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On Building A Sales Organization – 4 August 26, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in Sales Compensation, Sales Management, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Once you figure out the kinds of sales team you need and how to compensation them to higher performance, you’ll need to ensure you arm them with the resources they’ll need to succeed.

First is sales collateral – those print and digital pieces that can help the sales process along.  That said, I’ve never seen or heard of any sales collateral that sells all by itself.  Create sales collateral that support the sales process.  The principle of “less is more” applies here.  And makes sure that your sales collateral looks professional and not like it was put together on the cheap.

Then there’s sales training.  This isn’t the place for determining what kinds of sales training your burgeoning team of one to more sales people.  What I can tell you is that the right balance of sales training and coaching on a regular & consistent basis is worth the investment.  Most small businesses provide little to none sales training except perhaps for some training at the beginning of their employment.

Sales training is like physical exercise.  It should be challenging and slow build sales “muscle” – those skills that become part of their sales behaviors after a period of training and reinforcement.

Sales coaching is another support mechanism that’s necessary for a bare-bones but effective sales organization.  The challenge is that most small business owners don’t often have the sales background that would enable them to provide sales coaching.  What to do?  If you don’t have a sales management background here are three key points to cover in each of your individual sales coaching sessions:

  • How close are they to meeting their current sales goals?  If not close, why and what can be done to improve performance?  If they are on track, what are they doing right?
  • What are prospects & customers saying about our products and services?  This is a good time to take the “pulse” on what the street is doing or saying about the kinds of products and/or services your provide.
  • Set goals for the next session.  Success is incremental and so is the progress needed to get there.

Sales professional need regular & consistent support in the field.  Make sure you are able to provide it before you commit to building a sales force.

Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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DirksProPhoto Why do people buy your products or services?  Are they forced to buy them out of necessity? Do you have a monopoly? Probably not. But understanding why people buy – and it’s often not on price – is one key to business longevity.

If you sell products or services that can easily be obtained elsewhere, why should they buy from you?  Think about yourself as a consumer for moment.  When you make a purchase – are you making it to contribute to a life of mediocrity?  No.  We buy things because of one basic reason: betterment.  I buy milk as a staple but the place I buy my milk is the place that offers me the best tasting milk at a fair price.  I don’t buy my milk anywhere else because I feel the milk I buy there is better for me and my family.

Betterment.  It’s a word…a noun to be exact.  Websters defines it as “becoming better” and “an improvement that adds value to property…”  Consider yourself “property” as a consumer.

As a business owner, your job is to convince the rest of the world (or at least your wedge of it) that your product or service offers someone a way to better themselves…their lives…their families.  In a world where everything seems like a commodity, your edge is communicating how your company delivers on improving something in the life of your customer and, most importantly, your prospective customers.  The success of your business model depends on it.

That said, if betterment was easy to define, everyone would be doing it but few are – just look around you.  Most business owners are stuck on price or try to differentiate based on product or service features or benefits.

Apple has long been a master at parlaying great technology and wrapping it around betterment.  Apple marketing and sales messaging is almost centrally focused on how Apple products enhance or better a life.  And they are able to deliver on that promise to (if you are a pc head, you don’t get this but we’re ok with that).

If you follow a blog, perhaps this one – you have the expectation that spending time here will better your life or business in some way, shape or form.  Otherwise, you wouldn’t spend you time on any blog that didn’t offer and deliver on that.  The most popular blogs are followed because people get something out of them (entertainment value, economic value, etc.) that they can’t find easily elsewhere.

The first step on the path of a message of betterment is to translate what your product or service does to get a customer there.  The destination is betterment.  For example, a landscaper cuts the grass and makes the property look great each week.  Where’s the betterment? How about the time it frees you from having to do it and spend more time on things you want to do instead – like spending more time with family.  By making your property look like an estate, you feel that your property and the quality of your life are enhanced (as opposed to looking at tall grass and weeds).

In other words, a betterment message is thinking of your product beyond the standard features and benefits it offers.  How does it translate – tangibly or intangibly – into a path to making some aspects of a customers life better?

The second step is making sure all of your marketing and sales messaging is zeroed in on the elements of betterment…clearly…concisely…and consistently.  You have to be able to draw a picture in the mind of the customer so they don’t need an algorithm to figure out why your product is the one they should buy.  They should “get” betterment.

Never easy to do but clearly worth the investment of time and effort to get there.  Betterment – it’s a strategy.

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.

