Sales Velocity 101 for the WIN.

In the non-capital industrial sales business (sales with a unit value under $25,000.00), speed counts.

In fact, very often the supplier with the fastest response to both an inquiry and the ability to accurately quote & deliver will get the sale.

Here’s Why:

This may not be a budget or cost management process, but it may be a “Do You Have…” process”.

Here is a key to understanding this. If the customer starts with this question, “Do You have _______ In Stock?” Something has happened on his or her end that has moved their need into a near urgent or potentially urgent state.

Understand that the customer does not want to appear to be in need of what you are selling because they do no want to be taken advantage of.  However, if they did not NEED IT NOW, they would not have asked whether you had it in stock.

So, with this understanding of your customers need now uncovered, you have the opportunity to become the hero to your customer.  Just with a few simple words.  “Yes, we do have that in stock”, or “Yes when would you like it delivered?” and the sales is in motion.

The next step is simply to close the sale and fill the order.  This is done by capturing the customers contact info and forwarding them the quote to be signed off on as quickly as possible.

If you are going to win, you will need to have to have a high-speed quoting system. It could simply be a form to fill out and fax. Or a spread sheet  in which to enter data into and fax/email. It could even be a server or cloud based quoting system.  (I personally love the cloud based quoting program www.socketapp.com) Whatever your method, it is important to get the order confirmation delivered within 5 minutes or less to avoid competitors to quote ahead of you and win the sale.

Following sending the quote to the customer, is important to now use a soft touch.  Do not push the order process too forcibly. You will need to assure them the product will launch upon order confirmation and that you will be ready to act with the speed that they require.

In no time, you will get the order confirmation back or a request to process the payment.  If they are on account, get that order in motion.  If they do not have account, run their credit card and get that order in motion.

Be sure to let your customer know all the way along the sales process that you are being proactive in filling their order and never use language, vocal tone or body language that gives them the idea that you have them over the barrel.

If it appears that you are taking advantage of the customers need for your product or service, the sale will be on one-time deal.  They likely will not become a repeat customer.

On the flip side.  If you treat your customer with respect, understanding, precision and solid communication, you will be respected as the supplier who got them out of a jam. Your positive actions will earn you respect, trust and referrals.   Your attention to their needs and the promptness of your actions will also earn you the ability to sell at full price.

After all, the value is in what the item they just bought will do for them! It is not in what it cost them nor what it is. Those are just the minor details.

Change your value, change your world.

To learn how to apply this strategy to your business, get in touch.

Beyond Networking

As a sales person you are fighting for the win. You follow the best possible practices, you out learn and out hustle all competition to land the sale and hopefully through excellent product and/or service quality convert that one sale into an account with a chain of future sales.

There is just one big problem with all of the above. No matter how well you perform you are always giving your customer one final thing, an invoice.

The customer has a direct responsibility, to pay the invoice and as such will endlessly be on the look out to ensure top performance on your part, while constantly being on the lookout for who is willing to outperform you on product, service or price.

You job it to then work toward developing customer loyalty, which on a good day is a tough challenge, unless you are practicing the ultimate in value delivery to your customer as follows…

Bring your customers new revenue.

Wait a minute, as a seller my job is to sell, get paid and line up the next sale, there is no place in the sales process for the process to work backwards, they pay you, and not you pay them. And in this singular logic lies the magic of bringing your customers value, in fact so much value that you are a hero, the receiver of the warmest smiles and a personally made cup of coffee by the gatekeeper and the receiver of your customers time any time you ask for it.

How is this done?

  1. Invest in “Quality Time” with you prospects and customers;
  2. Know your customers and what “to them” is the perfect customer;
  3. Know your customers problems and what “to them” perfect solutions look like;
  4. Connect the dots between those who need solutions (buy or sell) and those who deliver them;
  5. Literally arrange coffees between members of your network and make the contacts that bring new business relationships into existence, some are buyers of solutions, others the sellers;
  6. Systematically, over time you will have brought your prospects/customers more net profit than your own products/services cost, you are now a PROFIT CENTER to your customer.

Now how will the competition, compete with you. All they can do is sell, even if they drop their price to $0.00 they will not win because your value proposition is simply superior. You have brought and will continue to bring so much value to your customers that change will not even be considered unless you bring it.

Understand that this is not a “make sales fast” scenario, significant hard work is needed to generate the network and trust that leads to a true understanding of your prospects/customers’ needs so you are able to legitimately connect those inside your network with meaningful referrals, direct connections all powered by your personal recommendations.

