My review of The End of Business As Usual by Brian Solis

I highly recommend The End of Business As Usual by Brian Solis. I received a copy of this book while attending the Pivot Conference which the author runs. It was great meeting Brian. I wanted to build on what I learned at the conference which examined the social consumer, this is why I decided to read the book.

This book is a must read for anyone who works in the fields of Sales, Marketing and Advertising. Anyone who is looking to build a great brand should also read this book. The book is packed with case studies and hard data about The Consumer Revolution. The Consumer Revolution is the shift from brands that are built by companies, to the co-creation of brands. (Where companies and their customers work together to create the brands of the future.)

Brian provides the reader with a blue print of the steps to take to embrace and predict the changes that are taking place in this new business climate.  (The Consumer Revolution.) Brian’s book is the best business book of 2011 and would make the perfect holiday gift for the business person in your life. This book has forever changed the way I look at Sales, Marketing, Advertising and Business today.

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Building the Brands of Tomorrow

Previously, I discussed about how to develop and market a product. In this post, I am going to discuss how you can build a brand for tomorrow. While attending the Pivot Conference in New York City, I learned that whether you are a start-up company or a large fortune 500, it imperative that you react and anticipate changes in your customers’ needs. For a brand to be successful today and in the future it has to be customer focused. In the past, brands would create content that consumers had to like. Today brands are co-created through shared experience with the consumers. This co-branding effort is happening on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Customers are sharing their experiences with the use of different products. They are liking their products on Facebook, sharing their thoughts on Twitter and posting YouTube videos. Brands such as Coke and Pepsi are great examples of this. Consumers want relationships with brands, they want to be part of the story.

It is imperative for brands to field consumer issues promptly. On Social Networking sites, every consumer has a voice. Social Media had enhanced the power of local word of mouth marketing and turned it to Global Marketing. With a few keystrokes, a message could be spread to the masses as the speed of sound. It goes without saying that if you a building a brand, you need to be where your customers are. So where are your consumers on social media? Social media is a place to share ideas and find information. The first generation of the internet was the era of the search engine. (Google) This generation of the internet is going to Facebook. When people make buying decisions, they are asking their network for advice. People also post product reviews on these sites and ask for advice. Another thing people are doing is friend sharing. Friend sharing is when people take pictures of products and ask their friend’s opinion. Friend sharing can also take the form of just asking your friend’s opinion about whether to buy a product. Earlier this evening, I purchased a book on Amazon.com. After I checked out, the site asked me if I want to share this purchase with my network on Twitter and Facebook.

If you are a brand presented with this information, you might be thinking this is great but how can I capitalize on this information? Here are the steps that every brand should take.

1 Do research on your target market. How do they buy the products that you are selling? How do they interact with brands? I spoke about this in my last post. Is this group using social media?  If yes, then how? What purpose are they using it? Where are they dominant, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube etc…?

2 Make sure that your products and services are top quality. Nothing will sink you faster than products and services that do not deliver what they promise.

3 Have your products tell a story. The brands of today and tomorrow are co-created as I said earlier. In other words brands no longer own the content created. Your brand has to be focused on the needs of your customers.  Make sure to engage your audience and have them create the content with your brand. Customers are engaged through experiences. Your brand has to be focused on the needs of your customers.  When content is co-created, there is more engagement. This higher level of engagement will lead to more sales of your products and services.

4 Be sure to engage industry influencers of the products and services you provide. Provide these people with free sample products. Allow these people to try them out and share their thoughts with their networks.

5 Make sure your brand is on Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, YouTube and Google+ allocating your advertising budget based on how your target market uses these sites. Have multiple pages on these sites that are culturally relevant to each country and part of the world your brand does business in. Your brand should also have multiple websites with blogs that are informative and user-friendly. These sites and blogs should provide links to social networking sites.

6 Handle any customer complaints and issues immediately. If the complaint is voiced on a social networking site, address it and do not ignore the concern. As a brand online, you can set your reputation in this new era. Local Word of Mouth Marketing has become Global Marketing. Content can be shared on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook. What is your brands reputation online? You can use reputation management tools such as Google alerts to see the kinds of things people post about your brand.

