Winning on Purpose

Little Johny knew he'd risked all and become 'king of the beach'
Little Johny knew he’d risked all and become ‘king of the beach’

Do you know what you need to do in order to win?

On purpose?

I don’t mean what feeling you need to have, or what attitude you’d like to adopt, what the latest book has told you to do, or what the latest technological marvel is that you need in order to ‘make it’.

Maybe there is some other chicanery that might convince you that you are doing something useful for yourself or your business, when actually, things couldn’t be further from the case.

 

In my experience, the number one reason a businesses fails is lack of focus.

Thats right, not lack of hard work, or lack of funding (though this is a major issue in itself) or lack of sales or lack of many other things that might in themselves be problems. Lack of focus.

Or more precisely, being so busy you don’t do the things you need to do in order to succeed.

Sometimes you know what those things are, but don’t want to do them. Because they are hard to do, complicated or take a long time. Sometimes something much more interesting comes up that you’d rather spend your valuable time on.

You spend time on ‘make work’. Chatting to ‘contacts’, networking because it feels like selling (it’s not) driving around the place to meetings you must be at, even though nothing ever comes of them.

All this while you put off doing the things you know you need to be doing. Like cold calling, or writing that proposal, or following up on that bad debt. You know, all those messy, awkward, difficult things.

Or maybe like a lot of people you are too busy!

Too busy to do the things you need to do in order to make a difference to your business. Whether its yours or the one you are working for.

Too busy to take a moment to plan the next week, month or quarter. Too busy to look up to see what problems you are about to hit square on. Too busy to deliver on the things you’ve already promised you’d deliver.

Or maybe you are too busy to be able to spot the next opportunity when it presents itself.

Worse, sometimes you don’t know what it is you need to do in order to win. Thats when you have a real problem.

In that case, you just work harder and harder and spend more and more time stressing about winning, when you in fact have no clue what success looks like, or indeed how to get it.

You need to have a laser like focus on what it takes to succeed. What you need to do to win. How much you need to sell, or who you need to see, or what problems you need to deal with.

And then deal with them.

Don’t put it off. There isn’t any other work that’s more important than the work you do to ensure you win.

Do things on purpose.

Rather than letting things happen to you, make things happen for you!

Don’t allow the distractions to drag you away from doing the things you know you need to do in order to make things go well for you. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

Do the things you want to avoid early in the day, get them done, feel that achievement, and go on to enjoy the rest of your day, making sure you are doing other things that lead to success. Make sure you are not allowing lack of focus to edge in, and steal away valuable time and resource.

And if you really don’t know what it takes to win, you’d better learn, fast.

 

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All Sales Problems are Management Problems

Face it, you should be selling more.

You’d like to make more money, you’d like to increase your market share, you’d like to get one over on the competition. You need to increase cash flow!

But your commercial director is telling you times are tough. Rates are under pressure, and the competition is doing crazy stuff to win business.

Your sales manager tells you that the team are working so hard they are wearing themselves out! They are struggling to find new leads, and once engaged in the sales process everything takes longer then ever to progress.

Or maybe you are your own seller? You do everything in your ‘one person band’ including product deliver, finances, accounts and everything else, and there is never enough time to devote to finding the next client or even to properly look after the ones you already rely on.

Selling is hard, times are tough, people harder to get hold of these days, buying is automated, margins are being squeezed, your suppliers are driving increasingly hard bargains, you’re no good at negotiating, you never know how to introduce yourself, the competition do such a good job, recruiting good people is really hard, you don’t pay enough to attract the right talent, marketing don’t supply the right leads, your website is rubbish, your CRM system is antiquated, your sales collateral is out of date, your inbound strategy is flawed, your pricing isn’t competitive, your product set is below par, you don’t have enough awareness in the market place… The list goes on.

All or some or none of these things maybe be true. But thats not the point.

‘He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Either you manage the sales team or the sales team manage you. Either you mange your sales process, or the sales process manages you.