Likewise do understand that the efforts when maintained over a prolonged period of time generate sales results and customer loyalty like you have never experienced before.

Change your value, change your world.

To learn how to apply this strategy to your business, get in touch.

And Now For The Last 25

Have you heard this saying; 25 years to learn, 25 years to live and 25 years to leave a legacy?

I think it’s a Stephen Covey line and I first hear it in the mid 90’s way back when I was in that second period, 25 years to live. At that time I never gave this saying (or what it meant) much thought or consideration, I was too caught up in the moment to worry about the future, self-actualization or even consider what my legacy might or would be.

How times have changed. The closer I got to 50 the more I realized that “I do not know, what I do not know”, and that while I may not be stupid, I sure was ignorant. I realized that to just keep going, let alone get ahead I needed a lot more EQ (Emotional Quotient) and not more IQ (Intellectual Quotient). In the most straight forward of descriptions I needed to learn and understand a lot more about the “WHY” people do things (or not) and stop worrying about the “HOW” things should, could or would work.

As a person not yet ready to rest on past accomplishments I refocused myself on further education, and while helpful it did not really fill the EQ need, in fact, if anything it reinforced how much I did in fact need to get on with developing a much stronger EQ.

Out of that educational process one piece of truly missing personal development became clear, I had no mentor, no confidant, no voice of sober second thought, no wise man/woman who would tell me what they really thought without anything to gain, fear of reprisal, or politics. Someone who would deliver the straight goods, and tell it like it is.

I took up the challenge of finding a well suited mentor, which as it turns out is a lot harder to do than one might think. Like all good things hard work and relentless effort is required to truly arrive at a meaningful accomplishment. However no matter how hard I worked at this, my mentor remained hidden from me, desired, but not found.

Then one day I was in a coffee shop having a detailed, and passionate discussion with a colleague regarding the merits of several different business books, and as we were leaving a gentleman, well my senior but who I had met once a few years ago stopped me and said quite directly “I would like to talk with you about those same books”. The rest as they say is history, I found my mentor, not just in business but in life.

The word MENTOR written in vintage lead letterpress typeI am now 53 and he is 68, he is semi-retired, and the past president of a local college and I am getting ready to put in the best 10 years of my working life. We talk about everything and from all possible angles, we talk mostly business but not so much the numbers and more about the important stuff (the “WHY”) leadership, role modeling, decision-making, decision impact, helping people grow, and unlocking opportunities for others, we examine life in terms of our shared Christian faith and from time to time about health (both), motorcycles (him), gardening (me), and the very essence of the mentor/mentored relationship itself. We ensure that we meet with a purpose and that out actions going forward are both purposeful and accountable.

I have gained immense value from this relationship, and I am in great debt to my mentor for all the grace, insight and advice he has given me. I do however have one major regret in all this and that is simply that I should have started this 25 years sooner.

Today, looking back at my career if I had a mentor of similar quality back then, today I know I would have worked less, accomplished more and would have done it leaving a better legacy in place.

So what does today look like, well I get together with my mentor for a breakfast every two weeks (when he is town) but I have also taken up the challenge of being a mentor, in fact there are three and sometimes four people I am mentoring in one way or another at any given time. Some once a month others every two weeks.

We are building truly great relationships, based on trust, confidentiality and full on, anything goes dialog and debate. The rewards of doing this are huge, for me not just for them. I come alive preparing for and being in these meetings, I take the role seriously and in turn I am taken seriously. I am almost four years into my 25 years of “leaving a legacy” but enjoying every moment of it.

So now the big question…

Do you have a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then get one, you will not regret it.

Are you a mentor, if yes, excellent. If no then you should consider, seriously consider becoming one.

Pull up beside that young crew and the plant, in the office or on the job site, share a coffee and just start a relationship.  Talk about things that matter universally, talk about life, listen and consider thoughtfully and come back a few days later and say “I was thinking about what you said, have you ever considered…” guess what, you just started down the mentoring path.

It can be that informal or very formal with action plans, check boxes and strategic thinking, anyway it works, it’s a good thing. Bottom line is that IQ will only get you halfway.

EQ will get the other half and the school of EQ, it is best found at the feet of a mentor.

It must be nice… To Not Need Business

Here are two simple and highly productive sales lessons that will go far in improving your customer relationships and making more sales.

Answer your voice mail.

I have been trying to get a hold of a seller to connect him with a client of mine for a solid week, all without a response. Wait that is not true, I did get a response from his voice mail system telling me that his mailbox was full and could no longer take new messages.

It must be nice, when business is so strong that you can ignore phone calls, let voice mails go without reply and build up until there is no room left for new messages, customers or opportunities.

