Monday, June 25, 2012

10 Tips for Closing a Sale

If you asked a hundred sales professionals for their best tips on closing a sale, you would get a hundred different responses. You would hear the old school crowd preaching the benefits of the assumptive and Colombo closes. The newer breed would claim that a sale is simply the result of the relationship and rapport that you have built with the customer. While closing techniques are as varied as the sales professionals employing them, there are some tried and true tips to effectively close a sale.

Earn the Right

Before you can expect to close a sale, you must first earn the right to ask for the sale. You earn the right by delivering on your promises and by following up on customer questions. You earn the right by showing up for appointments on time, prepared and eager to serve the customer. Focus each call on how you can help the customer instead of what you can get from the customer, and you will eventually earn the right to ask for the sale.

Ask for Next Steps

After any customer call or completed action item, ask the customer what he or she thinks should be the next steps. If they are unsure, make suggestions of next steps that move you closer to a close.  Remember that the next step could be to close the sale. Often times, inexperienced sales professionals add too many steps before trying to close a sale.

Begin With the End in Mind

Each step you take in a sales cycle should be leading you towards partnering with your customer. With each customer interaction, remind yourself of where you want to go and focus your efforts on moving in that direction. Without knowing where you are going, you may find yourself taking steps that lead you away from closing the sale. Keep focused on your purpose during each step in the sales process.

Give and Receive

In most sales cycles, your customers will ask for something. Whether they ask for information, a lower price, product demonstrations or customer referrals, expect that you will be giving a lot during the sales cycle. A good rule to remember is that you should always ask for something after you give something. For example, if the customer asks for a demonstration, ask for their commitment to move forward to the next steps if the demonstration proves that your product or service will fulfill their need. While it may be better to give than to receive, in the sales world, giving and receiving are both equal players with equal amounts of importance.

Sell More Value

In a price-sensitive market, the winner is the one who is able to show more value than the asked for price. Value is determined not by the market but by your customer. Show them that your product or service has more intrinsic value than the price, and the sale is yours.

Under Promise

A mistake that many rookie sales professionals make is to promise something that they cannot deliver. For example, if you are selling a product that requires the item be shipped, tell the customer when to expect the item and never suggest that you can get it to them sooner than what is realistic. It is better to tell them that delivery will take longer than what it probably will. 

Over Deliver

If you followed tip No. 6, you will have ample opportunity to over deliver. Delivering an item earlier than expected will be seen by most customers as you going above and beyond for them. However, if you've over promised, you've probably set yourself up to under deliver. This creates a diminished sense of value in the customer's mind, making it more challenging for you to close the sale.

Be Nice To Your Enemies

You will have competition in every sale. Competition can come in the form of another company or from the potential of your customer making no decision. If you put down your competition, you immediately put the customer on the defensive. Doing so may cost you the sale. Instead, praise the competition where they are strong and point out where your company outshines everyone else.

Prepare and Plan

If you’ve done your work and have built more perceived value than the price you are asking, it’s time for you to prepare and to plan for the close. Preparing includes gathering all the information, paperwork, forms, etc that the customer will need to move forward. Planning means to anticipate any last minute objections and how you will respond to them.

Close Your Mouth

The golden rule in sales is simple: "After a closing question is asked, the first person who talks, loses." In other words, if you've earned the right to ask for a sale, ask for the sale then say nothing. Rookie sales professionals often talk themselves into and out of a sale. Their excitement and nervousness put their mouths on auto-drive and they often end up either missing a buying signal or, worse yet, keep talking and end up bringing up something that the customer hadn't thought about yet. New thoughts in a closing situation usually result in sales delays.
The temptation to talk is great but once you learn how to resist the temptation and how to close your mouth, your sales closing percentages will increase.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Overcoming Key Enterprise CRM Challenges

By Jennifer LeClaire

Senior managers "need to understand that a good CRM [system] actually captures the customer and keeps them customers, said Marshall Perez, a CRM consultant. "Once there is buy-in from senior management, the entire organization needs to be motivated to embrace the CRM technology and make it work internally."
CRM Relevant Products/Services challenges are still a reality in today's market. The question is: How do you overcome them? In our last installment, we asked some industry watchers to identify what they view as key challenges for CRM in the enterprise Relevant Products/Services.
Now, these same experts are offering insights on how to overcome these challenges. The bottom line is getting buy-in throughout the organization, from the cubicle worker to the executive suite. How you do that, though, requires an intentional strategy.