All sales problems are management problems.

Hire, train, and retain the best people in the market. Have a sales philosophy. Something that will stand up to the most demanding scrutiny. Have a plan – what you need to do in order to win – and make sure your sales people (or you yourself) stick to the plan.

Its that simple. And that difficult.

I can guarantee, that unless you are literally the ONLY player in your market, someone is taking cash off your table, by out promoting you and out selling you.

What are you going to do about it?

(With thanks as ever to my mentor in all things Dave Gifford)

How to get more customers

I’ve had an email from a lovely lady called Christine who offers a very modern service. With more people working remotely and not wanting to get tied up in bricks and mortar offices, her ‘Virtual Assistant‘ services sound like a dream come true for busy executives.

But like any new business Christine needs to attract customers. And not only attract customers, but attract them on a consistent basis. This sort of thing can often be feast or famine…

Its a well trodden road for new businesses. People start up a new business, and full of the first flush of enthusiasm spend money on getting set up and getting ready to go, only to stand back a week or a month later and wonder where their revenue is going to come from. They maybe do a bit of networking, or send out an e.shot, or maybe even use Facebook and Twitter.

A few customers, come along, and often, because they are small businesses, and by definition don’t have much in the way of resource, the attention turns to dealing with the customers they’ve won. Which results in the flow of new business getting choked off. Which means in a few days, weeks or months, they are back at square one.

Winning, and consistently winning new business is the hardest part of the job for even big business – just look at Tesco – so there is no reason why it should be easy for small businesses.

I think ‘in bound sales’ is a very attractive method to try, seemingly easier to do than ‘out bound’, but in my opinion, nothing is more effective than getting out there and talking to your customers, and learning what they really need.

But whichever way you favour, the trick is to think about customer acquisition differently. This is the magic ingredient if you like.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a virtual assistant, as in the case of my friend Christine, or a flower shop, or a drum tutor, or whatever it is your business is, you need to think of yourself as ‘Vice President in Charge of New Business Generation!’

There are two types of business, as my mentor Dave Gifford would say, new business and repeat business – and one doesn’t come without the other. There are many ways to arrange sales for your organisation. You could adopt an approach of being highly differentiated, such as Christine, or maybe an exclusive art dealer. This means you will deal with relatively few, but high value customers.

Or you can take a leaf out of the discount retailers handbook and trade on price. That means being the absolute cheapest you can be, which means you have to be the cost leader to win as well. Often a position open to only the biggest businesses.

But irrespective of which approach, you still need to find new customers.

I’ve often seen new businesses set up and position themselves on the high end / differentiated end of the market, only to panic when the customers don’t start to flow in.

Mistakenly thinking this is because they are too expensive, they often drop their prices in desperation. They may well be too expensive, but this in itself isn’t the reason they aren’t attracting customers. And all they have done is eat into their margins. So as well as struggling to sell anything, they are now finding it increasingly difficult to turn a profit.

The easiest way to position something is through price. People generally think expensive things are good quality and high value, and cheap things are poor quality and low value. So pricing high quality things at a low price often confuses the customer. Worse, people know there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’. So they simply don’t believe the claims of the business that sells top quality stuff at low low prices. Making it even harder to sell  – a vicious circle!

It’s better to stick to your price, one that demonstrates good value, and allows you to turn a profit (which most people don’t object to either strangely enough) and concentrate on bringing in the customers.

Put another way, simply dropping prices is not enough. And sometimes its even counter productive.

Selling is easy.

There, I said it! Selling is easy!

You just need to know what the customer wants, and how much they want to pay for it, and then sell them that.

The trick is talking to enough customers.

Whether that’s ‘Face to Face’ as a good old fashioned sales rep, on the telephone as a sales canvasser, or through a high tech website based content marketing operation, using the latest social media marketing techniques.

Talking to more people = more sales. Period.

Asking more people to buy from you = more sales. Period.

