well just trade them out or eliminate those positions if you do not. If you have a group of sales people who have those core psyche elements, then you can determine what the return on investment will be for that group. That’s where you see an opportunity to continue to invest in and improve the performance of the existing sales group.

Once you’ve been through this analysis, and you know how to invest in your current talent pool, then you can look at the gaps. You look at what types of sales people that you do have, and what types of sales people that you need to drive growth.

What are the benefits and risks of focusing on the key drivers of profitable growth?

Business leadership is a balance of looking at drivers of growth and profitability and looking at efficiency, which is more cost focused. Drivers of growth tend to be revenue and top line oriented. Drivers of efficiency tend to be cost and bottom line oriented. As with anything, if you focus too much on the left hand, you forget what the right hand is doing. You need to keep a balanced outlook.

If you do focus on profitable growth, the key benefit is that you become a much stronger organization. Companies that did well over the last 18 to 24 months were ones that had already taken up the challenge of being profitable. They came into the downturn with the cash to take advantage of buying opportunities and were able to invest in new capabilities and talent at a time when they were relative bargains.

Being more profitable makes you a much stronger firm. When another company is trimming to survive, you can attack their customer base and introduce new products. That financial strength enables you to do a lot of things when there are competitive opportunities to move.

Jim Lane is the director of RedBank Advisors at GBQ Partners LLC. Reach him at (614) 947-5257 or jlane@gbq.com.

Published in Columbus
Saturday, 19 February 2011 23:13

Interactive conversations

Maybe Regis Philbin wouldn’t convert your prospects to customers by confirming their final answers. But Amanda Lannert thinks your business could benefit by borrowing some philosophies from interactive games.

Lannert is president at The Jellyvision Lab Inc. — a sibling company to Jellyvision Games, known for its best-selling games “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and “You Don’t Know Jack.” She’s taking interactive conversations beyond gaming to help companies better communicate with customers, replacing virtual game show hosts with virtual insurance agents, enterprise IT salespeople and even guidance counselors.

“Find ways to ask questions to let people self-select into the information they want, versus just piling a bunch of information on your website and making people have to do the legwork of understanding it all so that they can then match the product to their needs,” says Lannert, who has about 50 employees. “Try to help people narrow down to the information they need at a level in which they can understand.”

Smart Business spoke with Lannert about turning prospects into customers with interactive conversation.

Be respectfully relevant. The best salespeople that we see in all industries ask questions first. They make it about you, the buyer, not about the product first. The salesperson doesn’t come up [in a store] and say, ‘Oh, the texture of the chiffon is so lovely.’ They say, ‘Where are you going to wear the dress?’ and then they put the product into the context of what the user cares about versus just blathering on about the product. They’re engaging and not pushy.

We’ll ask stuff like, ‘What keeps you up at night? What problems are you interested in solving?’ and we’ll lay out four or so options on the screen. … People click and then you can focus on that and know that you’re dealing with their top issue.

Be relevant and respectful of your audience and their time. … It’s about having an editorial perspective that allows you to know what you’re talking about but not speak in a way that’s mired in industry lingo or corporate gobbledygook. Being clear, being conversational is respectful to your audience.

Just remember, people read and think and process best in conversational English versus jargon or lingo or corporate-speak. Try to read your copy out loud. If it’s not what you would say to a human being, rewrite it. Call your husband or your wife or your mother and read it to them, and just have them raise their hand when they start to get a little tricky.

Take it slow. Interactive conversations are a touch-point in a very long and complex sales cycle. Our philosophy is that, for complex sales and transactions, you need to take a long-term dating focus. You don’t want to move too quickly on the first date.

You need to set up a strategy of providing valuable advice and service over time, sometimes when it has nothing to do with actually selling your product. Sometimes, it just has to do with proving that you’re a credible, reliable, helpful person. That will pay dividends.

The best way we’ve found to build and maintain relationships is patience. … You accrue brand equity the same way you build interest in dating: You build intrigue by being patient.

Our goal is usually to get people to move from being a website researcher to being an active lead on the phone with a representative who can configure a solution. So we say, ‘All right, would you like to speak with a rep?’ Can we capture a lead right away? They say, ‘Oh, I’m not ready to be sold to.’ ‘Well, that’s OK. Can we send you a white paper on blank that you already told me that you’re interested in?’

Provide options. Instead of, ‘Can I close? Yes or no,’ it’s, ‘Would you like to close? Would you like to learn more?’

You can set up stuff in marketing automation. … And then two weeks later, you have an automatic e-mail that says, ‘Hey, there’s a new webinar.’ Two weeks later, ‘Here’s an interesting article I read that might be germane to your business about how this solution has helped other companies.’

You continue to provide resources and advice that has nothing to do with (selling) that allows people to get more comfortable with your solution over time. A white paper may not actually advance your sale, but it builds your credibility so that when someone actually is ready to move toward your solution, they’re more likely to remember you, more likely to give you a call.

Match needs to inventory. The great thing about the Web is you are not limited by physical space in terms of the amount of inventory you can cover. And the bad thing about the Web is that you’re not limited by physical space (for) the inventory you can cover.

That’s why consumer decision support tools are so important, particularly when you’re selling something complex. You don’t want to force your prospect to have to become a category expert. You just want them to have to understand their business, their pain and their situation and then you want to say, ‘I get the products. I understand the background of everything we offer. Based on what you said, I’m going to recommend this, and I’m going to tell you why based on what I’ve learned about you.’ So you take the onus of expertise off of the prospect who’s doing research and all they have to know is what they know already: their own situation.

People so often forget the ‘and why.’ … That’s how you build confidence in the sale. When (other interactive decision support tools) get to the recommendation, they drop people off at a page because to present produced recommendations for your entire inventory could bankrupt the company. Well, don’t produce the whole inventory. Narrow the coverage you need to provide and invest in a recommendation. Invest in saying, ‘Hey, customer, I hear you. I know what you’re looking for, and based on what you told me, this is what I recommend and here’s why.’

How to reach: The Jellyvision Lab Inc., (888) 387-4446 or www.jellyvisionlab.com

Published in Chicago
Friday, 18 February 2011 14:47

Stop asking for permission

One of the strongest ingrained behaviors is asking for permission. Remember growing up and our parents would constantly remind us that it’s OK as long as you ask first. We were being taught to be polite.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not be polite. I am saying that there are times when we should refrain from saying, “Would you like to?” or “Do you want to?” or “Is it OK?” When you put yourself in position to ask for permission, you then have to sit back and wait for a yes or no.

Instead, be proactive and take control of the sales pitch. Use words like “let’s” or “when” to begin your request.

“Let’s schedule a time to meet.” “When is a convenient time for us to meet?” Instead of “Would you like to?” or “Do you want to?” or “Is it OK if I?”

It’s OK to be more assumptive in your closing approach, especially when the prospect has a true need for your product or service. Besides, that approach also works on the personal side, too.

“Would you like to go out?” “Let’s go out tonight.” “I will pick you up at 7 p.m.”

You’d be amazed at how much better this approach will be.

Marvin Montgomery is an author, speaker and sales training consultant at ERC, where he has assisted hundreds of organizations in improving their productivity. You can ask the Sales Doctor a question at SalesDoctor@ercnet.org.

Published in Akron/Canton
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