The Sales Cycle


5/23 – Price Objections

No one can debate that we live in a price conscious society. I’m constantly amazed at how the price of every product or service I purchase seems to be rising, even when I’m still receiving the identical product or service we used to receive at a lower price. And in some cases, I’m paying even more today for less product than I used to receive at a lower price (the next time you’re in a grocery store, check out the shrinking sizes of cereal boxes!)

Our newspaper advertising clients are experiencing the same thing and feel the same way. For them, price is still the easiest way to compare advertising products. There are also those clients who live by the creed “you don’t get what you don’t ask for” so for them it has become the norm to ask for a better deal or a substantial discount. They’re fishing, with the hope that we’re desperate enough to take the bait.

I’m continually reminding my clients and prospects that advertising is not an expense, it’s an investment. Stop focusing on the cost, instead focus on the opportunity and potential results. Without investing in a smart marketing strategy their business will – either today, tomorrow or five years from now – wither and die.

So, moving on to the topic of this edition of The Sales Cycle – are you having problems overcoming price objections?

In my opinion, it’s all a matter of perception and belief. Every purchase decision we make as consumers involves the risk of making a bad decision. So remember that when a client/prospect says your price is too high, it does not necessarily truly mean your price is too high. And it most definitely does not mean that you should immediately cut rate and offer discounts.

What your client/prospect is really saying is “PROVE to me that buying from you is a good decision.” In fact, I’ll take it one step further – I believe that when a client/prospect mentions price as an objection, it means that you have an interested buyer! However, they are obviously not ready to sign on the dotted line quite yet, and whether or not they do depends on what you do next. Proceed with caution, and keep two things in mind: either your client/prospect simply doesn’t believe in the features, benefits and value of the product you are offering (a “non-believer”) -or- your client/prospect is giving you a buying signal predicated on price (a “negotiator.”)

The question is, can you tell the difference? Personally, I always assume that price objections come from “non-believers.” I proceed to ask additional probing questions to uncover what the true objection is, and then re-establish the value of the product I’m proposing. In order to successfully accomplish this, you need to know your product inside and out, know your competitor’s product inside and out, know your market, and make sure the client/prospect understands that by purchasing the product they also get YOU – a trusted business advisor and newspaper expert!

Other ideas for how to avoid talking about price with a “non-believer” might be:

– Continually use the word investment instead of the word price. Remind them how important it is to invest in their business.

– Talk about results! Admit that the investment to participate in the program might be perceived as being high by a person who hasn’t experienced the results of our program…and then show them successful results. Follow up by asking “Could you see your business benefiting from these kinds of results?”

– Present them with testimonials from current and past clients who are happy with your service and understand the value you deliver.

If you’re dealing with a “negotiator,” then your client/prospect may truthfully be most concerned with not being able to afford your product or service – or believe that your price is not in line with other competing media options. What they might really be saying is that “if your price was lower I would buy it.” So if you feel that you’ve properly established the value of the product and nothing else has worked to close the sale, the best approach might simply be to ask them!

Before you consider rate discounts as a last resort option, try these proven negotiation tactics first:

– Take out a piece of paper and show the numerical value of the program by calculating exactly how the results could outweigh the costs.

– Minimize price objections to the smallest number (ie: If you spend $200.00 more that equates to only $16.00 additional investment per month.)

– Tell them you don’t want to lose a deal over a few dollars. Ask what else you can do to help close the deal together.

– Make it easy for them to buy. Explore ways to get creative with your billing/financing/terms (ie. We can bill you 25% now and the balance in 30 days.)

I honestly don’t believe in price objections. Studies show that the vast majority of all purchases are made for other reasons other than price. Personally, I’m almost always willing to pay a little bit more if I know that I will get the value that I want or will achieve my desired results. In fact, price rarely stops me from buying something if I think it will do what I need or want it to do. Of course, this sometimes leads to interesting conversations with my wife…

So ask yourself, did I effectively present my product or service to my client/prospect? Will my program help my client/prospect solve for all of their business needs? Is it possible that the price objection is a smoke screen because I didn’t sell my client/prospect on the true value of my proposal? Ultimately the bottom line is this: until you can successful define and defend the value of your recommendation, your product or service will always be over priced in the mind of today’s price conscious consumer.

Cheers,
Dan

5/23 – Advertising Quick Clicks
21 Sales Qualifying Questions to Identify Prospects Worth Pursuing (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Ask THESE Questions to Win the Sale (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
7 Bulletproof Strategies to Increase Sales & Make More Money (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
How To Deal With Difficult Sales Customers (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The Very Best Time to Prospect for Sales (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Grant Cardone


5/16 – Control

The most important thing to remember in any sales setting is to stay in control of the situation by utilizing all of the steps of the sales cycle AND remain flexible so you can adapt to any situation. The thing you must always keep in mind is that strategic selling is a process.

However, as a professional salesperson you should avoid making too much of the process, which can lend to you resisting to follow the process. Unfortunately, some sales managers make too little of their sales process by not enforcing its use at all. And some sales organizations and sales thinkers have abandoned the sales process, incorrectly believing that buyers are in charge of the buying process and salespeople are unnecessary, irrelevant, subservient, or create no value through a process.

All of these notions are incorrect. Salespeople help their clients recognize needs – sometimes when the client is not even aware that they exist! There are four ways in which every salespeople chooses to approach a sales situation. The first three ways are inefficient, leaving rocks unturned and leading to missed opportunities. Avoid making these mistakes! Staying in control at all times by following the sales process will greatly help guide any situation to a mutually beneficial outcome for you and your client.

#1 – On The Fly

When salespeople decide not to follow a process, they believe that they are being flexible, creative, and adaptable. In reality, their premise is flawed. In order to be flexible, creative, or adaptable, there needs to be some norm from which you are intentionally deviating. Some argue that having no process is in fact a process. But it isn’t. A process is something that is designed to lead to repeatable success. A sales process is the plan to move from target to close. When salespeople refuse a process, they skip the necessary steps to discover client needs and offer smart solutions. They jeopardize building a trusted business relationship. Selling “on the fly” may occasionally help close a sale, but a majority of the time more opportunities are missed than capitalized upon.

#2 – Too Compliant

Some salespeople, and a few sales organizations, religiously adhere to a sales process. They are inflexible, which leads to a lack of resourcefulness and creativity. When the sales process defines outcomes at a certain stage, they religiously pursue those outcomes, even if gently guiding the client down a different road would move them closer to closing the sale and better serving their client. These salespeople are, in fact, too compliant. The sales process is a roadmap – not the terrain itself. Sometimes the road pictured on the map doesn’t look like reality, and a true professional salesperson will recognize this and blaze a new trail. The “too complaint” salesperson stays on the marked path even when it leads to a missed opportunity.

#3 – No Control

These salespeople don’t follow a process and celebrate their ability to be extremely flexible. They give their prospective client whatever they want, even if it does not serve the best interest of their company or the client. “If the prospective client said they want this to be the next step, then that is the next step,” they say. “The client is always right.” However, many buyers don’t have any idea what they need to achieve their goals, what they want from a strategic media partner, or how the salesperson can create value for them. By being too flexible and having no process, the salesperson does their client a disservice and they miss opportunities to close the sale. These salespeople have “no control” of the situation, and would be better served sticking to a process that takes the client’s needs into account.

#4 – In Control

True professional salespeople follow a strict sales process. They understand the series of repeatable steps that must be taken to position themselves to close the sale and serve their clients by helping them achieve their business goals. These salespeople are proficient in knowing when to deviate slightly from the sales process when it’s necessary. When the roadmap isn’t an accurate representation, they make adjustments. But they don’t ignore the sales process! Instead, they find ways to provide the buyer with what they need to make an informed and mutually beneficial decision. They are flexible, resourceful, creative, and adaptable. These salespeople are “in control” of the process without being so rigid that they ignore the buyer’s needs.

Cheers,
Dan

5/16 – Advertising Quick Clicks
This Sales Networking Email Has a 96% Success Rate [Template] (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Focus on Helping Your Clients, Not Just Selling (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
How To Differentiate Between What The Sales Customer Wants & Needs (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
2 Details You Need to Learn Before Making a Sales Call (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Great Selling Is “Habit Forming!” (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)


Video Courtesy of Victor Antonio



5/7 – Influence

After progressing through the steps of the sales cycle, we eventually reach the point where it’s time to close the deal and ask for the business. If you’ve properly conducted a thorough needs analysis, aligned features with benefits, and illustrated how the product or service you are proposing can be solutions for the needs your customer has, it really should be a no-brainer. A “done deal” if you will. But sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as planned.

Research shows that people have six emotional triggers that push them towards saying “yes.” I’ve defined these six factors to be applicable to what we do, day in and day out, as professional advertising sales professionals:

  1. Reciprocation – The act of repaying someone for something they’ve done for us. If we continue to provide value and benefit to our customers, they may eventually recognize the time and thought we’ve dedicated to helping their business and be more likely to say “yes.”
  2. Commitment – Make sure to use every opportunity to ask you customer to make a mutually beneficial commitment as you work through the sales process. Commitments can be in the form of scheduling meetings in advance or providing you with information you need to help make smart recommendations. When your customer feels vested in the process, they are more likely to say “yes.”
  3. Social Proof – People tend to gravitate towards what others are doing (or not doing.) From a sales perspective, referrals continue to be an extremely powerful tool to share with your customers. If they believe other businesses are finding success doing something similar to what you are proposing, they are more likely to try it themselves by saying “yes.”
  4. Likeability – People simply like to do business with people that they like. People are more likely to trust others that appear to have similar opinions, personality traits, backgrounds, or lifestyles. Make the time to established a comfort level, familiarity, and a frequent rapport with your customers and you’ll find them saying “yes” more often.
  5. Authority – As a consultative sales professional, you have an opportunity to look and act like an authority – or an expert – in the world of advertising. Be sure your client understands that your education and experience supports your ideas. But be careful as you walk that line – don’t come off as a “know it all” or too arrogant – as people tend to turn down the volume on salespeople who are too full of themselves which makes it very difficult to get that “yes.”
  6. Scarcity – In many instances I’ve found success using sales strategies focusing on the importance of customers making timely decisions. But be careful, as there is a proper way to do this, and also a way that borders on deception. Using terms such as “limited availability”, “first come – first served”, and “category exclusive” can be powerful tools to persuade your customers to act quickly out of fear of losing out on the opportunity.

Remember, our ultimate goal as professional salespeople is NOT to manipulate or deceive customers into saying “yes.” We simply want to understand what they need and provide them with solutions to meet those needs. Each of the six steps described above are things to keep in mind as you work through the sales cycle – another arrow in our quiver as we make the leap from “just another salesperson” to “trusted business advisor.”

Cheers,
Dan

5/7 – Advertising Quick Clicks
39 Sales Questions to Ask a Customer to Determine Their Needs (Courtesy of HubSpot)
3 Outbound Sales Strategies for Better Response Rates (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
How To Set Sales Appointments Over The Phone? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Are You Asking These Sales Discovery Questions? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Podcast: Ryan Dohm’s 10 Sales Proposal Tips for Success (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)


Video Courtesy of Chronicle Living

4/30 – Technology

In today’s business world. Almost every facet has been touched, and ostensibly improved, by technology.  Everything from creating proposals to delivering multimedia presentations; producing advertising insertion quotes to auctioning programmatic inventory instantly in real time; building a prospecting pipeline to forecasting sales revenue; documenting services to tallying billable hours. You name it, there is an app for that.

So my question this week is: How does technology impact you in your day to day sales process? Is your job as an advertising sales professional in jeopardy of being replaced by tech-driven automation?

My answer for you is, being as forthright and honest as I can possible be, is….maybe.

It all depends on what YOU bring to the table – what value you add to the buyer-seller relationship beyond the transactional aspects of doing business. If there is one thing I try to stress each and every time I write a column for The Sales Cycle, it is this: Sales are all about the relationship. It’s about building trust and making smart recommendations that fulfill needs.

From a customer’s perspective, interactions with salespeople can be characterized as dealing with a clerk – someone who shows up, gets the order, and then disappears.  Or, it can be characterized as dealing with a trusted business advisor – someone who understands the client’s needs and goals and provides insight and help in satisfying them. The personal side of things that cannot be replicated with algorithms, dots and dashes.

How would your customers characterize your relationship?  At which end of the spectrum would they place your interactions with them?  Unfortunately, for too many salespeople, it’s near the “clerk” end.  These salespeople (and hopefully, you’re not one of them) show up on schedule, get an order, and add little additional value beyond occasionally taking the buyer to lunch or bringing donuts for the staff.

Unless you change what you represent to your customers and clients – and bring something to the relationships that they truly appreciate and value – your newspaper may soon be exploring replacing you with an app (quite possibly at your customers’ requests) – and you run the risk of becoming a relic.

So, how do YOU add value to the relationship? By contributing anything that helps your customers grow their businesses – drive new customers through their doors, build brand awareness, and increase revenues. You can also change your manner of interaction with your customers to make it easier for them to do business with you or provide market analyses or industry trend information which can help your customers make better advertising decisions. Whatever you do, make sure you find a way to add value to your customer relationships and extend your interactions beyond the transactional aspects of the sale.

Cheers,
Dan

4/30 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Boost Your Sales Using Decision Intelligence (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Find Your Product’s Emotional Selling Proposition (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The Master Tip for Closing More Sales (Courtesy of HubSpot)
How to Lure Sales Customers From Competitors (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
Less Engagement With Devices Can Mean More Engagement with Clients (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)


Video Courtesy of Marc Wayshak Sales Research & Insights


4/23 – From SWOT to SMART

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

Note: This is the final article in five week series explaining SWOT analysis and how it can be a useful tool for you to help both you and your clients understand their business. Keep in mind, SWOT cannot and should not replace the initial client needs analysis. A needs analysis helps you and your client understand IF there is a need that you can provide a solution for.

Congratulations! You’ve now proven to your client that you are a trusted business advisor who thinks strategically about what’s going to happen after what happens next. You’re not only concerned about what’s impacting their business today, but what needs to be done to ensure future success. And most importantly, you’ve helped your client realize that taking time to complete a SWOT analysis is crucial when it comes to identifying what’s working and what’s not – and which items need continued focus and improvement.

It’s true that in many aspects this is really NOT part of an ordinary salesperson’s primary job responsibility. Then again, how many of us really want to be considered “ordinary?” I certainly do not. Sales is becoming less about selling and more about building relationships. It’s about trust. You need to instill confidence in your clients that you understand their business and can offer solutions to their needs by making tactical recommendations.

SWOT is an advanced analysis tool. I’m certain that very few of your competing media counterparts are taking the time to sit down with their clients and evaluating their business via SWOT. Why? Because radio/television/outdoor reps are all about making a sale today and moving onto the next customer tomorrow. While this may work for some, I’m willing to bet these salespeople experience huge client churn every year. Constantly focusing on short-term gain and failing to think strategically about long-term sales success no longer cuts it. Don’t be one of the sheep…be a Sheppard.

Ok, so I promised to share what you can do with the findings of the SWOT analysis to assist you in making more sales and generating more revenue. Here it is — take the lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats you’ve generated with your client back to your office and use them to create a S.M.A.R.T Advertising Recommendation. Yup, another acronym – but this one is definitely worth remembering. Whenever you propose anything to any client, ask yourself – “Is this SMART?” Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Time-bound. 

Create a recommendation for your client to consider – something that will help them meet their business objectives – using the following guidelines:

  1. Define SPECIFIC objectives. Your objectives must produce tangible results. And one business goal may have multiple objectives.
  2. Decide how to MEASURE your objectives. Without consistent measurement standards, there’s no way to demonstrate success or failure.
  3. Discuss whether each objective is ACHIEVABLE and how it will be achieved. Each objective needs to have its own action plan.
  4. Do yourself a favor and be REALISTIC! As salespeople, we tend to sugarcoat things – but look at each objective to ensure it’s actually realistic.
  5. Develop a TIMELINE. Objectives should be time-bound with start and end dates to keep the plan on track.

When creating your proposal, each objective should take into consideration all of the SMART components. For example, if the mutually agreed upon goal of your local retail client is to “Increase store traffic for our monthly Clearance Sale” then you should transform this into the SMART objective of “Develop a newspaper marketing campaign, featuring creative with a specific call-to-action, targeting preferred customers within a 5-mile radius of the location, to run on the Wed/Thurs prior to the Clearance Sale kick-off on Saturday morning.” This ties in each of the SMART elements and demonstrates your ability to bring the recommendation full-circle to maximize results.

I challenge you to call one of your closest clients and ask them if they’d consider sitting down with you to complete a SWOT analysis of their business. The ultimate goal is a better understanding of how the business operates and what changes could potentially take place to adapt to threats and capitalize on opportunities. In return, you gain a deeper relationship of trust and confidence with your customer, which can only lead to the reward of additional sales revenue in the future.

Cheers,
Dan

4/23 – Advertising Quick Clicks
8 Steps to Setting Smarter Sales Goals (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Are You Killing Your Sales by Being on Autopilot? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Must Sell With Urgency (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
5 Reasons Your Sales Results Are Suffering (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
The 4 Most Common Buyer Types & How To Sell To Them! (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Autopedia


4/16 – The Threat

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

Note: This is week #4 in a series of five weeks that reviews SWOT analysis and how it can be a useful tool for you to help both you and your clients understand their business. Keep in mind, SWOT cannot and should not replace the initial client needs analysis. A needs analysis helps you and your client understand IF there is a need that you can provide a solution for. Once it has been determined if the need to work together exists, only then can SWOT can help you and your client understand where their business is today and where it could be in the future. 

Threats are also “external” factors. Similar to opportunities, threats cannot be controlled by a business as they are dictated by conditions which change within the market. Threats are forecasted environmental condition that have the potential to harm your client’s businesses profitability so it’s crucial that they are identified and closely monitored!

When creating a list of threats, make sure to review what you and your clients perceive as their competitor’s strengths. More often than not, the two are exceedingly intertwined. Also, any moves that a competitor may make within the marketplace as a show of strength may necessitate a reaction from your client – which in many cases produces a threat as a byproduct. For example, if a competitor lowers their prices on a product (the competitors strength is their ability to sell a product with a slim profit margin) and your client reacts by being forced to reduce the price of their product, the result is that your client may know be selling an unprofitable product – which in itself is the threat.

Once again, using that “typical newspaper retail client” as our SWOT subject, here’s an example of a likely list of threats that would be effective in creating a SWOT analysis with your client:  (Note: I’m including the “external factor” that is causing the threat to exist)

-A new competitor has entered the market = The possibility for diluted market share
-An existing competitor are engaging in a price war = The possibility for reduced revenues
-A competitor has launched a new product that we cannot offer = The possibility for losing existing core customers
-Government regulations have imposed a taxation on your product = The possibility for reduced profits
-The needs of existing customers have changed = The possibility of becoming irrelevant

We have now helped our client create a list of Strengths and Weaknesses (internal factors) along with Opportunities and Threats (external factors) taking into consideration how they directly relate to their competitors. Next week we’ll tie everything together and I’ll explain how you can leverage this highly coveted strategic business information and use it to develop a marketing proposal for your clients. Just having the chance to sit down with your client and have an open discussion about their business in this fashion illustrates how much faith and confidence they have in your ability to be a trusted business advisor. They’ve opened the door for you…it’s your time to capitalize on this opportunity and showcase your talents as a professional salesperson!

