Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Your Sales Should Never Depend On Just One Person.

Depending on one guy?
A while ago I published a post entitled "What are the advantages of developing a sales force for your business" (the link, as always, at the end of this post) and I dared to say that your company’s sales department, or your sales force for that matter, should always be composed by at least two people, never one. Always two.

There are many reasons backing up such statement and I’ll share with you today those I consider most important, but before going there, I will share with you what recently happened to a dear friend of mine, who owns a small business. To protect his identity and focus on the facts, I’ll name him Luis.

It turns out that Luis had a sales representative, let’s call him Manuel, who was supposedly a trusted employee (yes.. one of those) who had been visiting customers, cold calling new prospects, managing orders, preparing estimates, following up by phone with people he visited, in a word... normal day-to-day tasks for any sales rep.

The problem was that my friend Luis, either because he didn’t have the time or maybe some laziness on his side, didn’t get that much involved in managing his clientele, beyond making sure all merchandise was delivered properly and on time, and since Manuel was a "trusted"employee, Luis focused his handling of the commercial side of his business only in the numbers made by Manuel: If Manuel brought in good numbers, it was all good; if he didn’t bring in good numbers, then they needed to find a way to bring them back up.

One day, Luis had to go on  trip and didn’t show up by the store for a little over a month, and when came back he was welcomed  by the bitter news that his “trusted” sales representative, Manuel, had left the company taking with him all relevant customer data and had set up a small shop, from which he had begun to drive customers away from Luis.

What are the morals of this story?

Your business depends on sales. Don’t run away from managing them.

First of all, this brief history shows you plainly the first reason why you should never give up on your main responsibility as a business owner: It’s your duty to effectively and closely supervise the sales side of your business. It is your responsibility.

I understand that many entrepreneurs will shun getting involved with managing the sales area of their business because it can truly become a very stressful and tedious activity, but this little story should serve as an example of what the consequences might be.

For how long has Manuel being visiting Luis’ clients, telling them he was going to to go independent and would be contacting them soon from his own new business? How many times did Manuel stay at home, saying that he was visiting clients while he was really dedicating his time to doing other things?

Don’t focus your business’ sales management only in numbers.

Luis will never know because, as a sales manager, he concentrated his attention only on the numbers and not on the daily activities leading to achieve those numbers. Behind each sale, there is a process, a number of things that happen, visits, phone calls, emails, proposals, follow up tasks, etc...

These activities should be under your supervision as well. Get on the phone with your customers, make sure they are well cared for, that everything is going well. Don’t leave everything on the sales representative’s hands.

You should always have a readily trained substitute to replace your sales people.

Have you noticed that football players are always on the bench ready to replace anyone who gets injured during the game? Well then, you should apply the same policy for the sales management of your business .

Here you must apply the "Theory Of The Truck That Runs Over You In The Corner" thought to me by my dear coworker Gabriela Sambucetti: If your one and only representative to whom you have entrusted the sales area of your business, calls you tomorrow to tell you he was hit by a truck and cannot work anymore, do you have a person readily available, properly prepared and trained to replace him immediately without your sales suffering?

Always think about what you'll do if your only salesperson leaves the company one day. Do you have a plan in place to replace it quickly?

I know it sounds extreme, but things like these occur much more frequently than we’d like to think. If you don’t believe it, look what happened to my friend Luis.

Can you imagine a football game that must be postponed just because there is no replacement for the goalkeeper who broke his ankle?

Supervise, supervise and supervise. And after you’ve done, keep on supervising.

And this is the point that causes more discomfort among business owners: Sitting with your salespeople to see how they are doing? listening to their stories? If at the end of the day what you want them to do is to bring in sales and not to come up with stories.

Listen carefully to what your salespeople have to say and you will discover many important things for your business.

Well let me tell you through those stories you can uncover many things that will help you manage your business’ sales in a more efficient way, if you really listen closely and pay attention.

In fact, you may even discover new business opportunities listening to what your representatives have to say about the market who is buying from you.

Don’t ever forget your sales representatives directly hear the voice of, perhaps, the most important piece of your business model: your customer.

I hope these tips will serve to refine the way you manage the sales area of your business and look at it from a closer point of view, giving it the importance it really has in your project as a whole.

It's good to occasionally learn something from what happens to others instead of waiting for these things to happen to you, don’t you think so?

Photo credit: antonbrand / 123RF Stock Photo

I recommend you to read:
My Biggest Mistake: Outsourcing to the Wrong People

Related posts in this blog:
What are the advantages of developing a sales force for your business?
Why You Shouldn’t Outsource Sales When Starting Your Business.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sheer Visibility: Were You Familiar With This New Payment Form?

