Guest Contributor: David Colomb David's Posts - David's Blog O.K., I know it's hokey, but I've always been a believer in New Year's resolutions. It's a new year, a new start and what the heck; sometimes we need to reinvent ourselves. Sit down, put your assets and liabilities on a sheet, and decide how to capitalize on the positive and change or at least downplay the negatives.
First I have to set goals, where do I want to be next New Year's? I need to be realistic in my goals, but I also need to challenge myself. Too low, or too high and the goals do nothing to help me. I also need to break the goal down in to bite size pieces, so I can stop at each goalpost and adjust my direction. Once I've set the goals, I need to decide what I need to use from my current toolbox, and also what new tools I need to find and put in the box to succeed.
In my case, I always feel that I need to work on organization; my enthusiasm overcomes my sense of organization. My files need work, my reports need to be kept up better, and even my vehicle needs to be organized. I need to sit down and decide what stays, what goes and what devices and strategies I'll use to get my act together. It's important to my sales, because when I'm organized, I'm more confident, and my presentations are more polished, and my sales improve.
Every year I choose a facet of my sales that I'll read and study to improve. It may be sales techniques from books or off the Internet, but I search out things that'll help me and I make a plan to do the research I need. I also pick out sources for information on my industry and make plans to improve my knowledge base. It may be journals, magazines or books; again I subscribe to the sources, or buy the books or go to the library and get what I need.
Part of success is being part of a team; I sit down and analyze how I can improve my team. Do I need to build new or better relationships? Do I need to improve communications with the organization, or do I need to open a totally different channel, and work around a problem?
The next step is how do I change my style of doing business, what do I do in a call that's successful, and what needs work. After my study, what can I take from my research and meld in to my approach to sales. I don't feel you can just plug things in; you need to figure out how to make them your own. Early in my career I'd pick up something that someone said or did, and I'd try to wedge it in to my sales approach, and it always felt and look forced or uncomfortable. Once I sat down and analyzed why something worked, not just do what they did, I was much more successful.
I know it sounds like a lot to do, but the first step is commitment, decide you're going to do it, and you'll make it happen. I often feel that in the time I waste making up excuses why something can't happen, I probably could have gotten it done. Let's face it, it's your career and your future, you owe yourself the time and effort to be the best you can be.
This seems to be the biggest challenge for many people in this economy. I totally understand the issues around this and totally get it. The only thing that I don't get is that this has NOT been issue for me in my business. In fact, this has been my best year yet! Well how can than be you ask? Well, let me share with you in this season of thanks, two things that will help you make a difference and get more clients in any economy:
1) Do you really know the business you're in? You might say that you're a coach, a marketer, a musician, or whatever your business focus is. The reality is you're that's not really the business you're in. The business you're in is connecting with your clients, creating relationships and marketing to them. That's THE business you're in, you're the problem solver, the person that will come to their rescue and help that. The more you can get this and figure this out, the easier it will be for you to get new clients. The more you can reach your prospects on a more emotional level, the more you will connect and they'll want to work with you. The best way to do this is to speak like your prospects in your marketing copy. Use their language, speak to their issues. This is what separates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones, knowing that you're a marketer 1st, and marketing your business will lead to your great success.
2) The best marketing that you can do that will lead to your success is called Direct Response marketing. It's different from image marketing. Image marketing is what big companies like Sony, IBM, and Starbucks do. They spend tons of money using image/brand marketing. This is what I don't want you to do. For you as an entrepreneur or a small business, I don't want you to spend a ton of money on your marketing, and the money you do spend, I want you to get the most value out of it. Hence, I want you to use direct response marketing when you start to market yourself. What this means is that everything you put out to advertise yourself has a way for your prospects to respond to you. The focus of your business is to get new clients and keep these clients for a long time. It's not to simply sell your services. Also, you want your potential clients/prospects to raise their hand and let you know that they're interested in your services. So how we do this is whatever you create, you're going to ask for your prospects info in exchange for something for free. What I call this is creating your incredible free offer.