Cheers,
Dan

4/16 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Ultimate Guide to Sales Scripts (With Examples) (Courtesy of HubSpot)
The Home Court Advantage. Are You Using it to Make Sales? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Why Sales Reps Should Not Blame the Customer (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Don’t Make Excuses for Not Calling on Your Dream Clients (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
What Are The Different Types Of Selling? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Parr & Associates


4/9 – The Opportunity

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

Note: This is week #3 in a series of five weeks that reviews SWOT analysis and how it can be a useful tool for you to help both you and your clients understand their business. Keep in mind, SWOT cannot and should not replace the initial client needs analysis. A needs analysis helps you and your client understand IF there is a need that you can provide a solution for. Once it has been determined if the need to work together exists, only then can SWOT can help you and your client understand where their business is today and where it could be in the future.

Opportunities are “external” factors – things that a business might be able to capitalize on based on what is happening outside of corporate walls. External factors may include macroeconomic matters, technological change, government legislation, cultural changes (trends), and changes in the marketplace (competitive position.) Opportunities exist for everyone in a market – a business cannot control access to an opportunity.

When creating a list of opportunities, make sure to look at a client’s list of strengths. How can a client leverage a strength to create an opportunity? How well does an opportunity make their core competency and strengths? For the past two weeks we’ve used a “typical newspaper retail client” as our SWOT subject. Once again, using this example let’s create a list of opportunities that would be effective in creating a SWOT analysis:

(Note: I’m including the “external factor” that is being considered in parenthesis to illustrate how and why the opportunity is being identified)

–        We should expand our retail footprint and open a location in the city of ABC

(Because the competition has no presence in this area)

–         We should launch a virtual retail showroom on eBay

(Because technology allows this to be done easily and cost effectively)

–        We should increase our offering of products in category XYZ

(Because recent trends show that demographic ABC is spending more money in this category)

–        We should buy a booth and sell products at the local county fair

(Because this is a new event that was just created and we want to support it and make a connection to the community)

–        We should remodel and update our existing retail locations

(Because our local government wants to encourage local business and is offering short-term low-interest small business loans)

–        We should develop a social media marketing campaign

(Because our competition is slow to embrace emerging technologies)

We have now helped our client create a list of Strengths and Weaknesses (internal factors) and Opportunities (an external factor) taking into consideration how they directly relate to their competitors. Next week we’ll create our fourth and final list – Threats. Once complete, I’ll discuss how you take these four lists and use the findings to create a tactical marketing proposal for your clients – one that will allow your clients to capitalize on their best opportunities using a strategic communication plan provided through the products and services your newspaper offers.

Cheers,
Dan

4/9 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Mass Sales Emails Are Dead. (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
How to Stop Sales Burnout in its Tracks (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
Why Big Sales Deals Need to Happen Face-To-Face (Courtesy of Inc.)
The Secret Ingredient to Sales and How to Cultivate It (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How to Accelerate Their Sales Cycles With A More Human Touch (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Decision Skills


4/2 – The Weakness

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

Note: This is week #2 in a series of five weeks that reviews SWOT analysis and how it can be a useful tool for you to help both you and your clients understand their business. Keep in mind, SWOT cannot and should not replace the initial client needs analysis. A needs analysis helps you and your client understand IF there is a need that you can provide a solution for. Once it has been determined if the need to work together exists, only then can SWOT can help you and your client understand where their business is today and where it could be in the future.

Weaknesses (like Strengths) are “internal” factors. Weaknesses can be controlled and mitigated. When identifying the weaknesses of a client, remember to consider how things look from an external perspective. Do competitors of your client perceive things as weaknesses that your client does not? Are their competitors doing things better than your client, turning a possible strength into a glaring weakness?

When creating a list of weaknesses, you should start by reviewing a client’s list of strengths. Anything that you failed to include (or could not realistically include) as a strength is a potential weakness. Last week I listed numerous strengths a typical newspaper retail client might have. Let’s take the converse of a few of these strengths (while adding a few new items) to illustrate a list of weaknesses that would be effective in creative a SWOT analysis:

–        We sell an undifferentiated product
–        We only have one retail location
–        We have high staff turnover & are constantly training new employees
–        We lease a building in a high-rent district
–        We are highly leveraged financially and lack liquid operating capital
–        We have little market presence and lack a reputation

We have now helped our client create a list of Strengths and Weaknesses (both internal factors) taking into consideration how they directly relate to their competitors. During the next two weeks we’ll focus on Opportunities and Threats – external factors that are determined by the market, competition, trends, technology, etc.

SWOT Analysis is a simple and useful tool for identifying your client’s strengths and weaknesses, while understanding the opportunities and threats they face. As a trusted marketing consultant, this provides you with strategic business information to help you help your client position themselves for future success. Newspaper advertising allows businesses to tell their story, to create their brand, to connect with their community, to influence perception, and to drive sales. That is YOUR opportunity – can you take advantage? We’ll talk more about this next week.

Cheers,
Dan

4/2 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Leverage Sales Tech to Build Trusting Relationships (Courtesy of HubSpot)
10 Sales Skills that Don’t Require Natural Talent (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Must Make Time to Adopt New Practices (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
The Reason You’re Not Making More Sales (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
The 5 Stages Of The Negotiation Process (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of SmartDraw


3/19 – The Strength

Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

For the next four weeks, we’ll review SWOT analysis and how it can be a useful tool for you to help both you and your clients understand their business. Keep in mind, SWOT cannot and should not replace the initial client needs analysis. A needs analysis helps you and your client understand IF there is a need that you can provide a solution for. Once it has been determined if the need to work together exists, only then can SWOT can help you and your client understand where their business is today and where it could be in the future. It’s at that point that you can start selling them on how you plan to help them get to that next step through effective and consistent advertising.

Before we get started, there are five simple rules of SWOT that must be kept in mind:

  1. SWOT is absolutely subjective
  2. SWOT is most effective when your clients are realistic about their strengths and weaknesses
  3. SWOT should be short and simple. Avoid complexity and over analysis.
  4. SWOT should always be specific. Avoid grey areas.
  5. SWOT analysis is in relation to your client’s competitors (better than or worse than, something they offer that their competitors don’t.)

Strengths are “internal” factors – things that a business CAN control. I’ll guess that many of newspaper advertising salespeople work with a majority of retail accounts. For the purpose of this summary, let’s assume that we’re sitting down with one of our retail clients with the goal of identifying their current strengths. You simply want to make a list – be realistic and specific. From a retail perspective, here is a snapshot of items you and your client (“we”) may come up with:

–        We sell an innovative product
–        We offer a high quality product
–        We have multiple retail locations
–        We have a highly skilled and long tenured staff
–        We have excellent name/brand recognition within the market
–        We are currently in a solid financial position / carry little debt
–        We own our buildings / no rent expenses
–        We have very few competitors in our market

This list would be a terrific start to the SWOT analysis. It’s generated from an internal perspective, but also considers the point of view of your client’s customers and people/businesses within their market. Most importantly, the strengths listed are in relation to the competition; for example, if all of the competitors in the market provide high quality products, then a high quality product is not a strength in your client’s business, it’s a necessity!

The Sales Cycle is on hiatus next week, but on 4/2 we’ll take a look at Weaknesses that your client’s businesses may have. Like strengths, weaknesses are “internal” factors that can be controlled – and with a strategic plan put into place can often be transformed into future strengths.

Cheers,
Dan

3/19 – Advertising Quick Clicks
30 Alternatives to the “Just Checking In” Sales Email (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Reaching The Appropriate ‘Buyer’ In The Sales Process (Courtesy of Forbes)
3 Quick Sales Prospecting Tips (Courtesy of Niche Media HQ)
Little Sales Missteps That Cost You Control (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Stop Focusing on the Top of the Sales Pipeline! (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)


Video Courtesy of 365 Careers


3/12 – The SWOT

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Just how well do you know your clients? If asked, could you complete a SWOT analysis to recognize their strengths and weaknesses to uncover possible opportunities and threats that may exist which could lead to incremental advertising revenue for your newspaper?

SWOT is a tool for analyzing a business and its environment. If it’s not, it should be your first step in developing client specific new business advertising strategies. Often times, sitting down with your clients and laying out a SWOT can help you both understand areas of their business that need help. Once you and your client understand SWOT, it’s usually pretty simple to recommend an advertising program that can minimize weaknesses while capitalizing on strengths.

Strengths and weaknesses are “internal” factors – things that a business CAN control. Keeping traditional newspaper clients in mind, a few applicable examples of each are:

Strengths:

–        A new, innovative product or service
–        Quality of product or service
–        Location(s) of a business

Weaknesses:

–        Lack of an advertising/marketing program
–        Undifferentiated products or services
–        Negative business reputation

Opportunities and threats are “external” factors – things that a business CANNOT control, but might be able to influence. Based on a client’s strengths and weaknesses above, examples could be:

Opportunities:

–        Developing sales channels (e.g. the internet vs. brick and mortar)
–        Lack of a competitive marketplace
–        Changes in the marketplace makes your product more desirable

Threats:

–        A competitor opening a new location
–        Price wars with a competitor
–        Existing product becoming outdated

In upcoming issues of The Sales Cycle, we’ll explore SWOT analysis further and I’ll explain how each and every strength, weakness, opportunity and threat you and your client can identify may lead to potential business development revenue for you and your newspaper. Weaknesses are often defined by poor public perception and ineffective communication. Luckily for us, newspapers are one of the most effective vehicles to enhance a brand image and deliver timely and relevant messages which can help mitigate weaknesses and actually transform them into strengths.

Cheers,
Dan

3/12 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Make Cold Sales Emails Turn Into Hot Leads (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
6 Foundations for Successful Sales (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)
Sales Reps Can Help Clients in Turbulent Times (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Build Customer Loyalty Through Exceptional Service (Courtesy of MTD Sales Blog)
If You’re Going to Talk A Big Sales Game, Back It Up! (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Decision Skills


3/5 – Networking

I’m sure your schedule – much like mine – is dominated with social events and gatherings of family, friends, colleagues, clients and organizations/associations that you (or your spouse) are affiliated with, and plenty of kid’s activities taking place in arenas, on fields, in gymnasiums or the classroom. These venues provide a perfect opportunity to meet and interact with a wide array of individuals and grow your network in a relaxed environment. I’m by no means suggesting that you talk business at every opportunity, but it’s important to consider your audience and identify individuals you feel it would be mutually beneficial to connect with in a different setting at a different time.

Striking up conversation with strangers doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but there are strategies to make it more comfortable. Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust, and identifying how you can help others. Have topics ready to discuss – ask others where they live, other events their kids participate in, whether they’re taking a winter vacation, or what they’ve been working on lately. Using open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, and how) as opposed to those that can be answered with a simple yes or no opens up the conversation and shows that you are interested in them. Make it personal before you even consider taking it professional.

Your goal by networking at social events – just as it is with selling newspaper products and services from 8-5 each day – is to build your own personal brand. You want to be visible in the community and become known as a marketing and advertising resource for others. When you are known as a strong resource, people remember to turn to you for suggestions and ideas about how to help their business.

Networking is an investment that pays off in the future. Social events are the tool to meet new people – it’s your job to build the relationship from there. When meeting new people, expect to be asked what do you do professionally and make sure to have a succinct answer prepared. Don’t sell yourself – rather take a few moments to explain what you do and be sure to mention your newspaper’s name to create instant credibility.

There are four things that you should absolutely make sure you bring along to any social engagement: a positive attitude, a pen, a working calendar (usually via a Smartphone) and gum/breath mints. Make it easy for people to contact you, and make sure to freshen up the breath if you anticipate having close conversations. And finally, dress to impress! If you look the part of a smart professional, you’re much more likely to feel more confident and appear more approachable to others.

Exchange business cards with those you meet who may benefit from what you do and vice versa. Express that you enjoyed meeting them, and ask if you could get together to continue the conversation and share ideas at some convenient point in the future. There’s a subtle balance that needs to be maintained, but done properly just about any interaction at any given time has the possibility to pay dividends down the road. Be pleasant while maintaining a level of professionalism if you stand a chance of building a trusted business relationship.

Cheers,
Dan

3/5 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Let’s Reimagine The Sales Funnel(Courtesy of Forbes)
When Was the Last Time You Changed Your Sales Process? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Have You Mastered the 4 Principles of Rapport? (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Linear Approaches May No Longer Work in Sales (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
The Friend Zone in Sales (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Business Insider


2/26 – Top Tens

I try to find opportunities to reflect during the course of the year and try to pinpoint what is working and what isn’t as I look through my toolbox of sales tactics. As I’ve talked about for years ad nauseam,  as professional salespeople our goal is to master the systematic series of repeatable events designed to create a desired outcome. Sales is indeed a science. But often times it also resembles a science experiment. We mix a bit of this and a bit of that in a giant test tube, hold our breath, and wait to see what the results (i.e. client reactions) are.

If I look back at the past six months, I’ve seen some great successes, some disappointments, and some indifference. Looking back, I learned many things that will hopefully contribute to future achievements. I also learned a few things that I definitely will not attempt again. All in all, I’d say my science experiments have provided valuable feedback that will allow me to constantly reassess, make adjustments, and pivot when necessary.

In traditional David Letterman fashion, I’d like to present my Top Ten List of sales tips and tricks that contributed to my successes in the last six months. My hope is that you might remember one or two of these in the future and, with a little luck and an optimistic spirit, you’ll find that they help contribute towards a positive sales outcome in the near future!

#10

Manage Your Time – Develop a list of sales qualifying criteria that prospect’s must meet in order for you to invest your sales time with them. Time spent qualifying an unlikely sales prospect is time taken away from selling real customers.

#9

There Is No Such Thing As “Business Hours” – Quite often the most important people in the world of business work outside the nine to five grind. An early morning or late evening call will often catch the exact person you need to sell to…the person with the power to make decisions!

#8

Embrace Cold Calling – Don’t think of cold calling as picking up the phone and blindly dialing the next person on a call list, but as a strategic part of business development.

#7

Tell A Story – Many sales presentations are boring. Salespeople talk about why their product is great and why their company is great – which is why the customer looks bored and uninspired. Creative presentations engage the customer’s imagination. Try telling a story that can allow the customer to picture themselves using your product. Often this leads to a “I really have to give that a try” emotional response.

#6

Keep It Simple – Don’t overcook it when discussing the features of your products and services. The client only cares how they will benefit from what you are offering. Streamline your pitch, respect your customer’s time, and keep it simple.

#5

Gather Information – Learn everything you can about a customer before you meet with them the first time. Use Google to find out the who, what, where, why, when and how about businesses and decision-makers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can be invaluable resources, as can industry journals and trade publications.

#4

Become A Newspaper Industry Expert – People like to buy from experts, so invest time and energy in positioning yourself as a newspaper expert. Be careful not to come across as a know-it-all, rather convey your knowledge and expertise in a confident manner. This builds trust and rapport, allowing your customer to feel good about their buying decision.

#3

Maintain A Good Sense Of Humor – Telling a joke is a great way to put a client at ease. If you make a customer laugh they’re more likely to look upon you and your product in a more favorable light and they’ll enjoy spending time with you.

#2

Customer First – From the start of the selling process to the end, make sure you put the customer first. It truly should be all about them, their business ad their needs. A satisfied client is a repeat client.

And the #1 Sales Tip of is (insert drum roll)……

Be Persistent – Do not take no for an answer. Don’t be pushy but be persistent. There is a difference. My favorite quote is “Persistence overcomes resistance!”

Cheers,
Dan

2/26 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Identify Sales Gatekeepers, Decision Makers, Influencers, & Blockers (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
How Much Should You Sell (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Person As Sense Maker (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
ABC: The 1 Thing You Need to Know About Closing a Sale (Courtesy of Inc.)
How To Handle A Sales Client That Wants A Bigger Discount (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Michael Dill


2/19 – Drawback

As newspaper salespeople, we try our best to address our customer’s needs with the products and services we offer. But every organization has limitations, and sometimes it is just not possible to satisfy every specific customer desire. When a customer has an accurate and complete understanding of the products and services you offer, but is dissatisfied with the presence or absence of a feature or benefit, you are faced with a drawback. Simply defined, a drawback is a customer need that you can’t satisfy.

There are a plethora of potential drawbacks we can face daily – especially on the technology side as we increase efforts to take newspaper publishing digital. However, for this example I’d like to focus on rate and price since I believe it’s more applicable and something we likely encounter more often than anything else. Our natural tendency is to cave in to price objections, but there are ways to hold rate by focusing on other features and benefits along with added value (both actual and perceived.)

A customer will likely express a drawback concerning rate and price simply by stating “Your price is much too high.”

This is considered a drawback because you are determined NOT to discount off your rate card for any reason.

It’s important not to dismiss this drawback, and certainly don’t give up! The manner in which you respond will demonstrate your commitment and integrity to the customer. Also, it’s very likely that the customer has other needs that you can support which could outweigh the drawback of price.

The process for resolving a drawback is exactly the same as for skepticism and misunderstandings – probe, acknowledge, address and check. Here’s how we use professional sales skills to move towards the resolution of this drawback without discounting the price and driving our average per column inch rate down.

  1. PROBE to understand the concern:

With a drawback pertaining to price and rate, it’s important to understand exactly what the customer wants – and why. Price is subjective – my first thought when someone thinks newspaper advertising costs too much is “compared to what?” In this case, use an open probe and let the customer explain their price objection.

 (e.g. “Tell me more about that?”)

This is when the customer may talk about how newspaper advertising is 15% more expensive than running radio spots or the cost of full color is outrageous. Listen and take notes, making sure the customer knows you are taking the concern seriously.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE the concern:

In responding to any concern, it’s important to let the customer know that you understand and respect it. However, when acknowledging the concern by careful not to suggest that you agree with it – simply convey that you appreciate the customer’s point of view.

(e.g. “With shrinking advertising budgets, price is an increasingly important factor in media buying decisions these days.”) 

  1. ADDRESS the concern:

A customer whose concern is price and rate has to weight the importance of the needs you can satisfy against the needs you cannot satisfy. In this case, you want to help the customer put the concern in perspective – to consider it within the broader context of their other needs. Get them to look at the bigger picture!   

(e.g. “Would you mind if we take a moment to review some of the other factors we’ve discussed that will also affect your decision making process? 

Once you’ve refocused on the bigger picture, you can sometimes outweigh the drawback by reviewing benefits that the customer has already previously accepted. This will help the customer weigh the import needs you can satisfy against their concern that your price is too high. 

(e.g. “From what you’ve told me so far, there are other aspects that are also important to you. We’ve discussed a number of ways that our organization can assist your company with their marketing needs. You mentioned the importance of creative support, ad positioning and Thursday newspaper delivery to help promote and drive traffic to your weekly in-store sales.” Our design team will help you lay out your ads so they are print-ready and pop off the page with spot color. Since you are targeting women who garden, we’ll position your ad adjacent to our “Home and Garden” editorial. And since your weekly sales begin on Friday morning, we’re able to deliver your message to the doorstep of your desired demographic the day prior – keeping you top-of-mind as people begin to plan their schedules for the weekend.” 

  1. CHECK for acceptance:

After addressing the concern by focusing on other factors the customer has expressed are of equal or greater importance, make sure the customer has a clear understanding of what you can do and how it satisfies their other crucial needs – even if they still believe the price and rate are slightly higher than they’d prefer to pay. 

(e.g. “If you look at the cost savings involved with value-added creative support, no-cost spot color, and special ad positioning, would that be worth the proposed investment I’ve outlined?” 

To prepare yourself to respond to a variety of concerns (skepticism, misunderstandings or drawbacks) a customer might raise during a meeting, there are three things you can do:

  1. Talk with your colleagues to see what objections they are hearing from their clients. Then, identify relevant proof sources you can use to reassure your customers that you can indeed satisfy those specific needs.
  1. Research what competitors your customer may be talking to and try to anticipate what information your competitors are providing your customer that could lead to misunderstandings.
  1. Most importantly, remind yourself to NEVER ignore or dismiss a customer’s concern!

