Month: September 2014

The To-Do List: Making an Old Tool New Again

Do you use to-do lists primarily for errands? Let’s discuss one quick way you can use an old tool, the to-do list, in a new way to instantly increase productivity in your job search.

Take a look at your job search file. Whether electronic or on paper, at this point it should be a tome. Let’s hope it’s filled with information on prospective jobs, names and contact information from networking, and important dates and deadlines for events, job applications and interviews.

Starting today, jot down three to five of the most important things you have to do by tomorrow to move ahead toward your professional goals. The list may look something like this:

  • Complete application for Regional Sales Manager.
  • Call contact from East Coast office.
  • Add one more contact from East Coast office to LinkedIn.
  • Check out salary information on Glassdoor to prep for potential interview questions about salary.

Although this may sound like a traditional to do list, this is actually a priority list and it can go a long way toward increasing your productivity, getting you to an interview and a job offer. Rather than a long list of all of the things you could be doing tomorrow, you now have a short list of priority items. This limits unproductive work and allows you to focus on what is most important in getting to the next step.

Imagine how easy your days would be if all the most pressing things were taken care of? You may actually find time for all those pesky errands.

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Top 10 Principles of Great Sales Messaging

By Michael Cannon, Founder and CEO, Silver Bullet Group, Inc.

Sales Messaging is the foundation on which all your sales and marketing efforts rest. Sadly, most companies lack a definition for their sales messaging, let alone a methodology for developing and deploying it. The results are billions of dollars wasted annually on ineffective marketing collateral. Use these top 10 principles to create a definition for great sales messaging that will enable your company to win more orders, increase market share and improve margins.

“80 to 90 percent of marketing collateral is considered useless by sales,” according to the AMA’s CMM Forum.

Here is your chance to break from the pack and enhance your competitive advantage. Use these top 10 principles to create a definition for great sales messaging that will enable your company to win more orders, increase market share, and improve margins.

1. Specific to One Offering
Sales messaging is about selling one offering: a complete product or service. If you sell a number of products and services bundled together, then you can think of this as one offering. If the products or services are sold on a standalone basis, then you must have sales messaging for each offering.

2. Target Each Buyer
There are a number of buyer types to consider, including the prospect customer, channel partner, industry analyst, and investor. There are also buyer roles like user, technical, and financial. It’s important to identify buyers by offering, by title, and by role so that the sales messaging resonates with each buyer’s interests and perspective.

3. Answer Buyer’s Primary Buying Questions
Each buyer has different buying questions. For example: Prospects are asking, “Why should I buy your solution rather than a competitive option?” Customers are asking, “Why should I keep buying from you?” Channel partners are asking, “Why should I distribute your product or service?” Each buyer’s questions are different and thus require tailored answers.

4. Support the Product and Sales Cycle
In the early stages of a product life cycle, the most important buyer question to answer is “Why should I change what I currently do and buy a product or service like this?” The question has nothing to do with your company. It’s about educating the buyer on why they should make a change. The primary goal is to create a funded buying event. In the later stages of the product life cycle, when market demand is established, the primary buying question shifts to “Why should I buy your solution rather than a competitive option?” It’s about competitive differentiation and educating the buyer on why they should buy your offering. The primary goal is to create an order for your company.

Great Sales Messaging Supports Each Phase of the Sales Cycle.
Like the product life cycle, the sales cycle has distinct phases. For example, let’s say you’re selling an early-stage product. At the beginning of the sales cycle, the primary buying question to answer is “Why should I meet with you?” Once you have a meeting, the next phase in the sales cycle is answering, “Why should I change what I currently do and buy a product or service like this?” The final phase of the sales cycle is then answering, “Why should I buy your solution rather than a competitive option?” Great sales messaging supports each phase in both the product life cycle and sales cycle.

1. Determine the Key Differentiation Factors
There are 5 important differentiation points including Time, Money, Risk, Strategic, and Personal. The more of these differentiation points you appeal to, the more likely you are to attract and create buyers.

2. Apply the Black and White Factor
Numerous studies conclude that the brain comprehends best when presented with clear contrast between opposites. Statements like “We are one of the leading…” is not as compelling as “We are the leader in…” Use lots of sharply contrasting adjectives like Only, Fastest, Easiest, Best, etc. to create powerful sales messaging.

3. Test against the ‘Me Too’ Factor
In order to have truly effective sales messaging, especially for competitive differentiation, no other company should be able to make the same claims that you do. The buyer must perceive that your company is different from all the other competitive options and vendors.

4. Organize into Three Points
People remember things best when they are presented in groups of three. The brain works this way – so optimize your sales messaging for maximum effectiveness by incorporating this important principle.

5. Summarize on One Page
The answer to each buying question must be simplified to a one-page format for a few reasons. Your sales reps cannot remember and articulate more than this and your buyers surely will not. In order to be effective, sales messaging must be delivered to the buyer in digestible amounts.

6. Provide Proof Points
Most buyers consider your sales messaging to be claims. To add more credibility to your key points, you must provide lots of evidence that your claims are true. The more evidence you have, the more believable your claims. The best way to validate that your claims and evidence are true is to use proof points such as customer testimonials, case studies, etc. The second best proof points include third party organizations like International Organization for Standardization or Gartner Group, etc. The next best proof points are a demonstration or proof-of-concept.

Great sales messaging gives your company the foundation on which to create more meetings, buying events, and orders for each of the products and services that you offer. Since most companies do not know what sales messaging is, and you do, you have a tremendous opportunity right now to gain a competitive advantage. This advantage has been proven to increase sales, reduce costs, and improve margins.

