Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sales Discounts: Discounting the Price is Discounting the Value


Sad to say, many salespeople get in the habit of using discounts to close deals. There are several reasons that this usually isn't a good idea.  First, the sales discount reduces your profit on the sale. Second, a discount implies that the best price wasn't offered first.  And finally, a discount "cheapens" the price/value of whatever you're selling in the mind of the customer.
It's much more effective to think of list pricing as something that you defend, rather than discount, according to Robert Nadeau of the Industry Performance Group.  He recommends the following process:

1. Identify What's Different

In order to justify paying a higher price for your offering, your customer will need to see either you, your offering and/or your company as different (and, specifically, better) than the competition.  There are six basic types of "differentiators":
  1. Feature. A characteristic or capability that your offering has and other products lack.
  2. Brand. An emotion uniquely tied to your company or offering.
  3. Convenience. Your offering is easier for the prospect to purchase and support than the competitor's.
  4. Quality. Your offering is higher of quality (lasts longer, works better, etc.) than the competitor's product.
  5. Commitment.  You're personally more committed to the customer relationship than the competition.
  6. Integration. Your offering works better with products that the prospect has purchased in the past.
The more differentiators that you can identify and articulate, the easier it is to defend your price.

2. Create a Financial Case

Now that you know what's different about your offering, tie each differentiator to one or more of the following five types of financial benefits:
  1. Increased revenues. How will your offering help the prospect improve their revenue? How much more product could they sell? How much are those extra sales worth to them?
  2. Decreased costs. How will your offering help reduce the prospect's costs? How much will they save in labor costs? How much will they save in overhead?
  3. Improved quality (of their own product). How will your offering help improve the quality of the prospect's offering? How much will they save in reworks, scrap, overtime, corrective action costs, and so forth?
  4. Faster delivery (of their own product). How will your offering improve the prospect's ability to deliver their own offering? How much will they save in canceled orders, expediting costs, air freight charges, and so forth?
  5. Lower risk. How will your offering reduce their exposure? How much will they save in penalties, legal fees, and litigation?
The bigger the financial impact of the problem and solution, the less relevant your price becomes.  And tying those benefits to your differentiators gradually pushes the other choices (specifically, the lower-priced competitors) entirely off the table.

3. Get Consensus on Financial Impact

Work with the prospect to get agreement on specific negative financial impacts of the problem that your offering solves.  Make sure the decision makers agree with the cost analysis.  The bigger the negative impact, the better the value.
Then work with the prospect to define all the ways that the problem that your solution addresses impacts their revenue and profit. Include direct costs, lost opportunity costs, personnel costs–whatever applies.
For example, if you can service your product at the customer's site within one hour and the low-cost competitors can only get provide within 24 hours, determine how much it would cost the customer to be without support for 23 hours.
Approaching a sales situation in this way gradually forces the competition out of the picture because it builds a financial case around what's unique about you and your product.  As you build the financial case, the prospect becomes convinced that only your product makes financial sense.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to Build an Ideal Sales Team


You wouldn’t swap Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. It was a perfectly symbiotic relationship while they were in their respective positions. As the saying goes, “there’s a place for everything and everything in its place.” This is true of your sales team too. There are clear stages of the sales cycle: prospecting, qualifying, closing, and retaining. Not specializing your sales team results in inefficiency, unclear career paths, underdeveloped skill sets, low conversion, burned customer relationships...basically, your team will never reach its full potential.
"You will not be successful unless you have prospectors prospecting, closers closing, and inbound lead qualifying done by people in a dedicated qualifying role. If you do that, usually companies triple how fast a qualified lead is generated." – Aaron Ross, author of the bestselling book, Predictable Revenue
What does the ideal sales team look like? Here are the components.

Prospecting: Outbound Sales Rep

Your outbound sales rep has to conjure up new sales opportunities or garner interest from cold accounts. This person should be aggressive, discerning, affable, and efficient, and possessing strong business acumen. They should know the ins and outs of the customer’s business - what problems they encounter, which competitors pose the most threat and why.   

Qualifying: Inbound Sales Rep

One of the most broken steps in inbound marketing is the marketing to sales handoff of leads. Their primary function is to qualify leads generated by marketing activities - PR, advertising, social media, content marketing. With a salesperson specializing in understanding where the lead came from and what motivated them to engage with your business, you’ll experience higher conversion rates and opportunity. This person should be competent in marketing and sales, singularly empathetic, and creative enough to solve the problems of the prospect (with your products).