Cheers,
Dan

2/19 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Three Selling Strategies To Empower Your Salespeople (Courtesy of Forbes)
How to Generate Hot Sales Leads From Cold Emails (Courtesy of Inc.)
15 Tips For Asking More Effective Sales Questions (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Can’t Close the Sale? Whose Fault is It? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
11 Ways You Give Up Control of the Sales Conversation (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Owen Video


2/12 – Misunderstanding

Customer concerns can arise simply because they have incomplete or incorrect information about your product or information. Behind the concern is a need you can satisfy and allow the sales cycle to move forward, but unfortunately your customer doesn’t know that you can satisfy it. When a customer expresses a concern because they think you can’t provide a particular feature or benefit – when in fact you can – you’re dealing with a misunderstanding.

Last week we talked about skepticism – which is when a customer does not believe you can offer something you’ve expressed that you can. Sometimes it’s very difficult to tell the difference between misunderstandings and skepticism based upon what the client knows as fact and what the client thinks they know as fact, so you must listen carefully and probe effectively to make sure you properly identify the concern.

Here is an example of a classic newspaper misunderstanding that you may encounter at some point:

  • “Though I believe FSI’s would be very effective in promoting our business, we need to have the ability to zone the distribution by zip code.”

(The customer assumes you cannot geo-target, when in fact you actually can.)

The process for resolving a misunderstanding is exactly the same as for skepticism – probe, acknowledge, address and check – however the actions you take are specific to the type of customer concern so it’s imperative that you properly identify the concern. Since we’re sure that the customer does not understand your ability to zone inserts, here’s how we use professional sales skills to move towards the resolution of the concern:

  1. PROBE to understand the concern:

With misunderstandings it’s important to understand exactly what the customer wants – and why. Effective closed probing allows you to correct a misunderstanding by uncovering the need behind the concern, which can be expressed as a true need and not a problem with your features and benefits.

(e.g. “So if I understand you correctly, you have a need to geo-target your FSI’s based on specific zip codes to ensure maximum coverage in your primary market area while eliminating excess distribution to non-desired areas. Is that correct?”)

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE the concern:

In responding to any concern, it’s important to let the customer know that you understand and respect it. However, when acknowledging the concern by careful not to suggest that you agree with it – simply convey that you appreciate the customer’s point of view.

(e.g. “I can understand why it’s important to you to tighten your distribution. This will allow you to keep your costs in check and not print more copies than is absolutely necessary.”)

  1. ADDRESS the concern:

A customer whose concern arise from a misunderstanding thinks you can’t satisfy a need that you actually can satisfy. Once you’ve probed to identify that need and have acknowledged it, you can support it as you would any other need. Don’t forget to make sure that you have a clear understanding of the “what” and the “why” of the need before you support it.

(e.g. “Please take a look at this FSI distribution map of your primary market area. As you’ll see, our newspaper offers a multitude of zoning options – including zip and sub zip – that provides you the opportunity to target your inserts tightly to eliminate wasted distribution.” 

  1. CHECK for acceptance:

After addressing the concern by supporting the need with relevant features and benefits you can offer, simply make sure that the customer has a clear understanding of what you can do and how it satisfies that particular need

(e.g. “Have I properly explained our FSI distribution capabilities? Might this be what you are looking for?”) 

Always remember that you should never ignore or dismiss a customer’s concerns. Prepare yourself to address each one individually and be ready to offer relevant proof that their needs will be met as promised.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll talk about the concern of “drawbacks” and the process you can take to identify and address it with your customer to ensure you continue tracking towards a mutually beneficial sales outcome.

Cheers,
Dan

2/12 – Advertising Quick Clicks
10 Steps For Generating More Leads & More Sales (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
2 Misconceptions About You That are Hurting Your Sales (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Great Sales Habits Start With Simple Things (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Sales Tip: Stop Hustling, Start Helping (Courtesy of SmartCompany)
Was Your Prospect Interested In Your Sales Pitch? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of BreakthruInMarketing


2/5 – Skepticism

Generally speaking, most prospects express three types of concerns when you’ve reached the point of asking for their business: skepticism, misunderstanding and drawbacks. Both skepticism and misunderstanding are needs-based concerns that you can adequately satisfy. Drawbacks are related to a need that you cannot satisfy – but the good news is you may be able to resolve it.

This week we’ll focus specifically on skepticism. When you make a supporting statement, it’s possible that your customer may doubt that you can provide the features or benefits that you’ve alluded to. The most common example of customer skepticism I experience almost every day is:

  • “I find it hard to believe that we’ll get better results by advertising in the newspaper than we do with our current (insert competing media) campaign!”

When a customer expresses doubt that you and your newspaper can do what you’ve said you will do, you’ve encountered skepticism. However, by applying the professional sales techniques we’ve been discussing you should have no problem assuring the customer of your ability to deliver and move forward. Similar to addressing customer indifference, satisfying skepticism is a four-step process using skills we’ve already previously mastered. Here’s how it looks:

  1. PROBE to understand the concern:

When a customer first expresses a concern, the nature of the concern might not be clear. It’s crucial to probe until you have a concise understanding of the concern before attempting to respond.

(e.g. “Have you used newspapers in the past with poor results to make you believe it may not be the right marketing strategy for your business?”)

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE the concern:

In responding to any concern, it’s important to let the customer know that you understand and respect it. However, when acknowledging the concern by careful not to suggest that you agree with it – simply convey that you appreciate the customer’s point of view.

(e.g. “I can understand your concern with ROI considering your past experiences with newspaper advertising.”)

  1. ADDRESS the concern:

A customer that is skeptical needs reassurance that you can deliver the features and benefits that you’ve promised. To address the skepticism, you need to provide relevant proof to set their mind at ease and move forward. Examples of solid proof sources include research, audits, articles, client testimonials, etc.

(e.g. “Here is a testimonial from a current client who has experienced phenomenal results from his newspaper advertising after he decided to shift a portion of his broadcast dollars into our publication.”) 

  1. CHECK for acceptance:

After addressing the concern, double-check to make sure you’ve resolved it. In terms of skepticism, after you’ve offered relevant proof make sure that the customer accepts it and is comfortable moving forward.

(e.g. “Does this testimonial increase your comfort level with the ROI success others have experienced advertising in our newspaper?”)

If the customer rejects your proof, ask what other evidence would be acceptable and offer an additional sources of proof until they are satisfied.

Always remember that you should never ignore or dismiss a customer’s concerns. Prepare yourself to address each one individually and be ready to offer relevant proof that their needs will be met as promised.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll talk about the concern of “misunderstanding” and the process you can take to identify and address it with your customer to ensure you continue tracking towards a mutually beneficial sales outcome.

Cheers,
Dan

2/5 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How To Handle Objections From A Loyal Sales Client (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The Single Most Essential Rule About Pricing  (Courtesy of Forbes)
Uncover Customer Needs for the Sale to Succeed (Courtesy of Inc.)
100 Case Study/Testimonial Questions to Ask Your Customer (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
How to Do A Sales Presentation That Builds Buyer Desire (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)


Video Courtesy of Todd Falcone


1/29 – Want More Sales? Be More Helpful. 

It’s human nature. The very first question we ask someone when opening a conversation is “So, how are you?” As I reconnected with people at last week’s MNA Annual Convention, the response to my question seemed to be the same from everyone – regardless of who they are or what they do. The common reply was “Things are good, but I’m really busy.” Not at all coincidental, that is also my reply when people ask me how I’m doing too. With a 6 year old daughter, my world revolves around her needs and I find myself constantly juggling my schedule around hers.

The bottom line: everybody is busy. There never seems to be enough time in the day. We’re all making do with less of something. However, from an advertising sales perspective this is actually an opportunity. The fact that all of our clients are very busy managing their business opens a door for us to step through and provide assistance. More than ever, clients need our help to make smart and timely decisions that will positively affect their bottom line.

As professional salespeople, our core responsibility is to uncover needs and offer solutions. In other words, we find opportunities where we can help our clients.

If you want more business in the new year, here’s exactly what you need to do: find a way to get your customers talking about their needs, and then demonstrate to them how your newspaper products and services can help them. It’s that simple.

Years ago, one of my mentors told me that the most valuable phrase a salesperson can use is “Would it be helpful if I…”  And he is right. In virtually any situation, you cannot go wrong by offering to help someone. Whether you are trying to set a sales meeting, pitch a specific product, or close a sale, try using the “Would it be helpful if…” technique. You’ll be amazed at how responsive someone is when you offer to take the time (and remember, we’re all short on time these days so the offer will mean a lot to the person you’re offering it to) to help them.

Examples –

If you’re trying to set a meeting: “Would it be helpful if we scheduled a time when I can sit down with you so you can explain what you’re trying to accomplish with your advertising?”

If you’re trying to pitch a specific product: “Would it be helpful if I sent you an example of how other businesses in your category have successfully used this product to grow their business?”

If you’re trying to edge a client towards agreeing to a sale: “Would it be helpful if I stopped by your office so that we can go over the recommendation I’ve prepared in person and I can address any concerns that you might have?”  

In my experience, client responses to the questions above are usually some variant of “Yes, please do” or “Yes, that would be terrific”or “Yes, let’s do that.”  At every point during the sales cycle, your goal is to keep your client saying “Yes” because it confirms that your client agrees with what you are saying and/or suggesting. Ultimately, that “Yes” will lead to more sales and more revenue. So make it easy for your customers to say “Yes” by offering to help them whenever you can.

Cheers,
Dan

1/29 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Why Cold Calling is No Longer an Effective Sales Strategy (Courtesy of Inc.)
The 6 Worst Negotiating Mistakes Made by Sales Reps (Courtesy of HubSpot)
2 Questions Your Sales Clients Need Answered Before They Buy  (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Use This Improved Sales Strategy If You’re An Account Executive (Courtesy of Forbes)
What To Include (And NOT) When Meeting A New Sales Client (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of thefutur


1/22 – Ten Reasons to Attend Sales Training at #MNACon19

This week at the 152nd Annual Newspaper Convention, we have once again assembled an incredible array of sales oriented sessions. I’m confident this stellar line up offers something that everyone can find value in – whether you are new to media sales or a seasoned professional. I hope you’ve already registered and plan to attend.

With that, I present ten reasons why I believe it’s worth your time to participate in sales training (and for sales managers, why you should require your team to attend MNA sales training.) Whether at the convention or at any of the sessions our Minnesota News Media Institute (MNI) offers throughout the year, the sales training we provide should not be viewed as a cost for you to incur. Rather, sales training is an investment that all ambitious newspapers need if they want to achieve their strategic and tactical sales goals.


WHY SHOULD I ATTEND SALES TRAINING?


#10 – Increase Your Skill Set

Sales training sessions provide you the necessary tools to heighten your skill set, along with the ability to try new things (or try things differently if desired results are not obtained using present techniques.) Knowledge is power, and the more sales knowledge that you can develop the more sales you will make.

#9 – Increase Your Ideas Base

Sales training sessions stimulate internal thinking. Fresh ideas relevant to newspapers and your specific publication will flow from listening to people with vast experience in selling and having conversations with your counterparts from across the state. New ideas drive results, and new innovations drive sales and service.

#8 – Increase Your Confidence

Confidence is key in selling. If you are not confident in the products you are selling, how can you expect your client to be confident in the return on investment they desire? Sales training sessions arm you with the ammunition you need to confidently assess your clients needs and sell them a program that will deliver results.

#7 – Increase Your Motivation

A motivated sales force is vital to any newspaper. It’s amazing how smoothly the sales process flows when people are motivated. Sales training sessions provide opportunities to increase your aptitude, make more sales, and earn more commission. And we all know that money is one of the largest motivators for salespeople!

#6 – Increase Your Retention Of Staff

Salespeople want to know that their employers believe in them and want them to succeed. If a newspaper invests in their people, their people will invest more of their time in the business. Losing top sales performers is a massive drain on any newspaper. The cost of recruiting new salespeople almost always dwarfs the cost of quality sales training.

#5 – Increase Your Competitive Edge

I assure you, your media competitors are actively training their sales team – and probably on how to sell AGAINST newspapers! This puts you at an immediate disadvantage. New thinking, new methods and new techniques result from quality sales training sessions. Advantages are tough to achieve in this highly competitive media market, but sales training is an effective and low cost way of driving forward and staying one step ahead of the competition.

#4 – Increase Your Professionalism

We all strive to become trusted sales professionals. Quality sales training sessions provides opportunity to hone your selling skills and fosters professional selling habits. Providing consistent sales training also sends a message to all salespeople that professionally representing their newspaper and closing sales must be taken very seriously and worked on continually.

#3 – Increase Your Efficiency

Sometimes the simplest ideas produce the greatest results. Often time, sales training sessions prove that the biggest win is not an introduction of new ideas but rather a change in – or the discarding of – old and inefficient ideas. Quality sales training will help you discover and capitalize on your individual strengths to achieve greater success.

#2 – Increased Your Potential

Often before undergoing sales training sessions, salespeople are unaware of their potential and are – in some ways – handicapped by their own beliefs. Quality sales training raises the ceiling of what can be achieved. Belief in yourself is a key component in sales success, and increasing your personal potential will push you to attain more for yourself and deliver more for your newspaper.

…and #1 – Increase Your Sales Revenue

This is self evident. All quality sales training sessions worth their salt should pay for themselves. After attending a sales training course, results should be evident with increased sales from existing clients and the development of new business. Incremental revenue growth will easily pay for the sales training investment…many time over.

I look forward to seeing you this week in Bloomington!

Cheers,
Dan

1/22 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Tackling the Impossible Sales Challenge (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
19 Closing Phrases to Seal a Sales Deal in 2019 (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Methodology is Key to Sales Success (Courtesy of Training Journal)
4 Negotiation Strategies to Help Your Sales Process (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)
Focus on the Few Sales Things That Actually Matter (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)



1/15 – Indifference

For there to be an open exchange of information with your customers, they must be interested in such an exchange. I’m sure all of you have called on customers who do not show a strong interest in talking with you at this time. This disinterest is also referred to as “indifference.”

There are three distinct categories of indifference. Regardless of the specific reason your customer may give you for not wanting to have a conversation about their advertising strategy, it will fall into one of the following areas:

  1. Your customer is currently using  – and are satisfied with – a competitor’s media product
  2. Your customer does not realize it’s possible to improve their current circumstances
  3. Your customer does not see the importance of making an improvement in their current circumstances

Customer indifference is one of the most challenging things you’ll encounter as a salesperson. As you continue to prospect for new business opportunities and make cold call after cold call, the last thing you want to hear repeatedly is “No thank you, not at this time.” However, indifference presents you with the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your genuine commitment to helping your customers succeed. If you’re able to help a customer see how to improve their circumstances in a significant way, then you have truly contributed to that customer’s success and have made the leap from an order taker to a trusted business advisor.

Success in addressing indifference relies upon your ability to identify opportunities in the customer’s circumstances and helping the customer to see them as needs. This time, it’s a 4-step process that will help you overcome the indifference and turn it into a key selling opportunity.

Acknowledge:

Make a statement that acknowledges your customers point of view and shows you respect it while assuring them you’re not trying to sell them something they don’t need. It’s key, however, NOT to confirm the customer’s point of view.

(e.g. “It is clear that you are satisfied with your current advertising program.”)

Gain Agreement to Probe:

After acknowledging the customer point of view, propose an alternate conversation, state the value to the customer and check for acceptance.

The alternate conversation should only take a few minutes and consist of a few questions – just enough to see if there is a reason for you and the customer to continue talking now or in the future.

(e.g. “I wonder if we could spend just a few minutes talking about your current advertising strategy. Even though you’re satisfied with your radio and direct mail campaigns, I might be able to suggest ways to complement what you’re currently doing and extend your reach to a new audience. Would a few minutes be all right?”)

Probe:

Ask questions to build the customer’s awareness of things they may want to improve or accomplish – in other words try to help them recognize additional “needs” they might have. This method of probing is actually a 4-step process in itself, but when done properly is extremely effective in flushing out new customer needs.

  1. Explore Customer Circumstances

(e.g. “How often to you hold in-store sales or special promotions that require you to advertise?”)

  1. Identify Opportunities

(e.g. “Since you decide at the last minute to run sales based on current inventory, what difficulties if any do you encounter with the tight deadlines of producing radio spots or having your direct mail pieces delivered?”)

  1. Examine Effects

(e.g. “What impact does that have upon your ability to communicate your sale message and drive traffic to your retail locations?”)

     4. Confirm the Existence of a Need

(e.g. “Is this problem serious enough for you to consider an alternate or complementary advertising solution?”)

Support the Need:

If the customer was responsive to your probing above and answered “Yes” to the last question, you can feel confident in making a supporting statement. If the customer answered “No” at least you’ve created an awareness of a potential situation that someday might be important to your customer that you might be able to help them with.

(e.g. “Because our newspaper publishes on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, we’re able to deliver customized ROP advertising messages on extremely tight deadlines without needing to allow additional time for production, printing or mail delivery. Is this something you’d be interested in learning more about?”)

Remember that addressing indifference is not just about this one call – it is about long-term relationship building. At the very least, if you take the time to properly uncover customer circumstances that may be having an impact on their business, you can set the stage for future interactions. If you are not able to create customer awareness of needs, ensure that you do provide some value in the conversation and ask for permission to stay in touch!!!

The 152nd MNA Annual Convention is approaching very quickly – January 24-25th in Bloomington – once again held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new attendees!

Cheers,
Dan

1/15 – Advertising Quick Clicks
5 Creative Sales Motivation Tactics That Don’t Cost a Dime (Courtesy of HubSpot)
How to Be A Great Salesperson in 2019 (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Features: Why Print is the New Digital (Courtesy of INMA)
A New Year Offers the Opportunity to Start Fresh (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
A Negative Mindset Only Gets You So Far (Courtesy of Justin Jackson)


Video Courtesy of Michael Bernoff


1/8 – Connecting

Welcome back after a holiday break. Let’s get back to discussing sales techniques to ensure that 2019 is your most successful year ever!

You should approach every sales call as a conversation – a mutually beneficial discussion built on an open exchange of information that focuses on your customer’s needs. Nothing is more important during this time than having the capacity to listen and demonstrating your ability to understand what is being said. Truly successful professional salespeople master the use of core connective skills to deepen the conversation of needs and ensure its mutuality throughout.

Listening

Before we can deploy connective skills, we must first demonstrate our ability to communicate with our customer. This involves not only skill as a speaker, but also your proficiency as a listener. The goal of listening is to show your customer that you are interested in what they are saying and understand what is being said. Level 1 is the highest level of listening – you are completely “tuned in” by focusing on the other person – and your concentration is intense so you’re able to absorb what the person is saying. It’s important to remember that listening at Level 1 must be done “actively” and can be demonstrated through body language and the use of connective skills.

Acknowledge, Confirm, Position and Check

The core connective skills that allow you to differentiate yourself from your media sales competitors by making a lasting impression on your customer. Using these skills can affect the level of trust you’re able to obtain from your customer and increase the likelihood you’ll be viewed as a trusted business advisor instead of just another order taker and customer service provider. Let’s take a deeper look at what each of these skills means:

Acknowledge:

Make a statement that expresses empathy for what the customer has said; used in response to customer needs, general statements and customer concerns.

(e.g. “I can see why advertising rates are important to you considering your recent marketing budget cuts.”)

Confirm:

Ask a closed probe question to ensure you understand what the customer has said; used to show the customer’s needs, ideas and opinions are important to you.

(e.g. “So you are looking to maximize your savings by signing a volume based advertising contract. Is this correct?”)

Position:

Put what you are about to say in context by referring to a previous interaction or conversation you’ve had with the customer.