Now do not get the wrong message here, I am and will not be a proponent of dropping everything to take a call any time the phone rings, but that said, it is good practice to check your voice mail 3-4 times a day, return meaningful calls promptly and never, ever let a voicemail box fill up to the point where there is no room for new messages.

The seller in question is making deadly mistakes, after all if you cannot even manage a voice mail box why should I let you manage my several hundred thousand dollar a year account?

Here is another simple and highly productive sales lesson that will go far in improving your customer relationships and making more sales.

Check and return Email messages.

Turns out the same guy will not respond to or in fact even check his own email account…? I have sent him no less than three emails, two with read receipt notices (telling me for a fact my messages have not yet been opened) and a Linked-In in-mail message over the past 3-4 days all of which have gone without any reply.

Again it must be nice to have so much going your way that you can afford to not respond to a willing buyer, or perhaps…

He has not come to realize that there is a direct correlation between responsiveness and customer perception. Now let’s this clear, this person represents a highly credible company the reality is that I have every reason to want to connect this seller to my client and my client will most likely become a major client of his going forward, however this deal may never off the ground because the “Perception” being built is that the seller does not care about even the smallest of things, voicemail, email etc…

I am of the philosophy that if one proves he/she does not care about the small things, they should not be trusted to look after the big and truly meaningful things.

In this I think I am like most of you. So here is the sales lesson, show respect, be prompt in your replies and take advantage of every possible opportunity to listen to your customers and prospective customers.

If you are going out-of-town and cannot answer or respond to an inquiry just use a telephone service, leave a message say you are away or program an auto responder to flow back to incoming email.

Sucess-V2A “DO NOTHING” strategy will directly bring a “GET NOTHING” result.

Strange thing is, in my career, the more I learned to shut my mouth and open my earns the more sales I made.

How about you or your sales team, have developed bad sales habits and taken on a pattern of missed calls, un-answered voice mails and ignored emails? If yes, you have a major opportunity in front of you, get proactive with customer communications and watch your sales grow and grow.

If you want to learn more, get in touch.

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The Whistle Dog Factor

Or how $.25 destroyed a customer for life

The facts have not been changed to protect the guilty.
Gourmet Grilled All Beef Hots Dogs
Gourmet Grilled All Beef Hots Dogs with Sides and ChipsOK, I admit it I have a secret love of hot dogs, to be specific an A&W Whistle Dog, Onion Rings and Diet Root Beer. Now don’t get me wrong this is not a daily or even weekly thing, but it was a twice a month thing. So you say, “OK you like some fast food every so often, what’s that got to do with a sales based blog posting”. Well this is where things get interesting. My regular Whistle Dog fix costs me about $11.50 a hit and I go twice a month so that’s $23.00 a month or $276.00 per year.

I am a nice, quiet, very predictable, repeat customer and I bus my own table when done. This makes me pretty much every A&W shop owners dream customer right? You bet right, so then why am I now being charged $.25 for one little plastic disk of BBQ sauce to go with my onion rings? I mean WTF. I am seriously miffed.

I think it was Robert Burton (and not Ben Franklin) who coined the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” and that’s exactly what is going on here. I just dropped $11.50 on a hot dog, badly cooked onions rings and $.03 worth of root beer and they have the nerve to put the touch on me for a single serving of BBQ sauce?

Well first I asked the sales clerk if she was serious, and she was so I very politely paid the lady the $.25 and have not been back for two months, those two months will just keep going and going as I have now started my one man boycott against dumb sales policies and practices. Be warned from now on if I see them, or experience them I am going to write about them.

Yes, the A&W shop owner got their $.25 and now I am going to keep my $276.00/year times the next 20 years and believe you me that $5,520.00 plus inflation is going to by me… well I guess I am on the lookout for a new hot dog shop. Oh and I do hope that the A&W shop owner comes to realize that no matter how many coupons you give it, it will never make up for “Taking Your Customer For Granted”.

OK, my rant is over, now let’s look at the sales lesson, you have a fully qualified customer, who is paying their bills on time, every time, so what happens? Some number-cruncher in the organization says we are losing money on (enter your example of the BBQ sauce here) and we have to pass this charge onto the customer no matter what.

If you agree to start doing this; congratulations you have just joined the Penny Wise, Pound foolish club. You will lose customers by the dozen all because you did not follow one of most primal product pricing policies… Thou shalt not insult your customers by “nickel-and-diming” them.

There are dozens of pricing strategies to not only get incidental costs covered but to use them to build customer loyalty (none of which appear to be covered in the A&W shop owner’s operations manual).