7 Consumers see brands as one entity and not a series of department. Sales, Marketing Customer Service, Engineering and Product development need to be structured into specific product task-forces to be able to meet customers’ needs and ultimately anticipate future needs. Members from top management need to be a part of these task forces.

Anticipating customer needs and wants is what will determine what brands survive this era of Social Darwinism. This is how to build the brands of tomorrow.

How to Develop and Market a Product

Developing and marketing a product, requires a lot of planning. You need a vision for your product. Whether you are a start-up company or a product manager launching a new product, there is a lot of research that has to take place. Your budget will dictate the size of your marketing campaign. However, you are in control on how to allocate that budget. I touched on some of the questions that should be asked in a previous post.  I will focus on them in more detail. The research should focus on the following:

  • What is the product designed to do?

You will need to be able to answer this question in writing (product literature) through creating and implementing product demonstrations that tell a story. This story should demonstrate a need that is not currently being met. Once this need is identified, it is your job to show how people will benefit by using your product. If your product is an improvement on an existing application, you should demonstrate how they can get a task done quicker, with less effort and with results that are better or at least the same to the current product. (Your product should be patented or in the process of being patented before showing it to the public if applicable.)

  • What are the demographics of the people using the product?

In other words, who is your target market? Who could benefit from your product? What motivates them to buy? How is this group prone to spend their disposable income? How have they made purchases in the past with a similar product if you are new to the market? Traditional e-commerce etc… How do they interact with brands?  You will need to answer these questions in order to develop a successful campaign.

  • How long is the sales cycle between purchases?

I would examine your sales data on a similar product if possible. If your product is a completely new category you will not be able to do this.

  • What channels is the product sold through?

If your product is a completely new invention you will need to decide on how you will market it. Are you going to hire a direct sales force to sell it directly to consumers? Are you going to call on distributors and retailers to get them to sell it to the end users? Are you going to use e-commerce as the main way you sell your product? Are you going to advertise on TV? Social Media? Trade shows? This strategy will need to be determined based on the demographics of your target market that I mentioned above. (Once you begin your campaign, sales data from each one of these channels need to be studied to see which channels are the most effective. This data can be used to make adjustments in the campaign.)

  • What offerings does the competition have?

How do your offerings measure up compared to the competitions? In other words, is your product better than competition? Where is it weaker?

So where could you find this information? (This applies only if your product is an improvement on an existing application.)

  • Product literature from your company and the competition
  • Reading industry trade magazines and journals
  • Attending industry trade shows where products are readily on display
  • Viewing product training and demonstration videos by experts in your field
  • Talking to prospects and existing customers about how they use the products

If your product is completely new, you will have to create and organize focus groups. These groups should be made up of people who fit the demographics of your target market. I would try to target influencers as well, letting them try the product for free to see what they think. Then I would take this data, analyze it and make improvements. (Depending on your offerings an engineering team may need to be involved in the process.)

You now need to decide on how to price your product. If your product is an upgrade on an existing product, you can look at price points of competitors and your sales data to set a price. If your product is new, you need to calculate your margin, specifically the cost per unit to determine what is the minimum price needed to sell your product at make a profit. The next step is to figure out how much profit you want to make versus how much you can make. This information can help you to decide at which price range to price your product.  Next you need to test out your product at different price points in test markets to see at what price the product sells the most.

Once you have done all of this, your product is ready to be sold to your target market.

This is how to develop and market a product in a nutshell.

Until next time, thank you for reading.

 

 

How to Overcome Sales Objections & Stalls

In sales, everyone has to be able to overcome objections in order to be successful. The best way to overcome objections is to prevent them. This can be done by providing a thorough sales presentation that covers all the information about your products and services. Also it is imperative that you address any questions the prospect has immediately. However, objections will come up from time to time. Some of these objections are real buying signals and others are just stalls to put you off. As a Salesperson, you need to be able to tell the difference. This will come with experience and by reading situational cues in each selling situation. Remember the prospect is buying you. In other words, you are part of the offering. Below, I have put together a comprehensive list of objections that I encountered and overcame as an outside sales representative in New York City.

