Resources

Serving a Higher Good

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #9” 

Sales are a by-product, not simply a thing in and of themselves. As I’ve stated in previous writings, clients’ emotions, perceptions and past experiences loom large in their decision making process. Because of the uncountable number of greedy and money-only oriented sales people (I won’t compliment them with the word professional) in the history of sales and consumer experiences, there is a natural, built-in barrier of distrust residing in the psyche of the normal everyday buyer. This fact needs to not only be acknowledged, but also addressed.

So many advertisers in the world of products and services with universal appeal (stuff everyone needs) base their promotions and and most of their pitch on savings and deals that they can offer to entice a prospect to make the decision to buy. A GREAT way of selling benefits as opposed to price is to find the higher good in what you sell and make it the heart and soul of your prospecting and conversations. Price never goes away, but what a difference maker it is when you get the buyer to understand that you serve a higher good and not merely your wallet… that statement works for a company or an individual representative. 

As opposed to using anyone or anything else as an example of serving a higher good, I’ll break protocol and use an example of an experience I had recently as an illustration of what we really aspire to at Prospects International. The day I began writing this was the day after the final day of a successful sales event we helped orchestrate and I received a very fulfilling call from a young sales associate who I’ve been speaking to regularly. I will refer to him anonymously so as to keep our communications personal. We’ll give him the pseudonym Carl. Carl is a father of a toddler and is always willing to talk about his little girl. We’ve grown close enough that he uses terms of endearment when referring to her such as “his little princess.” Carl wants to be a good provider. That’s the greatest hits version of who he is.   

Here is my higher good example: Carl is, as I alluded to, a younger person, (most everyone is younger than me these days) who is really interested in being a top notch sales professional. He has a phenomenal mentor on the spot because the person he works for is exceptionally well versed in sales fundamentals and is a fantastic sales pro. Carl isn’t satisfied to just pick his bosses brain, he has bought into the fact that there are techniques and tricks to the trade that he can use to improve his skills and performance and he isn’t shy about wanting to be exposed to them. 

Carl and I have had several conversations where he has encountered specific situations, and since he knows I am always willing to talk sales “shop talk” he gets my take on how certain prospects should be approached and nurtured. He takes notes. He studies. He writes his own scripts and automations, he runs them by his boss (our paying client) and I, and experiments with different ones to see which ones the market responds to best. He buys into the fact that sales is an honorable profession and he has exhibited the willingness to practice and perfect his skills. Carl has been a professional sales person for months, not years, and after looking at his performance at a recent weekend sales event where he sold 100% of the prospects he booked from our EventFlow campaign, Carl took home his first, of many I predict, $10,000.00 plus commission monthly check. I couldn’t be more proud of this young fellow, his willingness to learn and practice his new craft and his positive attitude, Hec, Norman Vincent Peal* would be too.     

On the surface, the purpose of Prospects International is to provide lead generation to it’s clients. We serve up leads to over 200 sales associates daily at this writing. The higher good we serve is to be a sales support system for professional men and women who want to be top performers, have profitable and rewarding careers and contribute to the well being of their families. We don’t simply sign up clients, we get in the trenches with them. Yes we serve up leads but we also serve people. We serve them by assisting them to achieve greater production, therefore a better lifestyle. That is what we really do that we are most proud of and do you know what? When you focus on the higher good, the money just seems to take care of itself. It actually shows up best when it’s not the primary goal. It takes a greater leap of faith for some than others to commit to this way of thinking but it is a recipe for success to be taken seriously.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King    

*his book entitled “The Power of Positive Thinking” has more than 5 million copies in circulation and is a legendary self-help book written in 1952.    

Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry For Yourself

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #13”

Few books of considerable substance, worth investing the time in, have been written in the last two decades but I’ve found one whose principals are solid and worthy of integrating into this series.The book is named “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. It was written by Amy Morin (copy written in 2014) who is the only psychologist I could find specializing in mental strength. I will take one of the thirteen chapters in this book and tie it back, the take-a-aways from each one, to the sales profession. If mental strength isn’t a prerequisite to being a top producer in the sales field I don’t know what is! Attitude is everything and mental toughness is solid ground for a sales pro to stand on. It is my hope that you will find some helpful applications from her writings, I know I did!  

Let’s tackle this one about not feeling sorry for yourself. At first glance of the title you may think that you don’t have an issue with this but the reality of our profession is that NO sales professional can escape rejection. After a hard fought opportunity to present or recommend something you feel is perfect for a prospect, after which they decide to go another direction, it is natural to feel disappointment. The trick is to NOT allow it to morph into self-pity. The larger the size of the deal, the larger the potential for a large feeling of disappointment. The first thing you need to remember is that even if you have a 50% closing ratio at least half of all your opportunities will result in a “no.” Reconcile yourself to the fact that this is an occurrence that just comes with the territory. It is not necessarily that you did anything wrong. Any number of elements may not have lined up at the time of the “ask.” I’m not saying that you shouldn’t revisit your personal activities for the sake of self-examination and improvement because you should!… but sometimes, to coin a newer cliche,“ It is what it is.”  

I’m also not saying that you don’t need a coffee break, a walk around the block or an ear to listen to your feelings to do a psychological reset after a setback BUT becoming too invested in feeling sorry for yourself is counterproductive. Here are some good reasons why:  

If you make a conscious decision to swim around in self-pity it can self perpetuate.

It is a major waste of time. 

It can become all-encompassing and keep you from  dealing with other emotions, essentially keeping you off balance and stealing any momentum or traction you might be able to create.

It can interfere with opportunities while your head is in the sand during your extended recovery mode.

It can become a dangerous frame of mind and self-fulfilling prophecy.

Giving into self-pity is a dangerous lake to swim in. It is a characteristic that prospects pick up on and can paralyze your performance and as importantly their confidence in you to be able help them.

Mental strength is a powerful attribute that can save you time and as the old saying goes “time is money!” The mental “roll you need to get on” while prospecting is what in the music industry they call “getting in a groove.” Being mentally tough allows you to roll with the punches and get to the successes faster and more often. It also, just like self pity in a negative way, can be self-perpetuating and as time goes on makes you more efficient. One old school sales training saying is,” it takes so many “nos” to get to a “yes.” So the next time you feel yourself investing too heavily in a rejection remember the Helen Keller quote below, dust yourself off and get back in the game. The sooner you can find a way to do that, the sooner you file the lesson(s) learned and use it as motivational fuel to be the best possible sales version of yourself moving forward.

Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world – Helen Keller      

 

   

What Should Your Digital Leads Cost?

It is with great pride that we address this question. Let’s start with a baseline. Here are are the national averages for the cost of leads, (CPL): 

Average Cost per Lead by Industry.

Industry Cost per Lead on Average*
Consumer Products $ 105
Media & Publishing $ 108
Non-Profits $ 31
Business Services $ 132

The sales advantages of employing Prospects International as your digital lead generation source are many, but the bottommost of all bottom line reasons is immutable and unarguable. We have achieved and maintain the lowest possible CPL in the industry at $27.45 per. In 2015, we averaged in the mid-$30 range. Over time, the AI (artificial intelligence) has allowed us to drive the cost down and the quality up. We currently serve up leads to over 200 sales associates on a daily basis who serve over sixty markets. As a result of this level of activity, the ever growing AI will allow us to continue to increase the lead quality and drive down the CPL better and faster than any “do-it-yourselfer”, manufacturer or outside-of-the-industry resource would be able to.   

When you consider growing your lead generation commitment and revenue please consider us. If you reside in a market where we don’t already have an exclusive client, we can be a huge competitive edge.