Visibility: The New Currency.
It’s probably because of the economic crisis we are going through, or perhaps it’s simply opportunism on the side of some companies which simply don’t have any money to invest and are resorting back to this practice, but it has strongly caught my attention that I have recently received proposals to write product and services reviews for different companies and publish those reviews on my blog, and in exchange for those services I’ve been offered sheer visibility as payment.

Not even little money, but sheer visibility.

Yes my friend, as you are reading it: Visibility is been offered as a payment form. I write and publish those posts on my blog promoting company's products and services, and in return my blog’s posts will be made visible through their digital profiles, obviously with the added value of having thousands of fans and followers. I even have been offered to be interviewed in exchange of my post, and the rest of the story might be familiar to all of us.

And if it’s not familiar to you, please be aware of it.

For me it's flattering that this little corner on the cyberspace, which began almost three years ago (isn’t it great? next month it’ll be three years old) and has served me as a personal space to share my thoughts, opinions and ways of seeing things with so many interesting people like yourself, and with business owners who have found what I write useful and somehow enlightening for managing their business, has reached such a good visibility.

And I’m also happy to see that such visibility has generated enough interest out there for companies to decide and get in contact with me to review their business proposals. It’s very flattering.

But what is truly a pity is that what is being offered in exchange on such proposals is simply visibility. Not even a small amount of money but sheer visibility.

You cannot use visibility to pay for your bills.

I would like you to read this extract from an article published in latinmusicwire.com some time ago:
Just the other day I was told by someone who owned a wine bar that they really liked our music and would love for us to play at their place. She then told me the gig paid $75 for a trio. Now $75 used to be bad money per person, let alone $75 for the whole band. It had to be a joke, right? No she was serious.
But it didn’t end there. She then informed us we had to bring 25 people minimum. Didn’t even offer us extra money if we brought 25 people. I would have laughed other than it’s not the first time I’ve gotten this proposal from club owners.
But are there musicians really doing this? Yes. They are so desperate to play, they will do anything. 
But lets think about this for a second and turn this around a little bit.What if I told the wine bar owner that I have a great band and we are going to play at my house. I need someone to provide and pour wine while we play. I can’t pay much, just $75 and you must bring at least 25 people who are willing to pay a $10 cover charge at the door. 
Now wouldn’t they look at you like you are crazy?

And I would be considered totally nuts if, when I go to Mercadona to do my groceries shopping and at the cashier I’m told that I have to pay 150 euros, I simply reply, "Hey, I'll pay you guys writing a post on my blog about how good is all the people here at Mercadona", or maybe something like "Hey, I have no money to pay you, but I will bring three friends of mine who are going to buy a lot."

What do you think would happen? What would you do if a customer bought your most  expensive product and, when you asked for payment you were told: "I have no money to pay you, but instead I'm going to invite all my friends to come by your store and buy"? What would your response be?

Let’s name each thing the way it was meant to be named and put everything back on its holy place.

First of all time and knowledge do have a value, and if you want to make us of someone else’s time and knowledge, you’ve to pay for it, and you have to pay it on your local currency, whatever that is.

If you want a musician to play at your party, you’ve to pay for it. If you want a gardener to fix your house’s patio, you’ve to pay for it. And so on, so forth, and for everything.

If you truly want to take advantage of something you find valuable, you have to pay it’s price.

I do know there is a lot of highly valuable professionals working for free out there in exchange for gaining some experience within their industry, which is completely justifiable, and some others are doing it to gain some professional exposure hoping this will allow them to bring in more customers.

From my personal point of view, this “working-for-free-to-gain-exposure” situation is not good neither for your business nor for the person who accepts the offer. Why?

First of all, it clearly conveys the message that your company doesn’t have money to pay for the services it requires. And that’s not good. For the person who accepts working under these conditions, how will that person will be able to increase its value if it started out working for free?

It is my own personal reflection which I wanted to share with you. What do you think about the “being paid with visibility” thing?

Photo Credits: angelp / 123RF Stock Photo

You would like to read this post
Why LA club owners are totally lost and some advice for them from a professional musician written by Dave Goldberg

And other related articles on this blog
"The Hammerblow is Free": The Real Value of Knowledge
Working for Free: When? why? and for how long?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

4 attitudes you can learn from a professional sales representative.

Learning from a sales guy.
We have been sharing here for so long that I would assume you already know that I have developed my entire professional career in the sales area, under different titles and methodologies, but doing sales at the end of the day.

Like many people, maybe you are among them, at the very beginning I had my strong  reservations about sales representatives and the work they performed.