Handling Objections & Stalls from Prospects

I am happy with my current supplier.

When you call on a prospect they say we are happy with our current supplier, this can mean one of two things. The first is that they are truly happy and the second is that they want you to get lost. (A stall) Obviously you need to be able to tell the difference. You should be able to tell by a prospects body language and level of attention. If it is the first scenario, you should find out what supplier they currently use. When the prospect tells you it is your job to demonstrate how you are better. (I mentioned this in a previous post. Once you feel that you have demonstrated how you are better, ask for a commitment or a small order. By asking for a small order, you provide the prospect an opportunity to take a chance on you with minimal risk. I have had a lot of success with approach. If the scenario is the second one, the prospect will not provide you with any information or say that they deal with a company or person for 20 years and they do not want to change. In this case, I would still ask for the order. Should the prospect say he is not interested again, I would thank them for their time and leave. You should call on this prospect a few more times and then only call on them every two months. You need to focus your time on prospects that are receptive to you and your offering.

I want to think it over.

When you hear this, what the prospect is really saying is I am interested but I am not totally convinced. You should ask the prospect what specifically about this offer do you want to think over? You goal here is uncover the real objection. If the prospect gives you a specific answer, you are in business. Address the objection and ask a closing question. Say if I can handle xyz, is there any reason why you would not purchase this product. Should the prospect say, no you covered everything, this means that they are either stalling, not interested in your offering or will not tell you the real issue they have with your product. If this is the case, ask when they plan on making a decision and follow-up with them in that timeframe.

I need to consult another party.

This can be a stall to put you off. You will need to determine this by the prospects body language and the level of attention you receive. When the prospect tells you this, you should ask for a meeting with the prospect and the person they need to consult. Should the prospect agree to this, you have a chance. If they will not agree to a meeting, it is a stall and they are not interested in your offering. However, I would still call on them a few more times. If you have no success, call on them every two months.

Your price is too high.

Emphasize the quality of your product along with the level of service you will provide. Next, you should demonstrate to the prospect how your offering’s total cost is less than the competitors over the life of the product. Testimonials from loyal customers can also help you here. By taking these steps you demonstrate that your product is valuable and increase your chances of making the sale. (Provided this is the real objection.)

We spent our budget. 

I covered this in my last post. If they say the money is not the budget, ask If I can offer delayed billing or a payment plan would you be able to take delivery? If the person needs approval from another person, ask to present your product to that individual with your prospects endorsement. Should the company really want and need your product, they will find a way to pay for it.

I am not the decision maker.

Present your offering briefly and ask who makes the decision. If you present your offering in a way that demonstrates value and this person really is the decision maker; they may show interest and make a purchase.

I had a bad experience with your company.

I would apologize to the prospect about the experience. Tell them you are the new rep and that you will not let anything bad happen on your watch. Ask them to give you a chance. This will not work all of the time.

This is how to handle objections in a nutshell.

Feel free to send me your questions.

Until next time, thank you for reading!

How to Develop and Deliver a Successful Sales Presentation

In my last post, I covered how to make a cold call where I described about how to make an on the spot sales presentation. Now I will cover how to develop and deliver a sales presentation to a decision maker when you are on an appointed call.