It’s a fact that most sales operations fail, not because they are too expensive, or the product isn’t good enough, or the marketing let them down. It wasn’t because the economy was busted, or that credit was hard to get. It wasn’t because the sales person wasn’t a good enough negotiator.

It was because they didn’t see enough people.

There isn’t a single sales problem that can’t be solved by seeing more people. The very first thing you should do when concerned about the strategies you employ to win business, is try to get a sense of whether you are doing enough. Or doing whatever it is consistently enough?

It’s not your website (unless it physically cant get traffic to it) its not the product, its not the price. Its not the promotional materials. Its not the location. Its not any of those things! Its just that you aren’t talking to enough people.

The point is that most people would rather mess around with their website, or the marketing mix, or tweak the advertising rather than do more canvassing, or make more calls, or see more people, or whatever else it takes to win. The chances are, you know how to win business already.

It takes time, and it’s messy, and that’s why you don’t do more of it.

Clearly you have to have all these other bits right. You have to have a differentiated product, and you have to understand your market. You have to understand how pricing works and how it can reflect on your  product or your  brand, and you have to know when to discount and when not to etc.

But ultimately, to get more customers, you need to make more calls.

And that’s the bottom line.

 

 

 

 

 

My Top 10 Posts of 2013

Happy New Year
Happy New Year (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

There will no doubt be an absolute flurry of these type of posts from all over the blogosphere over the next few days, but its actually a pretty good exercise to undertake. I get to look back over the stuff I have done over the last 12 months of course, and I’m almost always surprised at what I wrote about!

But I’m really interested in what the readers of the blog thought of my posts. And while there are a number of ways to measure this, comments, shares and what have you, its probably safe to say that the posts with the most readers were the most popular.

Of course its also the case that these most read posts aren’t necessarily my favourite or even what I’ve thought of as my best work. It seems particularly perverse of the blogosphere to reward the writer in that way. Its almost always the case that what Ive thought as my best work is read the least, and the stuff I do quickly or in a less thoughtful manner is the stuff that proves most popular!

Anyway, here we go, the most popular posts on this blog in the last year, by number of readers – I hope you discover something you missed and something you like!

Oh, and have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year – I look forward to seeing you back here for lots more of the same!

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7 Great Powerpoint Presentation tips
The Future of Welsh Media
Why asking for the clients budget is almost always the wrong thing to do
Do Women make better sales people than Men?
Is Sales the Right Career for Me?
The Most Inappropriate Ads of all Time?
10 reasons NLP is bad for your business
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Guest Post: 5 Things To Do When You’re The Digital Sales Leader

Stan "The Man" Lee, right after we f...
Stan “The Man” Lee, “With great power, comes great responsibility” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is a post from the fabulously talented, and brilliantly named Matt Sunshine! Matt is the executive vice president of The Center For Sales Strategy in Texas. Read more of his thoughts on The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

The digital ad sales initiative is getting a lot of buzz these days and it’s the lead story in the trades almost every day.  Even you feel the pressure.  The fact that this headline grabbed your attention means you are working to use your digital capabilities to help advertisers get results.

Those that lead the digital sales effort know it is not easy, and digital sales revenues prove it.  But, here’s the good news.  While frustration may be high right now, that light is dazzling at the end of the tunnel.  Don’t give up.  Keep pressing forward in an effort to figure it out.

To help you figure it out more quickly and achieve success, here are five things you can do to get your digital moving in the right direction.

Clear out the Clutter:

It is not uncommon, when I ask sellers to share their digital capabilities with me, to hear a recitation of at least 30 to 40 assets they are currently pushing. While you may view this vast quantity as a selling point, it is clear to me that the sellers have no idea how to use or sell any of it.  It is confusing and hard to remember so you need to clear out the clutter and narrow their focus to a select few digital capabilities on which they can shine a bright spotlight.  This will allow your sellers the opportunity to become experts in these assets, use these resources correctly, and begin to more effectively help their clients achieve results.