You want to create something so compelling that they'd be willing to exchange their information to get it. It has to be something that they'd feel like a fool if they didn't get this free thing. This thing could be a free report, free audio, free video. The real key here is you need to really know your client so you can create something that they'd be willing to have. An example of a title would be- The 7 Horrible mistakes people make when they're hiring a career coach and what you can do to avoid them.
- For example if you want to do this online- When creating your website, to advertise your new business and services, you need to put your incredible free offer to give to prospects. You need to have an email auto responder like 1 shopping cart or like aweber which you will put on your website that will take these names and automate this whole feature of giving them your free report.
I hope you can take these two tips and run with them all the way to the bank. I use both of these strategies and many more. This is what's helped me grow my business to much success in any economy.
Guest Contributor: David Colomb David's Posts - David's Blog Today I was at a sales meeting and I listened to a number of people discuss sales approaches and the mechanics of a sale. As I listened, I thought back to my former life and tried to decide was I working in a field that was an art or a science?
Are sales an artistic or scientific profession? About 15 years ago I took a sabbatical from sales and became the chef/owner of a restaurant, and in so doing, I learned that cooking was an art, while baking was a science. In cooking you can change the ratios of any item, you can replace one item with another, and you can change the cooking time or method, and you still come out with an edible product. Sometimes better than planned, other times, not so good. Baking is all about chemical reactions and ratios ; change a ratio or change an ingredient, and you wind up with an inedible mess.
People stood in front of our group and discussed their approach to sales, and it comes down to discussing physics, action and reaction, when you do this, it will cause the customer to react in this way. A number of teachers have distilled the interactions of customers and sales people down to a decision tree, you remember those, if this then that, or this? It is inevitable, no question and no doubt. Just follow the yellow brick road to Oz.
I really believe that it is much more of an art form, yes, all of the science can help you to get through a sales process, but to be truly successful, you have to go well beyond the science. If our customers had read all of the materials and knew the rules as to how they should react, then we would be successful every time, but regrettably the process doesn't always flow. There are way too many variables in the process for it to follow a scientific formula. As salespeople we need to have a sales plan, but we need to be able to read when the wheels start to come off, and we need to dip in to our tool box and pull out another tool.
I cruise the message boards of a number of sales sites and salespeople are always looking for absolute answers, cold call or not, dress for success, or not etc. again I feel that there are way too many variables to be able to make those kind of pronouncements. I really believe that our experience in the field every day builds a file of action and reaction events that we can fall back on, and that will allow us to be successful. I used to say that things I did were done by the use of common sense, one of my people told me it was only common sense because I had done it and realized what worked. I guess that's correct. Read those boards and see how many different and unique points of view that are put forward when a simple question is asked. Scientific theory doesnâ€™t allow for multiple choice answers. I realized that in College, and that is why I changed from Engineering to Business Administration. In the Business courses, a reasoned argument could make anything seem correct.
I guess my point is that while study and scientific reasoning have a place in sales, don't let science become your God, keep your instincts and a sense of humor, you'll be happier and more successful.
Even though we don't think of them as such, doctors are small business owners too. They have offices. They have staff. They share the same problems most small business owners' have- and maybe even more in our litigious society.
Doctors are also difficult clients to obtain. They typically make, or are perceived to make, a healthy income and their practices have a lower probability of business failure than other businesses. As a result, they are pitched to. A lot. My own doctor is sold to so often that he takes pictures of all his pharma reps since he can't keep track of all of them.
As a result, they are a cynical lot when it comes to salespeople. Give me your pitch, Leave your business card. I'll call you when I am interested. Next. What makes it harder is that Doctors are so specialized in their knowledge that they have little time to learn the difference between your client management system or your competitors or the difference between this insurance product or that one.
Thus, one of the shrewdest sales strategies I ever experienced was an insurance agent who simply acknowledged that Doctors are a difficult sale and found a way around this obstacle. Quite simply, he encouraged all doctors to attend an insurance seminar with their accountants.
This strategy was successful for several reasons:
1. He understood that in a complicated field like insurance, the Doctor was going to refer to her accountant anyway so why prolong the sales cycle when you can invite the accountant as well?