(e.g. “The last time we spoke you mentioned an interest in ROP along with interactive and pre-print inserts.”)

Check:

Ask a closed probe every time you propose something to your customer to ensure they understand and agree with what you have said; a necessary step to progress towards an informed, mutually beneficial decision.

(e.g. “Do you have any additional suggestions?”)

 All of the connective skills can be used multiple times during any sales conversation as a way to demonstrate your ability to listen and understand. It’s also a very effective way to redirect the conversation if it starts to go astray. Use the Acknowledge skill as many times as is natural in a conversation – the more, the better! And check for acceptance by asking the customer for their reaction to things that have been said throughout the conversation. I assure you that the use of connective skills will take your customer relationships to the next level!

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll talk about addressing “customer indifference” – or rather what to do when a customer expresses satisfaction with their existing situation and tells you they are not interested in doing business with you at this time. Believe it or not, in some circumstances there may be a way to help your customers identify problems they do not even know they have – providing you with an opportunity to develop and propose solutions to those newfound problems.

Cheers,
Dan

1/8 – Advertising Quick Clicks
19 Sales Podcasts Every Rep Should Listen To (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Got Sales Goals for Next Year? Here’s How to Achieve Them (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
10 Top Qualities Of A Good Sales Negotiator (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Sales Talent Is A Problem, Is It Worth Solving? (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Improve Sales Presentations Through Storytelling (Courtesy of Small Business Trends)

 
Video Courtesy of Victor Antonio


12/18 – The Stall

Even though you’ve done due diligence and navigated your way through the steps of a successful sales call, there are many times that a customer will still be reluctant to move forward. I understand how frustrating this can be, as by this point you’ve consistently checked for customer acceptance during the process and on the surface it appeared you were both heading down the path of a clear, complete and mutual understanding of the customer’s needs. Additionally, after recognizing your customer’s buying signals and receiving their acceptance of the next steps you’ve proposed, the only thing you expect to hear is a resounding “Yes!” Instead, your balloon quickly deflates when you hear something like “Sounds good, but it’s too early to make a decision.” or “Things are a little crazy right now. I’d like to hold off on making a decision for a while.”

Here’s my advice: DON’T GIVE UP YET! Take a deep breath, compose yourself, and then fall back upon the skills you’ve learned while becoming a polished professional salesperson and take the necessary steps to continue the sales process.

Step 1:  If the customer is reluctant to move ahead, probe to find out why.

Probe by asking open-ended questions to entice your customer to share more information, such as:

    • “Can you tell me what your hesitation is?”
  • “What needs to happen before you’re ready to make a decision?”

“Is there something else that we need to talk about?”

Reluctance to move ahead is typically the result of your customer having a concern. Concerns are not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, concerns are actually a sign of interest and can provide important insight into a customer’s situation.

Step 2:  Determine the type of concern your customer has.

There are three major types of concern:

    • Skepticism – The customer doubts a feature or benefit you have described
    • Misunderstanding – The customer thinks you cannot provide a feature or benefit that you actually can provide
  • Drawback – The customer is dissatisfied with the presence or absence of a feature or benefit

Step 3: Resolve the concern your customer has

To resolve a customer concern and move forward, use this process:

    • Probe to understand the concern
    • Acknowledge the concern
    • Address the concern by offering relevant proof or restating features and benefits
  • Check for customer acceptance

TIP: Never try to address a customer concern until you are confident that you fully understand it. If you have doubts, continue to probe.

TIP: Never try to talk a customer out of a concern! This may appear as if you are discounting their need. Simply follow the process described above to learn more about the concern and then counteract it by offering relevant proof.

At this point, you may find that the customer’s “stall” has subsided and they may be ready to move forward, albeit at a slower pace. It’s now your responsibility to propose a lesser commitment than the one you originally asked for, but consider this a WIN as you’ve successfully kept the sales process in motion and the opportunity to receive a “Yes!” still exists.

Cheers,
Dan

12/18 – Advertising Quick Clicks
5 Habits Of Highly Successful Sales Reps 
(Courtesy of Forbes)
3 Simple, Attention-Retaining Elevator Sales Pitch Tips (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The Art of Asking Open-Ended Sales Questions (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Adopt Marketing Techniques to Increase Sales (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)
5 Ways To Turn Your Proposition Weaknesses Into Strengths (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer


12/11 – The Close

By definition, “closing” is confirming a mutual agreement of appropriate next steps. There are only two circumstances in which moving to close is appropriate:

    1. The customer signals a readiness to move ahead
  1. The customer has accepted the benefits you’ve described

A savvy professional salesperson knows that customers send out buying signals – both verbal and non-verbal. It’s very important to be sensitive to these signals and react appropriately. I’ve personally watched salespeople fail to recognize buying signals and continue to ramble on to the point that they talk themselves out of a sale! Be attentive, and if/when the situation calls for it capitalize on the opportunity by asking for a commitment.

The act of closing is a three step process. If you have effectively executed the Open/Probe/Support stages of a successful sales call to exchange information with your customer, closing is the natural conclusion. So, here is how you do it:

  • Review Previously Accepted Benefits

Acknowledge the customer’s needs and describe features and benefits of products you offer that will satisfy the customer needs. Reviewing the benefits reminds the customer of the positive things they can look forward to if a buying decision is made.

(e.g. “As we’ve discussed, you are holding your annual clearance sale next month and need to generate awareness to ensure a strong response and to drive store traffic. Our weekly newspaper will be delivered to over 4,000 paid subscribers within a 3-mile radius of your store 48-hours before your sale starts, ensuring your message will reach your desired audience. Additionally, adding full color to your ad will really make it stand out, and including a coupon will provide even more incentive for readers to stop in and shop!”)

  • Propose Next Steps For You And The Customer

Asking your customer to make a specific commitment ensures they are dedicated to moving forward. Specifying what you’re expecting the  customer to do ensures they are clear about the commitment they are making. Describing what you will do next demonstrates your commitment to working with the customer to help them satisfy their needs.

(e.g. “If you’re ready to move forward, I’ll have a contract drafted and stop by tomorrow for your signature. The creative deadline for the run date we’ve agreed on is a week from Friday, so I will need you to email me the final .pdf file of your ad prior to that date. Once I have received the file and have run a color press check, I will email you to confirm that we’re all set.”

  •  Check For Acceptance

After proposing next steps, make sure the customer understands and accepts the plan you’ve outlined. This is the big moment, so be sure you are absolutely certain that expectations on both sides are clear, concise and mutually agreed to. It’s possible your customer has been giving you buying signals throughout the closing process (smiling, nodding) so hopefully the need to check for acceptance is a formality and can be wrapped up with a simple question.

(e.g. “What do you think?” or “How does that sound?”)

Once you’ve properly closed the sale (with a handshake and a “thank you” or course!) make sure to follow up when you return to the office by sending an email detailing the next steps agreed to by both yourself and your customer. Make sure that no matter what, you meet every one of your commitments in a timely manner! A lack of follow-through is one of the biggest complaints customers have about their salespeople and leads to customer churn.

The closing process I’ve detailed above is a “perfect” scenario, and although I hope all of your sales closes go this smoothly, it’s not realistic in today’s highly competitive media sales world. You will encounter customers who accept the benefits you’ve described but are reluctant to take the next steps you propose or postpone making a decision (referred to as a “stall”) or customers will simply say “no.” Being prepared to handle these customer reactions is crucial to ensure all of the time you’ve spent uncovering and understanding needs, describing features and benefits of your products and making a strategic recommendation is not wasted. Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll discuss steps you can take to overcome these customer objections and keep the sales process moving towards a mutually beneficial outcome.

Cheers,
Dan

12/11 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Ridiculously Successful Way to Introduce Yourself Over Email 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
The One Thing to Forget When Selling (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How To Find Out Why Your Sales Client Is Leaving (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The Secret No Sales Customer Will Ever Reveal (Courtesy of Inc.)
How Risk Reversal Language Will Help You Accelerate Your Sales Cycle (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)

Video Courtesy of Dan Lok


12/4 – Top 6

In my 20+ years of selling, consulting, and promoting I’ve narrowed down my list of 6 things that everyone can and should consider to find success. Without further adieu:

  1. Know Your Product. Your customers expect you to be the expert. Be prepared to answer any question at any time.
  2. Sell The Benefits. Remember that “Features Tell, Benefits Sell.” What does the feature mean for the customer?
  3. Keep It Simple. Apply your product to solve a customer’s need. Sales is hard enough; don’t overcomplicate the process.
  4. Be Nice. People love to do business with people they like. Nobody likes mean people. Be nice and try to help solve problems.
  5. Get Outside. Techonology is a terrific tool, but business is closed face-to-face. Get in front of your customers for best results.
  6. Always Be Learning. Everything constantly changes. Learning is a lifelong process. Do everything you can to be your best.

Have a wonderful week,
Dan

12/4 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Got Sales Goals for Next Year? Here’s How to Achieve Them. 
(Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Networking Isn’t Enough to Ensure Sales Success (Courtesy of Inc.)
8 Ways to Generate Sales Leads if You Don’t Have Marketing Support (Courtesy of HubSpot)
How To Guarantee An Increase In Sales & Company Value (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
In Praise Of Pushy Sales People (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)


11/27 – The Support

We’ve finally reached the point where you can use the skills you’ve honed as a sales professional and actually start SELLING. Up until now, we have patiently resisted the urge to offer solutions – instead focusing on gathering intelligence. Every step in the sales cycle is crucial, and achieving your ultimate goal is dependent upon each step being completely judiciously. But now that you’ve opened the conversation and probed for specific details, it’s the appropriate time to explain the features and benefits of your product portfolio as it aligns with each customer need – which is referred to as supporting.

The goal of supporting is to help your customer understand specifically how you can satisfy their needs. Timing is critical, as it’s only appropriate to support AFTER you’ve probed and allowed the customer to express a need. Additionally, both you and your customer must understand this need and you must be absolutely confident that your products can properly address this need.

There are three simple steps to a successful support:

    • Acknowledge the customer need
    • Describe relevant features and benefits of your product that will address the need
  • Check for customer acceptance

It’s important to remember that acknowledging the need is done for the customer (to show respect and understanding), while checking for acceptance is done for you (to ensure you understand what is important to the customer.)

Supporting requires intricate knowledge of both the features AND the benefits of your product. This is one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen advertising salespeople make over the years – they can rattle off a plethora of features, but forget to complete the circle by illustrating the benefits.

Feature = a characteristic of a product, something that the product offers
Benefit = what the feature means to the customer

The premise is SO simple, it’s often overlooked. I advise salespeople to use the phrase “So what this means for you is…” every time they explain a specific product feature. Doing so will ensure that the customer clearly understands the benefit of each feature. Car salespeople are always well trained in supporting – something you might hear one say is “This car features air conditioning, and what this means to you is that during humid Minnesota summers you’ll remain cool and comfortable” or “This model features split fold-down rear seats, and what this means to you is you’ll have the ability to haul larger items that may not fit in the truck.”

IMPORTANT! If you talk about the features of what you sell without describing corresponding benefits, OR if you describe a benefit that does not relate to a customer need, the customer may not understand how the feature you’ve described addresses their need – and their reaction may be “So what?” Avoid this uncomfortable situation by always combining features AND benefits of your products.

For situations where you need to address multiple customer needs, it is acceptable to give a supporting statement after every acknowledged need the customer has expressed. However, I find it more effective to support each need individually and check for acceptance before moving on to the next. This way you are establishing a clear and mutual understanding of each customer need. Also, make sure to use language in your supporting statements that reflect value – this will resonate with the customer and begin to paint the picture of why doing business together can improve their situation and satisfy their needs. Use marketing collateral, research or testimonials to reinforce your value statements.

The final step in a successful sales call is the close. You’ve diligently navigated the waters and positioned yourself as a solution provider to your customers needs. Along the way, you’ve asked your customer for acceptance of what you’ve presented to ensure they are engaged and agree with the direction your business relationship is heading.

The Sales Cycle is on hiatus next week, as I’ll be on vacation. However, in December we’ll hit the final corner and prepare to sprint to the finish line. Victory is within sight, but there are potential bumps in the road that may require quick maneuvering to stay on course.

Cheers,
Dan

11/27 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How are Your Sales Clients Perceiving You Based on Wording? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Using This Word When Trying To Make a Sale Will Do More Harm Than Good (Courtesy of Inc.)
Who Wants a A Bigger Slice of Sales Revenue Pie? (Courtesy of Niche Media HQ)
10 Alternatives to “Looking Forward to Hearing from You” in Sales Correspondence (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Mission NOT Impossible: 10 Tips for Ad Sales Prospecting (Courtesy of Niche Media HQ)


Video Courtesy of Magic Spangle Studios


11/20 – Circumstances and the Need Behind the Need

The purpose of probing is to facilitate an exchange of information between you and your customer in order to build a clear, complete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs. In particular, it’s crucial to probe and drill deeper into a customer need to be certain you have a clear understanding of it. Often, recognizing the need itself it not enough – you must also understand why the customer has the need and why it is important to them.

    • Why a customer has a need = circumstances
  • Why the need is important = the need behind the need

Circumstances

Customers have needs because of the circumstances that surround them. These circumstances include facts, conditions and events in your customers environment, as well as the feelings and opinions your customer has about them. Remember – the circumstances are why the customer has the need!

Examples of circumstances that most advertising customers have include:

    • Their job (e.g., responsibilities, problems, challenges)
    • Their function (e.g., goals, structure, processes, procedures)
    • Their company (e.g., mission, strategies, media buying process)
    • Their industry (e.g., products, competitors, market trends)
  • Their customers (e.g., customer profiles, external influences)

In general, the more you know about your customer’s circumstances, the better you’ll understand their needs.

Needs

Because of a customer’s circumstances, they have a desire to achieve or accomplish something. This desire represents a need. When you are talking with a customer, listen for expressions of need (otherwise known as the “language of needs”.) The clarity in which a customer expresses a need can vary – so listen carefully.

When a customer has needs to discuss, the best way to learn about them is to ask questions and invite the customer to talk in more detail about them. Use open probes to drill deeper and learn exactly what it is they are trying to achieve.

Examples of questions to ask include:

    • “What are you looking for?”
    • “What’s important to you?”
    • “Tell me more about…?”
    • “What do you hope to achieve from…?”
  • “What kind of solution would you prefer?”

The Need Behind the Need

When a customer has a need, there is a reason. Sometimes the reason why a need is important to a customer is because of another need – referred to as the need behind the need. The need behind the need is usually a larger goal the customer wants to accomplish and is often related to one of four general business areas: productivity, performance, image or finance.

Probing to uncover the need behind the need helps you determine what drives the customer’s decision. Sometimes you may also need to probe several layers deep to get to the need behind the need. One example you’ll encounter quite often when talking with your advertising customers looks like this:

Expressed Need: A new advertising campaign

Uncovered Need Behind the Need:
1. To introduce a new product to the market (productivity)
2. To gain market share (performance)
3. To become a recognized leader in the industry (image)

As a professional salesperson, it’s your job to learn as much as you can about a customer’s circumstances before meeting with them and performing a needs analysis. When there are gaps in your understanding, when you want to learn how a customer feels about their circumstances, or to learn if an existing customer’s circumstances have changed, you can only get this information by successful probing.

We’ve now hit the halfway mark of the necessary skills required to make a successful sales call – open, probe, support, close. To recap, we’ve opened the conversation with your customer by sharing what information you’d like to cover and what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting. We’ve also probed to gather information about a customer’s needs by asking open and closed ended questions and uncovering needs behind the needs.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll focus on how to support by providing information to your customer about how you can satisfy their needs – also referred to as “features and benefits.”

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
Dan

11/20 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Quick Tips to Help Salespeople Improve 
(Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)
6 Psychology-Based Tips to Boost Your Sales (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
The Secret to Asking Sales Questions Assertively, Not Aggressively (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
How to Push the Sale Without Being Pushy (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Buyers Need More Certainty, Not More Chaos (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)


Video Courtesy of Tim Gibbons


11/13 – Using a Mix of Probes to Ask Effective Questions

You probe when you want information from a customer that will allow you to achieve a clear, complete and mutual understanding of a customer’s needs. How much, how long, or how deep you probe during a meeting depends on the complexity of a customer’s needs and the clarity in which the customer describes them.

Top professional salespeople ask strategic probing questions, ask detailed follow-up questions, and ask the types of questions that will get their customers to open up and share crucial information with them. The bottom line: It’s all about asking effective questions.

Generally speaking, asking effective questions includes using a mix of open probes that encourage the customer to clarify and elaborate, along with closed probes to help you obtain more specific (and often quantifiable) information.

Open probes are the most effective way to uncover information and get a clear picture of a customer’s needs by encouraging the customer to respond freely and clarify or elaborate on remarks s/he makes. Examples of simple open probes include:

    • “Why is that important?”
    • “Tell me more about…”
    • “What do you mean by…”
  • “How do you feel about that?”

Once you clearly understand one need, continue probing to uncover additional needs. Trust me, every customer has more than one need – sometimes you just need to probe harder to get them to admit it! Examples of deeper open probes include:

    • “What else would be important to you?”
  • “What other kinds of help are you looking for?”

Closed probes bring focus or closure to a conversation and are useful when a customer is not openly providing useful information. They should be used to create a clear and complete picture of a customer need by eliciting specific information. Examples of closed probes include:

    • “When do you see this marketing campaign launching?”
    • “What day of the week do you prefer?”
    • “Are you most interested in full color or black and white?”
  • “Why is this a serious concern for your business?”

In addition, top professional salespeople also use closed probes to confirm their understanding of what the customer has said to ensure mutual understanding of a customer need. Despite your best efforts, it’s possible you may misunderstand what a customer says. It has been my experience that periodically confirming my understanding by using a closed probe to elicit a yes/no response from the customer ensures embarrassing and potentially relationship-damaging situations are avoided. Examples I’ve used include:

    • “So you’re looking for an advertising vehicle that will generate measurable store traffic early in the week on Monday & Tuesday when business is slowest, is that correct?”
    • “If I understand you correctly, you have tried running zoned newspaper inserts on Sunday in the past and it did not provide the results you were hoping for, is that correct?”
  • “What I’m hearing you say is that price will be a determining factor in your decision making process, is that correct?”

Open and closed probes allow you to uncover information that will ensure a clear, complete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs. Without this information, you cannot confidently propose a solution to your customer and give yourself a chance to close the sale. Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll explore how probing is used to uncover circumstances that explain why a need exists and what may be the true need behind the need.

Cheers,
Dan

11/13 – Advertising Quick Clicks
What Is the Buyer’s Journey Through the Sales Process? 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
How to Sell Using Common Human Behaviors (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Why You Should Have a CLOSE A & Backup CLOSE B (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Is Sales an Art or a Science? It’s Both (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
Lighten Up Your Sales Presentation to Increase Engagement (Courtesy of Ethos3)


Video Courtesy of Ago Cluytens


11/6 – The Probe

Now that you and your customer have exchanged pleasantries and mutually agreed to what will be accomplished during your time together, the time has come for you to start probing. There is something about the word probing that makes me a bit skittish – it makes me think of sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to be examined by way of being poked, prodded and tapped with odd looking medical devices…but that’s another story for another time.

Probing is one of the most important skills a professional salesperson can develop. The ability to ask questions that logically and efficiently uncover important information about a customer’s needs – in a way that is comfortable, conversational and possibly even informative for the customer – is a distinguishable characteristic of a consultative sales professional.