Another Lost Opportunity for a Sale May 3, 2010

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Keeping Your Customers, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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There are times when you realize that it’s the little things that count more often than not.  That’s no less true when it comes to businesses who miss an opportunity to capture or in this case, recapture a sale.  Let me explain.  A few weeks ago, I made an appointment to take my car into the dealer for service that it really needed.  For whatever reason, I was not able to make the appointment.  Worse yet, I forgot to make a call to let them know that I wasn’t going to be there.

Here’s the service opportunity lost: no one from the dealer bothered to call me back to find out if I needed to reschedule.  It’s happened before with the same dealership.  The service manager there would find comfort in taking a page from the sales & service book of my dentist, who handles this transaction entirely differently.

If I make an appointment for dental work, the office calls me a few days before to remind me of my appointment.  If I should miss it, you can count on the dental office calling me the next day to find out when I want to reschedule.  Then I do and I go for the dental work.  In effect, the dentist has recaptured a sales opportunity that would be otherwise lost if they didn’t bother to call me back.

The service manager at the car dealer is missing out on a lot of business over the course of a year just simply by NOT calling customers back if they miss an appointment.  Recapturing that service sales should be just as disciplined a process as we see from the dental office.

If you’re in a service business that books customers by appointment, make sure your have a mechanism in place to recapture those of us who forget to make the first appointment.  Don’t count on customers to call you back and reschedule.

Landing Big Sales with Tom Searcy: Podcast November 5, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Dirks On Strategy: Episodes, Sales Metrics, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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Listen to this podcast of a previous show on the Dirks On Strategy Radio show.

Tom Searcy, author or “RFPs Suck!” and co-author of “Whale Hunting,” is a national speaker, trusted authority on large account sales and founder of Hunt Big Sales, a fast growth sales consultancy and thought leadership organization. Searcy’s primary expertise is working directly with companies and sales teams throughout their big sales “hunts,” helping them to compete and win disproportionately large sales in highly competitive markets. His philosophy and process have resulted in over $3 billion in new sales for his company and its clients.

Before entering the national stage, Searcy headed four corporations, each of which he was able to take from annual revenues of less than $15 million to over $100 million–all before the age of 40. Since then, Searcy has helped more than 100 companies grow exponentially with his proven process for fast growth and company-wide transformation.

In his newest book RFPs Suck!, Searcy shares his rich understanding of the RFP process with companies across the board to help them conquer the RFP system once and for all to win corporate and government contracts.

Searcy’s first book with co-author Barbara Weaver Smith, “Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Deals and Transform Your Company,” was published by Wiley in 2008.

Contact him at: http://www.huntbigsales.com

Shifting Your Business Strategy – 1 August 3, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Increasing Your Profitability, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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David DirksIBM’s movement from great to nearly dead to great again has been nothing less than one the greatest stories of business transformation yet told.  I’m not going to recite all the IBM history but suffice to say that it has gone from great hardware/systems builder to now to the premier provider of consulting services.  IBM is truly a big dog when it comes to high performance in shifting business strategy.

The shift from from hardware only focus began in earnest around 2002 when current CEO Sam Palmisano made the decision to buy PricewaterhouseCooper Consulting.  While IBM still sells a lot of hardware, it’s shift into new lines of business via its consulting platform is growing faster and becoming its fuel for greater profitability.

The profit margins in consulting for IBM are far greater than those generated by hardware and even its software units.  IBM has also defty sought out acquisition opportunities that can add to its shift to selling more consulting services.  Not only that, but oftentimes selling consulting services leads to selling more hardware and software.  What a harmonized business model if I ever saw one.

What does the IBM story mean to you?  The question is really in your court:  Can find opportunities in your business model that will allow you to shift and expand it to other related areas?  Too many business owners are fast to recogize either the limitations of the revenue growth or the lack of (in this economy for sure) but slow to see other opportunities to expand revenue growth.

Does the IBM strategy shift apply to small businesses?  Yes and any all other businesses as well.  For example, let’s use the landscaping business, which typically is a small business model.  Most landscapers just focus on selling physical services like cutting your grass or planting new trees, shrubs, etc.  That’s the typical operating box for a landscaping business.  However, what if that landscaping business offered a ‘consulting services only’ platform?  That kind of business platform would just provide consulting expertise to those who wanted only that and not the physical labor component.

I’m a good example of that kind of customer.  Personnally, I find landscaping, from cutting my own grass to planting trees to clearing areas for new grass, very enjoyable both physically and mentally. I don’t want anyone to do those things; I’ll do them myself.  However, I’m not an expert on horticulture either.  I could use some expertise on some landscraping projects I take on myself from time to time.