Learn to Speak Digital:

Let’s be honest.  It’s a whole new language and often, both sellers and the buyers fail to communicate correctly when using it. They did not take Digital as a Second Language in school, and even those that do speak the language, often do so with a terrible accent.  If your sellers are going to effectively sell your digital capabilities, they need to learn what the words mean and why they are important for the advertiser. At The Center for Sales Strategy we provide the Rosetta Stone of digital and we call it “The Digital What and Why.”  Once sellers know what the words mean, they are better able to conduct a needs analysis and suggest more interactive solutions.

Make Smoothies:

Most likely, your mediasellers are selling digital with a “cherry on top” approach.  In other words, after they have built a solution that includes traditional capabilities and the sale is essentiallydone, they will suggest that you match the schedule with streaming or run adisplay ad on the home page.  This “cherry on top” approach is the wrong approach and it will never measure up to an integrated solution which is more like a smoothie.  What makes a smoothie great is the perfect blend of the right ingredients.  While any one ingredient is certainly good, the blend is the best solution.

Ask better questions:

It’s a simple input-output thing.  Asking better questions about the client’s digital expectations during the needs analysis leads to better ideas and the kinds of solutions that can actually help. Here are a few simple questions that Account Managers should ask related to digital topics:

?         How does the advertiser use their website?  Lead generation?  E-commerce?

?         Do they buy search?

?         Do they participate in deal sites?

?         Do they have a social media strategy?

When they get more comfortable with these questions, they can build from there.

Prove it:

There is no doubt – salespeople do not like to sell clients things that do not work.  Any good seller knows that the key to long-term success is client retention.  When clients are getting results, they are likely to continue advertising.  No results = screeching halt.  You can provide your sellers with the buy-in they need by developing success stories that feature your clients who have purchased an integrated solution and achieved results.  You might even set a goal to produce at least one per month.

Final thought:                                                  

As Stan Lee said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”   I believe using your digital capabilities to help business get results is as customer-focused as it gets.  Before the internet, the thought of interacting with the consumer in the way that we do was unthinkable.  We have a tremendous opportunity here and a whole lot of power to connect consumers and business.  With this great power, comes great responsibility.

MattSunshine

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattSunshine 

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How do I get more sales?

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Here’s (an edited version) is one of the frequent questions I get to the blog, and my answer. If you think you might find this ‘service’ useful for yourself or your business, please feel free to contact me directly on tony.dowling@completelyfreemarketingadvice.com

Hi Tony,

So, what’s my issue? I offer leadership development and coaching services, primarily to businesses (or to business people). I am based in Cardiff but my work is not generally conducted in the South Wales area. In fact, not at all so far.  I used to work in the big Corporate world, and, through contacts from there, I have set up as an associate with other people who run similar businesses.

The advantage of being an associate is that they do all the work in terms of finding business, and I simply get called in to help deliver it. The disadvantage of course is that I have no immediate control over getting the work, and therefore I am at the mercy of those associate companies.

I have a wealth of experience from many years working at the sharp end of major change within organisations, and have hundreds of hours of experience coaching senior people.  I am a certified (with the ICF) coach, and can really help businesses to find ways to improve their bottom line through improved performance and effectiveness of their workforce.

The trouble is a) identifying potential customers and b) getting a foot in the door to talk to those potentials.  Once at that point, I am sure I can turn these leads into business.

I have a web presence, and I blog articles regularly. These have a pretty good following and attract some regular interest (but sadly not a lot of business by this direct route). (www.gyroconsulting.com)

Any insights or suggestions you can offer will be greatly appreciated – Louis Collins – Gyro Consulting

Firstly, I think Louis’ idea of partnering up with associates is a really good one, but he has clearly spotted the major flaw with the approach. Effectively what he is asking is how does he improve his sales approach.

His marketing is first-rate, take a look at his website, and his credentials are also first-rate. I’m sure he does a great job.

