Your company needs a 15-second statement.

by Shannon F.   It may seem obvious, but you and your salespeople should have something succinct and stylish to say about your company. You have limited time to get your message across to potential clients, especially if you are making cold calls. How can you wow them in 15 seconds, pique their interest, and get them to ask questions? By delivering a word-perfect introductory statement that sounds off-the-cuff. It’s harder than it sounds—just try explaining what makes your company stand out, in one or two sentences, without thinking about it first. Chances are that you’ll either stutter or come out with a generic-sounding statement like, “XYZ Corp. is the best at what we do because we provide the best customer service, and we are simply the best.” Right. Here are some Dos and Don’ts for developing a statement that will make your prospects stop and pay attention. Do: Mention your company’s greatest accomplishment. Have you won a notable award, handled a particularly daunting challenge, or gained an important and influential client? Make that part of your value statement. By sticking to the facts, you can’t go wrong. Example: Instead of saying, “We’re the most trustworthy moving company around,” say, “We moved the LA Lakers to their new headquarters!” Do: Identify what makes your company unique. There are likely dozens or even hundreds of companies that do exactly what you do, and each one thinks that they are special. Never generalize. Instead, give an actual example of why your company […]

Sell BEFORE they go online

by Shannon F. Informal opinion polls show that the internet is not just a passing phase. Though MySpace, homemade Angelfire websites, and certain derelict forums may be ready for the digital junkyard, the World Wide Web is generally still thriving, and only a few stragglers still believe that customers will find them in the Yellowpages. The availability of products, information, reviews, and comparisons online make it difficult to compete if you’re continuing to sell the way you did ten years ago. That’s why the most adaptable salespeople, instead of fighting the inevitable, learned how to do two things early on: harness online marketing tools and, just as significantly, reach prospects before they go to the internet. Be the expert they find online. When was the last time you made a complicated or expensive purchase because a salesperson talked you into it? Chances are, you researched your options extensively before you even went to the store. If you decided in advance that you wanted a Brother MFC-8510DN Laser Multifunction Printer, it’s going to be much harder for a salesperson to convince you that the HP LaserJet Pro 400 M475DN is your best bet. You’re now an educated buyer, because you found out the pros and cons of each product online. So how can you sell your B2B products and services to today’s educated buyers? For one, you have to provide the information that prospects seek online. If you sell business telephones, for example, you should be blogging about selecting a phone […]

How Insight Sales is Like a Relationship

by Shannon F. Valentine’s Day, love it or hate it, is usually a time to reflect on your relationship status. So whether your Valentine’s Day involves an expensive, multi-course meal, a wild night out with your other single friends, a quiet evening spent at home watching a documentary on the mating habits of spider monkeys, or some strange combination of the three, relationships will probably cross your mind at some point today, February 14th. The best romantic relationships have a lot in common with the best sales relationships, and vice versa. Yesterday, we explored how Insight Sales is rapidly replacing Solution Sales as the way to go. Some pundits have said that relationship selling is out the window, but we don’t think that’s true. Insight Sales is about changing the dynamics of the relationship between prospect and salesperson so that it’s healthier and more productive. Here are some characteristics of a thriving prospect relationship based on Insight Sales principles: The best couples have insightful discussions. Solution Selling can mean some pretty boring conversations: the prospect or customer presents an existing problem, and you, the salesperson, provide a ready solution. Luckily, today’s prospects are educated consumers. They’ve done their research already, and they aren’t looking for answers to easy questions. Instead, they’re in the market for innovative ideas that could transform the way they do business. Identifying a prospect’s unmet need and helping them to revamp their business practices makes for a much livelier first date. They don’t always agree with […]

If You’re Still Selling Solutions, Read this

by Shannon F. Less than a year ago, the Harvard Business Review published this article: the End of Solution Sales. It caused a bit of a stir. After all, the way customers need to be approached and engaged is changing, and Solution Sales no longer fits the bill. Still, nobody likes to be told that the model they are currently working within is now irrelevant. More to the point, Insight* Sales (which the authors claim is rapidly replacing Solution Sales) is far tougher than what you are probably doing now. Insight Sales relies heavily on the intelligence, intuitiveness, and personal chutzpah of the individual sales rep. Instead of providing pat solutions for customers’ existing needs, Insight salespeople tell them what needs they are going to have in the future. This calls for some advanced thinking on the part of the salesperson, who must essentially serve as a consultant or coach. Let’s apply Solution Sales vs. Insight Sales to one of our customers, a Managed IT Services Company. We’ll call them Bob’s IT Solutions. In the past, Bob started off sales calls by asking prospects if they were looking for Managed IT Services or if they were happy with their current provider. If prospects said they were looking, or if they expressed discontent with their current service, Bob gave them his pitch about how Bob’s IT Solutions does things differently, provides great customer support, blah, blah, blah. That’s Solutions Selling. Bob’s prospect had a problem—they weren’t happy with their current service—and […]

