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Potential Sale Undone January 26, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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It never ceases to amaze me how awful you’ll often find the sales service you can find from different businesses.  Just recently I was contacting a very well known radio station that serves the NY metropolitan area.  All I wanted to do is get some basic demographic composition of the stations listener.  I called the number of the salesperson who I had in my files and left a detailed message of what I wanted and how.  I made it as easy as possible for him to follow-up with me either by email or phone.

Do you know what?  It took him more than a week to even acknowledge my call…and he wasn’t on vacation or out of the office for some other reason.  He explained to me that he was very busy dealing with other sales prospects.  He never apologized for taking more than a week to get back to me.  He just thought I would buy the excuse.

I nevertheless let him banter on and it was then I realized that he didn’t bother to listen to what I wanted in my first message.  So, I had to take the time to go over the specific items I needed.  He rambled some more about needing some time to get to this request.

“I have some car dealers that I’ve lined up as prospects to finish.  Can I get back to you with this information the following week?” he said.  By now, I know this sales person simply stinks at the sales profession.

That told me that he didn’t really care about my business and only wanted to show me just how busy and successful he was.  How could he get back to me when he had all those pressing car dealers to sell radio time to?  Unbelievable right?

Here’s what that sales interaction told me:

1.  His firm had not provided or did a very shoddy job of training him or he simply ignored what he learned.

2.  It also told me that his manager had no clue just how awful he was.  Perhaps he was already on written warning for being such a poor and clueless performer.  That was possible buy not likely.

3.  This sales person likely lost & cost his company tens of thousands of hard-to-earn revenue dollars every day, week, and month they employed him.  It’s likely that his sales approach with me was the same ‘winning’ formula he applied across his selling opportunities.

By the way, he never sent me the data (which he only had to forward to me) the week he promised it.  It was the week after that when I received his email with the data I requested.  Three full weeks of valuable time (mine) lost because this person couldn’t sell his way out of a paper bag.

When I work with a client, we focus a serious amount of time on setting up a sales process and developing a sales culture that is responsive and attentive to prospect needs.  Sales training built around best practices within the firm and industry is job #1.  It’s an ongoing process that includes a regular dose of sales coaching that helps to shape and mold their sales performance.

Long-term sale success also includes building a process around performance management that helps us understand what’s really going when we turn them loose on their sales prospects.

I see too many companies short-change the sales selection, training, coaching, and performance management process.  In this case, radio sales are not easy sales by any stretch of imagination.  Radio ad sales are traditionally thought of as a place were a new sales person can ‘cut their teeth’ in the sales profession.

All the more reason to invest a little more time and resources in making sure they understand how you want your future (and current) customers to be treated.

Premiums as a Branding Strategy? January 17, 2011

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Local Brand Development.
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I have the same dream often.  I’m at a tradeshow and as I go to each booth, I find that there are no premiums for me to scarf up.  Nobody has any of those glo pens or squeezable stress balls that come in every shape imagined by mankind.  Nobody trying to shove another bag at me so I can carry all the plastic promotional items I suck up at each booth.  I wonder.  Is this a nightmare or is this a dream come true?  It depends on which side of the premium business your on.

Let me be the first here to say that I’m not against the use of premium items for tradeshows.  If you can afford it, go for it.  If you expect that a premium is going to help you get more business or, as the premium sellers will tell you, it can extend your brand, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  You’ll be staring at the phone, hoping one of your thousands of premiums you’ve distributed makes the phone ring.  It could happen but the odds are against you.

When was the last time you heard anyone say, “Oh my God.  Those premiums are making the phone ring off the hook!” or “Thanks to my premiums, my small business is now a huge brand in my market!”.  The answer is, you haven’t.  And there’s good reason for that.

In the context of small business enterprises, premiums are a luxury item.  And it doesn’t matter how inexpensive they are either.  It isn’t inexpensive if it doesn’t directly drive business.  When was the last time you called a business using the phone number on their premium pencil.

The problem is, we’ve been so brainwashed that premiums are a ‘must have’ item when you’re looking to promote your business.  If your booth doesn’t offer a premium, you look, well, lame.  How could we have a tradeshow booth without some kind of premium with our name slapped on it?

Large companies, which drive the entire premium market with their huge, annual premium purchases, have the ‘fat’ available to burn.  Small business are generally not in that category.

The other challenge is that the premium industry as created a who army of people who are nothing less than premium freaks.  They come to tradeshows with the goal of getting every free premium they can fit into their premium bags.  I call them ‘tradeshow groupies’. They visit your booth, not even remotely interested in your product or service, only to open their bag wide enough so they can fit your premiums in it.

Do you know where most of those premiums end up after a time?  Shoved in some drawer or thrown out with the trash.

I received a note from a premium vendor the other day who called the use of premiums as a strategy for extending a brand.  Are you serious?  Sure, if you sell premiums, you have to say that.

Here’s another strategy:  Invest your time and money instead on improving your website/blog SEO…that will do much more to further you business than buying inexpensive premiums.

So, the premiums industry goes on its merry way.  Tradeshows will continue to shovel out tons of premiums.  Booth vendors will be pleased, if only because they got rid of the final box of premiums, avoiding having to schlep them back to the office.

Of course, the happiest people are the tradeshow groupies.  They continue to collect their share of the loot.  They’ll get their fix every time.  It’s guaranteed.

In the meantime, the real winners are the vendors who sell premium items.

Do what you will.  Bow to the pressure, either self-inflicted or peer-driven, and buy them if it makes you feel better.  Premiums are in most cases, a ‘nice-to-do’ but when it comes down to it, rarely drive business or branding.