Category Archives: Sales

Market Wisely

strategic marketingMarket Wisely, and Sales Will Follow

By Ray Silverstein

What kind of marketing activities do you do for your business? Do you have a marketing plan? How about a marketing budget?

Do you use marketing strategies to focus and support your sales efforts, or do you engage in spontaneous, one-time marketing activities when an idea appeals to you?

For many entrepreneurs, it’s the latter. Unfortunately, isolated, spur-of-the-moment activities aren’t likely to move you toward your sales goals.

It takes thoughtful, strategic marketing—not haphazard bursts of activity—to set the stage for increased sales. How do you sharpen your marketing focus?

Use a Comprehensive “STP” Marketing Approach

According to STP theory, strategic marketing is a three-step process:

S – Segmenting
T – Targeting
P – Positioning

Segmenting – You can’t sell to everyone. When you segment your market, you divide it into groups of prospects based on criteria significant to your business: demographics, geographics, psychographics, economics, distribution, industries, wants, needs, buying habits, etc.

For example, one of my peer group members in Phoenix owns a swimming pool maintenance service. There are many, many pools in Phoenix. So he segmented his market, broadly dividing it in to family-owned backyard pools and larger, community-based swimming pools.

Targeting – After you segment, target: determine which segment is most worth pursuing, and go. My peer group member concluded that community-based swimming pools make the best customers. He then targeted further, focusing in on YMCA pools and country club pools, because in his experience, their operational standards supported the most intensive maintenance programs.

Positioning – While segmenting and targeting define who you’re going to sell to, positioning focuses on how you’re going to sell them. My peer group member, for example, positioned himself up as the local YMCA pool/country club pool ‘specialist,’ developing proposals and packages just for them.

Positioning includes identifying products, pricing, place, promotions…marketing activities entrepreneurs know well. However, you can’t position your company effectively when you’re trying to reach everyone. By minding your “Ss” and “Ts” as well as your “Ps,” your sales efforts will be more focused and successful.

As I’ve said before: fail to plan, and you plan to fail. Segmenting and targeting are the basic building blocks for well-planned marketing and ultimately sales.

Balance Macro and Micro Marketing

Employing both macro and micro marketing strategies is another way to sharpen your marketing approach.

Macro marketing means working from the market on down. So, once you determine you’re pursuing country club pools, you take steps to—no pun intended!—immerse yourself in this market. Is there an association you can join? A publication to subscribe to? Can you create some marketing materials or a blog just for this audience?

Micro marketing, on the other hand, means working from the bottom on up. Once your macro work is done, you should still pitch each prospect individually for best results. Your targets have things in common, but they’re different, too.

So gather intelligence about each target. Who makes the buying decisions? What are their hot buttons? Who’d they use before, and what were the sticking points? By performing web research and networking, then slowly penetrating an organization, you can better tune your sales pitch to resonate with your prospect.

In summary, it’s a common misconception that ‘marketing’ equals spending money and time on things that don’t generate real results. A smart, strategic marketing plan is your sales department’s best friend. Used together, marketing and sales make a great one-two punch.
Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Sell Smarter – Ditch the Pitch

Ditch the PitchHow to Sell Smarter: ‘Ditch the Pitch’

Review by Ray Silverstein

There’s one subject entrepreneurs can’t get enough of: how to increase sales.

Well, here’s a thought. If your current sales pitch isn’t delivering the results you want, it’s time to switch things up. Better yet, why not do something radical, and ditch the sales pitch entirely?

My friend Steve Yastrow, a shrewd business advisor and wonderful author, recently introduced this fascinating “Ditch the Pitch” approach to selling, which you’ll find in his new book of the same name. It’s so packed with worthwhile ideas, I asked Steve for permission to share my top takeaways with you.

Fact: Nobody Likes a Sales Pitch

You don’t enjoy being on the receiving end of a canned sales pitch, do you? I know I don’t. And, let’s face it, our prospects don’t either.

So, when you do get valuable face time with a prospect, don’t waste the opportunity by launching into a flat, unwelcome sales pitch. Shake things up: try using these three strategies instead.

Engage in Persuasive Conversations

People want to talk about the things they care about, not listen to monologues. You’ll get much further by drawing prospects into meaningful conversations about subjects that matter to them.

Yes, your sales pitch is a comfortable crutch. Engaging in real conversations will require you to improvise. But this is something you already know how to do. After all, we are all improvising our way through life. Assuming you know your stuff, businesswise (of course you do), you’ll do fine. And you’ll actually enjoy your sales interactions more.

Say Less to Notice More

Most people are better talkers than listeners. So let your prospects do most of the talking. Your first job is to listen, observe, and process what they’re saying. By doing so, you can identify their hot buttons and pain points, and then figure out how your products or services fit in.