Developing Your Presentation

When you start to develop your presentation, it is important to have knowledge about your prospects business. It is imperative to know your products and services; specifically how the prospect can benefit from them. As a sales person, it is your responsibility to uncover what the prospects needs are. The next thing that has to be done is to know how your company and your products compare to the competition. Product knowledge is a must. (You should also know what motivates the prospect to buy.) Based on who your prospect is currently using as a supplier, you can use this information to show how you are better than who they are currently using.  Only after you have done this research are you ready move forward.  Make sure the information in your presentation is thorough and can answer as many questions as possible. Your goal is prevent objections and questions by prospects by covering them in your presentation. Make sure to have testimonials from loyal customers with you. (Many times prospects will ask who else you have worked with before considering you.) Make sure to include product specifications and an ROI analysis if the product you are selling is a big-ticket item. You should also practice your presentation to make sure it sounds polished. Get your manager and colleagues to watch your presentation and critique it. Filming yourself and watching your presentation will help you improve. Remember to not be nervous and to convey your enthusiasm through your tone of voice and body language. Do not cross your arms and make sure to make eye contact with your prospect. Make sure to speak slowly, clearly and in a loud voice.

Delivering Your Presentation

Your presentation should include a demonstration of your product whenever possible. You should coordinate with your prospect to make sure there is a projector available if you are going to use visual aids. Also if you are going to use PowerPoint or any visual aids, make sure to use them only when necessary to supplement your presentation. Remember you are conducting the presentation, not the visual aids.  Make it a point to get prospects involved in your presentation. It is about engaging your prospect. Have them plug things in, play with the buttons etc… You want the prospect to develop an attachment with your product.

Address any questions or objections that your prospect may have. Once you have done this successfully, ask for the sale! If the prospect says no or they want to think about it, find out why. If they say the money is not the budget ask if I can offer delayed billing or a payment plan would you be able to take delivery. If they say they are happy with their current supplier be sure to show how you are better than they are. I will further explain how to handle objections in my next post. (It is important to note that in big-ticket sales, you will have to make multiple presentations to multiple decision makers. If that is the case make sure you are there to present your product, do not leave this task to the prospect!)

After you leave, be sure to follow-up with a hand-written thank you note. Even if you did not make the sale, it is important to be grateful to the prospect for their time. You want to stay in front of the prospect because things always change. There is always a next time!

Thank you for reading!

How to Make a Cold Call

Whether you are a veteran or if you are new in sales, you will have to make cold calls to build your customer base. Many sales people dread making cold calls.

However, if you approach it the right way; cold calling can be a great way to develop your selling skills and forge great relationships with your future customers.

When you first call on an office or business, chances are that when you enter, the first person that you will have to speak with is the gate-keeper. The gate-keeper can have the title of Receptionist or Personal Assistant. The gate-keeper’s job is to act as a screener for their boss. Their boss uses them to screen or qualify people who attempt to contact them.

As a Sales Representative in New York City, I have first-hand knowledge of how to engage them in the cold calling situation. I would always sell myself first. When I made a cold call, I would first go into the office and speak with the person at the front desk. I would smile at them and introduce myself. I would say the following:

Hi my name is Dan. The Gatekeeper would then reply with something along the lines of hi Dan what can I do for you. After a bit of engagement and small talk I would tell them the company I was with and ask him or her if they were the decision maker of the product or service I was selling. (It is always important that you are in front of the people who can say yes to you.) I asked this question to validate the person’s importance. Usually the gate-keeper would reply that they were not in charge of that. I would then ask them who was in charge. My goal was to make the gate-keeper a friend. Friends’ help their friends succeed. (There were times in which this frontline person was very nasty to me and I was not able to obtain this information on the initial call. If this occurs it is imperative that you keep your cool if you ever want to have a chance to sell that business your products and services.)

Now if the decision maker was not available to speak to me, I would inquire about what was a good time for me to speak with that specific person. I would then offer them my card and product literature. (Again the cooperation of this person will vary.)

Once in a while the decision maker will make an appearance asking the gate-keeper about who you are or they may question you directly. It is imperative that you are prepared to engage the prospect and ready to answer any questions they ask you. (Objections) When a decision maker made an appearance, I would engage them in a bit of small talk; trying to make them a friend. I would introduce myself and my products. I would ask what supplier they were using and use that information to give a brief on the spot sales presentation. Once I gave this presentation, I would ask for a commitment. I would ask a closing question.  Sometimes I made a sale. Many times, I had to obtain their business card and call on them again. (It is important to note that if you are selling a high ticket item you will have to close the client on the next step in the process and not the sale of the item.)

