Category Archives: Sales

Follow up fearlessly with this guide

sales follow-up best practicesIf you have a good system in place for following up with your prospects, you’re already ahead of most salespeople. According to Hubspot and the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog, 80 percent of sales occur during or after the fifth point of contact between seller and buyer. Unfortunately, Hubspot finds that 44 percent of salespeople give up after just one contact attempt. Only 10 percent of sellers make three or more contacts, according to LinkedIn.

Clearly, lack of a good follow-up system can lose a lot of revenue. Since buyers do business with those they trust, building familiarity through simple repetition can result in a relationship and, ultimately, future sales. But even if a sale never occurs, you still cheat yourself by not following up. To get in touch with a prospect is to train yourself. Thus, following up is beneficial regardless of outcome.

What are the logistics of following up?

It’s important to follow up with your prospects at least five times in order to see significant returns. The maximal benefit comes from using as many channels as possible, but since it may not always be appropriate to text or send fruit baskets to your prospects, phone and email suffice. The typical recommendation is three calls and two emails – with an email coming after both the first and third phone calls. Because busy prospects aren’t always at their desks, you may also want to leave messages so they know you called.

By the same token, you don’t want to come off as overbearing or, worse, annoying. One way to stay on your prospect’s positive side is to space your follow-ups a few days apart to give them some breathing room. Not only does this keep you from seeming intrusive, but it also stretches out the period of time where the prospect can expect to hear from you.

What to do once you’re on the phone

Of course, you may as well not follow up at all if you don’t know what you want to get out of it. Determine your goals for contacting a prospect – and you should have more than one so more calls are successful. Say, for instance, your primary goal is to set an appointment. If that doesn’t work out, having a secondary goal – such as signing your prospect up for a newsletter, sending an email, or scheduling a firm time for another follow-up – comes in handy for keeping you on their radar.

Relatedly, you should understand the value of your product or service to your prospect, because that’s what you need to communicate to them. It’s important to be able to explain what your product or service is and what its features are. More importantly, how can it help? This is where sellers have the opportunity to be educators, particularly if the prospect doesn’t see a need for the product or service at first. This approach builds trust, and we do business with those we trust.

How do you build trust with your prospects? Let us know in the comments.

3 steps for effective selling

Business development techniquesThe traditional and incorrect view of the sales process as an underhanded, manipulative set of techniques for cajoling a prospect into spending too much money is outdated, with many thought leaders making only a general suggestion for salespeople to act like consultants. I think this suggestion is a little too general. Instead, an actionable goal is to make prospects feel comfortable about spending money on solutions.

Before the internet, salespeople had the advantage in most transactions. Prospects had few options for finding information about companies, and getting their hands on it could be costly.

Now, prospects can see what competing companies are doing differently. Sales thought leaders, including Hubspot and SalesHacker, recommend that salespeople act like educators and consultants to establish trust with prospects.

Being helpful is a good start, but how can salespeople drive future sales?

Map it

Prospects can find plenty of information about a company’s products and services online, but they may not know enough about the company’s industry to determine what information is most applicable to their needs. As a result, they may feel overwhelmed and confused, and hesitate to spend money.

They need help from sales reps. For example, when I’m talking with prospective clients, they sometimes reference a small aspect of what The Simons Group offers, as if that’s all we do. I clear up the misunderstanding, making it easier for them to learn more later. Education helps foster trust with prospects and increases the chance they’ll buy products and services in the future.

Don’t rush

Every salesperson wants to close sales now, but every prospect wants to buy when ready. Some companies frame this contradiction as a game, implying that salespeople and prospects are facing off. In reality, prospects don’t want to inconvenience you, but they also don’t want to make potentially wrong decisions.

Make sure that prospects are willing to spend money. Salespeople should consider how productive were their conversations with prospective clients. When prospects become less active, that may be a signal to move on.

Make sure it fits

When solutions don’t fit with a prospect’s needs, don’t push it. Otherwise, it could jeopardize trust. When they realize they’ve been manipulated, they’ll be upset and possibly walk. If they do come back, they (rightfully) won’t trust the salespeople they were dealing with.