For complementary research about the online interest in what you sell, in your market area, please complete this form:

*Average CPL sources include: hootsuite, hochman consultants, bizible, red bamboo marketing, wordstream

Brand Yourself

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #8”    

How important is a brand? How important is the public’s perception of a company or a product? What emotions do they emit and how important are those feelings to the buying process?

Interbrand ranks the top ten brands, globally, like this: Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Samsung (we’re all techy up to this point), then Coca-Cola,Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, McDonalds and Disney. 

ReadyArtWorks cites these as the top ten, most powerfully recognizable logos: Starbucks, McDonalds, Apple, FedEx, Mercedes, (some of these are repeats, you’ll notice) Pepsi, Nike, Coca-Cola, Chanel and Mickey Mouse. 

Depending on how much interaction with these companies you’ve had, good or bad, and how much a part of your life they are, each one is psychologically assigned a ranking in your own mind. They all, on a personal, consumer level, evoke an emotion even if it is apathy. BUT to be on this list, it stands to reason that they evoke less apathy than most others. Their products, servicing and advertisement have brought them to the pinnacle of consumer awareness. “What does that have to do with me?”, you ask. Allow me… 

These are big fish on a global scale; most of us aspire to be a big fish in a smaller pond therefore, the market area definition dramatically changes. The reason for the above references are simply to solidify the fact that branding is important and a standard achievement among the world’s most successful companies. The answer to the first questions posed, “How important is a brand?”, based upon the above, seems to be VERY. Mirroring what the most successful of the successful do seems like good practice.  

The second question, “How important is the public’s perception of a company or a product?”, in my estimation is the answer to the first one. Why? Because “people (80/20 rule invoked) buy on an emotion and back it up with logic.” The public’s perception is HUGE in how they feel about you. A positive attitude on a buyer’s part, going in, can be a salesperson’s best initial ally. 

And what about question number three, What emotions do they emit and how important are those feelings to the buying process?” Some brands make people feel better about themselves from a status-symbol standpoint. It is a main benefit of buying any particular brand or experience. One’s self-esteem can be bolstered by being an owner of, or being associated with a particular brand.

Up until this point, all we’ve done in this article is espouse the power in the sales process of positive branding, yet, here is where we expand our thinking and apply that principle in a new way. In what way? To us. To us on an individual level…to our personal reputation, to our reputation as the market’s most knowledgeable and successful __________ specialist. It could be hardware, appliances, remodeling, hearth and grill, insurance, pest control, instrument sales… actually any vocation at which you have chosen to excel. Branding yourself, in addition to a good company and/or product brand, is the path to being a superstar performer in your niche. 

Allow me to ask a few questions:                                                                                                                                                       

Do you have a great picture of yourself on your email sign-off?                                                         
Do you have your own slogan?                                                                                                             
Do you post informational items and info (not sales) on social media platforms to out-position your competition?             
Do you do blogs or podcasts?                                                                                                             
Do you have a charity or higher good that you serve that makes you feel like a philanthropic being and not just another run of the mill capitalist to the buying public?                                                 
Does the public have any personal knowledge of, or feel for, who you are vs. the others in your arena who sell the same thing?
Is there any reason you shouldn’t have your own website showing off your knowledge and interactions with happy clients that you can use as a credibility tool – an obvious reason for new customers to like you after checking it out?
A YouTube channel for videos where you offer advice would be very helpful to your social media and web presence. You could also interview some happy customers and use it as a “testimonials” tool.   

You get the jest. Your personal competitive advantage can be gained by out-promoting the others who do what you do. If you simply do what everyone else does, you will most likely experience similar results. BUT, if you do more, it stands to reason that YOU will do more! Inference recognized, I trust. Yes it takes work, yes it takes planning and interactions you haven’t typically been investing in, but the payoff? In a month, year, later in your career? Simply imagine the possible results.

In summary-companies of all sizes are historical proof that branding works. There is no reason it can’t also work on a personal level. I’ll leave you with a story and a quote. 