For you and your customer to make an informed, mutually beneficial decision together (ie. close a sale!) the two of you must share a clearcomplete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs. Probing is the means by which you gather information to achieve that understanding.

clear understanding means that you each need to know:
–        Why the customer has a need (circumstances)
–        What the customer wants to accomplish or improve (need)
–        Why the need is important (need behind the need)

complete understanding of needs means that you each need to know:
–        All of the customer’s needs
–        The priority of each of the needs

mutual understanding means that you and your customer share the same understanding – that the clear and complete picture you have of the customer’s needs is the same picture the customer envisions.

IMPORTANT- Having a mutual understanding of needs is critical! You and your customer must be on the same page from this point forward to ensure the sales cycle flows smoothly and uninterrupted. Never “assume” anything – always be proactive and ask for clarification if you are unsure.

A clear, complete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs will ensure that the recommendations you make later in the sales cycle will contribute to their success. After all, the only reason your customer has agreed to meet with you in the first place is because they believe you can help them!

Remember, a customer must feel as if the time you spend together is valuable and not being wasted. Demonstrating your ability to probe for important details will set your customer’s mind at ease and let them know that you dedicated to understanding their needs prior to making strategic recommendations. Nothing will kill a sales call faster than putting the cart before the horse and trying to make a sale before knowing what the customer is truly trying to accomplish.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll continue to talk about the art of probing by looking at proven ways to ask effective questions  – including examples of open, closed and mutual value probes that will allow you to uncover circumstances, needs and the need behind the need.

Cheers,
Dan

11/6 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Is Cold Calling Dead? 17 New Prospecting Strategies Salespeople Should Use 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Modern Sales Reps Must Focus on Customer Service (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
What’s In A Word? The Vocabulary That Matters When Closing a Sale (Courtesy of Inc.)
Stop Complaining That You Hate To Sell And Do Something About It (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Should You Always Agree With Your Client? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Ago Cluytens


10/30 – The Open

Rest assured, I’m confident that most of our customers feel exactly like this: “A top salesperson must effectively communicate the purpose of their visit so I can make up my mind whether my time is being wasted or used wisely.” This is an anonymous quote from the vice president of marketing for a Fortune 100 company when asked what it takes to get past his gatekeeper and make it through the door to his office.

As I explained last week, there are four parts to a successful sales call and it all begins with the “open.” When you meet with a customer, each of you has a reason for getting together. Your reason for meeting likely includes making a formal introduction, develop an understanding of your customer’s needs, deliver/discuss a proposal, or close a sale. Your customer’s reason for meeting may include learning more about your organization, sharing their immediate needs, responding to a proposal or deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

Your goal in opening a meeting is to reach an agreement with your customer on what will be accomplished during your time together. Effectively doing so will immediately set your customer at ease and ensure s/he finds value in your time together. It also allows you to move promptly (and confidently) to the important business at hand which could result in closing the sale and MAKING MONEY!

That said, here is how you properly open a meeting:

    1. Position your opening – Set context for the conversation while earning the opportunity to continue. This is the perfect way to transition from building rapport to the sales conversation. A few examples would be: “At our last meeting, you said you’d like to review…” or “Your marketing director suggested I speak with you to discuss your plans to…”
    1. Propose an agenda – Indicate what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting. This provides the ideal platform to focus directly on the customer. Some examples include: “In the 30 minutes we have together, let’s discuss what you hope to accomplish with your new marketing strategy…” or “At our last meeting, you said you’d like to review our proposal before presenting it to your management group. I’d like to walk through the proposal with you in some detail…”
  1. State the value to the customer – Explain to the customer why this meeting and your proposed agenda will be useful to them. Examples of this are: “After our time together, I’ll be able to propose options that best address your particular needs…” or “The information we discuss will allow me to suggest ideas that will support and enhance your marketing strategy…”

CHECK FOR ACCEPTANCE – This is the most important step in the process…and the one most likely to be forgotten. After stating the value of your proposed agenda, make sure the customer accepts the agenda and does not have anything to add. Examples of how to ask for acceptance are: “Is there anything else you’d like to cover today?” or “How does this sound to you?”

If your customer proposes changes to your agenda, stay calm and listen carefully. Examples of how a customer might counter your agenda could be “Yes, that sounds good but I’d also like to get an idea of what you charge for that service” or “That sounds terrific, but I’m not in a position to make a final decision today.” Providing your customer with the opportunity to weigh in on the agenda not only ensures they will find the meeting time productive, but it also gives them a chance to share additional information with you that could alter the direction the meeting takes. IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to refine your agenda and restate it for acceptance IF the customer does not immediately agree and/or wants something added.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll explore “probing”  – including examples, challenges, tips and tricks to help you build a clear, complete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs.

Cheers,
Dan

10/30 – Advertising Quick Clicks
5 Reasons Why Pre-Sales Call Research Is A Must 
(Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
What Sales Prospects Need to Know to Buy Right Now (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Stop Doing More of What Doesn’t Work! (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
How Introverts Can Find More Success at Sales (Courtesy of Quartz)


Video Courtesy of JBarrows Sales Training


10/23 – Open, Probe, Support, Close

A successful sales call is one in which you and the customer make an informed, mutually beneficial decision. As a sales professional, it’s your job to direct and manage the meeting so this outcome is achieved. You reach mutually beneficial decisions through an open exchange of information that focuses on the customer’s needs. Not YOUR needs…remember, it’s all about the customer! This is why the process is called Need Satisfaction Selling.

Based on the title above, I’m confident you’ve deducted that there are four parts to a successful sales call:

Open – You open the conversation by sharing what information you’d like to cover and what you’d like to accomplish during the meeting.
Probe – You gather information about a customer’s needs by asking open and closed ended questions.
Support – You provide information about how you can satisfy a customer’s needs (features and benefits.)
Close – You exchange information about the next steps for working together with your customer.

It’s important to remember that since customers usually have multiple needs to address when making advertising and media buying decisions, you may need to probe and support repeatedly during the meeting. Once you’ve opened the conversation, gathered information about one customer need (probed) and provided information about how you can satisfy that need (supported), you can circle back around and repeat the process until all of the customer’s needs have been adequately addressed. Then, when the time is appropriate, you can close the meeting.

Open, probe, support, close – before your next meeting with a customer recall these steps in your head and I assure you you’ll have one of your best sales calls yet! Remember, I’ve said this many times in the past BUT it is crucial to keep in mind as you develop and hone your sales skills: Selling is a systematic series of repeatable events intended to achieve a desired result. Your approach to each and every meeting with a customer should be exactly the same, and based on your successful execution of repeating these steps you’ll start to notice a measurable increase in the amount of mutually beneficial decisions that are made with your customers – ie. MORE SALES and MORE MONEY!

Up Next: We’ll explore opening in detail – examples, challenges, tips and tricks to ensure that you start each and every customer meeting off in the right direction. Without an effective beginning, you’ll never reach a successful end.

Cheers,
Dan

10/23 – Advertising Quick Clicks
11 Less Annoying Synonyms and Alternatives to “Please Find Attached” (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Elements of a Cold Call That Can Make Them Hot (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
3 Tips To Ensure You’re Selling To The Decision Maker (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Face to Face Meetings Help Improve Sales Rate (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
Sales Personalities: It Has Nothing To Do With You (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Litmos Heros


10/16 – Making The Leap:
Transactional Selling to Consultative Relationships

Transactional:  Short-term relationships in which the customer asks for something and the salesperson provides it. Sales are based on rapport, price and/or product features.

Consultative:  Proactive and in-depth relationships in which the salesperson seeks a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs and circumstances, providing value beyond the price and product itself.

The divide separating these two relationships has never been wider as day in and day out we all face the challenge of meeting with time-conscious customers who have become increasingly sophisticated and are finding new ways to get more by spending less. Ultimately, your ability to “make the leap” depends on how your customer views you – and this begins with your very first interaction together.

During transactional sales, your customer will categorize you in one of three different ways:

    1. Professional Visitor:  A salesperson who succeeds on personality or shared interests, forming limited relationships with customers rather than long-term alliances that promote future sales. Often times, Professional Visitors are afraid to ask for the sale, resulting in a sales “stall.”
    1. Price Seller:  A salesperson who highlights costs and deals. While Price Sellers may meet customer’s financial needs, they rarely accommodate the ‘need behind the need’ which reinforces a perception of their products and services as commodities.
  1. Content Seller:  A salesperson who emphasizes product and service features. This “feature focus” is dangerous, as it is often long on technical information but usually does not clearly tie in explicit benefits to the customer.

Conversely, consultative relationships require advanced skills, product and industry expertise, and intricate understanding of your customer’s needs. Consultative selling is a much more time intensive process than transactional sales, however you will have greater impact on the buying process. Here, your customer will categorize you in one of four different ways:

    1. Need Satisfaction Seller:  A salesperson who creates mutually beneficial relationships, uncovers customer’s critical needs and tailors solutions to each customer’s situation.
    1. Resourceful Expert:  A salesperson who applies in-depth media product and industry expertise to configure solutions that meet customer needs. Deep knowledge of competitive media, specific markets and industry products creates additional value for customers.
    1. Loyal Champion:  A salesperson who possesses deep insight into the customer’s business and industry. As a result, a Loyal Champion is almost viewed as an employee, often being provided access to strategic plans and other inside information – a huge benefit when proposing media solutions to specific business issues.
  1. Trusted Advisor:  A salesperson who achieves the ultimate level of customer relationship management. Trusted Advisors use their in-depth knowledge and highly developed sales skills to their customers’ benefit. They earn the right to influence all stages of the buying process. A Trusted Advisor discovers and meets critical needs by providing not only products and services, but also advice and assistance.

Financial success and personal satisfaction can be achieved at either level of selling – transactional or consultative. However, making the leap to consultative relationships protects you from commodity pricing in difficult economic times or when the competition is selling aggressively and slashing prices to lure away your customers. As I mentioned earlier, consultative selling takes more time and effort but in the end it becomes part of your personal value proposition – a differentiator in your customer’s buying decisions. If you are aiming to achieve long-term sales success, I implore you to invest the extra time and effort to become a consultative sales professional.

Next week in The Sales Cycle we’ll take a closer look at Need Satisfaction Selling and how mastering the process of uncovering your customer’s needs through systematic opening, probing, supporting and closing can get you one step closer to making the leap from transactional to consultative selling.

Cheers,
Dan

10/16 – Advertising Quick Clicks
8 Sales Email Subject Lines To Get An Open-Read-Reply 
(Courtesy of Niche Media HQ)
18 Ways to Connect with More Sales Prospects More Easily (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Sales Burnout Is Real: How to Keep It At Bay (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How to Develop a Pricing Strategy for Higher Sales Conversions (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
Top 5 Ways To Gain More Repeat Business (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Courtesy of Lupescu Adrian


10/9 – Does Your Client Speak the “Language of Needs?” 

I’ve stated many times before that selling is not rocket science. Selling is a systematic series of repeatable events designed to produce a desired result.

Selling begins with your commitment to helping your customers succeed by helping them make decisions that will contribute to their success.

If you ask the proper questions, a customer will tell you exactly how you can help them succeed by sharing with you their needs. A need is simply defined as ‘a desire to improve or accomplish something.’ Some customers will tell you that they do not have any needs. However, you can be reasonably sure a customer has a need if they express a desire to improve or accomplish something using “the language of needs” – that is, words or phrases that express desire.

A few examples of “the language of needs” include: “I want…”, “I hope…”, “It’s important to…”, “I’d like…”, “I wish…”, “Our objective is…”, “We’re looking for…”, “We’re trying to…”, “What matters is…”

It’s crucial that you listen for and can recognize the “language of needs” that your customer uses. Failure to do so could result in you making unwarranted and false assumptions about what your customer is looking for, or wasting time on subjects that the customer is not interested in discussing.

Remember, it’s important that time spent on sales calls is mutually beneficial – not only to you customer, but also to you. Time truly is money. Your goal is to promote an open exchange of information and ask effective questions that will lead to a complete and mutual understanding of your customer’s needs. Without clearly understand the needs, it will be impossible for you to recommend a solution to help your client succeed – which is the entire point of why you are meeting with your customer in the first place.

I always remind myself by thinking in the back of my mind – “If I know their need, I’m sure to succeed.”

Next week, we’ll start breaking down the differences between transactional and consultative selling and talk about what it takes to make the leap from one to the other. During transactional selling, you are viewed by the customer as a “salesperson.” When you’ve mastered consultative selling, your status is elevated to “trusted business advisor.” Being viewed as the latter gives you a huge advantage over your media sales competition!

Cheers,
Dan

10/9 – Advertising Quick Clicks
8 Types of Sales Presentation Styles: Which Category Do You Fall Into? 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Do These 5 Things During Every First Sales Meeting (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Should Resist the Urge to Overpromise (Courtesy of Inc.)
10 Ways To Prepare For Your First Sales Cold Call (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
How to Use Closed-Ended Questions in Sales (Courtesy of Business to Community)


Video Courtesy of Michael Krause


10/2 – The Art of Schmoozing

As we’ve talked about for the past few months, effective networking makes a business grow and a sales territory flourish. Sales success is all about relationships, and schmoozing enables us to build long-lasting and loyal relationships.

Schmoozing plays a big role in navigating past gatekeepers, setting important meetings with decision makers, closing deals, garnering support from your friends and colleagues, and ultimately getting ahead in your career.

But not all of us are born natural schmoozers. I certainly put myself in this category. However if you ask my wife Jacqie she would emphatically disagree; she feels I’m constantly schmoozing day and night, always looking for an inside angle. Laugh if you will, but schmoozing truly is an art form, and you should take it very seriously. I’m not talking about the “used car salesman” type of schmoozing, rather a refined and polished approach to building rapport on a professional and personal level.

Here are a few tips to get you started on your way to schmoozing stardom:

  • Be cautious not to overly exaggerate. It destroys credibility and comes off as pretentious. Never assume you are smarter than the person you are talking to.
  • Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about them. Connect with people you have things in common with. Notice when people speak passionately about certain subjects, and even if your views differ on a certain subject (avoid politics and religion like the plague!) it could be an opportunity to make a connection.
  • People like to schmooze. They like attention, to be noticed, to engage. But most of us are shy and find it hard to get out of our comfort zone, so make the first step and invite others to join along.
  • Be open and genuine. Be yourself with all your charm, AND your faults – because we all have them. Just be real and don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t try to be something or someone that you are not.
  • Be appropriate and don’t overstep your boundaries. Keep it tasteful.
  • Be respectful of people’s time. Time is a very important resource for your customers.
  • Don’t talk at people, talk to people and listen, listen, listen. People will tell you a lot about themselves if you really listen and ask the right follow up questions.
  • Let yourself be schmoozed, too. You just might learn something in the process and it’s good Karma.

It really is simple. People like to do business with people they like. Make it easy for your customers to do business with you by taking the time to schmooze them – they’ll appreciate the extra attention (don’t we all!) and it will show them that you’re willing to invest the time and effort to get to know more about them. The worst thing we can do as salespeople is only show interest in our clients when it comes time to ask for the sale!

Cheers,
Dan

10/2 – Advertising Quick Clicks
What NOT To Do In Sales 
(Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
4 Sales Email Templates to Get and Keep Buyers’ Attention (Courtesy of HubSpot)
The Best Sales Elevator Pitch: 17 Ways to Persuasively Tell Your Story (Courtesy of Inc.)
How to Have a Perfect (Ad Sales) Season (Courtesy of Niche Media HQ)
How To Uncover Your Prospects Needs & Wants With 1 Question (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer


9/25 – The Name of the Game is Customer Loyalty!

We’ve talked about all of the steps necessary to prospect new accounts and negotiate newspaper buys, but “one and done” sales are time consuming and require just as much (if not more) effort to produce than developing a frequent long-term customer. Once you have the big fish hooked, you still need to get it into the boat before you can celebrate the victory.

In the last five years, newspapers have seen customer advertising budgets shrink as companies do more with less. For those businesses who’ve been able to stay afloat during the recession with minimal paid media placement, it’s distinctly possible they’ll continue to operate on tight budgets that do not allow for year-over-year spending increases. That said, it’s more important than ever for newspapers to retain their existing customers while maximizing opportunities to harvest new business.

Customer loyalty, typically measured in repeat purchases, plays a massive role in driving profits for every newspaper. Don’t let the accounts you’ve worked so hard to prospect, develop and close slip away. Here are a few tips to ensure your customers become loyal, long-term assets to your territory:

1. Pay Attention To Complaints And Compliments

Share customer complaints with your sales managers and ad directors to help you develop new ideas and ways to improve your products and service. Use the same approach for customer compliments too, using them as reinforcement for what you are already doing right. Selling is a systematic series of repeatable events designed to produce a desired result. When the desired result is achieved and a customer responds as desired, simply replicate the process.

2. Survey Your Customers!

Ask your customers exactly what they need and expect from you, and how they want it given to them. Whether you ask them in person, over the phone, via email, or even use printed/online surveys, it is crucial that you ask the questions. Your customers will have tremendous respect for you because you’re proactively addressing the issue rather than waiting for an issue to arise.

3. Service With A Smile

Not every salesperson believes that “the customer is always right” and that’s ok. However, in situations where customers are distraught and seek attention through emotional outbursts, salespeople must stay calm and take control of the situation by appeasing the customer with a smile and doing everything possible to pander to the customer’s frustrations. This approach will reflect positively on your newspaper and the end-result will be outstanding customer retention.

4. Be A Solution Provider

Customers are more and more savvy these days and they can sense a sales pitch approaching miles away. Though they love buying, customers hate to be sold to. Instead, adopt the approach of being a solution provider, showing that you sincerely care about their needs. Lend a listening ear to your customers and let them know that your primary objective is collaborating with them to solve their business objectives. As I’ve said many times before, it truly is ALL ABOUT THEM! This approach works almost all the time and is the secret sauce for high customer retention.

5. Be A Value Provider

Customers want value, but very few of them actually understand what it means. Providing value to customers simply means giving first and receiving second. Giving first can be as easy as providing market research not easily accessible to your customer, or providing special placement for their annual sale ads. It’s an effective way of differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Customers almost always remember something remarkable you did for them. This usually happens when they have a problem with something that needs to be fixed. The easier you make this process, the more satisfied the customer will become. Remember these five simple steps to creating customer loyalty retention and make sure that you keep those clients that you’ve worked so hard to onboard.

Cheers,
Dan

9/25 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Close Deals by Asking 7 Questions During Your Sales Pitch 
(Courtesy of Inc.)
7 “Sorry to Bother You” Alternatives Every Salesperson Needs (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Facing A Failed Sales Deal? Don’t Say This! (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Must Do More Than Just Deliver Information (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
The Ultimate Guide to Sales Cold Calling (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Salmat


9/18 – Are You a Salesperson or a Sales Professional?

One might think that both of these titles are synonymous, but I disagree. I believe there is a concise distinction between those with a salesperson mentality and those who are sales professionals. Not surprisingly, I’ve met some amazingly talented salespeople over the years. However, those who I remember, trust, and find myself keeping in contact with years after our first encounter all fall within the category of consummate sales professionals. Here, in my humble opinion, is the difference between the two and why I feel it is crucial for you to elevate your game to the next level to maximize your opportunity for sales success.

Salespeople

Some (but certainly not all) salespeople simply tolerate their jobs as burdens to be endured for the sake of putting food on their tables and roofs over their heads. Many salespeople wait to be told what to do, or what to sell. They don’t reach out for new responsibility, because they don’t want responsibility. They take care of their own immediate tasks without worrying about how their tasks affect others in the organization. In fact, they don’t see themselves as part of the organization. Salespeople see the organization as an outside entity that may have a negative or positive impact on their lives. They refer to it in the third person: as “it” or “them,” and not as “we.” The organization is something they have to respond to, although they’re not a part of it.

