The Sales Cycle


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
  2. No confidence
  3. No interest
  4. No hurry
  5. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  2. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Once you have an audience with the decision maker, confidently deliver your “opener” statement.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. If all is going well, be direct and ask for a meeting. Schedule the time BEFORE you leave or hang up the phone.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

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
  2. Initiate contact
  3. Conduct a thorough needs analysis
  4. Make a recommendation
  5. Overcome objections
  6. Close the sale
  7. 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