Here’s the quick story: A car salesman in Tucson sold me a car. It was a fair deal and the car has been a good one, but that is not the memorable thing about the experience. He has called me for the past three years on my birthday to ask me how my car has been running and thank me for doing business with him. The result? The next time I buy or refer anyone to a car salesman, he’ll get the nod. Think about it… he branded himself as a more caring individual than anyone I’ve ever purchased anything from, a job of self promotion well done.

All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You – Tom Peters 

Exactly Who is a Part of the Sales Team?

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #7” 

Here is the scene: a disgruntled customer is complaining about the way his new address didn’t get changed on his invoice. The proper person was emailed the complaint and the response may be much more important than the person responding to it from the accounting department realizes. It behooves ownership and upper management to coach every single employee and/or subcontractor in the “company’s way” of dealing with customers. If company people in service, delivery, accounting, at the check out, setting up installations, etc., etc., don’t all support the great customer experience as sold by the sales department, it starts to unravel the positive feeling the buyer had at the moment they decided to do business with you. Your reputation and retention are directly tied to how your team makes the client/customer feel, as is your possibility for organic “word of mouth” (or should I say social media referrals?) growth.

This will be a short but to the point writing. The secret to its success will be whether or not people who read it take action. The client experience that is taken for granted and not addressed, trained, and monitored will fall prey to the “shooting from the hip” delivery of whomever is dealing directly for your hard fought for client. My suggestion is that you do a gut check and self-examine your company’s communication proclivities. You may find that tightening up the ship will greatly aid your growth and retention.

Here is a mental visual I’ve used over the years that may drive the point home; Imagine your company as a bucket of water, half full. In other words, you are 50% of the way to your current sales and growth goal. Next, imagine that every bucket has a potential hole in the bottom. The water symbolizes the business you have acquired; the hole in the bottom of the bucket symbolizes attrition. If everyone realizes they are a part of the sales team in one form or fashion, you have effectively created a plug for the hole in the bottom of the bucket holding your customer base.  

Without the plug, which I define as a well thought out, total customer service approach, attrition will zap the life out of a sales staff, who will end up working their tails off to battle attrition instead of growing the company and their personal revenue (that would be a “lose-lose” scenario). The bottom line to this word picture is that if you want the new sales efforts to grow your company, you need to be double-damn sure everyone understands the ramifications of every interaction with a customer. They need to believe, and act, like they know that the goal is to support the sales staff’s hard earned new business by making sure it will BE new business and not REPLACEMENT business.

In my last short episode (“The Value of Exceptional Service”) I wrote this: EVERYBODY (in every position) is a part of the sales department, EVERYBODY is a part of the marketing department because EVERYBODY affects the brand of the company in the consumer’s mind. 

Sales and business consultant Harry Beckwith supports my position with these statements :                                   

Marketing is not a department, it IS your business. 

Be professional – but, more importantly be personable. 

If good value is the first thing you communicate, you won’t be effective. If good value is your best position, improve your service.

And finally…

Assume your service is bad. It can’t hurt and will force you to improve.                                                               

These are quotes from “Selling the Invisible”, a read I highly recommend.

In summary: If you program monitoring your communications, and always striving for the best possible “customer experience” into your business meetings, you will have integrated everyone into being a productive part of your sales team. Whether they ever considered it or not, they (all the other employees) are already a huge part of the face of the company. It makes no sense to ignore making every client interaction another small positive part of the sales machinery. The sum of these small positive interactions makes for a very solid whole company. With the accomplishment of a positive attitude being applied, the sales representatives can confidently go face to face with the consumer population, knowing that everyone else on down the line has their back. As an owner, sales manager or sales representative, wouldn’t that be the most relaxing way to lay your head down on your pillow at night?         