Closing: Account Executive

Without the previous two roles, the Account Executive wouldn’t have opportunities to close. By the time a lead has reached the AE, the lead has expressed a need for your product and ability to purchase. It’s on the AE to lock down that deal.

Retaining: Account Manager

The Account Manager is in charge of ensuring the customer’s success and securing renewals, all the while keeping an eye out for opportunities to upsell. It walks the line between sales and support.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

12 Ways To Maximize Leads with Whitepapers


Many sites offer free white papers, case studies, or resources in exchange for visitor information. If you do this and your white paper doesn't contain valuable information, your visitors won’t download it.
You’re asking for something extremely valuable to both you and the visitor: their contact information. To get this valuable information, you need to show the visitor the value of what they’re downloading. So when they fill out the lead form, they feel they’re making a fair exchange: valuable information for valuable information. Here's how to do it.

1. Have an interesting title

 Would you rather read a white paper titled “Mobile Analytics” or “Why 90% of Your Mobile Visitors Aren’t Tracked”? The same technique that works for selling books, getting people to read blog posts, and attending webinars can significantly increase your white paper downloads. But don’t go for such an interesting name that no one knows what the paper is about. For borderline cases, a strong subtitle can bridge between interesting and descriptive. Here are 4 strategies to make your titles jump off the page.

2. Include a Cover

 Never judge a book by it’s cover, but people always do. Instead of just giving the white paper a title alone, merchandise it the way you would a book. Make it engaging. Keep in mind, many people prefer to download and print white papers before they read them. Which is more likely to catch someone’s attention on a busy, cluttered desk: a white paper with no cover or one with an engaging cover design?

 3. Make it easy to digest

 How often have you downloaded a white paper for it only to be long, block text? No headlines, sub-headline, or bullet points. No graphics, charts, or screenshots. People are busy. It’s fine to make a long white paper if the topic deserves it, but please make it reader-friendly.
4. Tell them what they are going to get
 Write persuasive copy that not only informs people what they’ll learn from the download, but also what they can do with the information. Make sure this copy is crisp, simple to read, and formatted for online readers. You may want to offer key takeaways, a table of contents, or even an example chart to show them how valuable the paper is going to be.

5. Give the download details

 Let users know the file format (PDF, DOC), file size and number of pages before they download.

6. Include an excerpt

 Very few people like reading poorly written, monotonous sounding, corporate gobbledygook. By providing an excerpt, you can help prove how well-written, easy to understand, and valuable your white paper is.

7. Prove other people like it

 Like endorsements on a book cover, credible testimonials on the landing page of your white paper can help sell the value of the content and improve conversion.

8. Don’t ask for too much information

 Make sure your forms are optimized to require only what you really need. There is an inverse relationship between leads and form fileds. This requires testing to determine the proper mix of lead quantity versus lead quality and some cooperation between marketing and sales.

9. Explain what will happen with their personal information

 Provide users with point of action assurances around their privacy and what will happen after they fill out your whitepaper request form.

10.  Make it easy to share

 Give users an easy mechanism for them to share your white paper via social media, email, etc. Visitors are most engaged when they are already downloading the white paper, so a suggestion for them to share it often helps. Don’t forget to add shareable links within the white paper itself.

11.  Have a follow-up program

Let’s face it, you created your white paper and offered it for download in order to get leads. The money is in the list, but the money is not only in the list. The point of collecting leads, that is names, email addresses and other demographically identifiable information, is to use those as a basis for getting to understand your customers better. Study their behavior to understand what makes your customers tick and to build better profiles and segments to have more meaningful interactions.  That means the white paper has to generate a response or conversation. Making your white paper interesting, actionable, and readable will help, but you’ll be far more successful getting responses if you initiate the post-download interactions and follow-up conversations through a well-planned lead nurturing campaign.