Instead, salespeople should be upfront when they can’t help prospective clients. Prospects will appreciate the honesty and, perhaps, see sales in a more positive light. That could open the door to future sales.

What has your experience been with the sales process? Let us know in the comments.

Are you invested in customer service?

customer service in marketingListening to hold music is the biggest part of my day. In my time spent in the auditory waiting room, I’ve noticed that hold music is the only properly functioning part of some companies’ phone systems. For example, the directory listing for Joe Schmo ends up at Jane Doe’s voicemail box. Or pressing zero for operator just repeats the automated menu. I dig through these messy phone systems as part of my job, but it’s still frustrating to deal with the unnecessary complexity that a poorly maintained system causes.

To me, a company’s investment in its phone system reflects its overall take on client service. If Corporation X doesn’t think fixing its broken directory is worthwhile, its leadership probably doesn’t consider client interest a top priority. I’m not saying that they’re only looking for opportunities to upsell you on products or services that you don’t need, but being difficult to reach doesn’t imply a customer-first attitude.

In the long run, a self-serving company ethic is self-defeating. Clients – potential or otherwise – can smell it from miles away.

Our clients usually come to us already knowing a little something about marketing. But just as a copywriter probably can’t design a visually compelling logo, no prospect knows every aspect of our industry. So, it’s our duty to educate our clients on why and how we can achieve their marketing goals, while respecting their time and business.

We go out of our way to fill in the gaps in a client’s marketing knowledge and develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Agencies that don’t invest time teaching their clients and explaining why they recommend certain tactics are damaging the profession. A less-educated clientele sees less value in marketing. This attitude leads to the unfortunate result of businesses relying entirely on unsupported sales forces.

Some companies believe that they haven’t lost anything if they haven’t invested anything. But by not investing in the materials that their sales teams need to build relationships and close deals, they’re losing opportunities for revenue.

That out-of-date phone system or bad sales collateral may have just lost them a lead – but how would they know?

What’s your take on making behind-the-scenes investments to help your customers? Let us know in the comments.


Experts make the best sales team

Sales team, sales strategyWhat separates a standard sales approach from business development is the level of interaction with the product or service. How many salespeople can take a part in the creation or development of what they sell?

For the stereotypical used-car salesman who upcharges for standard features, the sleazy salesman only knows as much about his product as he needs to charge the highest price. Even some service industries are this way. Restaurant wait staffs, for instance, are primarily salespeople, and a server who doesn’t know much about food or providing atmosphere can ruin any dining experience.

Some companies have pared down the role of salespeople so that they’ve become responsible for drumming up clients for something they aren’t actively engaged in creating or improving. They add value to the organization only by meeting their quotas.

Business development, however, uses relationship building to ensure that prospects become long-term clients – not one-offs. To do this, the business developer needs to have a more robust understanding of her product or service to show that he is invested in the company and can make educated recommendations in the best interest of the client.

A lot of my prospects use a business development approach, as opposed to straight sales. Some might assume that business development is more important in professional services industries, but I’ve found that it can be just as successful in other industries, such as transportation and manufacturing. For example, a business developer working for a manufacturer will get down on the plant floor and see how the products are made, then go out and see how customers are using those products. He can then go back to the plant and talk to the engineers about what tweaks to the products would be most beneficial to customers.

In my experience, these folks in business development have extensive knowledge of their products and industries. They have clear goals and they have some influence over the direction of their company, whether with hands-on involvement or in an advisory capacity. It’s the perfect blend of sales and expertise.

Do you think business development is the best sales approach? Let us know in the comments.

Email marketing habits to kick to the curb

email marketing If your day is anything like mine, you send a lot of emails. A. Lot. You hope for swift responses and perfect messaging every time, but that’s not a realistic result. To prevent getting discouraged or stuck in a rut, I read up on email efficiency and best practices periodically to update my routine. Here are some of my favorite email marketing “don’ts” that help maintain solid open and response rates.