Now apply this our daily industrial sales reality, we are busting our back sides, to make sales worth thousands of dollars a unit. Getting sales, providing great service and earning customer loyalty is hard work. Are you losing sales, sometimes big sales over policies and practices that are seen by your customers as them getting nickel-and-dimed?

Three key questions:

1.     Are you’re pricing policies and/or practices triggering negative emotions in your customers, compelling them to go shopping?

2.     What if your biggest barrier to more sales is the pricing program you are following?

3.     Are you taking the $.25 as asked for and trading away loyal customers for life?

If you want to know more get in touch.

The Trust Factor

The Trust Factor.

When I have dark moments of self-doubt (and I do) and question my direction, value, skills etc… I cut the negative process short and head instead for the “Red Tin”. In this “Red Tin” I keep the original copies of every recommendation and/or testimonial I have ever received going back to the 80’s.

If you read these you will quickly note what they do not say is… you said you would… and then sort of came close. Instead they say, you listened, understood and then just shut up and did the right thing, and you did it over and over to earn my trust.

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These documents are all past tense, they speak to what was done, not what was promised. They speak to listening, little talk, and much action, they speak to investing in learning the real needs of the customer and meeting them head on, they speak to putting others first to then gain the reward of a long-term, profitable relationships.

Today, too many sellers are just pitching the stuff they are “told” to sell, they are not sales professionals, they are order takers. A sales processional seeks to understand a true need and then fill it. They seek an honest relationship, one in which they earn an equal voice with the buyer and can either agree or disagree with the buyer to truly define needs and then fill them.

Is todays, wham bam, thank you man, sales approach what is missing is “TRUST”, trust that the seller actually cares about the buyer needs, and trust that the seller is actually looking out for the buyers long-term, best interests.

The overriding problem is time, companies looking to grow and their sales people do not understand that developing real relationships takes time, and is much more about hearing and not about pitching, it’s about listening and not about talking.

ThisSales Statistics chart, to my experience is brutally true. Most sellers quit round about the 2nd call when in fact the sales magic happens in the 5th to 12th call or direct contact with the buyer.

It may appear counter to what you are being told today, but taking time to get to know someone and their needs, while slower and far less fancy is in fact a clearer path to more sales and thus more commission that any other sales approach.

Being a genuine human being, caring about others first, is in fact the fastest way to forming a trusted relationship, and in the cold light of dawn, buyers will always choose to do business with those they know and trust above anyone else.

All I can say is that anything worth doing, takes time. Relationships take time, understanding takes time, but from relationships comes trust, and from understanding comes sales orders. From meeting needs over the long run comes reputation and from a positive reputation, the testimonials and letters of reference. All hard-won and of deep value, that endlessly reaffirm that I took my time and did it the right way.

Are you an order taker or a sales professional?

http://www.wiebeindustrial.com

What’s Today’s Challenge?

In just the last week we have encountered the following sales client challenges:

  1. How to find qualified, self-motivated sales staff?
  2. When to hire, who to hire?
  3. How to manage the post application process for internal candidates who applied for sales positions but did not get selected for the position?
  4. Who to send to a major international trade show?
  5. Do I hire a technical sales representative to take over part of my sales responsibilities or an executive assistant to leverage more time to sell?
  6. I don’t have enough sales horsepower but I have 200 qualified leads in a company whose average sales is 5mm/sale?

Read more

It’s Dollars Not Deals

Once again I have been witnessing an exchange of opinions on how to account for sales performance, this time taking place inside a Linked-In™ sales management group. I continue to be amazed that anyone who calls themselves a “sales professional” would engage in using a “deal count” as a “sales close ratio”.

The bottom line in sales is dollars not deals.

Case in point (names changed to protect the guilty):

If Sally writes 100 quotes in one month worth a total of $250,000.00 and then closes 50 deals worth $32,000.00. Her deal close rate is 50% but this is not SALES, this is deals!

Sally’s close rate is $32,000.00 / $250,000.00 = 12.8% and Sally sucks as a sales person.

Sales people like Sally, want to avoid accountability at all costs. When they are in the accountability spot light they want to be reviewed for non-tangible performance, such as time with customers, solving claims/credits etc. Then, when under real pressure, will throw out their quote to closed deal ratio as a key performance metric, in hopes of a positive review. This type of sales person wants top salaries, company cars, perks, spiffs along with no quota’s or commissions.

Sam wrote the 100 quotes in the same one month period worth a total of $250,000.00 and then closed just seven deals worth $167,000.00. His deal close rate is just 7% but this also in not SALES, this is deals.