12.  Offer contact information

Some people actually prefer to contact you immediately upon finding the white paper, so make sure your contact information is on the download page. Others prefer to contact you as they are reading the white paper, so make sure your contact information is found there as well. I like adding simple contact information in the footer of my white papers. Others just feel a sense of confidence knowing you are providing your full contact information and not trying to remain anonymous while asking for their personal information. In simple terms, make it easy for them to find your contact information everywhere.
These are a few tips that I find useful. What other techniques have you tried to increase leads from white paper requests?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

10 Ways to Ruin a Customer Meeting


Customer visits are expensive–and if you don't make a sale, your time and travel expense has been wasted. Make sure you're at your best during face-to-face meetings by avoiding these common errors:

1. Be late to the meeting.

If you don’t arrive on time, it tells the customer that you don’t give a hoot about them or their time. Always arrive 15 minutes ahead of time. If you drive to calls, get a GPS device to make sure you won't get lost en route.

2. Fail to check your appearance.

Don’t show up with something amiss–spinach in the teeth, lipstick smeared–that could have been headed off by a quick stop in the client’s bathroom. Make a quick pit stop before the call, and give yourself a once-over.

3. Act too friendly. 

You'll just seem phony and "sales-y" if you pretend that a prospect is like a long-lost friend. Approach each prospect with respect and courtesy–not with a glad-hand and a back slap.

4. Talk more than you listen.

Sales calls are about relationship building and gathering information. You can’t do either of those if your mouth is moving all the time. Get curious about the customer. Ask questions.

5. Argue with the customer.

If the customer doesn’t agree with an important point, arguing is only going to set that opinion in concrete. Instead, ask the customer why he holds that opinion; then listen.  You might learn something.

6. Give a sales pitch. 

Sure you’ve got something to sell–but nobody wants to hear a sales pitch. Have a discussion about the customer's needs; then, if appropriate, discuss what you've got to sell.

7. Fall short on product knowledge.

No prospect wants to hear, “I need to get back to you about that” over and over. Make sure you’re trained on your current products and policies before the call.  It's the least you can do.

8. Get distracted by your phone.

No call, email, or message is more important than the real live person in front of you. When you're talking with a prospect, turn off your phone and, if you're using a tablet, disable email alerts.

9. Let the meeting meander.

The customer's time is valuable.  Don't have wandering conversation that slowly gets to the point. Instead, provide a brief agenda of what you're there to discuss, and be sure you stick to that agenda.

10. Overstay your welcome.

Your prospect has hundreds of other things that he or she could be doing, rather than spending time with you. Set a time limit for the meeting and stick to it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

25 Social Media Stats About Your Customers


Being a customer company starts with understanding how your customers use social media. And while we all know that the number of social media users, channels, time spent and content created is rising, it's important to understand how your customers are using these platforms. So we did the research for you with 25 social media stats about customers just like yours.
  • 76% of Twitter users post status updates. (The Social Habit)
  • 10 million minutes of Skype calls happen every day. (Brandwatch)
  • Google’s +1 button is used 5 million times a day. (Huffington Post)
  • 23% of Facebook’s users check their account five or more times every day. (The Social Habit)
  • There are 2.7 billion “likes” per day. (Digital Trends)
  • 80% of Pinterest users are female. (Huffington Post)
  • 18-29 year olds tend to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. (Pew Internet Research)
  • 42% of users update their LinkedIn profile information regularly. (Socialtimes)
  • 80% of users prefer to connect with brands on Facebook. (Huffington Post)
  • Users with a college degree are less likely than those with some college to use social media. (Pew Internet Research)
  • 2 million blog posts are published every day. (Brandwatch)
  • Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are still the most followed members of Twitter with a combined 71.9 million followers. (Twitter Counter)
  • Every second, a new user signs up on Instagram. (Digital Trends)
  • 12% of users have looked for deals on social media using their smartphones. (AllTwitter)
  • More than 20 million US users have their birthday and year included in their Facebook profile. (Mediabistro)
  • There are 3,480 photos uploaded to Instagram every minute. (Digital Trends)
  • 58% of social gamers are over 40 years old. (Digital Buzz Blog)
  • 82% of users come to a website to get an issue resolved. (LivePerson)
  • 1.3 billion phone apps have been downloaded on both Apple and Android devices. (Digital Trends)
  • About 1 in 3 bloggers are moms. (Hubspot)
  • 40% of people spend more time socializing online than they do face-to-face. (AllTwitter)
  • Facebook posted a 67% year-over-year mobile growth rate. (AllFacebook)
  • 60% of LinkedIn users have clicked on an ad. (Socialtimes)
  • More than 10% of Wiebo users are not from China. (Mediabistro)
  • 71% of consumers expect assistance within five minutes of entering a website. (LivePerson)