Don’t send without permission. Always get permission before adding anyone to your marketing mailing list. If your company is like The Simons Group, you’re proud of the work you do and want to share it with the world. But we never send out our newsletter or announcements without a contact’s permission. This common courtesy shows that you respect your audience – and even increases your open rates! So, before you sign up everyone you met at your last networking event for the company newsletter, be sure they are just as excited as you are to receive it.

Don’t go for the hard sell. Readers may opt-out of emails if you bombard them with sales pitches. Instead, send an email with industry tips, thought leadership advice or case studies. If you send information that can help them or get them to think in a new way, they are more likely to continue following along.

Don’t abuse your contact list. Sending emails every day can be too much. Studies show that sending marketing emails one to four times a month can be very successful. Keep in mind that your contacts may be overwhelmed with the number of emails they receive from other companies or internal issues, so you don’t want to add to the chaos. Reach out sparingly and your audience will look forward to your next email.

What are some of your favorite email marketing “don’ts”? Let us know in the comments.


Build trust to build sales

Bridge to trust in salesBusiness deals, especially in B2B markets, are the result of relationships between people. Prospects have to trust the business development specialists on a level that surpasses how much they trust the represented companies. Good representatives know how to strengthen that trust by building and maintaining long-term relationships and taking a personal interest in their clients, not just their business. Since clients benefit from a deeper level of understanding, the relationship becomes mutually beneficial.

Sometimes, however, business development specialists focus so heavily on building rapport that they lose sight of their agenda. They want to make their prospects or clients feel comfortable, but overlook opportunities to close the sale. Here are some tips on how you can balance the personal and business sides of the sales equation.

Don’t be shady. Some self-serving salespeople engage in underhanded tactics to trick prospects into becoming clients. These are the salespeople who won’t take no for an answer, or who use disingenuous tactics to get prospects to call them back. This behavior is untrustworthy and sabotages any chance of a long-term relationship. Even if you trick a prospect into one sale, they will realize what you did: sacrifice long-term business for short-term gain.

Sell your perspective. Marketing communications are vital to every business, but I’ve heard a lot of reasons why prospects think differently. As an outsider, it’s my duty to paint a bigger picture for them so that they can see how marketing initiatives can play an active role in improving their businesses. Take time to listen to your prospects concerns, ideas and goals, then show them how your business can support their individual needs. An educated, outside perspective can help prospects, but only if they can see its worth.

Work together. Pandering or being a yes man does the prospect a disservice. Work with your prospects to identify solutions that meet their available time and financial resources. Make sure that you present all the available solutions, including your recommendations, so that they can make the right decisions to meet their short- and long-term goals. When they’re ready to move on to another step or find a new need, they’ll look to you, a trusted partner, for a solution. Together, you’ll find ways to sustain a lasting relationship that helps both businesses grow.

How to get the most out of your follow-up email

email follow-upsI’ve found myself making a lot of calls recently and that means making sure to follow up with my contacts if I don’t hear back from them, need more information or want to thank them for their time. Follow-up emails have become my lifeline and I simply couldn’t function without being able to rely on their effectiveness. No matter whom you’re trying to reach, a well-executed email could get you a response faster. Here are a few tips to help you with your next check-in.

4 keys to crafting follow-up emails

Start with a straightforward subject line. The most effective subjects are specific, direct and don’t use verbiage that may fall into spam filters. Avoid words like “remove,” “sample,” “form” and “help.” Instead, reference something specific such as the project you both are working on or something about who you are. For example, “Quick question from Public Relations Specialist at The Simons Group,” reminds the contact who I am, where I’m from and why I’m reaching out to him.

Provide context. Be sure to reference what your previous interaction was and why you are reaching out so that your contact isn’t left scratching his head. Say, “I left a voicemail, but wanted to make sure you have my contact information,” if you’re following up after one call. Or, “It was great chatting about XYZ with you on Tuesday,” if you were able to connect. No one wants to rack his brain to remember where you left off, so take the initiative and provide a quick reminder.