2. Accountants are often the gate-keepers for Doctors so show you have nothing to hide by inviting the gate-keeper.
3. Earn the trust of trusted advisors of your prospects and you will have an ally on your side.
To put this in another context, remember your dating days? If you really wanted to impress that girl you liked, you would be nice to her friend right? They would put in a good word for you. Even though she may not trust you, she trusts her friend and her friend's judgment.
Do you keep track of your numbers, you know the amount of money that you spend on producing products, advertising, shipping and handling? This is huge in the Information Marketing business- "Know Your Numbers!"
You need to keep really good track of all these numbers:
1) Product Cost- Do you know how much your products are services cost? Are you making money or losing money? You better know your margins well. It might be time to reassess your prices and do an increase. Yes, you can increase your prices in a recession, don't listen to Wal-Mart or Kmart. The money is not in discounting your prices.
2) Advertising Cost- This is really key- you need to keep track of ALL your advertising, especially if you're doing multi-step direct mail campaigns, or postcard series, email newsletters, etc. There has to be a system that you put in place to know WHERE your prospects are coming from and how much it costs to acquire a new prospect. This way you will know how affective your advertising and marketing really is out there versus how much it costs.
3) Shipping and Handling (S&H) Costs- Lots of different studies have been done on how much to charge for shipping and handling. What's interesting here is people who've not charged for shipping and handling have gotten basically the same conversion rate as people who do charge for shipping and handling. Moral of the story is definitely charge for S&H. Things to think about- if you give them a refund, you might consider subtracting the S&H.
4) Refund Percentage- If you have a great product or service, this ought to be pretty small, like 10% or less. In this crazy economy it might be a little higher. The important thing here is to know what the number is and keep track of it to ensure it stays in the low figures.
5) Profit & Loss- This needs no explanation or you wouldn't be in business.
6) Other numbers you really need to get a handle on are- Your cost per sale, your total number of sales, and your conversation rate for your advertising and marketing pieces.
There's much more to this number thing and keeping track and score of them all. You just really need to get a good handle on these in order creating an even more successful business. So watch your numbers, or higher an expert to help you with them. Keep track of them and make important business decisions based on your all of these numbers.
Guest Contributor: David Colomb David's Posts - David's Blog Technology, a word that is the friend of some salespeople. A word that strikes abject fear in to other salespeople. Which are you? I started my sales career with a three ring notebook, with a page for each customer, I put in info each time I contacted the customer, until the page was filled, and then I stapled a new page to the back, and carried on. The notebook became dog eared, the pages fell out, info was lost and I was frustrated. Communication was a pager that told me who to call, and the nearest phone booth and a roll of dimes were the way to contact my customer. You learned where there were phone booths with desks, and good lighting, so you could sit down and do your work. Research on a potential customer was a trip to the public library, cold call info was yellow pages; you kept a copy of each phone book in your trunk, and pulled it out when you were working the territory. Orders were placed by handwritten forms, or called in to the secretary who typed it up and turned it in. Copies were on your desk, and you filed it all away in file cabinets.
Today, all my client info is on my laptop, and with an air card, I can get on the internet anywhere and anytime. Orders are placed by filling out forms on the internet, with copies in a computer file. I have two cell phones on my hip, one for company business and one for personal. I have a printer in car, so I can fill out and print contracts on the customer's site. My car has two electric outlets to power all this technology. Which is better?
Yes. I know that keyboard time, has replaced windshield time as the bane of a salesperson's existence, but think back to how difficult organization was in the past. You can now put together newsletters, presentations, and other communications and email them to any number of clients. We can then record our movements on a file in our CRM, and know what we did. We can stay in contact with hundreds of customers on a regular basis. We can use GPS to cut down lost time and energy.
I always fear that that I don't let technology disconnect me from my customer, I need to balance technology with the personal touch. I may email, but I need to be sure to make face to face contact, I may use the cell phone, but I need to be sure we're talking. I can't let leaving a voicemail, be sufficient contact with a customer, I need to be sure I reach and speak with the decision maker. Technology should help me to have a better relationship with my customer, not insulate me from my customer. I also need to resist the need to be a belt and suspenders type of salesperson. I need to embrace and trust that technology works. I don't need boxes full of files in my car, which are copies of things on my computer. I don't need to hard copy every email I receive, I need to let technology lighten my load, not add to it.