Sales Professionals

Comparatively, sales professionals see their jobs as rewarding components of their lives. Their careers and their personal lives complement and support each other. Their jobs are part of who they are. They recognize opportunity and take imitative. Sales professionals see themselves as part of the organization. To them, the organization is “we.” When IT succeeds, they succeed. When they succeed, it succeeds. When it suffers reverses, they feel the reverses. Clients and colleagues look up to sales professionals because they recognize them as being good at what they do. They’re the best at what they do because they’ve walked the extra mile toward excellence. They absorb information about their chosen fields, and they share their knowledge with others.

So, which of these titles best describes YOU? Which one do YOU want to be? What steps are YOU taking to reach the next level? Sales is tough work, and to excel takes persistence and dedication to your craft.

To be a sales professional, you have to look like a pro, communicate like a pro, and exude the confidence of a pro. You must set a high standard for yourself and never allow yourself to fall below that standard.

The content of my article this week stemmed from a recent conversation I had with a former client. Something he said really struck a chord with me. “Dan, anyone can be a salesperson. Anyone can persuade someone to buy something if the need exists. But I avoid salespeople because I’m seeking to work with the best. I consider myself a professional and I only want to work with professionals. A professional is passionate about what they do. A salesperson is just looking to collect a paycheck.”

Food for thought until next week.

Cheers,
Dan

9/18 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How To Survive the Sales Hustle and Stay Motivated 
(Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How To Turn A Profit By Refining Your Sales Processes (Courtesy of Forbes)
Sales Executives Can Reprogram Themselves for Success (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
Do You Underestimate The Intelligence of Your Sales Customers? (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
5 Ways To Kill Indecision In Your Sales Prospect’s Mind (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of ToutApp


9/11 – What Are The Qualities of a Top Sales Professional?

A recent Harvard Business School study focused on the common characteristics of top salespeople. The results were not all that surprising – most people can become top performers if they are willing to study, concentrate, and focus on their performance. Here is a list of common attributes the study found to be present in highly successful salespeople:

–        Do not take “no” personally – Never let the word “no” make you feel as if you failed. Be confident in your abilities.

–        100% acceptance of responsibility for results – Don’t blame the economy, the competition or your company for lack of closing success.

–        Above average ambition – Do you have a desire to succeed?

–        High levels of empathy – Put yourself in the customers shoes, imagine their needs & concerns, respond appropriately.

–        Intensely goal-oriented – Always have a plan and know where you are going and how much progress you are making.

–        Above average will power – Do you have the determination to plow ahead no matter how difficult things seem?

–        Impeccable honesty – Be honest with yourself and your customers, no matter what. Trust gain only be earned through honesty.

–        Ability to approach strangers – Even though it’s uncomfortable, can you make that cold-call or drop-in?

Reviewing this list, how many of these areas do you rate high in? What can you be doing to help yourself become a top sales performer? (besides attending MNI sales training modules – I apologize for the shameless plug.)

Selling newspaper advertising can be an amazing career filled with enormous rewards, but you must be willing to grasp every opportunity to enhance your skills. Become a sponge – soak up all of the tips, tricks and strategies of other top sales performers that you can find. Ask your sales managers, ad directors or publishers to accompany you on a sales call and ask them to rate your performance. Practice, practice and then practice again. To become a master of your trade, you must be willing to invest the time. But I assure you that your efforts WILL pay off, and to the victor goes the spoils!

Cheers,
Dan

9/11 – Advertising Quick Clicks
10 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Closers 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
3 Killer Ways to Close Your Sales Pitch (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
A Call to Action is the Ideal Way to End a Sales Conversation (Courtesy of Fast Company)
How Do You Know Your Sales Customer Will Be A Returning Client? (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
PODCAST: 7 Ways to Ignite Your Passion for Media Sales (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)


Video Courtesy of Top Performer Journal


8/28 – Sales….You’re Not Doing It Right

If your emails look like everyone else’s emails…
You’re not doing it right.

If you are losing business solely on price…
You’re not doing it right.

If your prospect doesn’t say “great question – no one has ever asked me that before…”
You’re not doing it right.

If your prospect isn’t helping you create the elements that go into your proposal…
You’re not doing it right.

If you’re not the one presenting your idea to the key decision maker or to the board that has the power to sign-off on your project…
You’re not doing it right.

If you’re chasing the exact same customers all your competitors are chasing…
You’re not doing it right.

If this proposal looks like every other proposal you’ve done in the last 6 months…
You’re not doing it right.

If you client feels she can get a bid on your exact same service from 14 other vendors…
You’re not doing it right.

If your idea of negotiation is simply lowering your price to get the business…
You’re not doing it right.

If you don’t walk in to every single sales call with the expectation you’ll win their business…
You’re not doing it right.

If you don’t have 20 great questions ready to ask the prospect (that they’ve never heard before)…
You’re not doing it right.

If you don’t have 10 strong prepared answers to each of your five most common objections…
You’re not doing it right.

If part of your pitch is to insult and denigrate the competition…
You’re not doing it right.

If you’re not constantly striving to improve your skills at what you do…
You’re not doing it right.

If your proposals are more like a pitch instead of a performance…
You’re not doing it right.

If you don’t have a personal library built on a foundation of books about positive attitude, why people buy, and personal development…
You’re not doing it right.

If you don’t listen to podcasts in your car that help you improve your skills…
You’re not doing it right.

If you let other people affect your internal attitude…
You’re not doing it right.

Courtesy of RBR.com

8/28 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Sales Closing Technique That Gets Prospects to Overcome Their Own Objections 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
How To Make the Gatekeeper Your Sales Ally (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
3 Ways To Handle Clients That Won’t Stop Negotiating Discounts (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Use Networking to Turn Up Fresh Sales Leads (Courtesy of Inc.)
Is What You Sell of Vital Importance? (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Tom Corson-Knowles


8/21 – Building a Solid Referral Network

As sales professionals, if there is one thing that we never have enough of, it’s time. As we’ve discussed for the past few months, the sales cycle is a complex process that requires thorough execution at each level to find success. There are no shortcuts. However, to efficiently grow your sales territory, you must develop a prospecting process to keep the funnel filled.

Cold calling works, but with each call you are beginning at step one. Creating a rapport with your prospect is required before any transactional business will take place, which is why I’ve found that tapping into my existing clients – those who trust and have confidence in my abilities – and asking for referrals is the most effective way to build a qualified prospect list.

You may have heard me share my “5 for 5” tactic before, but it has worked so well for many that it bears repeating. When a satisfied client openly applauds my efforts, I ask if they’d be willing to share their positive experience with other acquaintances who may also benefit from talking with me about their advertising strategy. To initiate this process, I ask my client for 5 business cards and give them 5 in return. I explain to them that I like to do business with people I like and trust, and I will pass their information to people I know who might be interested in their product or service. I then ask if they wouldn’t mind reciprocating the favor. After many years of using this tactic, I’ve received countless calls from people introducing themselves and explaining “(Insert name here) told me I really need to sit down with you and talk about my business.”

By building a referral network, I’m creating a group of individuals that are, in essence, an extension of my personal sales force. My clients are helping to promote the brand called “me.” Instead of personally making a cold call and explaining the value I can bring to a business, I’m empowering a client to sell me to their friends or colleagues. A foundation of trust is laid – and it’s then up to me to build upon it and begin the sales cycle. But the most difficult step of the cycle is complete…uncovering a qualified sales prospect.

Here are five simple methods to quickly build your own referral network —

METHOD #1.  Become friends with your customers by meeting them socially, at business networking events, and other non-sales-related functions.

METHOD #2.  Provide incredible service so that your customer feels that there is little risk in recommending you to their friends and colleagues.

METHOD #3.  Take time to ask your customers about personal details (spouses, kids, etc.) so they know you’re interested in more than making a sale.

METHOD #4.  Deliver extra value by doing something for your customer that is not expected as a way to say “thank you.”

METHOD #5.  Give referrals to your customers, so that they can more quickly build their own business, which will create a sense of gratitude.

I assure you that building a solid referral network will maximize your prospecting productivity, minimize the time required to build trust with new prospects, and increase your sales revenue potential.

Cheers,
Dan

8/21 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Write the Perfect Follow-Up Sales Email 
(Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Mass Email Is Dead, Try This Modern Sales Strategy Instead (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Solution Selling Remains A Relevant Strategy (Courtesy of Inc.)
The 7 Best Phrases To Use With Your Sales Prospects (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The Value Of A Well-Written Post-Sale Thank-You Note (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of LeadBox, Inc.


8/14 – Following Up AFTER the Sale

We’ve finally reached the last – and in my opinion most crucial – step of the sales cycle. Briefly summarizing, to arrive at this point we’ve found a new prospect, initiated contact, conducted a needs analysis, made a recommendation, overcame objections , and closed the sale. Congratulations! However, don’t pop the cork on the Dom Perignon quite yet. You’ve reached a critical stage in consultative media sales – one that will determine if this sale leads to a one time customer or a long time client.

If you effectively set expectations with your client ahead of time, you should be anxiously anticipating the chance to follow up after the sale. This is your moment to walk in with your head held high and reaffirm your clients decision to say “yes” to your recommendation. This is also the opportunity to receive feedback, obtain testimonials, generate referrals, and develop client loyalty – all of which can lead to future sales and increased profits for your newspaper.

Typically I wait five days after a campaign concludes (unless it’s a long term program, in which case use your discretion) to schedule a follow up meeting. This provides enough time for your client to gauge response and formulate an opinion on how the campaign performed. Again, assuming that everything went as expected this is the PERFECT time to prime the pump for future business – your client is boiling over with excitement and is confident in your abilities. You’ve built a foundation of trust and elevated your status from salesperson to business advisor.

Of course, very few advertising recommendations are executed flawlessly and hit the mark every time, so the follow up also allows you to solicit client feedback. Ask questions and take copious notes. You want to show your client that you are committed to helping them achieve long term success. Take the information you learn and come back with a revised recommendation that accommodates for shifts in your client’s objectives or to reach a different desired demographic.

Long story short, never fall into the trap of “taking the money and running.” You’ve worked hard to develop a repoire with your customer, to gain their trust, and to persuade them to say “yes” to your recommendation. Now show them that you care about their business and want the opportunity to elevate your relationship to the next level.

The sales cycle is now complete. With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, a hot prospect has evolved into a loyal client. Remember, sales is a systematic series of repeatable steps intended to achieve a desired result. You’ve now proven to yourself, your ad director, and your publisher that you have the skills and confidence to become a sales superstar in your organization. It’s time to set the cycle in motion again to find even greater future success.

Growing your sales territory is tough work. Selling is a time consuming task, and you constantly need to fill your “sales funnel” with fresh, qualified prospects. I’ve found the most effective way to generate qualified leads does not come from cold calling; it’s a result of building a strong referral network. Referrals can be self-perpetuating, as every satisfied customer added to your network increases the likelihood that they will refer others to you. We’ll discuss this is further detail in the next edition of The Sale Cycle.

Cheers,
Dan

8/14 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Beware Of Sales Enablement Experts Prospecting 
(Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Magic Words to Overcome Sales Objections (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Must Sell Value to Customers (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
26 Psychological Biases to Help You Sell Better and Faster (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
2 Things That Kill Motivation In Salespeople (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Annette Lackovic


8/7 – Closing the Sale….To the Victor Go The Spoils!

Closing /klō-zing/ verb  1. To put an end to. To finish. To conclude.

When it comes to selling newspaper advertising, closing is the process used to bring your prospect to a decision – whether it be yes or no. From the very beginning of The Sales Cycle when you “qualified” your prospect and first met, you’ve been preparing for this moment. Everything you have said and all of the value you have demonstrated has been directed towards closing the sale. There is a reason that “ABC” stands for “Always Be Closing” – closing sales is vital to your success as a media salesperson.

In today’s competitive marketplace, your responsiveness to a prospect often determines whether the sale is made or lost. Always keep in mind that you have 0% of closing the sale if…

    • Your prospect does not trust you
    • Your prospect does not believe you understand their business objectives
    • Your prospect is not excited about your recommended solution
  • Your prospect cannot see the benefits and value in your solution

Since I’m a huge believer in relationship-based sales, I think the finest close is a thorough, enthusiastic and value-driven presentation. By creating excitement and desire for your product and services with a thorough and enthusiastic presentation, a “yes” in the final close is almost assured. One of your purposes for closing is to help solve problems and fulfill desires that were established during your initial needs analysis. If you have effectively aligned the features and benefits of your advertising products and delivered a solid value proposition, the sale should close itself – you simply have to ask for the business and wait for the response.

However, if your presentation does not close the sale automatically there are literally dozens of closing techniques that can be used: choice close, value close, assumed close, you told me close, show me close, direct close, contract close, etc. Every salesperson should know which is most effective for them, usually through trial and error. However, the one closing technique I tend to fall back on more than any other is the “trial close.” It allows me to alter my approach during the recommendation step instead of waiting until the very end and finding out that I’ve missed my mark and the answer is “no.”

Trial closing involves asking strategic questions throughout the recommendation process. This way, I’m Always Closing. The answers to these questions allow you to find out what your prospect thinks and feels about your proposed product and service – and allows you to adjust your recommendation along the way to ensure that you make the sale. It’s all about being fluid and flexible, adapting and evolving, and making sure the prospect knows what’s in it for them.

Some examples of trial closing questions are:

  • How does that sound to you?
  • Will that work for your situation?
  • If I could do that for you, would that help you make a decision?
  • If I can fix that problem for you, would you be interested?
  • Does this fit into your budget?
  • And lots of “What if…” probing questions

The whole point to using the trial closing technique is to force the prospect to give you a buying signal. With a clear buying signal, you can present your solution and be confident the desired outcome of a successful close will happen naturally if (as bulleted above) your prospect trusts you, believes you understand their business objectives, is excited about your proposed solution, and clearly understands the benefits and value they can expect by saying “yes.”

There are many benefits to using a trial close. I believe it’s the most valuable low-risk closing strategy is because it asks for an OPINION; a traditional close asks for a DECISION. The trial close measures your prospect’s temperature and desire for your solution, allowing adjustments to be made to ensure you get the sale. If you are not trial closing, you may try to close before the prospect is ready to buy and risk receiving a negative response – this can force you to defend your position and overcome an objection that could have been avoided.

The best solution is to trial close early and often so that you do not miss your prospect’s peak desire to say “yes.” It’s important to find out what they are thinking and feeling; it’s extremely powerful to use this information and successfully integrate it into your recommendation to increase the likelihood of closing the sale. Include what you learn in your value proposition. At that point, saying “yes” is the logical decision for your prospect to make.

Since you’ve now successfully sold your prospect – therefore reclassifying them as a “customer” – we’ve reached the final (and in my opinion the most important) step of the sales cycle. During the recommendation phase, you listed a plethora of benefits the prospect would receive by accepting your solution. Now it is time to review the results, gauge response, and determine what adjustments might need to be implemented for your new customer to become a long term client. We’ll talk about following up after the sale in the next edition of The Sale Cycle.

Cheers,
Dan

8/7 – Advertising Quick Clicks
As Per Our Conversation: 15 Alternative Sales Phrases 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Here’s Why You Should End A Bad Sales Deal (and How to Do It) (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Should Use Honesty to Build Trust (Courtesy of Inc.)
Educate Your Customers To Win Their Business (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
5 Ways To Deal With A Picky Sales Customer (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of The Enterprise


7/31 – Avoid Discounting Your Price – Focus on Your Value!

We’ve all heard it many times before – “I’d really like to do this, but it’s too expensive. Can you offer me a deal?” The biggest issue facing newspaper salespeople these days is that our media competitors are quick to wheel and deal to make a sale; demanding deep discounts has become the norm for many advertisers.

But, I’m here to let you in on a little secret. Regardless of the industry, top sales professionals are very seldom the ones offering the lowest price. They have learned that most prospects start out being price-conscious but end up being value-conscious. Value is the emotional combination of price, quality and service. It is the salesperson’s responsibility to influence and educate prospects as to why their product or service offers the best value for their dollar.

Throughout previous editions of The Sales Cycle, I’ve tried to reinforce that you must focus on the prospect; it’s not about you, it’s all about them. At this step in the sales process, as you overcome a multitude of objections (including price) the prospects are saying to themselves “What’s in it for me? Why should I do business with you?” The answers you provide can make or break your opportunity to close this sale. The prospect needs to be presented with benefits of why it’s smart to do business with you – the answer is not to continue pushing features of your products and services. Rarely is a feature worth the price, but it is possible that a single benefit can justify the investment if value is effectively defined.

Here are a few strategies you can use to lessen the influence that price will have on a buying decision and prevent yourself from automatically cutting a deal to get the sale. Every dollar is precious, so why simply give them away?

  1. Price-Benefit Ratio: The prospect’s buying decision will be based on perceived value in relation to price.  Keep in mind that this perception is not in the product itself, but in the mind of the prospect. Deflect the focus from the price by presenting the prospect with enough reasons to buy. Help to make them think AND believe that they will receive the most benefits from their advertising dollars by doing business with you. Assure them that you, as a trusted business adviser, will do everything you can to assist them in achieving their business goals.
  2. Buying Is An Emotional Process: We’ve all been there – we want something so badly we’ll do anything to get it. However, your prospect may also be objecting to your recommendation based on past negative experiences involving service, quality, or lack of ROI. Make sure you ask questions to find out about a prospect’s past dissatisfaction and then explain to them exactly how you plan to ensure it will not happen if they do business with you.
  3. Justify Your Price: There is nothing wrong with your price being higher than your competitors so long as your prospect feels it is justified in terms of value and benefits being offered. The most effective way to justify price is by adding additional benefits. Before your prospect says “yes” you’ll be responsible for justifying your price; offer additional value until the equation makes sense to the prospect.
  4. Sell Visions and Ideas – Not Just Products or Services: Long term strategies trump short term risks. Sell an ad schedule, not just an ad. Successful marketing comes from creating frequent and timely top-of-mind awareness with consumers; this cannot be accomplished with a single ad or insert. Paint the big picture for your prospect and allow them to see the benefits that can come from believing in your ability to help them not only now, but in the future.

All told, you cannot lose sight of the fact that holding firm on price alone does make you vulnerable if one of your competitors comes along and offers a lower price for comparable products or services. Combat this by focusing on the relationship, effectively aligning features and benefits, defining the value of your recommendation, and ensuring the prospect that you are on their “team” – with the ultimate goal of helping them achieve their business goals. There are no guarantees in life, but it’s not unreasonable for your customers to expect 110% effort from you when they finally sign on that dotted line and give you the sale.

We’ve rounded the final corner and are now sprinting towards the finish line. Victory is so close we can taste it. We’ve gaped our competitors, and the only obstacle that remains is getting our prospect to put pen to paper and sign the contract. We’ll look at various strategies on how to reach the top step of the podium by closing the sale in the next edition of The Sale Cycle.

Cheers,
Dan

7/31 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How To Overcome Sales Prospects Who Balk on Price 
(Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
3 Ways to Increase Wallet Share with Existing Sales Accounts (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)
Is Sales Cold Calling Dead? 17 New Prospecting Strategies (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Avoid the Summer Sales Slump With These Tips (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Good Choices Make For Good Sales Results (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Victor Antonio


7/24 – Overcoming Sales Objections (Part 2)

There are a plethora of objections that prospects can raise during this step in the sales cycle, but none are more prevalent than “price.” Our media competitors are quick to discount in an attempt to steal marketing dollars in the marketplace, but in doing so they fail to recognize long-term pain in favor of realizing short-term gain. Once a product has been discounted, it’s nearly impossible to reestablish value and increase profit margin. We’ll take a closer look at ways to overcome the price objection in the next edition of The Sale Cycle.