The issue for him is one of simply taking people out of his marketing funnel and through into his sales process. And doing it efficiently.

He asked about introductions as a way forward. It can be a good idea though this is a difficult strategy to maintain. You are limited by the strength of the relationship of the person doing the introduction to the person you are being introduced to. Some people I trust, and some I don’t and so it goes with introductions. In a very competitive field, this approach can be hugely beneficial, as there is no doubt it can cut through lots of messing around to get appointments.

As regards Louis’ question about a) identifying potential customers and b) getting a foot in the door to talk to those potentials he should rest assured I hear the same thing from 99% of other businesses! This really is the $64 million question.

This is very much the nature of ‘inbound’ marketing, and the problem that a lot of people face with it. They get engagement as Louis has talked about, and maybe even build a following as he has. However, that doesn’t necessarily tun into cash sales.

Website

The good news is that most people, when they are about to ‘pull the trigger’, will research a purchase extensively. And to this end Gyro’s digital footprint is perfectly adequate. If you visit the site, you may agree it could be a more modern looking website, it’s a little hobbyist, probably a reflection of the budget Louis has to build one, and that is a problem with some of the word press themes.

Content wise its excellent, and his credentials are there for all to see. However, his target market don’t have the time to delve too deeply and I think Louis needs to hit them harder than he is and faster too.

I also think he needs to narrow his focus. I can see whats on offer, and its first-rate. but its difficult to get that across isn’t it? Every company needs a simple ‘spin’ or ‘angle’ that can differentiate you from the rest.

I recently met a coach who made a big deal out of the whole ‘Northern’ no nonsense approach that she takes. The reality was she was not really very much different from many others I’ve worked with, and I’m sure, perfectly good, but that initial differentiator was really interesting.

Whats yours? Whats your USP? That will help with the rest of your marketing immensely.

The Sales Process 

Generally speaking and for Louis’ type of consultancy in particular there are a few considerations. You can pay people to introduce you, you can leverage your existing networks and ask them for leads, you can buy data bases. Or you can simply pick up the ‘yellow pages’ and call people.

It’s this bit that most people fail at. Not enough activity.

In all likelihood, what you are doing is excellent. Other than maybe paying attention to your USP of course.

However, its unlikely you are doing enough of it!

How much new business generation do you actually do? How many days per week? Or even hours per day? How many times do you call people, approach them on LinkedIn with a premium profile or even think about employing a sales agency to set appointments for you? (I know a good one Uprise Marketing in Pontypridd no affiliation)

Whatever, at the heart of solving the problem of increasing your customers, is the activity you currently do, and then doing more of it!

This is selling, as opposed to marketing (or at least as a part of marketing) I’m willing to bet your doing a great job of marketing yourself, its closing the loop that’s the problem? And it often is to be fair.

This ‘link’ or relationship between the seeding activities or the inbound marketing as its called today, is often difficult to see. And many organisations put more and more into the first rather than see there is a problem with the second.

While it’s by no means the be all and end all, there isn’t a single sales problem that can’t be over come by talking to more customers.

Yes, we can get more and more sophisticated, and we can jump in at the end of the process with a good SEO plan and maybe get really organised with some kind of automated system like those offered by Hubspot (who I heartily recommend by the way, though I’ve no affiliation)

And as Jay Baer talks about in his new book Youtility (Another recommendation! Not an affiliate link) – marketing today is about help not hype! It’s about being out there and being useful to enable you to cut through the ‘noise’.

It’s about being a resource for people before during and after the purchase. A resource that’s so valuable they would willingly pay for it.

But, and especially for the smaller scale operation, it also has to be about actually asking for the business. Inviting people to do business with you.

And doing more of this is always at the heart of driving sales.

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Why So Serious?

Why so serious?
Why so serious? The iconic movie poster (Photo credit: laverrue)

A lot of people in business struggle with this. Sometimes I have conversations with women about this topic  sometimes men, sometimes youngsters, sometimes more mature people. It seems a common theme for a lot of people in business and a lot of people in sales especially.