That way, when you do open your mouth, what comes out will be interesting and relevant to them, which will get you closer to your goal.

Create a Shared Story

Here’s a great rule of thumb: make 95% of the conversation about your prospects. They don’t need to know everything about you and your business, only the parts that matter to them. Be very selective in what you share.

And another great sales tip: only speak about a paragraph’s worth of words before tossing the conversational ball back to your prospect. That way, you weave your story in with theirs.

In addition, your story is more likely to have a happy ending, in the form of a successful sale.

If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you can’t expect different results. Now is a great time to try a new sales approach. You can learn about Steve’s book, Ditch the Pitch, at www.yastrow.com. And you can get my complimentary Weekly Sales Worksheet—a real-world sales activity tracker—by emailing me at Ray@propres.com

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus, a specialized peer group for business advisors and achievers who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

The One Thing

The One ThingTHE ONE THING

The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Gary Keller with Jay Papasan – reviewed by Ray Silverstein

The author states “The One Thing is the best approach to getting what you want.” “What’s the One Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier?”  The author further states, “Where I’d had huge success, I narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”

If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others?  The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach.  They go small.

“Going Small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do.  It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.  It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.  The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go small as possible.

Technological innovations, cultural shifts, and competitive forces will often dictate that a business’s One Thing evolve or transform.  The most successful companies know this and are always asking:  “What’s our One Thing?”  If your company doesn’t know what its One Thing is, then the company’s One Thing is to find out.

Andrew Carnegie addressed the students of the Curry Commercial College and stated “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is all wrong.  I tell you to put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.”  So, how do you know which basket to pick? The Focusing Question will tell you.

Life Is A Question:  You may be asking, “Why focus on a question when what we really crave is an answer?”  It’s simple, Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.  Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer.  Ask the right question, get the right answer.  Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering.

Voltaire once wrote, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”  Great questions are the quickest path to great answers.  How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.

Example of a Focusing Question:  What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?  The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only “big picture” questions (Where am I going? What target should I am for?) but also “small focus” ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture?)

The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success—make a decision.  But not just any decision—it drives you to make the best decision.  It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters is the foundational habit to use to achieve extraordinary results and lead a big life

To stay on tack for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question.  Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance.  Then, each time you ask it, you see your next priority.

For the author, The Focusing Question is a way of life.  He uses it to find his most leveraged priority, to make the most out of his time, and get the biggest bang for his buck.  Whenever the outcome absolutely matters, he asks it.

The Focusing Question is a foundational habit.  The author uses it for some things and not and not at all for others.  He applies it to the important areas of his life:  spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life.  He addresses them in that order—each one is a foundation for the next.

The Focusing Question can direct you to your One Thing in different areas of your life.  Simply reframe The Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus.  Examples:

Spiritual Life—What’s the One Thing I can do to help others?

Physical Health— What’s the One Thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?

What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I exercise?

What’s the One Thing I can do to relieve my stress?

Personal Life—— What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skill at ­__?

What’s the One Thing I can do to find time for myself?

Key Relationships- What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make my family  stronger?

Job—————– What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals?

What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skills?

Business———– What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more competitive?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make our product the best?

What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more profitable?

What’s the One Thing I can do to improve our customer experience?

Leverage Reminders:  Set up ways to remind yourself to use The Focusing Question.  Such as a sign on your desk that says, “Until my One Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.”

The Focusing Question should be “Big” and Specific.  It should not be big and broad, or small and broad, or even small and specific.  Example:

“Big” and Specific—What can I do to double sales in six months?

Big and broad—What can I do to double sales?

Small and broad—What can I do to increase sales?

Small and specific—What can I do to increase sales 5% this year?

The challenge of asking a Great Question is that, once you’ve asked it, you’re now faced with finding a Great Answer.

Extraordinary results require a Great Answer.  If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone.  A big answer is never in plain view, nor is the path to finding one laid out for you.  A possibility answer exists beyond what is already known and being done.

A Great Answer is essentially a new answer.  It is a leap across all current answer in search of the next one and is found in two steps.  The first is a stretch.  You uncover the best research and study the highest achievers.  Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer.  In other words, by default, your first One Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction.  The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.  A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don’t be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process.

Extraordinary Results:

There is a natural rhythm to our lives that becomes a simple formula for implementing the One Thing and achieving extraordinary results:  Purpose,

Priority, and Productivity.  Their link leads to the two areas where you’ll apply the One Thing—one big and one small.

Your big One Thing is your purpose and your small One Thing is the priority you take action to achieve it.  The most productive people start with Purpose and use it like a compass.  They allow Purpose to be the guiding force in determining the Priority that drives their actions.