It’s kind of weird, I don’t know, but I couldn’t help it and each time I thought about a salesman, the image of Dagwood (Blondie’s husband in a very funny comic strip long years ago) dealing with an annoying salesman who used to ring his doorbell exactly when Dagwood was in the shower (Hasn’t it happened to you at least once?).

And if Dagwood didn’t get to the door to meet him right away, this guy could even step on a ladder, climb it and reach the bathroom window so that he could directly speak to Dagwood and then try to sell him any of the trinkets he had in his briefcase.

An outrageously annoying and persistent character. That was the image I had of salespeople.

But after more than 20 years of experience, courses, seminars, years being supervised and guided, and then so many more guiding and supervising others, training sessions, presentations... you name it, I can safely say that professional selling has given me the opportunity to build certain attitudes that, to this day, I consider essential for anyone, on all levels whether it’s your professional or personal life. They are useful for both.

"And which attitudes are those?" you might be asking.

Never be afraid of the handshake.

I remember people used to refer to this as the ability to relate to others without complexes, prejudices, with ease and confidence. For a sales professional to introduce itself to other, usually unknown people and start a conversation is as natural as tying its shoelaces. Definitely not a biggie.

To sell a lot, you have to meet lots of people who may be interested in what you are selling and who can afford the price you’re asking for. Therefore, you have to shake a lot of hands in the process to meet these people and grow your contact list.

Giving a handshake is just another door that opens and offers you the chance to either sell or learn.

And the more doors you open, the better your chances to sell will be. It’s a matter of pure and simple mathematics: If I know 50 people and do business with 5 of them, out of 100 I will sell to 10, therefore out of 500, will get 50 sales.

Again, pure and simple mathematics. No gimmicks and no shortcuts.

When someone tells you "No", learn how to take advantage of it.

Any sales professional will tell you that "No" is an inherent part of our profession. In fact, the negative is no longer an obstacle and becomes a great opportunity to learn more about the needs and concerns of your customer, be it a client, a family member or a friend.

A customer’s refusal to do business with you is your best opportunity to improve your product.

When someone rejects your business proposal, in between the lines they are telling you that there is something in your product or your overall offer that doesn’t work for them and it’s keeping them from making a decision in your favor.

Learning what that “something" is becomes then an opportunity to improve, to change and grow. Rejection stops being an obstacle and becomes a tool in your growing process as a company, and as an individual too.

Always keep yourself on a proactive search for new opportunities.

Many people believe that a salesperson goal is to sell more, when actually the actual sale itself, and by that I mean the transaction, is simply the result of a job well done.

Every sales representative should concentrate its efforts on the continued development of new business opportunities for the company and its products. Taking care of each and every one of these opportunities in a professional, consistent and efficient manner will maximize the closing of new sales.

At the end, the sale happens as a natural consequence of a job well done. It isn’t a goal on itself but rather a consequence.

And the “searching/taking care of” cycle never stops. Search for new clients, close sales, take care of new customers, continue to seek for new opportunities, close more sales and so on. A professional sales guy never stops and is continuously monitoring the market to find new opportunities. It’s just the way it is.

Many businesses in our days need to have this vitality to put aside the surrounding negativity and focus on finding new opportunities.

Learn how to get up after every fall, wipe the dust and move on.

I have no idea about how many offers, estimates and quotes I’ve put together throughout my career as a professional sales rep. Probably many, for sure a lot, too many to be counted and yet only a small percentage of them turned into business at the end. Many of the proposal I’ve put together throughout my life, never became a reality, even though I was totally convinced the outcome was going to be positive.

The business of your life, the big sale, may be just behind the next door you knock on.

I have also visited and contacted thousands of people and businesses, of all sizes you can imagine. Many times I have been treated kindly, many others the doors has been slammed on my face. I have met great people and I've met obnoxious characters.

However, one thing has been there always: I’ve cultivated the ability to stand up after every failed negotiation, after every slam in my face, after every unpleasant contact, always with the hope that the business of my life, that big sale that would generate a great commission, would be just behind the next door I approached to, the next phone call made.

Like I said earlier in this post , when I started my professional career I had strong prejudices about going out there shaking unknown people’s hands and exposing myself to being rejected hundreds of times.

Today, over twenty years later, I can assure you that professional selling has taught me valuable things, some of which I wanted to share with you in this post, hoping they will be useful to you both in your professional life and in life itself.

Or perhaps it happens that you didn’t have to convince that person, the one who is your partner today, that when you first meet you were the best option available in the market and it was worth it to choose you instead of your competition?

Related posts in this blog:
Are you an entrepreneur and you don’t like selling?
How to develop your selling skills and get better results.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where can you start looking for brand ambassadors for your company?

Looking for brand ambassadors?
In my post last week I told you that each of the people with whom your company relates with can become an ambassador (or not) for your brand, and that would be the main reason why you must (or should) concentrate your efforts on generating a positive and memorable experience for all of them.

