Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Role Should Salespeople Occupy Within Your Company?

Obviously, when things get really tough, we all would like a superhero to show up right away and lend us a hand. Even if you are among those who don’t believe in superheroes, then at some point during those complicated times, you've probably wanted to have in your hand some sort of magic wand to help you solve all your problems and move on. No more things to worry about.

It just so happens stress generated while confronting difficult situations can take away from you a significant amount of energy, that you could be devoting to more productive things or even something with which you might feel more comfortable.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be about going through extremely complicated situations, but simply those for which either you don’t have the right tools or do not have the required training, or do not have the patience to carry them out or manage them efficiently.

And sales is usually one of those areas for which either you don’t have the training or experience required, or you lack the patience and time needed, or simply don’t want to take the additional burden and you wish there was some sort of magic solution that could provide you with immediate results, or maybe you dream of having a character like a super-duper-sales-guy to come and rescue you and take you to a safer place in his powerful arms.

Too many requirements, too little commitment.

And I bring the character of the super-duper-sales-guy on all purpose because, after reading some ads offering jobs for sales positions, I can’t help but be negatively impressed by the vast amount of things that are required from candidates:

  • They have to be independent professionals, best if working on commissions only, so you don’t have to pay a salary and it doesn’t cost your company any money.
  • They must have an active customer base, so that they can start selling the minute after joining your team.
  • Must also have previous experience within your same industry, so that there is no need to provide any training.
  • Must have the ability to work under pressure, because there won’t be any other way to deal with all your pushing to reach the target numbers.
  • Must be able to self-motivate in order to cope with the challenging situation presented by today’s market, and not to get depressed while considering the poor salary conditions you’d offered.
  • Must have its own vehicle and cell phone basically for the same reasoning: not to cost your company any money.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good that you are so demanding when hiring people, but all of the above requirements only make sense when you are paying your salespeople a good salary, one of those you can offer the other person looking directly into its eyes. But in most cases, it is not it and you know it.

It makes sense to be so demanding with people when you’ll let them be as demanding with yourself, the entrepreneur.

Unfortunately this isn’t the situation we see more frequently. Business demand from candidates quite a strong commitment on their side, as compared with the weak, or sometimes even non existent commitment that you, as the company, are willing to make (or have already made) to offer them your support and provide the right environment for the sales job to be efficiently done by a truly qualified professional, and not to need a super-hero to come by and do the magic.

Your salespeople, simply the tip of the iceberg on a comprehensive strategy.

Behind every successful salespeople you know, there is a company that has done its homework and has done it properly. The company has honored its commitment to create an environment in which sales representatives can do their jobs and do it as efficiently as possible, providing for themselves (therefore the company, obviously) outstanding results.

Without a company backing him up, the sales representative is just a mercenary closing sales with bare hands.

Just so you know, among many other things, a successful sales guy must count with the following:

  • An excellent ability to transmit your company’s value proposition to customers, and connect it with needs your customers may have.
  • A competitive product, which doesn’t necessarily have to be the best on the market, but at least must have a logical, making sense proposal.
  • A star rated customer service team which shines in every aspect. Again, it doesn’t have to be the best in the world, but simply one which puts customers among their top priorities.
  • A company that takes sales management seriously and understands that sales is the guarantee for its future growth and development.
  • A comprehensive marketing strategy that ensures that, at all times, the customer is receiving a strong message, consistent with the image the company wants to be identified with on the market.

And I do hope you can now see it with much more clarity: for your company to provide members of its sales team with all these things, you really have to sit down and do your homework, and do it right.

Otherwise, your only choice would be to hire a real super sales guy to help you solve one (or many) of the problems your company may have and that, and probably you don’t have the money to afford it.

Certainly it’s very important that your salespeople are extensively qualified for the job they have to do. That’s for sure. But it’s equally important (and I would say even more important) that you, the company, assume your responsibility for creating the right environment for your sales team to perform at their peak performance.

It's a real win-win situation: your salespeople will be happy bringing in money and generating the best results, and you, the company will be having double fun.

Don’t you think it makes much more sense this way?

Picture Credit: julien tromeur | See portfolio

I recommend you to read the following posts on this blog:
How to Effectively Supervise Your Sales Team
How can you motivate your sales team so they can reach their best performance?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

How Are Honesty And Trust Connected To Your Business’ Sales?