Think of Purpose, Priority, and Productivity as three parts of an iceberg.  What’s visible to the public—Productivity and Profit—is always buoyed by the substance that serves as the company’s foundation—Purpose and Priority.

The Power of Purpose:

Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength—strength of conviction and strength to persevere.  The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.  When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions.  With faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices.  And when you have the best choices, you have the opportunity for the best experiences.  This is how knowing where you’re going helps lead you to the best possible outcomes and experiences life has to offer.

Discover you Big Why.  Discover your purpose by asking yourself what drives you.  What’s the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you’re tired and worn down.

Live by Priority:

Live with purpose and you know where you want to go.  Life by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there.  Purpose without priority is powerless.

Goal Setting to the Now will get you there:

By thinking through the format of Goal Setting to the Now you set a future goal and then methodically drill down to what you should be doing right now.

Example of Goal Setting to the Now:

Someday Goal:

What’s the one thing I want to do someday?

Five Year Goal:

Based on my Someday Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do in the next five years?

One-Year Goal:

Based on my Five Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this year?

Monthly Goal:

Based on my One Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this month?

Weekly goal:

Based on my Monthly Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this week?

Daily Goal:

Based on my Weekly goal, what’s the One Thing I can do today?

Right Now:

Based on my Daily goal, What’s the One Thing I can do right now?

With this method you’re training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW.  You’re learning how to think Big—but going

small.

Live For Productivity:

“Productivity isn’t about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil….It’s more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.    Margarita Tartakovsky

Productive action transforms lives.  Putting together a life of extraordinary results simply comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters.  Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but there is when you block it.  Time blocking is a very results-oriented way of viewing and using time.  It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done.   Time blocking harnesses your energy and centers it on your most important work.  It’s productivity’s greatest power tool.

If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.  Each and every day, ask the Focusing Question for your blocked time:  “Today, what’s the One Thing I can do for my One Thing such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.”  When you find the answer, you’ll be doing the most leveraged activity for your most leveraged work.

Once you’ve done your One Thing for the day, you can devote the rest of it to everything else.  Just use the Focusing Question to identify your next priority and give that task the time it deserves.  So, when you know your One Thing, make an appointment with yourself to tackle it.

Time Block these three things in the following order:

  1. Time block your time off.
  2. Time block your One Thing.
  3. Time block your planning time.

By planning your time off in advance, you are, in effect, managing your work time around your downtime instead of the other way around.  Resting is as important as working.

The most productive people design their days around doing their One Thing.  Their most important appointment each day is with themselves, and they never miss it.  In addition, the most productive people work on “event” time.  They don’t quit until their One Thing is done.

The last priority you time block is planning time.  This is where you reflect on where you are and where you want to go.  Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.  First, ask what needs to happen that month for you to be on target for your annual goals.  Then ask what must happen that week to be on course for your monthly goals.  You’re essentially asking, “Based on where I am right now, what’s the One Thing I need to do this week to stay on track for my monthly goal and for my monthly goal to be on track for my annual goal?

Protect Your Time Block:

For time blocks to actually block time, they must be protected.  Although time blocking isn’t hard, protecting the time you’ve blocked is.  The world doesn’t know your purpose or priorities and isn’t responsible for them—you are.  So it’s your job to protect your time blocks from all those who don’t know what matters most to you, and from yourself when you forget.

The best way to protect your time blocks is to adopt the mindset that they can’t be moved.  You own need to do other things instead of your One Thing may be your biggest challenge to overcome.

10 Tips to Get Referrals

referral10 Ways to Get Great Referrals

(Even if You Stink at Asking for Them) 

by Ray Silverstein

When it comes to sales tools, few things are more powerful than customer referrals. They’re simple, effective, and absolutely free. We love when referrals come our way. Yet many entrepreneurs are reluctant to actively request them. If you’re one of them, consider this.

Every business relationship can lead to additional relationships. When customers are happy with the products or services you’re providing, that’s a golden referral opportunity. Chances are, those customers would be delighted to refer you, but won’t think of it on their own. They need to be prompted. That’s up to you.

Buyers prefer to deal with companies they know. When that’s not possible, a personal referral increases a buyer’s comfort level with a new vendor. It’s the next best thing.

And it’s not really difficult to request a referral. Often, it’s a matter of seizing an opportunity, or getting into the habit of asking. Here’s 10 ways my PRO peer group members do it.

1. Whenever a customer says something positive about your company, respond with a thank you, followed by a prompt referral request. (One of my PRO members trains all her employees to follow this simple rule.)

2. The quickest way to get referrals is to do a great job. Ask your customers what “great service” means to them. Ask for feedback on your performance. Some PRO members ask informally (say, during a phone call) and some have a formal process in place (like satisfaction surveys). Either way, when they get positive feedback, they use it as a springboard for referrals.