It is important to keep a record of information that you obtain during the call. This can be done on a log sheet or by updating your crm software.  This information can be used on future calls. (Sometimes you will get thrown out of a business during a cold call.) This happened to me on occasion. Remember to not take it personally and to keep pressing on. They are rejecting your offer and not you! As time goes on you will have to make less cold calls because you will gain customers and hopefully earn referrals; more on this in later posts.

In my next post, I will cover how to develop a compelling sales presentation that will turn prospects into customers.

Feel free to send me your questions.

Until then, thank you for reading!

How to Develop and Implement a Sales Plan

In my last post, I spoke about how to identify your target market and how to build a prospecting list. In this post, I will cover how to develop and implement a sales plan. Also I will cover how the sales funnel works and how it relates to sales success.

Now that you have your prospecting list, it is now time to add up how many total prospects are in your total territory. Once you have this number, you need to divide it by a two to three-week sales cycle. In most sales positions, you are required to be on a two to three-week sales cycle. In other words, you should be able to see all of your prospects and customers at least once in a two to three-week period. My sales plan was built on this cycle. The only exceptions to this, is if you have an extremely large territory such as several states or if the item you are selling is a high ticket item; where multiple decision makers have to approve the sale.

You have now come up with the number of customers that you must call on each week. Now you must divide the weekly number of calls by the amount of days that you work, which is five or six. Now you have the number of calls you must make per day. It is important to either put the names of the prospects into a daily spreadsheet or log sheet. When I was in sales, I had to fill in prospect names and information on a log sheet my manager printed out for me.  Also your monthly sales goals can be broken down into weekly and daily goals. Simply take your monthly goal and divide it by four to get your weekly goal; to obtain your daily goal take your monthly goal and divide it by the number of days you work in a month.

When you use your spread sheet or log sheet, it is important to collect information on the prospects you call on. The sheet should contain the following: (CRM software such as ACT! OR Salesforce can be used to keep this information)

1         The names and addresses of the prospect you are calling

2         The date and time of your visit

3         The person in the office that you spoke with

4         The name of the decision maker

5         The service provider that they use

6         Notes on the call and what the next step in the process should be

It is imperative as a sales person that you keep records so that your calls with customers are organized and focused. This information will also help you forge relationships with your prospects and customers. If you are new to sales, you will fill in the above information as you make calls.

I would recommend getting some kind of CRM software that I mentioned above to help with the record keeping and creating a Sales Funnel.

As you keep making calls, the information you collect on prospects and your customers will provide you with a great deal of insight into developing your sales process. This information can also be used to build a sales funnel.

Sales Funnel

Now I want to touch on what a Sales Funnel or Sales Pipeline is. A sales funnel is an analysis of your sales cycle. It takes a look at every customer and prospect you call on; examining where you stand with each one. This will allow you to categorize them into groups to distinguish where to best spend your time and resources. As you will learn, not all prospects and customers are created equal when it comes to hitting your sales goals. It is important to note that this analysis should take place when you are done making calls for the day. As a salesperson, your time is best spent in front of prospects and customers. You should examine your sales calls once a week or two to three times in the sales cycle.

Your Closing Ratio and Your Work Load

You can easily examine your performance in the sales cycle by taking the number of sales you made for the day and dividing it by the number of sales calls you made for the day. This is what is known as a closing ratio. Simply stated the closing ratio = #of sales per day/#sales calls per day. The closing ratio can be expanded to examine your performance for the entire sales cycle. As a sales person it is important to know how many calls you need to make to earn a sale.

As you can see, your sales plan, sales funnel/sales pipeline and closing ratio can provide amazing insights into your performance; allowing you to identify the specific steps you need to take to become a sales success. In effect, this information can allow you to be your own sales manager.

In my next post, I will examine how to get past the gate-keeper and discuss how to make a cold call.

Please send me your questions so I can start my ask Dan section.

Until then, thank you for reading!