ASCII Success Summit–Los Angeles

We’ll be at the upcoming ASCII Success Summit in LA next week. Planning on attending? Come talk to us on Thursday, February 21 from 12:30 to 2:30 at our booth in the Solutions Pavilion. We’ll be giving out awesome prizes (we promise not to hand you a free pen) and demoing our exciting new sales software. We’d love to meet you and answer your questions about how to maximize IT sales and grow your Managed IT Services company.

Stop using these stale sales words.

by Shannon F. The world is cynical when it comes to sales and marketing professionals. We don’t trust them, envisioning pyramid schemes and faulty vacuum cleaners. We hang up on their cold calls, mark their emails as spam, and hope they won’t engage us in conversation at parties. But I happen to think that bringing B2B sales out of the dark ages can be accomplished with a major vocabulary overhaul. If sales and marketing people couldn’t use words, phrases, metaphors, and analogies from the following categories, they’d be forced to come up with creative new ways of expressing themselves. Sports metaphors Is anyone else tired of hearing phrases like, “hit it home,” “knocked it out of the park,” or “covered all bases?” If only sales were as exciting as a ball game. Plus, everyone likes different activities, so maybe, “I really went to the library on that deal,” or, “I gardened the heck out of my competition” would be more inclusive. If you must use a sports metaphor, at least try to pick a slightly less obvious athletic pursuit, e.g. “I certainly dropped the discus on that one.” “Leverage” as a verb “Leverage” is a noun, i.e. “I gained leverage during the bidding war by offering my services as a consultant.” (The verb form is ‘lever.’) You can’t “leverage” your sales tools any more than you can “strategy” or “maximum” them. I know that leverage as a noun has come into common usage; I just hate it. (If you would […]

Tips for better email campaigns

  by Shannon F.     It doesn’t matter whether you are selling commercial real estate, reams of paper, or your services as a consultant—prospecting is an integral part of growing your business. Prospecting often comes with predatory associations (in the past, you may have rolled your eyes at comparisons to tracking game and hunting down your prey). But pursuing potential customers should be much more convivial than that—think prospecting for vegetarians. Email marketing is a less-invasive way to introduce your product or service to customers who may be in the market for it. Of course, you have to do it right. Here are some tips to convert your email list into customers, or at least keep them from hitting “mark as spam” and damaging your reputation as an email marketer. 1. Don’t try to sell…yet. If you are making contact with a prospect for the first time via email, focus on engaging him or her. Offer free information, like an article or factsheet. Provide a link to your blog, and invite prospects to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. (It’s also a good idea to ask prospects to opt in to receiving similar emails from you in the future—this deters them from marking your messages as spam.) Whatever you do, don’t start pitching your product—it’s like proposing marriage on a first date. Stick to friendly small talk in the beginning, and watch how your relationship grows. 2. Choose your words carefully. There are certain words that trigger “spam” […]

The Importance of Being Expert

by Shannon F. “I know. In fact, I am never wrong.” –Oscar Wilde We like to remind our clients that potential customers are always most in need of a product or service when their company is in a state of flux. During a trigger event, like an office move, a merger, or even downsizing, companies reevaluate their needs and often come up wanting. This means that vendors providing B2B products or services have an opportunity to fill these unmet needs. But how will you connect with companies in a state of flux? One way is to market yourself as an expert. Companies that are changing, evolving, or relocating their facilities almost always seek information before making major decisions. They need answers, and they often welcome a consultant. That’s you. You’re probably already an expert in your field (in case you doubted yourself). You have years or even decades of experience in telecom, equipment leasing, IT, office furniture sales, or whatever it is you do. You’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and you’ve probably been able to help your clients avoid common mistakes. So how do you convey your expertise to potential customers? Here are a few strategies we recommend to our own clients: 1. Offer a free evaluation. Say you work in Managed IT Services. If you offer to take a look at a prospect’s current system and give them a risk assessment or tips for a safer IT relocation, they’ll probably welcome your input. It never hurts to […]