7 Easy Ways to Implement Strategies to Increase Client Referrals

By Paul McCord, President, McCord and Associates

The top producers who run their businesses from referrals have learned a disciplined process of referral generation. Even without learning their process, you can implement these seven strategies they use to increase the volume and quality of the referrals you get from your clients.

Referrals. We all want them. Yet, few of us generate many quality referrals from our clients and prospects. For most of us, referral generation is a hit or miss proposition – and it’s mostly a miss.

In reality, the fault doesn’t lie with us. It is the way we’ve been taught to ask for referrals that is the culprit. Most of us have been taught to simply ‘do a good job and ask for referrals.’ And we’ve found that that process doesn’t work well. Sure, we may get a name and phone or two here and there, but these are usually to companies that either don’t want or need our products or can’t afford them. Consequently, our ‘referrals’ turn out to be time wasters. We get a sale from a referral here – another sale there. Just enough to keep us asking – maybe.

Furthermore, we look around at our peers and find that, they are as unsuccessful and frustrated with referrals as we are. Nevertheless, we keep hearing that referrals are the best marketing tool there is. And, we see a few associates and competitors – a precious few – who manage to not only generate some referrals, but generate enough to build top-performing businesses from them.

What do these highly successful salespeople who can run successful practices almost strictly from referrals do differently? Do they know some great secret that the rest don’t know?

In a sense, yes, they do. Like most (everyone else), they discovered that the traditional way of generating referrals doesn’t work well. They discovered they needed a disciplined, detailed PROCESS that could be integrated with their sales process that prepares the client to give referrals and that virtually guarantees the client will give them a large number of high-quality referrals after the sale.

Rather than the typical hit or miss, ‘hope I get one,’ format most salespeople use, these mega-referral generators turn referrals into a predictable process – they don’t ask for referrals, they GENERATE them.

Although, we don’t have the space to delineate a full process in a short article, we can steal 7 quick strategies from these referral superstars you can implement that will immediately increase both the quantity and quality of the referrals you receive from your clients:

1. Ask
Sounds surprisingly simple, right? But studies have shown that over 50% of all salespeople DON’T ask. If you don’t ask, you can’t expect to get them.

2. Ask More Than Once
Studies have also shown, that over 70% of the salespeople who do ask for referrals, only ask once. However, those who ask twice receive over twice as many referrals than those who only ask once – and those who ask three times receive over four times as many referrals than those who only ask once.

3. Really Ask
Many salespeople think they are asking for referrals when all they are really doing is SUGGESTING referrals. Instead of a direct request, they will try to soften the request by saying something like: “Jan, if you happen to run across someone who could use my services, would you mind giving them one of my cards?” Or, “Dave, if you know of someone I could help, would you mention me to them?”

Suggesting referrals isn’t referral generation. It’s trying to generate ‘Word of Mouth’ marketing – a passive process where the salesperson has no control of the process. If, the client does hand a card to a prospect, the prospect may or may not call. Moreover, most often the client never makes the suggestion to a prospect in the first place.

4. Tell the Client Whom You’re Looking for
Few salespeople help the client make quality referrals by letting the client know who a quality referral for them is. They assume, the client understands enough about what they do and what they sell and that the client can figure out on their own what a good referral is. Bad assumption.

We know what a quality referral for us is and we think it is obvious to our client. But that client isn’t in our business. What is obvious to us isn’t obvious to the client. We have to let them know exactly who we’re looking for.

5. Give the Client Time to Think
Most salespeople wait until after the sale has been completed to bring the subject of referrals up. Often, the request for referrals comes literally, as they are walking out the door.

By waiting until the last second to spring the request for referrals on the client – and then standing there waiting for an answer, the salesperson has given their client only 10 or 15 seconds to go through their mental file cabinet to come up with quality referrals. That isn’t realistic. If you want quality referrals, you must give the client an opportunity to think about whom to refer.

6. Help the Client Make Quality Referrals
Despite your best efforts to educate your client on what a quality referral for you is, many clients will claim to have none for you. But these clients DO have great referrals to give – they just don’t know it.

Help your client by suggesting specific companies you know you want to be referred to that your client probably knows. During the sales process, you need to be doing your homework. Discover who your client’s vendors are; who their customers are; even, whom that client worked for in the past. Develop a list of 15 to 25 companies you know you want to be referred to, that you have reason to believe your client may know and then ask if they would refer you to these companies. If you have a list of 15 to 25, your client will probably know 5 to 8. And if you’ve done your job well, they will refer you to them.

Make it easy for your client to make referrals.

7. Don’t Get Names and Phone Numbers – Get Introduced
Most salespeople are thrilled to get a name and phone number or two. They run back to their office and immediately make a major mistake. They pick up the phone and call the prospect.

Mega-referral producers don’t get names and phone numbers – they get direct introductions to the prospect from their client. They don’t want to make a warm call – they want an introduction. A warm call is little better than a cold call. An introduction almost guarantees a meeting with the prospect.

Mega-referral producers use a sophisticated process to turn referral generation into a science that is an integral part of their sales process. But if you incorporate these seven strategies into your selling process, you’ll immediately increase the volume, the quality, and the effectiveness of the referrals you receive.

Learning how to generate a large volume of high-quality referrals takes time; it takes learning a proven process; and it takes perfecting that process. Nevertheless, by simply asking and then helping your client give quality referrals, you’ll find it much easier to get the referrals you want.