Be clear about your objective. Are you emailing your contact to set up another meeting? Do you need to have call that includes another member of your team? Do you want to thank your contact and make a recommendation for the future? Make sure your message is clear and concise so that it’s easy for your contact to understand what to include in a response.

Mind your timing. In many cases, after you’ve left a voicemail, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a follow-up email right away. Sometimes, it’s easier to reach someone through email than by phone, so an immediate email follow-up makes it more convenient for the parties involved. In other cases, such as following up after a meeting or conversation, it’s better to wait a day or two before reaching out. The exceptions to this, of course, are if you’re thanking someone for his time or providing information the contact requested during your meeting.

How do you follow up with your contacts? Let us know in the comments below.

Sales training will only take you so far


Conventional wisdom says that you need to brush up regularly to stay on top of your game, so I attend webinars once or twice a month in hopes of gaining or, at least, polishing a skill set. My most recent event had three speakers with expertise in various forms of increasing response rates. Two of the speakers were very concise, but only because the first speaker rambled on for twice his allotted time about lead generation – and how his family could only stand him for an hour a day. This was sales education.

When does technique become a crutch?

Lots of sales training, including the webinar I attended recently, focuses on improving technique, such as “make sure you sound excited” and “know the best times to call.” Of course, it is important to know enough technique to be efficient, but perfect technique doesn’t make up for the grunt work of making a lot of calls or knocking on a lot of doors.

Technique becomes a crutch when salespeople start to think of it as something that will do their jobs for them. The function of the salesperson is not to convince a prospect to become a client, but to find a willing prospect and to show them the avenue towards client-hood.

Safety in numbers

The experts have a lot of pretty looking graphs and visuals to illustrate how you can get somebody to talk to you and why email and phone calls are better than texting. But even the best response rates are still incredibly low, which can leave lead generation teams scratching their heads.

The fact is that most people are perfectly content with whatever they are doing, so they aren’t interested in what you’re selling. Nothing short of mind control can change that.

To counteract indifference, we recommend large pipelines. If you get in touch with fifty people and that ends up translating into two sales, getting in touch with a hundred people should give you four. Once you find your averages and know what to expect, you’ll be able to tell when tweaking your technique has an effect.

What sales techniques have you tried and tossed? Let us know in the comments below.





5 tips to sell your big ideas to the bigwigs

Success or Failure?

When a big idea hits, getting the go-ahead from management can make the difference between a career-defining project and the recycling bin. No one wants to work hard to set up a new marketing project only to have management hit the brakes before it takes off. Here’s some advice on how to sell your ideas internally and transform them into completed projects.

  1. Define your project scope and goals clearly. Spell out the project in a way that is easy to read and explains your plan from start to finish, including ways to measure its success. Anticipate questions that management might have and answer them when you present the project for consideration.
  1. Set realistic goals and timelines. Break down the project into phases and set deadlines for each task to anchor the project completion date. Show how you’ll keep track of progress and how different phases will affect one another. This will help you stay on track and within budget.
  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page. From senior management to assistants, all team members should understand their roles and responsibilities. Setting clear expectations for the team will help to garner support for your idea and make the project successful.
  1. Identify potential challenges and ways to overcome them. Being upfront about potential problems or obstacles will give management more confidence in the success of a specific marketing project. Accounting for potential issues and project variables shows that you’re thinking about the big picture.
  1. Rank your project. Show management where your idea fits into the company’s strategy and other timelines. Are there other initiatives you could tie into your execution? Knowing how your project fits into the company’s marketing mix can make their decision easier.

Do you have any tips for getting management to approve your marketing projects? Let us know in the comments below.

To call or to email? Both

businessman-1241110It can be hard to reach a prospect through only one point of contact. As a salesperson, I spend a lot of time on the phone, but this isn’t necessarily true of everybody else.

Case in point: I was recently trying to reach one of my contacts and got his voicemail. In an unexpected twist, he said he would be out of town until February 11 – but February 11 had already come and gone.

Read more…