You’ve conducted a thorough needs analysis and have a solid grasp on who the prospect is, what their business objectives are, and how they make their marketing decisions. It’s now your opportunity to propose a strategic advertising recommendation based on the information you have collected.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what your recommendation should include, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin this step of the sales cycle:

  1. Are you a ‘value creator?’ – Your recommendation needs to do more than communicate the value of your product; you need to focus on creating value by identifying cost-effective advertising solutions that will help the prospect exceed their business objectives.
  2. Can you quantify ROI? – Make sure you can communicate what a prospect can expect to see by doing business with you. At the same time, make sure you can speak to what the prospect could potentially be losing by NOT doing business with you.
  3. Do you know who your prospect’s customers are? – Putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer you are proposing to reach allows you to understand what it will take to motivate them to buy the prospect’s products or services.
  4. Can I build upon this relationship? – It’s important to make it clear to the prospect that you are more interested in building a strong relationship based on trust and shared goals than simply closing a sale. This is crucial to making the jump from a transactional seller to a business consultant.

The biggest mistake I see salespeople make is pitching a recommendation without effectively aligning benefits to the prospect. A trick I was taught years ago is to constantly use the phrase “And what this means to you is….” For example, if you recommend a 6x ad schedule then you must explain why and how this will help the prospect meet their needs. Personally, I’d say “Committing to a 6x schedule will allow you to create top of mind awareness with your customer through repeated impressions – ensuring they think of you first when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, I can offer added value by offering a special rate based on frequency discounts.” BOOM! The prospect now knows what benefit they will receive by agreeing to your recommendation, and (hopefully) in the back of their mind they are thinking “This makes sense!”

Keep your recommendation brief, and make sure each page represents value to the prospect. If you are using Powerpoint, I would suggest no more than 12 pages.

Six things every strategic advertising recommendation should absolutely include:

  1. Summary – Restate the prospect’s objectives so they know you understand their business.
  2. Plan – What you suggest is done to meet your prospect’s objectives and what it will mean for them (features -> benefits)
  3. Statistical Research – Why your plan makes sense (include circulation, reach, market penetration, etc.)
  4. Value Proposition – How doing business together will be beneficial, and what value you and your newspaper offer.
  5. Price – What your plan will cost (you may choose to include tiered options A/B/C if it’s appropriate)
  6. Next steps – How and when you recommend moving forward.

Whether you deliver your recommendation in person or via email, you should have clearly communicated how your proposal meets the needs of the client (based on what they’ve told you personally, not assumptions you’ve made about them) and what it will cost to implement your program. At this point, there is nothing left to say. Sit back and wait for the prospect to speak first – as 95% of the time they will counter with objections to your proposal. It’s at this point in the sales cycle that the real selling begins, and next week we’ll discuss how to effectively overcome these price objections!

Cheers,
Dan

7/24 – Advertising Quick Clicks
6 Unique Tactics to Up Your Sales Game 
(Courtesy of Inc.)
Did Winning The Deal Just Kill The Relationship? (Courtesy of Media Post)
25 Sales Email Opening Lines That Put “Hi, My Name Is” to Shame (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Empathy Statements: How They Can Help You Sell (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Getting Advertisers to Spend More with You (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)


Video Courtesy of Marc Wayshak


7/17 – Overcoming Sales Objections (Part 1)

ob·jec·tion /əbˈjekSHən/ noun  1. An expression or feeling of disapproval or opposition; a reason for disagreeing.

A prospect’s concern about your product or service is typically referred to as an “objection.” However, an objection should not necessarily be viewed as negative. It also does NOT mean a prospect is not interested in what you are recommending. When a prospect raises a sales objection, what that person is really saying is: “Your product sounds good, but I’m not yet convinced that spending money on it makes sense for me.” This person is telling you that he or she has unresolved questions in their mind.

In my experience, there are five major objections that you are likely to encounter:

    1. No need
    1. No confidence
    1. No interest
    1. No hurry
  1. No money

A salesperson must correctly classify which of the above objectives is being raised – failure to do so will inevitably result in a “stall” (best case) or a lost sales opportunity (worst case.) Once you’ve classified the objection, it’s time to dig a little deeper and get to the root of the concern. Here is a simple 3-step process to remember that is effective in most circumstances:

    1. Identify the underlying issue behind the sales objection
      The prospect’s objection statement is usually very brief, such as: “I don’t think that will work” or “That’s too expensive.” You cannot respond to this statement until you know exactly why the prospect feels that way.
    1. Present a response to that issue
      Once you have identified the actual issue, you can offer a clear, focused response that satisfies the prospect’s concerns.
  1. Confirm that the prospect is satisfied with your response
    After responding to a sales objection, you must get the prospect to agree that you have properly addressed their concern before moving forward. This is your opportunity to set your prospect’s mind at ease and get them thinking about making a purchase.

The phrase “overcoming objections” simply means asking probing questions that will allow you to fully clarify your prospect’s underlying reasons for concern. Once you’ve accomplished this, you’re able to offer a practical solution and move towards closing the sale. Your goal is not to prove that the prospect is wrong and you are right; it’s effectively aligning a need with a solution and proving that you understand their expectations of you and your product.

If it is your intention to genuinely build a trusting relationship with your prospect and do business together, you must learn to resist, assist and persist.

    • Resist … the temptation to back off too early when faced with an objections. Have confidence in your product and yourself and hang in there. Also, resist avoiding the opportunity to ask the right questions to help you fully understand and solve the prospect’s concern.
    • Assist … the prospect in defining his/her real needs. Help them understand the issues that stimulated the original objection. Also, assist the prospect after the sale to gain maximum benefit from your recommendation. Follow up and follow through.
  • Persist … in a manner that shows your prospect that you genuinely care and want to be considered a trusted business advisor. When you persist without the intention of avoidance or manipulation, you convey your concern and sincerity.

One of my favorite quotes is “Persistence Overcomes Resistance.” It has proven true for me time and time again. No does not necessarily mean no – sometimes it means “I do not quite understand and would appreciate you taking the time to show me.” Asking the right questions and actively listening to the answers will ensure you do not miss out on future sales opportunities.

We’ll continue the discussion next week looking at the biggest objection all newspaper sales professionals face today: Price.

Cheers,
Dan

7/17 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Can You Make A Sales Call Without Talking About Your Product?  (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Sales Cycles Explained in 500 Words or Less (Courtesy of HubSpot)
5 Common Mistakes Salespeople Make When Closing a Deal (and How to Avoid Them) (Courtesy of Inc.)
Sales Shortcuts All Reps Should Avoid (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How To Effectively Implement Your Sales Process (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Don Howe Success


7/10 – Proposing a Strategic Advertising Recommendation

You’ve conducted a thorough needs analysis and have a solid grasp on who the prospect is, what their business objectives are, and how they make their marketing decisions. It’s now your opportunity to propose a strategic advertising recommendation based on the information you have collected.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what your recommendation should include, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you begin this step of the sales cycle:

  1. Are you a ‘value creator?’ – Your recommendation needs to do more than communicate the value of your product; you need to focus on creating value by identifying cost-effective advertising solutions that will help the prospect exceed their business objectives.
  2. Can you quantify ROI? – Make sure you can communicate what a prospect can expect to see by doing business with you. At the same time, make sure you can speak to what the prospect could potentially be losing by NOT doing business with you.
  3. Do you know who your prospect’s customers are? – Putting yourself in the shoes of the consumer you are proposing to reach allows you to understand what it will take to motivate them to buy the prospect’s products or services.
  4. Can I build upon this relationship? – It’s important to make it clear to the prospect that you are more interested in building a strong relationship based on trust and shared goals than simply closing a sale. This is crucial to making the jump from a transactional seller to a business consultant.

The biggest mistake I see salespeople make is pitching a recommendation without effectively aligning benefits to the prospect. A trick I was taught years ago is to constantly use the phrase “And what this means to you is….” For example, if you recommend a 6x ad schedule then you must explain why and how this will help the prospect meet their needs. Personally, I’d say “Committing to a 6x schedule will allow you to create top of mind awareness with your customer through repeated impressions – ensuring they think of you first when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, I can offer added value by offering a special rate based on frequency discounts.” BOOM! The prospect now knows what benefit they will receive by agreeing to your recommendation, and (hopefully) in the back of their mind they are thinking “This makes sense!”

Keep your recommendation brief, and make sure each page represents value to the prospect. If you are using Powerpoint, I would suggest no more than 12 pages.

Six things every strategic advertising recommendation should absolutely include:

  1. Summary – Restate the prospect’s objectives so they know you understand their business.
  2. Plan – What you suggest is done to meet your prospect’s objectives and what it will mean for them (features -> benefits)
  3. Statistical Research – Why your plan makes sense (include circulation, reach, market penetration, etc.)
  4. Value Proposition – How doing business together will be beneficial, and what value you and your newspaper offer.
  5. Price – What your plan will cost (you may choose to include tiered options A/B/C if it’s appropriate)
  6. Next steps – How and when you recommend moving forward.

Whether you deliver your recommendation in person or via email, you should have clearly communicated how your proposal meets the needs of the client (based on what they’ve told you personally, not assumptions you’ve made about them) and what it will cost to implement your program. At this point, there is nothing left to say. Sit back and wait for the prospect to speak first – as 95% of the time they will counter with objections to your proposal. It’s at this point in the sales cycle that the real selling begins, and next week we’ll discuss how to effectively overcome these objectives!

Cheers,
Dan

7/10 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Want to Know A Simple Strategy To Score A Sales Meeting? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Stop Preparing So Much: Why Your Next Question Matters More (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Are You Getting Better At Selling? (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
The Top 5 Phrases That Will Close The Deal With Your Prospect (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Sales is Storytelling. Marketing is Storytelling. Business is Storytelling. (Courtesy of Sales & Marketing)


Video Courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer


6/26 – Conducting A Needs Analysis (Part 2)
The Questions You NEED To Ask

Last week I touched on how to conduct a thorough needs analysis using a proven four-step process: Open, Probe, Support, Close. Now we direct our attention to what questions need to be asked to accurately determine if our sales prospect is a viable future client and what our proposed solution to help them exceed their business objectives will be.

The most important thing to remember about asking questions during the needs analysis is to be sure they are “open-ended” –  questions requiring answers that are more than a simple yes or no and will assist you in gathering all of the information you need to move forward (or sometimes not to move forward) in the sales cycle.

Again, I cannot stress this point enough – ask the question and then wait patiently for your prospect to give their answer. Differentiate yourself from other media salespeople who fail by leading, prompting and interrupting during the needs analysis. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask probing questions that will help your prospect recognize problems and create a sense of urgency so they are more likely to take action. Asking questions that are critical to their success helps you to position yourself as part of the solution.

Obviously there are countless questions you can pose to your prospect depending upon the way the conversation rolls out, but there are a few that I always make sure to ask in 6 specific categories: Company, Customers, Competition, Objectives, Advertising, Conclusion. The answers to these questions reveal invaluable information I’ll need to propose a solution.

Company:

  1. How long have you been in business?
  2. How did you get started?
  3. Tell me more about the products or services you provide?
  4. What do you consider to be your niche or specialty?

Customers:

  1. Who is your current customer? (male/female, location, age, income, profession, level of education)
  2. Who would you like your customer to be?
  3. Has your customer base changed in the past year? And if so, why? Was this viewed within the company as a positive change?
  4. Do you anticipate any changes in your business that could affect your current customer base?
  5. How much do your customers usually spend and how often?

Competition:

  1. Who are your primary competitors?
  2. What does the competition offer that you can’t or won’t?
  3. Why do your customers come to you instead?
  4. What do you offer that your competitors can’t or won’t?
  5. What is your single greatest competitive advantage?
  6. What is your single greatest competitive disadvantage?

Objectives:

  1. How has your business performed in the last 12 months?
  2. Is your business experiencing the kind of growth that you want/need? If not, why?
  3. Can you describe your single biggest sales and marketing challenge?
  4. How are you actively addressing this challenge?
  5. How would you like to see your business change in the next 12 months?

Advertising:

  1. What media do you currently use? What media do you use most often and why?
    For each medium being used:
  2. What do you like best about this medium?
  3. What do you like least about this medium?
  4. What would you change about this medium?
  5. What is your typical monthly investment in this medium?
  6. What is your typical response from this medium?
  7. How do you track response -or- what does successful advertising look to you?

Conclusion:

  1. Is there anything else we should discuss before I prepare a recommendations for your company based on today’s meeting?
  2. Are there any areas of special interest that I should be focus on when preparing a recommendation?
  3. Are there any other individuals involved in making advertising decisions?
    Do you work with an advertising agency?
  4. I will have a recommendation ready for your review and consideration on (date.)
    Can we meet at (time) to discuss my ideas?

The Sales Cycle will be on hiatus next week due to the July 4th holiday.  Wishing you and yours a safe and joyous red, white and blue celebration.

Cheers,
Dan

6/26 – Advertising Quick Clicks
7 Awful First Sentences That Are Killing Your Sales Outreach Emails 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
The One Sales Question You Shouldn’t Ask (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
4 Clever Ways to Improve Your Sales Calls (Courtesy of Influencive)
Our Need To Sell Is Irrelevant To The Customer (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
3-2-1 Technique That Will Make Your Sales Explode (Courtesy of Inc.)


Video Courtesy of Paul Cape


6/19 – Conducting A Needs Analysis (Part 1)
It’s Not Just What You Ask, But How You Ask It

I believe that fundamentally, sales success is based on synergistically matching needs, wants, and desires between the prospect and the products and services offered by the salesperson. As I mentioned last week, it’s important for salespeople to always remember that each step of The Sales Cycle has nothing to do with them – it’s all about the person sitting across the table. The only thing that matters is what their needs, wants and desires are at that given moment in time. Without this information, it’s impossible for a salesperson to make a solid recommendation and close the deal.

Next week I’ll discuss what questions to ask during a thorough needs analysis. However, it’s critical to understand the process of how to effectively ask the questions. A proper needs analysis consists of four steps – each one part of a systematic series of repeatable events that must take place to ensure you are gathering the essential information needed to proceed to the recommendation phase.

Step 1: Open –  Explain what is about to take place
Step 2: Probe – Build a complete, mutual understanding of the customer’s needs
Step 3: Support – Help a customer understand how you can meet their need
Step 4: Close – Mutually agree on appropriate next steps

Open:

    • Thank the customer for their time and tell them you are excited to learn more about their business.
    • Propose an agenda – You’d like to spend 20 minutes asking detailed questions so you have a better understanding of what they do and what they are trying to accomplish. Always ask the customer if it’s ok to take written notes during this process.
    • State the value to the customer – Understand the customer’s business will allow you the opportunity to identify the possibilities for matching their needs with the features and benefits of the products you offer
  • Check for acceptance – Always ask the customer if they agree with the agenda and have any questions or concerns before moving forward.

Probe:

    • Ask effective questions – We will cover examples of questions next week, but topics to cover include: history, objectives, target demographics, competition, past/current marketing plans (what has worked and more importantly what has NOT worked), budget, decision making process, timelines.
    • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! – Specifically, pay special attention to individual circumstances and the “need behind the need.’
  • Check for acceptance – Always ask the customer if they can think of any other information they would like to share to ensure that you truly understand their business.

Support:

    • Note: You must tread lightly with this step of the needs analysis process, as it is not always appropriate to lead the customer down this path. However, if you identify the opportunity it can be an effective way to accelerate the sales cycle.
  • If a customer has expressed a need and you clearly understand that need and are confident you can offer a product to address this need, then do the following:
    1. Acknowledge the specific need
  1. Describe relevant product features and benefits (Don’t forget the BENEFIT – what’s in it for the customer?)
  • Check for acceptance – Always ask the customer if they agree that the product feature you just explained might appropriately address a specific need they have communicated

Close:

    • Quickly summarize the information you have gathered during the needs analysis process. Always assure the customer that all details shared are strictly confidential and will not be shared with anyone.
    • Propose next steps – Usually this includes setting the next meeting date where you will make a recommendation based upon the information you’ve gathered
  • Check for acceptance – Always ask the customer if there is anything else they like to discuss. If they have any concerns, now is the time to address them. A proper close will help build rapport with the customer and will assure them that they can trust you – the first step in building a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Next week in Part 2 of Conducting A Needs Analysis, I’ll provide examples of questions that provide the foundation of a successful consultative selling relationship. Proving to a prospect that you undeniably understand their business, their category, and their competition will help differentiate you from your competing media sales counterparts and ensure that you are receiving your unfair share of advertising dollars in the market. Any salesperson can make a recommendation, but true winners show time and time again that their recommendations deliver the largest return on investment because they took the time to understand their client’s needs, wants and desires.

Cheers,
Dan

6/19 – Advertising Quick Clicks
43 Questions to Create a Sense of Sales Urgency (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
It’s Always Time to Spruce Up Your Sales Pitch (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The 5 Best Phrases To Use When Offering Your Sales Prospect A Discount (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Don’t Miss the Gold in Your Old Sales Leads (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
How To Improve Your Face to Face Sales Meetings (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing)


Video Courtesy of Falls Consulting


6/12 – Treat Your Initial Sales Contact Like A Golden Opportunity

You’ve now made a list of prospective customers, qualified each of them, and are preparing to embark on the most intimidating step in the sales cycle: making initial contact. Whether via phone call or in person, it’s kind of like a first date. You’re going to be judged. If you drop in for a personal visit, someone will be watching you…even when you think they aren’t. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. At the same time, there is a tremendous opportunity to front of you. What if this prospect could be your next annual contract client?

There are three absolutely critical things to keep in mind that are crucial to the success of each and every initial sales contact.

    1. Have a Pre-Call OBJECTIVE – Ask yourself “What am I trying to accomplish?” Every step of the sales cycle is designed to systematically move towards the point when your prospect says “Yes!” and becomes a customer. Always continue moving towards conquering that objective.
    1. Think PROFESSIONAL! –  What can you do for your prospect, NOT what you can do for yourself. It’s all about them, not you. Also remember that as a representative of your newspaper, everything you say and everything you do will be directly associated with your employer.
    1. Don’t Fear REJECTION – One of my favorite sayings is “Selling does not start until the customer says no.” Expect rejection…but do not be afraid of it. Prepare for it. Embrace it. Learn from it. And then you’ll know exactly what you need to do in the future to overcome it. Remember, persistence overcomes resistance!
  1. Do Not Make a PITCH – The initial sales contact is not intended to close a sale. It’s simply the first step towards creating a sale. Whether done on the phone or in person, initial contact time should be very short. Your primary focus, as defined by your pre-call objective, is to secure an appointment for a future time where you can conduct a thorough needs analysis.

Always remember that when we make a phone call or walk through the door of a prospect’s business, usually we’re not expected and, for the most part, have interrupted their day. Your prospect may tell you that they do not have time to talk at the moment. Stay calm and ask if they can recommend a future time where they would not mind spending a few minutes with you.

The most important part in preparing for initial sales contact is to develop an “opener.” An opener is a statement that follows your greeting. Developing an effective opener takes careful thought. Preferably, it is a short and direct one sentence statement about your company that will grab attention and spark interest.

You only have a few seconds to get their attention. Make the most of it. Clearly define how meeting with you, and eventually doing business with you, will benefit the prospect and their business. Remember, it’s all about them..not about you.

One of the most beneficial things a salesperson can do before making initial contact with prospects is to create a script and rehearse. Be yourself, be personable, but stick to the script to ensure that you stay on track towards accomplishing your pre-call objective. At the same time, prepare two lists of questions to ask your prospect should you get the opportunity to speak with a decision maker. Always remember to keep moving towards your pre-call objective.

List #1: Questions for those prospects that express an interest in your product or service.
List #2: Questions to keep the conversation moving for prospects that do not have a genuine interest at this time.