This experience must be created not only for those who are buying from you, but also for suppliers and employees.

And I put a strong emphasis on the latter because your employees have a significant and very special power to promote the benefits of your company or brand to others.

As I usually do when making these statements, I’ll explain myself by sharing with you some experiences that I’ve had the opportunity to live recently.

An unhappy employee undermines your ability to retain talent.

About a couple of years ago I started to work with a company for which I was recommended by a dear friend of mine. I was very excited when I started working with them and was totally eager to achieve all the things we had set as goals in our initial conversations. However, just a few days after I started, my coworkers started to show me the "dark side" of the company.

They began to share with me all those embarrassing stories about payrolls unpaid, unfulfilled commitments with customers and suppliers, the bosses regularly lying  and cheating, being abusive with employees, and as you can imagine a story that started with a very positive energy and illusion on my side, rapidly sank to become just another job.

Employees not happy or totally unsatisfied with their conditions promote the development of toxic work environments.

And nobody wants to stay forever in a company where the work environment is unpleasant, where in addition to the emotional burden of everyday’s job responsibilities, you have to listen to the constant complaints from co-workers who are not happy with their conditions, or bosses who are doing “strange” things.

And, after a few weeks or months, your new hires decide to pursue opportunities in other companies, where at least they can change to a more motivating and professional work atmosphere.

Unhappy employees won’t say good things about the company.

A few weeks ago we were eating in a local restaurant. It was on Sunday, during a national holiday and the place was completely occupied, therefore the service was, as it usually happens on peak times, delayed… a lot.

We could see the waiters running back and forth from table to table doing their best to relieve discomfort and unhappy expressions in our faces, with very little luck because, despite their efforts, the kitchen didn’t have the capacity to meet such a strong demand.

At one time I told the waiter serving us that his chief (who is always on the kitchen fixing the meals) would definitely be going crazy and pulling her hairs by having so much people in the restaurant, to which he replied: "She ain’t going crazy. She is just stupid because doesn’t want to spend money hiring more people to help her out in the kitchen. And those who have to deal with unhappy customers is us!”

An unhappy employee will not be on your side if difficult times come your way.

I was speechless. He completely took me by surprise with his comment. I didn’t really think I was going to find out that way that their problem was having a boss who didn’t want to spend money in hiring more people, not even for those days when you can anticipate a much larger demand from your customers.

Obviously the waiter was not happy with his overall situation and, instead of defending the company with a simple and cheap excuse (those that we all use for almost everything), chose to let out some of his own frustration in that comment, exposing a company weakness and delivering a poor, non-professional image.

What happens when your employees buy from your competition?

We make our groceries shopping at two local stores: Dialprix and Mercadona. As we have already being living in this city for a while, we have come to recognize, at least by their faces, some of the people who usually serve us when doing the shopping.

One day, while shopping at Mercadona, I came across one of Dialprix employees. She was also doing her shopping there, with shopping cart included and everything. I couldn’t do anything else but to be totally surprised, puzzled maybe better.

What assumptions could I make from such an encounter? That in Mercadona she gets better prices than on Dialprix, even considering all the benefits and advantages she can enjoy by being an employee; or simply that one can buy best quality products in Mercadona than Dialprix, and we could continue making assumptions for ever.

That day I didn’t have the nerve to ask her why she was shopping at Mercadona and not at Dialprix. I could have learned a thing or two by doing so.

An employee who buys from your competition can make customers lose confidence in the product you offer.

The fact is that it shocked me a lot to see her shopping at a place which is a direct competitor for her employer. I even came to think that she'd been fired but, thanks God, it was not the case. I saw her again working at Dialprix after that day.

Your employees should be the first and best ambassadors for your company or brand.

And simply because they interact with your company and its products in a direct manner, each and every single day. They are the ones who can help you create a positive environment within your office, assisting you in retaining talent, as well as with customers who are doing business with your company.

It is them who can stand up for your company when things get tough. They are the ones who can have a deeper knowledge of your product and their benefits, and transmit it on a convincing way to their related network.

Your employees are the hands you use to create your memorable customer experience.

At the end of the day, it is them who often have the responsibility to create for your customers (yes , for those who buy from you) a memorable and positive experience. If they are in a good stance with you, such experience is definitely going to be memorable for your customers. If they are not, then we have a different story.

How could you forget about them and not take them into consideration in your search for brand ambassadors?

Photo credit: danomyte / 123RF Stock Photo

Related posts in this blog:
A different story for each person. Are you a consistent entrepreneur?
SMB can also be written with G of Greatness.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Are we starting from the right point?