Monitoring and Articulating
We started by asking Saby Mitra, a manager at ZS Associates, a global sales and marketing consulting firm, how to tackle the user adoption challenge. As he sees it, a comprehensive user adoption strategy is a key enabler for successful CRM implementation and adoption.
"Alignment on the benefits and risks of the CRM solution Relevant Products/Services is required at multiple levels ranging from executive management to field sales," Mitra said. "It is imperative that headquarters continues to monitor and articulate to sales reps how the solution can make them more successful in terms of improved commercial performance and productivity."

Besides compelling value articulation, specialized trainings such as iPad usage, formal coaching and incentivized reward programs can aid with improved adoption, Mitra said. What's more, he continued, alongside headquarters, executive management can play an important role in CRM usage by appointing and empowering CRM Champions as change agents who can help the organization embrace CRM.

Understanding the Impact
Marshall Perez, a partner with marketing-recruiter Chief Outsiders, offered us some clear strategies for incorporating CRM into the daily grind. It all begins with senior management clearly understanding the direct impact on increasing revenue.

"They need to understand that a good CRM [system] actually captures the customer Relevant Products/Services and keeps them customers. Once there is buy-in from senior management, the entire organization needs to be motivated to embrace the CRM technology and make it work internally," Perez said. "It needs to become the new culture of the organization."
Personally, Perez stays on message to motivate teams. The message he uses: "Let's efficiently capture the client and the prospect, so we can make them customers for life and increase revenue."

Finding Success Stories
In order to implement CRM, Perez said a team leader needs to be empowered and supported by senior management to drive the process of changing the culture. Goals, objectives, strategies, action plans and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and communicated upfront.
"Metrics need to be identified to measure the progress and impact. Routine communication Relevant Products/Services on the progress of implementation and impact of implementation must be reported throughout the organization," Perez said.
"This is essential to changing the culture and gaining ownership and commitment. Success stories help. Organizations need to celebrate the implementation and draw attention to the positive impact."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Real Leaders Don’t Boss


Ritch Eich says that Real Leaders Don’t Boss. “Real leaders are rare in today’s fast-moving, financially driven world. In their place are fast-track wannabes and imposters, intent on instant gratification in the form of quick (and unsustainable) bottom-line results.”

As Eich observes, there are far too many bosses and not enough leaders. Bosses who are too narrowly focused, see employees as tools, are respecters of position, controls rather than empowers, and sets expectations for others that they wouldn’t wish on themselves.

Eich identifies and then dedicates a chapter to each of eight essentials of effective leadership:
  1. Real leaders don’t boss. They are calm in their style, yet have zero tolerance for bullies, who, in any capacity, undermine performance and morale.
  2. Real leaders have a central compass. They aspire to do what’s right and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
  3. Real leaders communicate with clarity, honesty, and directness, and know how to listen.
  4. Real leaders have a unique make-up. Their passion translates into a strong corporate culture.
  5. Real leaders value and support everyone they lead, out front as well as behind the scenes.
  6. Real leaders know when to get out of the way.
  7. Real leaders are accessible. They are humble and easily approached.
  8. Real leaders know the difference between character and integrity, and why it takes both to succeed.
These eight essentials are about treating people right. They also reflect an extended range of responses to people and situations that “bosses” either don’t possess or exercise.

“Real” leaders inspire others to lead wherever they find themselves in the organization. They help them to find meaning in their own lives.

Leadership isn’t something you are born with, it is something that is thoughtfully developed throughout life. Eich notes, “Most real leaders aren’t born with some innate ability transforming them into magnets that attract others to follow them. They may have expectations placed on them to rise above their present situation or environment; they may even have an inborn strong desire to serve others and accomplish something unique. In most cases, however, leadership skills are developed and honed in the battlefield of life, where leaders discover their drive, passion, and wisdom.” It is these opportunities to rise above our present situation and environment that we should be seeking out and providing for our children—the next generation of leaders.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

CRM – Whose Data Is it Anyway?

The data your company holds is one of your most important assets, too important to be trusted just to a proprietary system. We’ve taken a few calls from friends in the last month along the lines of “I’ve bought a new iPod and now it won’t play my old music files”. The reason is because Apple encrypts its music files using its proprietary DRM (Digital Rights Management) which can prevent a music file being played on any other device as an anti-piracy measure including, until the problem was sorted, our friends’ new iPods. Now this is not the right forum for a debate on the rights and wrongs of DRM, but it did bring home to us the importance of ensuring that you can always access your data.