 

The Value of Exceptional Service

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #6” 

In Southernese,” It ain’t what you get, it’s what you keep that counts” is a very pragmatic statement when addressing the topic of retention. Maintenance agreements, repeat customers, referrals, trade-ins, trade-ups and upgrades are all very positive and desirable terms and experiences. 

How many times after you have purchased something, have the seeds of doubt been sown by poor service after the sale? That old,”what have I gotten myself into?” feeling is not a good one. You purchase a car with FREE oil changes for life and when you go to book one the only available opening is on the second Tuesday of a week two months away. The state of servicing in this day and age where most large companies ship their service support phone calls to the Philippines or some distant shore is less than impressive; it’s downright underwhelming! As a consumer, these realities are a constant source of aggravation – just as the messed up order at Starbucks or your local favorite fast food joint are, BUT as a business person? As a business person, exceptional service, friendly attitudes, and efficient responses and solutions can place your company in a select category that has people referring and speaking highly of you. The landscape of ineptness is a field of opportunity for those businesses who can get their staff trained to deliver exceptional service. 

The stark reality is that no matter the level salesmanship you or your sales staff possess, you are just as subject to losing your good graces with a customer as a server in a restaurant where the cook keeps getting it wrong and disappoints the diners, who provide the part of the revenue that they count on more than the paycheck they get. A great sales professional who falls prey to poor service on the backend will have very little reputation or referrals to cash in on. EVERYBODY (in every position) is a part of the sales department, EVERYBODY is a part of the marketing department because EVERYBODY affects the brand of the company in the consumer’s mind. 

Here are some examples that can sabotage an exceptional  servicing experience:

Apathy – acting like you barely care about the person you are talking to or your job. This is an all too often occurrence that doesn’t get policed well enough and provides the consumer population with an apathetic opinion of your company. Simply having an attitude (or lack thereof) doesn’t mean your people have a good one.

Sloppiness – comes in all manifestations from the landscaping, to the cleanliness of your public restrooms, to the organization of your inventory and knowledge or lack thereof of what you have and exactly where it is. Simply having a place of business doesn’t mean it is a place where people are comfortable being. 

Poor Response Times – Nothing says “you aren’t all that important” to a prospect than a healthy lag time between when they engage and when you answer them. Responding “when you get around to it” does not speak to the timing of the prospect, which in most cases is VERY critical to them.

Poor Attention to Detail – No matter what your company sells, getting your consumer’s needs taken care of accurately has everything to do with retention and repeat business. By not listening well enough or getting the details of the arrangement correct, you are asking for a poor relationship with the person whose patronage you are counting on to make a living from. Buyer’s remorse is a real thing that can be caused by the buyer feeling like they aren’t getting exactly what they paid for. 

The flip side of these areas of quicksand is the higher ground. That is the power that companies, who have all their employees and staff pulling in the same direction, have going for them and their success. Allow me to take these same categories and present them as areas of opportunity with which to out-perform your competition within a single run-on sentence. I’ll address them positively in order: If you are a company who knows exactly who you are and what you’re all about, and has a great attitude towards its customers, keeps itself clean and organized, plus responds in a timely manner with great attention to detail… well you are most likely building, or have built a successful business.

The value of exceptional service is the thing that defines your lasting value to the consumer population. It speaks positively to retention, growth, longevity and the very purpose of your company’s existence. Listen to how important these people think good service is:

Here is a powerful yet simple rule. Always give people more than they expect to get. – Nelson Boswell  

The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding customer service. – William H. Davidow    

People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou

So allow me to say “adios” by tying all of this back to the first statement of this article – if you’re more worried about retention than the next deal you get, it means that when you do indeed succeed at the next deal, you will be adding it to something of much greater value and substance.

What Are You Really Selling?

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #5” 

“People don’t buy a thing, they buy what a thing does for them.” I’ve been saying this for years and went online to see who I learned it from and couldn’t find it quoted by anyone of note. Since I couldn’t find where anyone of note was credited with the quote, I (not being of note) have claimed it… and am happy to own it. Why? Because more sales psychology needs to be pragmatic in nature.  Native American author Will Rodgers put it this way,”Common sense ain’t common.” 