But in the local survey I did recently, most landscapers either don’t offer or don’t market their consulting services.  It’s all about the physical services.  Are there more people like myself who only want the expertise but not the manual labor?  Perhaps.  This example is just to show you that shifting your business strategy to related areas within your business model is possible no matter what business you are in.

I’m not saying that marketing & selling consulting services is the only shift you can make either.  IBM is just a handy and well-known example of a successful and profitable shift in business strategy that most people can identify with.

Growing Your Sales Capacity July 29, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics, Solving Business Problems.
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David DirksGrow your sales efforts in tough economic times, don’t shrink them like everybody else does.  On the surface, it seems to make sense that when business slows down, we let some of our sales staff go.  Now maybe you let the bottom feeders of your team go, which is a good thing.  I might point out that showing the bottom feeders (in terms of sales performance) the door is something that should be done on a regular basis, not just when ‘hard times’ fall on a business.

When it gets down to letting good or better than average sales performers go, that’s when we shoot ourselves right in the foot.  Short term gain for long term pain.  When most of your competition (except the smart ones) is shrinking their capacity to generate revenue by cutting sales expenses down to the people, we should go on the offense.   Reducing your capacity to generate sales revenues is a vicious cycle.  Once you do that, then you really have reduced your ability to generate revenue.  Sure, you cut short term expenses at the cost of long term growth.

Instead, look to hire the best available sales talent you can, give them the resources they need to produce and turn them loose.

Now, there are some who will say that what I’m saying is too simplistic.  That’s a cop out.  It takes vision, leadership, and some hard work to expand your sales capacity when every bone in your body is telling you to shrink it in order to ‘save the business’.

Sometimes you just have to go the other way and avoid the herd mentality.

Your Own Web-based Radio Show July 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Local Brand Development, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksIf you follow this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of leveraging web-based resources like blogs, podcasts, vodcasts, and social/business networks (like Linkedin and Facebook).  I also want to introduce your business to web-based radio.

Imagine if you will, that you could host your own daily or weekly radio show and do it LIVE each time?  You can even do it for free.  If you understand that one of the keys to business growth and success is to continually find ways to give your business a ‘voice’ that allow you to find new customers (and add-value to those that are already your customers), then radio webcasting is for you.

BlogTalkRadio.com is a great example of this kind of service.  Within about 10 minutes, you can start hosting your own radio show on the web in live format.  Sharing your expertise and that of others in a weekly show is in addition to using a blog and your website to do the same.

Another great thing is that you don’t need any special equipment.  You can conduct your show from the comfort of your own computer.  All you need is high-speed access to the web from any location of your choosing.  Talk about portability!

The BlogTalkRadio format is also easy to set up and use.  It also has a revenue sharing component that allows you to split the revenues from ads placed on your radio site with BlogTalkRadio (you need an active PayPayl account to do so).

Like anything else, if you decided to host your own show, remember these things:

1.  Promote, promote, promote.  It will do you little good to host a show and then not promote it well.  Let everyone you know spread the word about your show.

2.  Keep to a regular schedule of shows.  It will serve you well if you pick a day & time to broadcast your show.

3.  Spend a little time planning your show.  Pick a topic within your business realm that is newsworthy, valuable, timely, and interesting to potential listeners.  You don’t have to sound like a professional broadcaster but it helps to sound like you spend more than a minute on planning your show format.

4.  Keep it short.  A 30 to 60 minute show is a fine.  Anything longer is a bore.  Remember, most people have the attention span of a gnat these days.

5.  Promote yourself on the show.  While your show shouldn’t sound like an infomercial, you should carefully plan to promote your business.  Have a blog?  Website?  Podcast?  Special event?  Promote it…it’s your show!

Radio webcasting in a live format is just another excellent way to differentiate your business from your competitors.  Like Nike says, just do it.

Webinars: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good May 15, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in marketing, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksAs a marketer, I just love the internet for the power that it allows us to harness and leverage.  It allows us to conduct market research, design market strategies  and tactics, create products & services, interact with our customers, check up on our competitors…and more.  All this in a collaborative package that allows us to share and exchange ideas freely and across the world.  The impact of the internet on marketing alone is just breathtaking.

One outgrowth of web marketing is the webinar.  It comes in all kinds of flavors but after having sat through more webinars than I can count over the past two years, they only come in three basic flavors.  The ugly, the bad, and the good.  And yes, I reversed the old cliche!