We always want to complain about change, and lament the good old days, but they weren't that good. We need to accept change, advocate for more change, and use the technology to the best effect that we can. Let's all prove that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
Guest Contributor: Shannon McCaffery Shannon's Posts - Shannon's Site There's a great story by the late marketer and copy writer Gary Halbert. He often asked a group of people this question, "If you were to open up a fast food business, what would you want?" Some people said they'd want a great location, others said the best secret sauce. And what Gary said was, "You guys can have that stuff. All I want is a starving, and very hungry crowd." This IS exactly what you want- a huge massive starving and hungry crowd. You need to find people that are desperate or who will do anything to simply get their hands on your product or services and then all you need to do is give it to them. Your potential customer is that "Hungry Crowd."
So then the real question is what comes first? Do you create your product first, then find your hungry crowd and sell it? Or do you find that hungry crowd first and then create your product? Well, the debate about this one in the information marketing business is pretty hot and heated and almost as passionate as to what came first, the chicken or the egg?! The funny thing is that the majority of people I come across usually have already created a product or in the process of creating it and then they look to build their list and find their hungry crowd. The real truth and honestly THE best way to go about this is finding that hungry crowd FIRST. This is really the key. There's no need to spend all your time, money and effort creating a product to then find out that it's not a real "hungry" market and there's no real "need" for your product.
I'm going to spend a few minutes here this month and give you some excellent tips I've discovered on how to go about finding "your hungry crowd" first, then later in the coming months I'll give you some insights and great ideas on how to go about creating your product.
Here's step #1, after you have your product area, you need to do RESEARCH. Best way to do it is go online to Google. Put your key words right into the search area and check out the right side of the page. These are paid advertising, and also the top of the page there might be some ads. Are there products or services already being marketed to this niche? If the answer is yes, that's a good sign. It means people are looking for solutions to their problems and are willing to spend money to buy them. Look for trends, and top performers in your category. For example if you create a product on house training your dog, put that into Google's search engine and see what comes up. Sometimes there are too many products in a field. So if you decide you want to enter, I'd recommend buying the top products that are your competition and read through them and figure out what's missing from the product. Figure out your competitor's weak point. So when you create your product, make it incrementally different, than your competition and have a specific marketing hook that's different from them. Also, sign-up for their newsletters or free reports and see what they're selling, and how they're selling it. Knowing your competition is good.
Other places to do your key word research: www.technorati.com - search blogs for your topic or idea, www.Wordtracker.com (they have a paid and free service) You could also go to Google Adwords and see your search volume on actual words people are using surrounding your product idea. Just go to Google, on the bottom of the page that says "Advertising Programs." (If you have an adwords account already, you can read on!), then click on Google Adwords. Scroll down to "Create your ads" and click on "Get key word ideas." Add as many words as you can and hit "get key word ideas." When you get your results, look at the "global monthly search volume," and you can even sort by this column. This will give you a good idea on how many searches were done with these key words. Plus it will give you many other key words that people search. There's so much more you can do with this, however, I just don't have the space here. And there are also volumes of other great resources on Google adwords that could help you as well.
Something else to keep in mind is that very successful products come from these 3 Super niches: 1) Money in Business 2) Health & Fitness 3) Dating and Relationships
Look for markets that are evergreen; is it a fad that will last? Is this a seasonal market and do I have time to enter it? How much money can be made in these niches? Remember you need a little bit of lead time to create and then sell your product.
Next, do you have a sense of what it costs them NOT to have those problems solved? If not, find out. This can be a key selling point in your favor, you will appeal to this crowd on an emotional level, and you feel their pain and want to help. Do you know what they are willing to spend in order to solve their problem? You can find out by going to the web sites of the current vendors within the space you are pursuing. Check out the products and services they sell, paying special attention to the pricing.
We've just scratched the service on how to go about researching for your product idea. I hope this was helpful. I'll give you some more great stuff on research and product creation next month too! In the mean time, if you have any questions, email me, I'm happy to help!