I submit that what the sales profession needs more of are sales-managers and training protocols, who and which depart usable wisdom to the everyday sales pro. Many sales books have been written with some idealistic philosophies and unattainable protocols that the common everyday business owner cannot depart to, or make usable by, their common everyday sales representative.

For those who believe that knowledge alone is power, I think they’re missing a critical fact. Knowledge is how much you know, wisdom is how it is applied. There is no way to know how many sales pros have launched into a knowledge based diatribe, imposing a large dose of the product knowledge to a buyer who is bored to tears, whether they let it show or not. When a prospect/customer isn’t the analytical type (a small percentage legitimately are) then selling the benefits is way more effective and useful to the buyer than a seminar about working parts. Unfortunately, many organizations view product knowledge and sales training as one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Serving a prospect properly is not about making them a specialist, unless they ask you to. It is, more often than not, about making them comfortable with the decision they are about to make. How comfortable with their decision typically has much more to do with how it affects their life, their amount of trust in you, the brand, and the company who they expect to stand behind the product or service they want.   

Let’s pretend you are the one shopping for goods or services. Here are some statements to consider:

You don’t buy an airplane ticket, you buy the destination it provides. 

You do not buy a billiards table, you buy the relaxation and good times that will surround it. 

You do not buy an instrument, you buy what making music means to your life.

You do not buy a hammer, you buy what it can build or tear up for you.

You do not buy your first house, you buy the dreams it makes come true.

Put yourself in the shoes of the one doing the shopping and concentrate on listening hard enough to determine what is important to them. THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE REALLY SELLING. 

Happy Selling,

Jack

Sell Confidence First

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #4” 

Regardless of what you are selling, be it a service or goods, it should not be what you sell first. ?????? Is this guy for real? Why would I want to sell something first and not get to the point? Why? Because if you sell confidence first you will always be capable of selling more of whatever you sell.   

For most all buyers, how they feel and feeling good about a decision precedes pulling the trigger. Since people buy on an emotion and back it up with logic (80/20 rule invoked), the top performing sales are disciplined in that they take care to make their prospects as comfortable as possible that they have their best interests at heart. What’s even better is when they really do! That makes the discipline needed to sell confidence first feel very natural. Even if the desired result and the money is all that matters to a sales pro (sad to say that this is true in some cases), it still stands that you must embrace this fact if you want to fly with the eagles of the profession. You must sell confidence first if you are to sell as much as you possibly can and subsequently serve as many people as you can. 

I am a proponent of a 5 Steps to Sales Success” process that I created to keep myself disciplined in my formative years as a sales associate, long before I managed or learned to teach sales techniques. The entire process is in an article under “Resources” on our website. For the sake of this short writing I want to shine a light on the first two steps: Credibility and Rapport. 

Credibility first…

Credibility has to do with the company reputation, the sales person’s resume and reputation, the brand they are promoting and the general perception that the potential buyer has of those three critical items. It makes sense doesn’t it? Before you go into discovery, sale pitches or demonstrations, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to be sure the potential buyer likes where they are, who you are and that you are proud of the brands you represent?    

Rapport is tied into credibility but deserves it’s own chronological place in your sales process because just as important as where you work and what you have to offer is the messenger. In fact, convincing sales representatives with great personalities have often sold people on things simply by their engaging approach and sincerity, pseudo or not. Getting people to like you and feel comfortable opening up with you by using “question based selling”* is the absolute best way to nail down confidence in the prospect’s mind. You could experiment with the chronological order but I would imagine that nine times out of ten you will get a person to open up and tell you in more depth about their needs if you get the rapport established on the front end.   

If you examine your own personal past purchase choices (especially where a sales rep was concerned) I think you can remind yourself that the best ones made you feel comfortable and confident as you made your purchasing decision. 