“How do I make sure I am taken seriously?”

Here comes one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given.

As a younger man I had a very light touch. Always joking about, and trying to make people laugh. At the same time I was always very conscious of how I’d be perceived by others. Everything from my suit to my haircut came under my microscope. ‘How do I make people take me more seriously?’ was a constant question.

As a sales man at the age of 21 or 22, how did I make people twice my age feel comfortable in giving me thousands of pounds of their advertising budget? How did I make them feel comfortable listening to and taking my advice and recommendations?

‘If you take yourself seriously, people take you seriously’

Dave Gifford told me this almost 20 years ago and it still comes to mind today. He’d always add. If you take yourself VERY seriously, people will take you VERY seriously.

Almost overnight I stopped with the ‘stand up’. I didn’t need to make people laugh, and I didn’t need them to like me. It was a real revelation. It allowed me to be as serious about the stuff I was doing on the outside, as I felt about it on the inside.

And it worked like magic on the people I spoke to.

When you laugh and joke with a client how do you think they perceive you? As a lightweight maybe? I don’t mean to advocate a completely straight-faced approach, I mean to ensure that your client takes you seriously, be serious about what you have to say. If the situation calls for it of course crack a joke, or have a smile and a bit of banter with the client or the staff of your client.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty be ready to do business.

It’s not life and death, its more important than that 

I read somewhere that most small businesses were started with inherited money. Or maybe it was a lottery win? Which ever, someone gets some sort of windfall and invests in themselves and their dream of working for themselves. They soon discover there is too much of each month for their money and have to go to the bank.

Maybe its a bridge to the end of the month, or some capital for equipment, or some other sort of expansion. They go to the bank and they say to the bank ‘Here is my business and my idea. I need you to back me here, and I, and then you, will make a load of cash!’

At this point the bank usually says ‘No’

No, they wont back you on the strength of the business idea, but they’ve noticed you have a load of equity in your house, they’ll lend it to you against that.

So very quickly a business owner becomes extremely committed to winning.

And a sales person that can’t see that, or doesn’t give the impression they see that, is not going to be taken seriously. Sales people who are not taken seriously will only get so far.

If you are a personality seller – Give up NOW 

We’ve had this conversation on this blog before. People buy people right? Wrong!

Well, at least, they don’t only buy people. And when there is a lot riding on the outcome of a deal, they may give you an appointment or an opportunity to pitch if they like you, but if you don’t sound like you know what you are talking about, you’re not even at the races.

WInning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.

Larking about and joking about the weather or last nights TV or the fact you’re feeling hung over after a wild night out that previous weekend and that grizzled veteran business man or woman facing you is going to start questioning your commitment.

Respond to their questions with wise cracks and quips and you’ll quickly find yourself weighed measured and found wanting.

And back on the street with no sale.

They don’t want to make friends with you, they don’t buy your ‘personality’. They buy the solution you provide, the value you create.

There is a time and a place for the relationship building and the lighter side of the job, but also a time and a place to be on it and to take them and their objectives seriously.

We all want to have some fun, and to enjoy what we do. But make sure you have established your credentials for getting the job done first.

Surprising an already committed client with a wry comment or a spontaneous and funny anecdote is a great way to add layers to the relationship and bind their business closer to you. But start that way, and if you are selling anything of any real value, you’ll find it an uphill struggle from the start.

What do you think? am I over stating this? Are your clients more interested in enjoying your company than knowing what value you can create for them?

Let me know, as ever, in the comments, I really look forward to hearing what you’ve got to say.

Or email me directly on TonyDowling@CompletelyFreeMarketingAdvice.com

Just in case you didn’t know what film the poster was advertising, here is a clip of the brillant Heath Ledger as The Joker from The Dark Knight.

There’s also another Heath Ledger reference in the text to this blog – 1,000,000 cool points if you can work it out! (warning – adult content)

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