Sam’s close rate is $167,000.00 / $250,000.00 = 67% and Sam is a rock star sales person.

True sales professionals only want to talk in terms of accountability, since real accountability “defines” real sales performance. Sales professionals like Sam want top commission rates and hold their sales quotas in contempt as minimum standards, they want car allowances, spiffs and scotches as tokens along the road to their success. Yes, they will take your perks; however, they really are focused on managing their sales franchise to their (and thus your) maximum benefit.

The difference between Sally and Sam is the attitude. Sally complains to all who will listen to her about her poor lot in life, her bosses’ unrealistic demands or her thin bank account. Sally lives a negative and unbalanced life, working paycheck to paycheck. Meanwhile, Sam spends his time in self-improvement, learning about his customers and sharing his positive attitude; not by talking about it, but by demonstrating his positivity to all he comes into contact with. Sam lives a positive and meaningful life, paid for by selling value into his many professional relationships.

Raising Employee Engagement Brings A 9% Increase In Operating Profits

Great but how do I make that happen? You start by shifting employee attitudes and to be more specific your attitude which is far and away the biggest single item that will determine your ability to get along with others, define what plans you will make and how you will execute those plans. The results of engineering this shift is well researched, for every 1% improvement in employee engagement you can see up to a 9% improvement in operating profit[1] .

Thankfully building a great attitude is a skill set than can be learnt and developed, allowing you to get significantly more out of life and business. Your positive attitude, or lack of, is what attracts or repels the people you come into contact with, and nowhere is this truer than in sales and customer service. We have all encountered the condescending, rude and/or fully disengaged sales person, these are examples of the negative engagement we encounter every day and unfortunately, too often found in our own businesses.

To take your engagement and your business to the next level you need to know three things:

  1. That a positive attitude is the result of deciding to have one;
  2. It will only work for you in direct proportion to the effort (learning, training, practicing and consistent application) you put into it;
  3. That attitude, both good and bad is highly contagious. As such when you develop and role model a positive and engaged attitude you lead others towards the same.

Do you have a positive attitude (most like to think they do, but, in fact do not)? Most do not understand that their lack of positive attitude and disengagement is keeping them from their own goal achievements.

Crafting a progressive attitude, and resetting your goals based on it will raise yours and others engagement levels and excel you towards the accomplishments you are hoping for.

Thanks for reading

Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President

[1] Sources: Gallop, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IES & Towers Watson.

Is A Coffee Card Networking’s Secret Weapon?

In the last three weeks our company has secured three major new clients.

What’s unique is that each of these clients was referred to our company by a past or current client and our cost to land each one was just a cup of coffee.

How networking skills and a Coffee Card can be the secret weapons of business development and sales success.

Meeting for a coffee is a simple method of establishing a friendly meeting place and controlling costs.

Here is what you should be doing:

  1. Go out of your way to meet people, network purposefully and ask them what they do;
  2. If what they do is connected to what you (or anyone you know) might need, swap business cards and tell them to expect a coffee invitation;
  3. Go for coffee (somewhere convenient to them in terms of both time and place), pay with your coffee card and start asking purposeful questions that take time and detail to answer. Speak very little and listen a whole lot;
  4. During your meeting ask the question, “what is your perfect customer and how would you best like to deliver your product or service“;
  5. Use your speaking time to describe what your perfect customer is and how best you deliver your product or service to them;
  6. After 20 – 30 minutes have passed, coffee is over, and back to work you go. Your total time including driving was no more than 45 minutes and out-of-pocket costs are only about $5 – $7.

Now keep doing this, once a day with intent. Two times a day if you can. You’ll soon build up a network, not just of business cards but a working knowledge of what each and every contact does; and likewise they will know what you do.

Now Here Comes the Magic

When what someone does lines up with the needs of your network, you set up a coffee meeting with you and both parties. Again you buy coffee, you make introductions, confirm the connection, and give them both your best regards before leaving.

You have now provided unprecedented value. You have taken the risk of validating the supplier, and you have introduced a qualified buyer to the supplier.

In this process, aside from gaining a reputation as the value provider, it’s just a matter of time until you become the recommended supplier and land a job; this is when things get really interesting.

Over time your networking along with delivering great value to your customers will evolve into fans making raving recommendations about what you do. Now repeat, repeat, repeat. Build a network in which you deliver value first by connecting needs and your networking efforts will soon be landing you new business all for a bit of time and on a coffee card budget.

Thank you for reading

Gerry L. Wiebe, Founder | President