Honesty, Trust and Sales.

It has always caught my attention when coming across conversations about honesty in business because, for me, being honest is among those things one shouldn’t consider optional.

It’s like being well educated and having good manners: Since childhood I was taught I had to be an educated person, that women aren’t to be hurt not even with a rose petal, that elderly people should also be respected and, of course, that one should not lie, and with all these many other things my parents and teachers by that time were committed to engraving deeply in my mind.

So being honest, for me, is an inalienable condition. That is, when we're talking business (and even life itself, I would say), you can not decide whether to be honest or not. You have to be honest, whether you like it or not. Or at least, that's how I've always thought it should be.

I recently read an article (as always, you’ll find the link at the end of this post) which clearly demonstrated the relationship between honesty, trust and your business sales. It was conducted by Bonfire Marketing and its results indicated that:

  • 91% of respondents don’t like it when you lie to them about your product or services.
  • 63% of respondents prefer to buy products from companies they trust.

And they topped off the whole study with the following sentence: "An authentic company owns up to their mistakes and is honest with customers. Does not sugar coat anything or sweep problems under the rug". Pretty clear, isn’t it?

So, let’s go then step by step.

A truthful company, acknowledges its own mistakes.

If you want your company to really grow and develop itself, you have to be willing to admit when you mess things up. But not only from the surface, but on a very deep, profound way, not looking for someone to blame or hold accountable, but rather to make this error a turning point, learning from it and then starting a new, renovated path.

Have you ever noticed how, for alcoholics, the first step to stop drinking is to recognize they have a real problem? It works the same way when we refer to businesses and entrepreneurships.

Deep changes occur only when we honestly recognize that we made a mistake and our need to change.

And so there must be this recognition, the person has to be honest and true to herself, say "alcohol has made a lot of damage to me and my loved ones. It’s a situation that I don’t even deserve, so I really need to make a change".

And it is then, at that very moment, when the turning point emerges, the person has recognized herself, recognized her mistake, the damage it has caused, and then promises to herself: "I will change".

Always be honest with your customers.

Honesty builds trust. Lying raises suspicion. And it is a rule that can be probed at any stage of our life. Even the most stable relationship is damaged when there is a lie or even when you suspect there might have been a lie.

Haven’t you ever felt completely overwhelmed by a bittersweet, anxious feeling when you come to realize or even suspect someone is cheating on you, or even lying to you?

If your client comes to suspect that you're cheating on them, you can be sure you’ve lost its business.

Same thing happens to all human beings, and you must remember that your customers, above all, are human beings. Lying, cheating, even the mere suspicion that there might be an irregular handling of things, can throw away any business relationship.

That’s why 91% of respondents indicated a preference for brands that were not lying about their products and services, and 63% said they preferred to buy from those brands they trust on. It’s common sense.

To all of us, the same thing happens.

Honesty builds trust. Trust generates more sales.

And it really is something that makes me feel uncomfortable to mention, but it looks like some companies continue to consider honesty and transparency in business as an optional item. But it’s not.

Honesty and transparency are the key ingredients on any relationship, whether commercial, professional or sentimental. And when referring to your business, if you want to build relationships with your customers that will last a lifetime, earning their confidence is a cornerstone in the process.

And to earn their confidence, you necessarily have to be honest with them. Like it or not. It’s not me who’s saying it. The study I mentioned above explains it to you, as well as pure common sense:

Honesty builds trust. Trust generates more sales.

And it's something you have to consider while managing your business. At all times and in every stage of your relationship with the customer, keep always in mind honesty will generate much more long term profits: more purchases from the same customer, and the opportunity to have satisfied customers recommending you with new customers.

A deal which is definitely good for you.

Photo credit: Les Cunliffe / Dollarphotoclub

I recommend you reading on this blog:
It is not a golden rule but works great: Honesty and transparency.

And the link to the infographic with data that I pointed you up:
The authenticity of the brand. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Would You Like to Know the True Value of User Generated Content?

Most definitely one of the questions you've asked yourself more often since you started your business’ presence in social media has been about the things you could do so that people receiving the content you share get to feel more committed and engaged with your brand or product, make more comments on your posts, subscribe to your Youtube channel, follow you on Twitter or "Like" your Facebook fan page.