3. It sounds counter-intuitive, but many of my PRO members actively encourage their customers to complain. Complaints give you an opportunity to solve a problem, and picky customers often give the most compelling referrals.

4. Some entrepreneurs make referrals part of their front-end agreement with new customers. As in, “We’re going to work hard to prove ourselves. Once we do, will you give us three referrals in return?” People like go-getters. Be one.

5. Build relationships with people who can provide you with referrals, and return the favor whenever possible. Thanks to social media like LinkedIn and Facebook, it’s easier than ever to build a network of mutually-supportive contacts.

6. Once you’ve got a network, work it. Beyond referrals, offer your contacts support. Share resources and solutions to common business problems. The more you nurture these relationships, the more people will think of you when it’s time to give a referral.

7. Don’t assume your contacts know what you’re looking for in a prospect. Describe your target customer as specifically as possible, and encourage them to do the same.

8. Always carry a few business cards. You never know who you may run into, who they’ll be with, or where conversations may lead. When you meet someone you’d like to connect with, ask if you may call them to set up an appointment.

9. The most effective networkers I know make a point of planning for events. They know they’ll be asked “what’s new?” and “how’s business?” They always have an interesting, upbeat answer ready.

10. What if you’re not comfortable at networking events? One of my PRO members solved this problem by setting specific goals for himself before every event: introducing himself to the speaker…talking to three new people…introducing two contacts to each other.

The bottom line is, you only get referrals when people are happy with the quality of your products or services. All referrals are earned.

But sometimes you do need to ask for them.

Biography: Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. His latest venture is Propelus University of Practical Business, a specialized resource for emerging businesses, solopreneurs and those who want to achieve more. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” You can reach Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

 

How’s Your Crystal Ball?

How’s Your Crystal Ball

by Ray Silverstein

When you own a business, you need to be able to tell the future. To know where revenues are headed and what resources you’ll need. The good news is, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to see what lies ahead. 

Because you have something better than a crystal ball: your business indicators. Some indicators are nearly universal (i.e., the economy), and some are unique to every business. Either way, when you track your indicators, including those listed below, you can get a handle on the future.

Indicator #1: Present and Future Sales 

Reviewing current orders is the first step to projecting revenues. But you can estimate even more accurately if you factor in outstanding bids/proposals.

For example, review past proposals for the last 12 months. What percentage did you close?  

Apply that percentage to today’s proposals, and you’ll get a sense of where you’ll be in X number of days, depending on the length of your sales cycle. In essence, you’re diagramming your sales funnel. (Then you can also work backwards to determine how many proposals you must generate to hit your sales goals.)

Indicator #2: Service/Maintenance

If your sales have a ‘tail’—i.e., the initial sale will result in service activity down the road—that’s another indicator.

Say you sell and service equipment. By analyzing past maintenance activity, you can predict what service/parts will be needed when. Apply that information to your equipment in the field, and you cannot only proactively line up parts and staff, but anticipate maintenance-related revenues.

Indicator #3: The Domino Effect 

Certain activities in one industry  impact related industries. If you can pinpoint those relationships, you can use them to make projections.

For example, one of my PRO peer group members is in the furniture business. By talking to her customers, she found they shared one common denominator: many had purchased homes within the prior 6-12 months. By tracking the local housing market, she can project which way sales are trending.

Indicator #4: Fill-in-the-Blank!

There may also be some indicators unique to your business. Keep a look out for them.

For example, years ago when I owned a manufacturing company, I used to sell to a well-known mail order house. This was before the Internet. Every day when the mail arrived, the mail order staff would immediately weigh it. Yes, weigh it. The company’s savvy owner knew the value of his average order and had calculated the number of orders that made up a lb. of mail. So hours before the orders were processed, he knew what the day’s sales would be.

Indicator #5: The Local Landscape

Your business is part of a local community. Depending on what you sell or do, all kinds of local activity may affect you: big construction projects, hiring moves by major employers, even the school calendar. By staying abreast of your community and keeping tabs on local business news, you can get a sense of what will impact your business.

So, put away your tea leaves and cancel your appointment with Madame Marie. Learn to track and read your key business indicators, and you’ll be able to predict what the future holds.


Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” He has partnered with the Phoenix Business Journal to bring you access to the Journal’s Digital Portal, a goldmine of potential business indicators. For more information, contact Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Upcoming Events:

Devon Bank sponsored Keyword Workshop in Chicago – Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

Books of Interest:

                    


Winning Over “Impossible” Prospects – Entrepreneur Magazine 08-29-2007

It’s a familiar situation: You have a sweet target prospect you’d love to land, but you can’t seem to make any headway. You don’t know how to start a relationship. What can you do to create a beachhead or get your foot in the door?

Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/183462#ixzz2WVPWNhlM