Personally, here is how I break down the initial sales contact process in seven steps. These steps are applicable whether your initial contact is done via phone or in person:

    1. Give a greeting that includes your name and who you are with.
    1. Ask for the name of the decision maker (unless you already have this information) and if he/she has a moment to speak with you.
    1. Once you have an audience with the decision maker, confidently deliver your “opener” statement.
    1. Wait for their response and listen carefully for any signals that will tell you whether to use List #1 or List #2 as define above.
    1. If their response is favorable, proceed with one or two qualifying questions and listen. If their response shows no interest, ask a few additional probing questions and permission to follow up in the future (usually 6 months.) Then proceed to step number seven.
    1. If all is going well, be direct and ask for a meeting. Schedule the time BEFORE you leave or hang up the phone.
    1. Thank them for their time and confirm that you’ll see them at the predetermined time/date –or- will follow up in the future with their permission.
  1. Whether you achieve your pre-call objective or not, always be courteous and thank them for their time. If the initial contact was in person, leave them something of value as you say goodbye – a brochure, media kit, or anything they can look over after you’re gone. Always remember to leave your business card!

That is it. Keep notes on each prospect you make initial contact with and what the outcome was – especially if you secured an appointment for a follow up meeting. Record the day and time before you forget! Although the initial contact process can be intimidating, it can be a lot of fun, build confidence, and best yet be PROFITABLE if you are prepared, professional, and not afraid of possible rejection.

Next week I’ll focus on best practices for executing a successful needs analysis. Success is dependent on asking the right questions, and more importantly, LISTENING to the answers. Sales is not an overly complex process – in fact, your customers typically tell you exactly what you need to do to make the sale. The key is gathering the proper information and formulating a recommendation based upon the needs of your customer (again, it’s really all about them!) that will help them meet and exceed their business objectives.

Cheers,
Dan

6/12 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Can You Close a Sale in Five Questions? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
How To Create A Sense Of Urgency In The Sale (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
The 5 Deadly Mistakes of Sales Prospecting Emails (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Sales Skills: The Best and The Worst (Courtesy of RAIN Group)
13 Tips On Handling Sales Customer Objections Efficiently (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer


6/5 – Before You Make Contact, Qualify and Research Your Prospect!

A real life scenario: Years ago, I accompanied a junior salesperson (let’s call him “Alan”) on a first visit. Alan assures me he is well prepared to demonstrate how our newspaper product can help this prospect (let’s call her “Cathy”) exceed her marketing objectives. We walk through the front door of this retail establishment and make introductions (I also explain I’m only there to observe.) Alan launches into a brief needs analysis so Cathy feels confident that he understands her business. Anxiously, Alan then explains the features of our product and accurately aligns resulting benefits to Cathy’s business.

Positioning for an ‘assumed close,’ Alan tells Cathy that he can launch an ROP campaign to drive traffic through her doors that upcoming weekend – going so far as to hand her a recommended insertion schedule he’d prepared in advance. It’s at that point that Cathy looks at me and I can see in her eyes that she is quickly deflating. She calmly explains to Alan that her business – as clearly communicated on her website and in all of her advertising – is not open on Saturday and Sundays. I can hear Alan “gulp” from across the table.

Fortunately, Cathy is a kind and gentle person who went on to be a longtime loyal client. She understood that Alan was just getting started in media sales and was appreciative that he took such interest in her business. We walked out that day with a sale despite the fact Alan broke the cardinal rule of sales; he did not properly qualify and research his prospect!

(Note: I had to laugh as we exited Cathy’s store and I pointed out to Alan that her business hours were posted on the very door we had originally walked through.)

Just to be certain everyone understands the difference between qualifying and researching, I’ll explain:

    • Qualifying is the process of identifying if a prospect needs your products or services, if they have the financial means to purchase what you’re selling, and if they have the authority or ability to make the decision to buy.
  • If, after determining whether or not a prospect is qualified, you then move on to the researching phase – which is the process of collecting as much information about the prospect, their product, their target audience and their competition as you possibly can.

We live in a technical age where we have a plethora of information at our fingertips. Well…Hello Google! There is no excuse for not knowing a little bit of everything about a prospect before you even engage them in conversation. In some cases, effectively qualifying a prospect on your list will reveal that they are not a good fit for the newspaper product you are offering – allowing you to move on to the next prospect. In most cases, the information you collect doing a few minutes of research will keep you from making silly mistakes like our friend “Alan” that can potentially blow a sales opportunity.

The time, energy, and even financial resources you devote to selling to an unqualified prospect could be causing you to miss a more valuable sales opportunity. Some of my favorite ‘people research tool’s are just a few clicks away – I implore you to take a few moments with any or all of these resources to help make qualifying your prospects a more efficient and effective process:

  • And of course, do not forget that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can also be valuable research tools!

Next week I’ll talk about some best practices for making initial contact with a qualified prospect. Reaching out for the first time, either through a phone call or email, can be an intimidating and frustrating process. At the same time, this is your one shot to provoke interest and action within an organization on your prospect list by delivering a unique and customized value statement that will get you through to key decision makers. You’ll likely have only a few seconds to prove your ability to become a “trusted business advisor” – not just another media salesperson looking to make a quick sale – and convince the person on the other end feel as if it’s in their best interest to meet with you. It’s your moment, the spotlight is shining, so make it count!

Cheers,
Dan

6/5 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Why “Does That Make Sense?” Is the Worst Question You Can Ask in Sales 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
The “Art” of Selling – The Permanent TO DO (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Don’t Waste Time Chasing the Wrong Sales Deals (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
It Matters How You Lose When It Comes to Sales (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
10 Things To Ask Your Client At The First Sales Meeting (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Victor Antonio


5/22 – Prospecting Like A Pro

Step Numero Uno of the sales cycle requires a fundamental shift in the way in which we think. Many look at prospecting as an activity, but personally I view it as a mindset. To be successful, a salesperson needs to ALWAYS be turned “on.” Every conversation, every introduction, every social gathering should be viewed as a potential opportunity to mine for new business. Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that a salesperson should constantly be “selling” outside of the office; the key is to always be “listening” so that you have your finger on the pulse on what’s happening in your community.

The most effective form of prospecting is one that many salespeople overlook – business generated from referrals. Ask your clients if they would be kind enough to share their newspaper advertising success with their friends who could also prosper from your help. One tactic I’ve found extremely successful is what I call “The Power of Five.” After I’ve developed a solid rapport with a prospect/client, I give them five of my business cards and ask them for five in return. Then I explain my rationale: I like to support businesses that support me, so I look for opportunities to refer clients to my friends and ask my clients to do the same for me. It’s amazing how effective this technique can be.

Other prospecting sources I use frequently are local business journals, chamber of commerce meetings, networking events, real estate transaction notices, and of course the internet. It’s amazing how something as simple as “shared connections” on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can open the door to personal introductions and preliminary meetings with possible clients.

When I first began racing bikes, my coach at the time told me that the key to success is simple. If you want to be a better bike racer, you need to race your bike…a lot. Effective sales prospecting is no different – you will produce positive results if you create a system and do it routinely. Professional salespeople prospect daily. Proactively block-off specific time on your calendar for prospecting activities such as phone calling and emailing. Treat your prospecting time with the same respect as you would any other important appointment to ensure this vital step does not slip through the cracks. Stay focused and take your prospecting seriously. I assure you that mastering this step of the sales cycle will lead you to more sales victories.

Next week, I’ll focus on reviewing the list of new prospects you’ve generated and why it’s absolutely critical to do some research before reaching out and making initial contact. You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression and help your prospect understand that you want nothing more than to learn more about their business at this point. You are not trying to sell them anything, you are only asking for a few minutes of their time.

Cheers,
Dan

5/22 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Sales Customer Isn’t Always Right – Here’s When  
(Courtesy of Inc.)
Why Sales Is the Best First Job (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Do You Have the Same Prospecting Challenges As Other Sellers? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The Real Threat to Your Sales Goals and Ambitions (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
7 Biggest Mistakes Salespeople Make (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Jeb Blount


5/15 – Seven Steps to Strategic Sales a/k/a “The Sales Cycle”

With a wide variety of media options available and marketing budgets that continue to shift in response to changes in the marketplace, it’s more crucial than ever for you to be continually prospecting for NEW business that can supplement your sales figures and replace advertising dollars that are unexpectedly lost.

The process of mining for fresh revenue sources and untapped business opportunities is described in many different ways, but personally I have always referred to this as my “Sales Cycle” – 7 steps that keep me on track and increase the likelihood that I’ll be closing the sale. The most important thing to remember is that each step is absolutely critical to the overall success of the process. There are no shortcuts. Embrace each step, knowing that your client will feel confident in your ability to understand their business and make solid advertising recommendations.

    1. Prospect
    1. Initiate contact
    1. Conduct a thorough needs analysis
    1. Make a recommendation
    1. Overcome objections
    1. Close the sale
  1. Follow up (and ask for additional business based on previous results)

While managing “transactional” business – existing accounts currently running – you should also allocate time each week to analyze your market and determine if there are untapped opportunities out there to be explored. Effective prospecting is a critical component of sustainable sales success. But, remember that prospecting is NOT selling. Prospecting simply identifies and qualifies opportunities to initiate contact.

Top salespeople understand that effective prospecting is a result of a plan; a strategy that includes an objective assessment of your situation, a defined and measurable goal, and tactics to help you achieve that goal. Next week I’ll expound upon the process of prospecting including tips, tricks and resources I’ve used in the past to achieve success and add new business to my sales pipeline.

Cheers,
Dan

5/15 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Danger! Are You Out of Sync with Your Prospects? 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Do You Commit These Common Sales Closing Mistakes? (Courtesy of Sale Fuel)
What Can You do if You’ve Lost Your Sales Mojo (Courtesy of Inc.)
It Matters How You Lose The Sale (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
How To Keep Your Prospect Engaged In Your Meetings (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of InfoTeam Consulting


5/8 – VERSION 2.0

Each year, the MNA Member Survey reveals a strong appetite for additional sales training. In recent conversations with publishers and sales directors, one of the consistent messages I heard is a desire for using the weekly MNA Bulletin as a “sales-generation” tool; a communication vehicle to deliver sales strategies, negotiation secrets and prospecting tips that will help stimulate the discovery and augmentation of untapped advertising revenue streams.

Additionally, Minnesota News Media Institute (MNI) sessions we hold numerous times throughout the year make it clear that there’s a healthy desire for additional tips from sales experts to help salespeople at MNA member newspapers to hone their sales and negotiation techniques – leading to increased advertising sales for their newspapers and a larger paycheck for themselves! You’ll find a plethora of ‘Advertising Quick Clicks’ below for your review.

So, without further adieu, I (re)introduce The Sales Cycle. Those of you who know me understand my passion for advertising, sales…and cycling. Besides managing major retail accounts in the newspaper, digital outdoor and magazine industries, I’ve also been racing bikes (road, mountain, cyclocross and fat bikes) under license by USA Cycling for the past 20 years. During this time, I’ve discovered an amazing synergy between my sales career and time spent “in the saddle” racing bikes – one which I look forward to sharing with you in future articles.

Next week, I’ll be introducing my 7-step sales process – otherwise known as my “sales cycle.” Clearly understanding each step and how they directly affect the overall success of your sales efforts will undoubtedly help transform your relationship with prospective accounts and existing clients from “transactional” to “consultative” – leading to new sales, incremental revenue, and delivering you to finish line in front of your competition (in this case, media competitors in the marketplace fighting for their share of your client’s precious advertising dollars.)

Cheers,
Dan

5/8 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The 4 Hottest Ways to Open Successful Cold Calls 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
The Only 4 Reasons Your Sales Prospect Will Buy (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Podcast: 5 Steps to Close More On the First Sales Call (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)
Simple Mistakes to Strike From Sales Emails (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Sales Reps Must Evolve To Thrive (Courtesy of Partners In Excellence)


Video Courtesy of Brian Tracy


5/1 – Advertising Quick Clicks
81 One-Sentence Sales Tips Every Rep Should Know 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Are You Making One of These 5 Closing Mistakes? (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The Best Question To Ask When A Prospect Rejects Your Price (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Approach Each Sales Call Like A Game of Chess (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing)
Want To Build Lasting Relationships With Sales Customers? (Courtesy of Inc.)


Video Courtesy of Clark Kegley


4/24 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The New Sales Pitch Process: Shorter, Faster, Better 
(Courtesy of Ad Age)
9 Things You Should Never Say to a Prospect Over Email (Courtesy of HubSpot)
What to Do Immediately After a Sales Failure (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Simple Guidelines for Better Cold Calls (Courtesy of Forbes)
5 Reasons Why Your Prices SHOULD Be Higher Than Your Competitors (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Jill Konrath


4/17 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How Many Touches Does It Take to Make a Sale? (Courtesy of RAIN Group)
3 Ways Of Asking For The Sale, That ASK For The Sale (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Dig a Buried Email Out of Your Prospect’s Inbox in 15 Seconds (Courtesy of HubSpot)
3 Ways to Control Sales Client Service Expectations (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
The Hard Sell No Longer Sells (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Ask Gary Vee


4/10 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Don’t Let An Unresponsive Audience Trip You Up During Presentations (Courtesy of Fast Company)
15 Science-Backed Tips for Making Better Sales Calls (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Mirroring Techniques in the Digital Age (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
7 Things Successful Sales People Never Say (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Harvard Professor Says 95% of Sales Decisions Are Subconscious (Courtesy of Inc.)


Video Courtesy of The Brooks Group


4/3 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Most Persuasive Sales Emails Always Do These 5 Things 
(Courtesy of Inc.)
The Best Sales Cold Call Script Ever (Courtesy of HubSpot)
The 21 New Sales Core Competencies for Modern Selling (Courtesy of OMG Hub)
Voicemail Sales Messages That Will Get a Call Back (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
5 Essential Tips for Building Better Customer Relationships (Courtesy of Brooks Group)


Video Courtesy of Mark Hunter


3/27 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Negotiate When Your Time’s Up 
(Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Sales Meeting Agenda: The Master Tip for Closing More Deals (Courtesy of HubSpot)
The Reason You Think No One Is Buying (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
How To Build Up The Gains For Your Customers (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Get Relevant or Get Lost! 4 Ways to Increase Your Relevance to Drive Ad Sales (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)


Video Courtesy of Jim Pancero


3/20 – Advertising Quick Clicks
The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Sales Process 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
How to Handle Difficult Sales-Call Scenarios (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Sales Is a Competition. You Are a Competitor. (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
How To Build Value In A Sales Presentation (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
Turning “I Have No Budget” Into A Closed Deal! (Courtesy of 360 Ad Sales)


Video Courtesy of Grant Cardone


3/13 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Sell to 4 Different Personality Types 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Ask Your Sales Prospects These Important Questions (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
How to Get a Sales Meeting with Your Conflicted Dream Client (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)
Improve Your Email Sales Pitch Response Rate (Courtesy of Entrepreneur Online)
Sales Reps Must Clearly Define Product Value (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Jennifer Gluckow


3/6 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Sales Leaders Know To Ask Questions Before Offering Solutions 
(Courtesy of Forbes)
The Top 29 Sales Blogs Every Sales Professional Should Read (Courtesy of HubSpot)
The Hidden Mystery Behind Building Trust with Potential Customers (Courtesy of Small Biz Trends)
3 Ways to Inspire Customer Loyalty (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
How to Make Your Opportunity Your Client’s Priority (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Trish Bertuzzi


2/27 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Handle Difficult Sales Calls Like a Pro 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
A Simple Sales-Boosting Hack for 2018: Show Up To Meetings On Time (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Want Potential Sales Customers to Remember You? 6 Unusual Tactics (Courtesy of Inc.)
Who Are We Designing Our Sales Strategies To Serve? (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Why Fear Is Holding Back Your Sales Performance (Courtesy of Sales and Marketing Management)


Video Courtesy of Vanessa Van Edwards


2/20 – Advertising Quick Clicks
7 Keys to Successful Selling for the First-Time Sales Rep 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Selling Without Selling is NOT Possible (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Sales Reps Must Challenge Potential Buyers (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
“I Can’t Get My Sales Prospects To Return My Calls!” (Courtesy of MTD Sale Training)
How to Make Your Dream Sales Client Want to Meet with You (Courtesy of The Sales Blog)


Video Courtesy of Victor Antonio


2/13 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Know When to Pivot Your Sales Strategy 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
Is Your Personality Leading You Away from Consultative Sales Negotiating? (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
These Seven To-Do List Mistakes Could Be Derailing Your Productivity (Courtesy of Fast Company)
Be Your Best Self, No Matter The Audience (Courtesy of Great Leadership)
Six Tips For Handling Sales Clients That Want Out Of Their Contracts (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Karie Kaufmann


2/6 – Advertising Quick Clicks
4 Sales Questions to Never Ask Over Email 
(Courtesy of HubSpot)
How to Write A Sales Call to Action That Gets Results (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
5 Questions Every Salesperson Should Be Asking Their Prospective Customers (Courtesy of Inc.)
The Myth Of The “Single Sales Decision Maker” (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
How To Remove Objections And Speed Up The Sales Process (Courtesy of Forbes)


Video Courtesy of Marc Wayshak


1/30 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Prep for Success: 4 Tips to Better Your Next Sales Pitch 
(Courtesy of SalesFuel)
Why Bringing Your A-team to Advertising Clients is Key (Courtesy of INMA)
18 Sales Podcasts Every Rep Should Check Out (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Seven Ways To Show Sales Customers You Care (Courtesy of Forbes)
8 Tips For Preparing For A Sales Call (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of HubSpot


1/23 – Advertising Quick Clicks
Good Tips on How to Rebound from a Bad Sales Year 
(Courtesy of SalesFuel)
How To Handle A Buyer Who Objects to Price (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
Identifying the 4 Buying Behavior Styles to Sell More Effectively (Courtesy of The Brooks Group)
The Ultimate List of Words That Sell (Courtesy of HubSpot)
Digital Ad Spend To Surpass Traditional In 2018, Per Analyst (Courtesy of Media Daily News)


Video Courtesy of Tiffany Peterson


1/16 – Advertising Quick Clicks
5 Ways to Re-Engage with Sales Prospects After the Holidays (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Sales Reps Benefit From Face-to-Face Time With Buyers (Courtesy of Partners in Excellence)
Big Political Ad Spend Set for Local in 2018, but Will News Sites Be Ready? (Courtesy of Street Fight)
The Best Words To Use When Faced With Sales Objections (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)
How to Re-Engage With Sales Prospects In 2018 (Courtesy of SalesFuel)


Video Courtesy of Evan Carmichael


1/9 – Advertising Quick Clicks
How to Win More Sales in 2018 (Courtesy of SalesFuel)
15 Sales Email Templates Perfect for the New Year (Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Sales, Art, Science, Craft? (Courtesy of Partners In Excellence)
Certainty—The Ultimate Sales Closing Tool (Courtesy of Business 2 Community)
Revive Stalled Sales Deals With These Tactics (Courtesy of SalesFuel)


Video Courtesy of Jill Rowley


1/2 – Advertising Quick Clicks
5 Alternatives to “It’s End of Month. Want to Buy?” 
(Courtesy of Hub Spot)
Secret Sales Hack—Fewer Conversations! (Courtesy of Partners In Excellence)
Sell It With A Smile (Courtesy of Sales Fuel)
Quick Tips You Can Use to Improve Your Sales Technique (Courtesy of Entrepreneur)
The Top 10 Sales Blog Posts Of 2017 – As Voted For By You! (Courtesy of MTD Sales Training)


Video Courtesy of Jeffrey Gitomer