The ugly webinar is ugly because it’s execution is ugly.  The presentation is enough to make your eyes bleed.  The facilitator sounds like they just pulled a stranger off the street and gave him the controls.  Ugly webinars are ugly but I won’t necessarily hang up.  Being the optimist that I am, I’m always hoping that I’ll be able to find enough kernals of insight and knowledge that it is worth sitting through this thing.  It’s a risky proposition but sometimes I get lucky.  Even if I attend a really ugly in-person seminar, I’ll work hard to find information I can put to good use.

That brings us to the bad webinar.  These webinars are bad because they oversell the benefits of what you’ll ‘learn’ and package it in a very well design webinar.  The only problem is that there’s no ‘meat’ in this webinar.  It was put together by some marketing and sales people who said to themselves, “hey, we can take our sales brochure and turn it into a webinar.”  These guys want to ride the wave of webinar popularity and get in on this thing too.  For those of us listening and watching this webinar, we smell a rat.  They’ll tell you there is meat in this webinar but all you’ll get is processed cheese.  After about 30-60 seconds of the bad webinar, you can safely hang up.  The bad webinar is bad not because it doesn’t look good or the facilitator isn’t professional, it’s because they created the Gordon Gecko of webinars.  All grease, well-dressed, slick, and very thin on character.

I’ve saved the best for last.  The good seminar is good because it delivers a meaty presentation that is full of excellent insights and information.  Makes you think about things differently.  The good webinar delivers on what they promised in their email pitch.  I feel like they actually went above and beyond that.  I could pay for the good webinar because it over-delivers and blows my expectations out of the water.  The good webinar is well designed and presented in a concise and well facilitated manner.  A really good webinar gives me a nicely designed workbook that I can keep as well.  Although there is a timeframe for the good webinar, nobody seems too worried and they answer almost all the questions that we listeners have.  Do they sell?  Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  If they do sell during the webinar, the % of information to sales pitch is about 90%/10%.

If I was to put a number on where I think all the webinars I’ve attended fall into it would look like this:

Ugly Webinars: 40%

Bad Webinars: 50%

Good Webinars: 10%

Yup.  That’s about where they stand.  As usual, there are only a few who really understand that we, the participants, are not as stupid as we look.  We can smell when something is bad and we can see when something is ugly.  That makes those who have good webinars stand out from the crowd.  That’s called differentiation.

Free-Analysis Marketing April 28, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Increasing Your Profitability, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
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David DirksThe Big Dogz always know how to keep applying what works in almost any market or economy.  They’ll take advantage of marketing opportunities that  other businesses either miss entirely or just sit on the sidelines wishing they had.

Take Scotts LawnService, which is a well-branded and nationally known entity established by the Scotts Company (yes, those same people who make the fertilizer and weed killers you use on your lawns each year).  The local Scotts LawnService in my area sent out a mailer with one simple offer: A FREE lawn analysis.  I believe I get one every year from them.

Their deal is simple.  They come to your home and conduct soil samples that allow them to test for the ph levels of your soil and for other key ingredients that should be a part of a healthy lawn.  That’s the part they do for free.  The analysis is detailed and tells you what you need to do (with Scotts or without them) to improve the health of your lawn.

But there is another key part.  They also include a price quote to provide the service necessary on your lawn to bring it up to snuff (if it needs it).  That doesn’t cost you anything either.  I’m not obligated to do anything with them and they know it.

Here’s the deal:  they know that they’ll be enough people who also take advantage of their price quote to more than make up for those who don’t (and the expense of mailing them).  The old true & tried ‘free analysis’ works time and again…as long as the analysis has some depth to it and isn’t shoddy.

Scotts has many competitors in this field of lawn care.  Anyone with a truck, lawnmower, rake, weed whacker, leaf blower, and some ambition can get into this business.  Whether they are good at it or not is another story.

I’m going to take a wild guess that many of the lawn care & service operators are having a tough time of it right now.  How many of them do you think are coming up with ways like this to improve their chances of survival?

Oh, one more thing.  Scotts also offers a ‘satisfaction guaranteed’ policy.  “…we guarantee you’ll be thrilled.  And if not, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

That’s another way to insure you survive.  Guarantee your work.  Between that and the free analysis, it’s no wonder Scotts LawnService remains in business year after year. The Big Dogz always know how to apply the right pressure and do it assured that their competitors won’t.