Why did we need a reminder about something as pragmatic as selling confidence first? Simply put; because we are human and get out of sync and out of rhythm sometimes. Placing the selling of confidence in the position of top priority will allow you to not feel pushy to the prospect. By slowing down to establish it first, it will speed up the number of people you sell. It is a commonsense piece of advice and since fundamentals are never obsolete, a great thing to remember. Please trust me on this, “if you make it a habit to sell confidence first, you won’t get in your own way as much.” I’ll end with a quote about a great way to build confidence with the people you encounter…

“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” – Mary Kay Ash 

*The Secrets of Question Based Selling by Thomas Freese is an excellent book I recommend regularly. 

P.S. A note of thanks to my colleague Tony Thomas, who I’ve heard use this phrase for years in his mentoring of sales associates… consider yourself plagiarized.

Lead by Inspiration, not Intimidation

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #3” 

There are many different ways to teach, coach and mentor. There are as many techniques as there are personalities and character types. They do however, fall into two basic categories: a culture of quotas enforced by strict regulations and expectations, viewed under critical oversight and encounters or a nurturing culture where numbers and encounters are used to inspire, teach and motivate sales associates. 

In the past, in a society that doesn’t exist anymore, where neighbors were permitted to discipline each other’s children and the definitions of right and wrong were more well-defined universally, a heavy handed approach to teaching, coaching and training was more normal and welcome. If the teacher used a paddle, the coach got in a player’s face or a sales trainer verbally belittled his trainee for not getting the content and responses correct, the community at large viewed those techniques as normal and necessary. A military approach to helping non-military professionals and students develop was not only accepted but applauded and viewed as “character building.” This more sensitive and easily offended society is a much more complicated one in which to manage things than the one that existed in days gone by.

Today the parent and business owner is faced with a totally evolved human being. They have been weaned on instant gratification in a world where memes, tweets and YouTube have more influence than literature. They get information faster than we ever dreamed it could be gathered, and we have learned to navigate the waters of the information world pretty well ourselves by adopting some level of tech savvy. The problem is that even though the playing field has changed radically from phones, postcards and faxes to texts, iMessages and emails, there is still a human being with a heart beating in their chest tied to every dollar bill. Furthermore, the way to get to those dollar bills still requires the people skills (albeit applied in new ways) to properly influence the people we want to sell to, and the need to train our sales associates on how to apply said people skills by using the new technology. Since the current generation is used to immediate results, it can be VERY DIFFICULT to explain nurturing relationships over time and the very need for a sales process when it seems that there should be an existing app for that, right? It is a true and sincere sales recruiting, training and management quandary.  

The solution? Diplomatic accountability.

Regular touches by the sales manager and/or owner, with both the team and individual sales personnel, are needed, the type of accountability which would have you as a sales manager/trainer categorized as a “player’s coach.” 

If you are an older salesperson/manager and dig into the specifics of a sale in progress, offer some sage advice based upon your experience that helps your less experienced associate develop. This will yield much more chemistry and progress than a heavy-handed approach. Younger associates respond better to positive reinforcement and mental challenges than verbal ones. 

If you are a younger sales person who notices ways an older person can be more efficient and organized by getting some tutoring on some tech, do it! You may need to be patient because it is a new frontier to them, but the tech help you can give them and the people skills they can coach you are are a great two-way street to establish. When a company builds cooperative bridges in the workplace between the generations it elevates the performance of the entire team.

Before signing off I would like to give an example of a great way to encourage and coach in a positive manner without any oppressiveness involved. The scenario is: You have administrative privilege on the CRM your salesperson or staff uses and the ability to see the notes they take. You can see that they are working with a person on a specific item and you have knowledge of something coming in that they have no way of knowing about. If you type into their CRM notes,” Hey Martha, just so you can consider it in your recommendations, we have an XYZ  coming in next week.” This does SO many positive things to enhance the relationship. First it is a diplomatic way for the sales person(s) to know you are aware of and plugged into the activity. Secondly, it reinforces the fact that you want to help them be successful and thirdly, it shows that you trust them by providing an idea, yet you are allowing them to handle the exchange and subsequent close of the deal.   