Today I’d like to share with you a first-person experience. But before I do that, I have to start by reminding you that actively listening to what your customers have to say has always been my recommendation to you on this blog, because only listening closely to your customers, to what their real opinions about your product are, how do they use it and what kind of experience they are having with your company, in addition to many other things, you’ll thus have the opportunity to define your marketing strategy much more accurately and efficiently.

I have also commented on this blog that all of us, at one time or another, act as customers buying someone else’s products or services, and having our own shopping experiences with different companies. We could even assume I do buy what your company sells, at any point in time.

And because of that, today I would like to talk to you as a person who buys products, and will do my best to share with you the reasons why I was hooked with content generated by a particular group of people.

Content that got me hooked me, was not generated by the brand directly.

On December last year, we gave our oldest son a Play Station IV with a game titled "Destiny" (I’m including the name herein because either yourself or your kids must be familiar with it). And I wasn’t that much impressed initially because I’ve never been the kind of guy who sits in front of the TV to play video games, and rather saw it as something only for the enjoyment of my kids.

But after my children insisted me on playing with them, I had such a breathtaking experience that even inspired me to write this post. It turns out the game I’m referring to is kind of an adventure: You're a guardian of the future, fighting lots of enemies to save our planet Earth from the occupation of "The Darkness".

Throughout a certain amount of missions in different planets you increase your “level”, therefore you're increasing your character’s resistance and strength, therefore gaining the ability to assume increasing challenges as you go on. It’s kind of moving up in the social ladder within the game.

But as with all these games, the thing starts becoming more and more intense as you progress, and as I was leveling up, I felt the need to ask for help. Guess what I found: A huge, very large community of players willing to teach me how to go along with the game, do a better job on it and even willing to help me advance to higher levels!

Content that solves problems and clarifies doubts, is the most engaging one.

I then started as most other newbies do: I googled all my doubts and waited to check what answers did I get. For every question I asked, Google directed me to many different sources of content, some on written format (blogs and forums), others on video (YouTube).

That’s when I found a extremely valuable treasure: Destiny players themselves had already posted content answering all my questions. How can I move from level 26 to 27? Several videos explaining how I could do it. How to get the best weapons? Again, others guys shared with me the whole story. How to complete the most difficult mission? The same thing again.

Their content was so appealing to me that I started following them immediately.

It was that easy: their content was so appealing to me and so directly helping me solve my problems that I did subscribe to almost all their channels right away. I must make something totally clear: So far, none of them has wanted to either sell me anything or asked me anything in return for their knowledge and advice.

Up to this point, all of them have been driven by the pure interest of sharing their knowledge, helping me enjoy the game, making my life easier, and thus lives of all newbies like me. Destiny itself hasn’t been telling the story about their wonderful products or how well their company is positioned within the market.

User generated content has greatly enriched my experience with the product.

All of them are game players, just like me, customers who have also bought the same game and decided, at one point, to share their gaming experiences with other players. It hasn’t been the company itself publishing content, but actual players, or in most cases, people who professionally dedicate to playing video games.

You have to go beyond the sales pitch.

As I mentioned above, the only thing we bought was the console with the game. We only needed to do our Internet searches to come across Destiny’s users who have created an inexhaustible source of hints and tips for those, like myself, who have started to play the game a bit later. And it’s with them who I got hooked with.

From that moment on, I found a lot of players to get engaged with, we have even got to schedule times for playing online together and have fun. Isn’t that the kind of interaction and engagement you’d like your audience to have with your product and brand?

Enriching conversations plenty of tips, suggestions and recommendations to develop a better customer experience.

Well then you have to go beyond your traditional sales speech. It’s no longer about what your product does and all its wonders, but about the experience users have with it, as well as with your company and brand.

What can you do if you’re selling running shoes? Then offer your buyers advice on how to improve their performance in jogging. Selling school supplies? Offer your customers tips on how to get their kids to do their homework more efficiently.

Only this way you’ll be offering true value to your audience, by building a authentic, selfless community without the intent to sell, which is what really helps increase engagement. And I bet that by doing so you’ll generate around your brand and product, a community of users truly interested and committed.

And all of this actions will lead to a better positioning of your product and company within consumers’ minds, thus building up customers for the rest of life.

You might want to read the following posts on this blog:
What Makes Your Content Relevant?
Differentiate Yourself By The Value Shared Through Your Conversations.
What Can You Talk About With Your Customers When You’re Not Selling To Them?