Over the years we all accumulate data and often it is held in a product’s proprietary format. At Really Simple Systems we’ve been loading data from a few clients’ old Goldmine systems, and like many pre-SQL systems the data files are held in a proprietary format. As our clients were still using the product on a daily basis they could run an export of the data, but the only useful export format was dBase V, another proprietary format from many years ago. Luckily we make a point of keeping old database products so we loaded it up and the data came in reasonably clean. However, it again made the point that if your data is locked into a vendor’s product it’s not that easy to get it back again.

Data Storage

As well as the data format preventing you getting back your data, the media format you store your back-ups on can also be a problem. Over the years people have backed up their data onto floppies, tapes, zip drives and other eclectic media. As the years go by media formats go out of date: many PCs don’t have floppy drives now. If your important document is on a 5½” floppy, you’re in trouble. And the rate of change is accelerating, be aware of the longevity about burning your data on a CD.
According to Kurt Gerecke, storage expert at IBM in Germany
“Unlike pressed original CDs, burned CDs have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD”
He recommends tape.
So if you want to be able to access your data in five years’ time, for either legal or sentimental reasons:
  • Make sure that the data is held in a standard format
  • Keep a copy of the programme that can read the data with the backup, including the archival software if used
  • Every two or three years, reload the data onto new, current, media
  • Don’t forget the password!
So what’s this got to do with web-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM)? Well, all of the above assumes that you have a copy of your data in the first place. Many hosted application vendors make it hard to get a complete copy of your data, to lock you in. At Really Simple Systems we allow users to have a complete copy of their data dumped into a Microsoft Access database whenever they want, or backed up directly to their own servers every night. If you are using another hosted application, make sure that you get a monthly copy of your data, in a format that you can read, and add it to your normal backup process. Otherwise, when you switch the service off, the data is lost!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Social Networking & Your Tradeshow

Trade shows have always been an awesome way to connect with future leads while still maintaining your trade show booth, marketing partners, new employees and influentials in your industry. Learn how to use social media to get the most out of attending your next trade show by following along in the Infographic below. See how Pre-show, during the trade show, and post-show you can use social media to engage with event attendees. How do you use social media in your trade show marketing?

Social Media and Trade Show Marketing

Friday, June 1, 2012

CRM on Demand – What’s It All About?

For businesses to succeed in any market environment, they must have solid relationships with customers and clients; they’re the ones who make success possible. But many businesses are falling behind on keeping those relationships strong because of one thing-they don’t have a simple way of keeping track of everything. Businesses, especially ones that rely on sales forces, lack a system to maintain good customer relationships. Whether it be through sales force automation or contact management. They try to integrate many different programs, but all too quickly it becomes a hassle. More and more businesses are realizing the benefit of cloud computing solutions that provide on-demand CRM services to get organized and dramatically improve sales.

On-demand CRM is different from traditional CRM software because it’s not hosted on a computer hard drive or an office server. It’s hosted on what those in the IT world refer to as “the cloud,” know to most of us as the internet. The cloud refers to the structure of the internet and how it’s depicted in diagrams as a series of computer and server connections. Free e-mail services such as Google’s Gmail and MSN’s Hotmail are all in “the cloud.” Businesses just take it one step further and, in essence, pay to have operations through the cloud rather than on individual computers in an office.

One of the biggest benefits companies who use on-demand CRM find is that it’s easily accessible. With software, you’re tied to a desk, making it hard when it comes time to travel or when you’re somewhere else and need information quickly. Because everything is online, it’s accessible wherever there’s internet—including cell phones and PDA’s.

Sales is a multi-step process, and companies who provide on-demand CRM understand that. Most of the services out there offer easy integration with the programs most business already use. They also offer the whole spectrum of CRM, like help desk services, sales force automation and lead management. For organizations seeking more applications, many CRM companies even offer ways to develop applications yourself to integrate into your business, and ways to share applications with others. With customizable options, the ability to change the look, feel and flow of the platform online is quickly becoming a popular choice for all types of businesses.

Hosting all of your CRM services on the cloud is also beneficial to your entire sales force. It provides an environment of support and encourages collaboration among your sales reps. They’re able to share information among each other and interact in unique ways. Managers will appreciate faster access to sales reports and data, as well as the use of provided data analytical tools to evaluate sales performance.
Your CRM software system is only as strong as the customer experience it provides. Don’t forget about who these services are really all about—the customer. CRM services and platforms help provide a better customer experience. While customers aren’t using CRM directly, they benefit from what it does for a company. Businesses who use on-demand CRM have opportunities to really study their customers, their habits, behaviors, preferences and what works for them when it comes to sales. Everyone will benefit by having stronger customer relationships and customers that stay loyal. With a good CRM system, you’ll be able to provide better customer service while still maintaining your budget and your bottom line.