I’ll sign off with an appeal for any of you who haven’t been paying enough attention to building a positive sales chemistry at your company with my favorite saying from Peter Drucker, about the value of a good culture in which people can live, learn and sell: Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast!”   

       

       

The Value of an Annual Marketing Calendar

“Good Organization is Priceless”

“Pragmatic Sales Psychology” short episode series, writing #2

I know of a few retailers and service providers who have a promotional calendar, but the key word here is “few.” Some have monthly or quarterly meetings where they discuss sale events and promotions but many, many businesses don’t know exactly what they are doing from January 1 until December 31. They have no road map on what specials or motivational messages they are planning to place in front of the consumers. The auto dealers, furniture stores that are a part of national chains and have agencies and marketing departments typically do… I’m not speaking to the effectiveness of them, only that they do plan ahead. I am also sure that the promotions which have worked in the past have been considered before their annual marketing calendar is decided upon. In a past life, I was in some of those meetings. This particular article is not meant for those dealers. The vast majority of our clients are small and medium sized businesses, most of whom throw promotions together on an “as inspired” or, “Gee, we need to do something to stir things up!” basis. Why is an annual marketing calendar a good idea? I’m glad you asked. Here are some great reasons why:

  • Regardless of what the annual percentage of gross that you dedicate toward promotions/advertisement is (usually in the 2-6% range), knowing how much you have to throw at a message instead of using your gut or emotions at the time is much more predictable and manageable when it comes to the final fiscal outlay.
  • If you know what promotions are forthcoming, your sales staff, techs and admin people can know ahead of time what is coming and prepare logistically and psychologically for them better than if things are sprung on them.
  • If you have a sales staff who is rewarded with extra percentages or paid by commissions, they can organize their prospects into pools that apply logically to the proper promotion, therefore boost their income and, consequently, your revenue.
  • Advertisement resources can be negotiated more aggressively. We have a couple of clients who give us enough volume that they are awarded better rates than the average or occasional client enjoys.
  • If people in your camp know what is coming, especially your marketing and sales minds, they can spend time refining and polishing the promotion in an effort to improve its performance. Ideas take time and forethought; if you’re throwing stuff together and letting the calendar get away from you, you are stealing valuable “think” time and regardless of popular proclivities, the fact is that if you are more prepared you are more efficient. Efficiency and profitability are first cousins. Being prepared is the only way to maximize the performance of your strategies.
  • You have a deeper feeling of confidence if you know what is coming and start preparing for it in advance. Crisis management decisions may allow you to get lucky sometimes but most often they lose, not gain, businesses money. 
  • It is the only way to get everyone in your organization singing off the same page of the old proverbial hymnal sufficiently. In that way, you can get your story “well defined” enough to know that everyone is telling it properly.    

I’m not saying that you can never flex and never should. Being opportunistic is a smart thing for entrepreneurs to be, but being opportunistic and “flying by the seat of your pants” are two entirely different things.

There really isn’t a good argument against sitting down either before the new year occurs, or within the first couple weeks of the year, and mapping out a course. At least you would have a well-thought-out one to veer from, should the sincere opportunity arrive and yes, having a few contingency dollars in the budget for unexpected good ideas isn’t such a bad thing either. You really can’t argue against the value of being well prepared for anything or the value of being well organized. It doesn’t matter to the writer of this article though, because he is not going to make himself available for a rebuttal. He will instead chicken out, and defer to some much more famous and quotable folks…

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Edison

And I couldn’t resist ending with this one:                                                                                                                                        “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra                                                  

Happy Planning!

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