Friday, February 25, 2011

Want Some Sales Tips?

Every business needs an influx of new customers on a regular basis to offset customers lost by a number of things:  attrition, moving away, death, and (oh no!) disappointment with their relationship (aka poor customer attention).  Acquiring new customers is also a very nice way to build revenues and grow a business, which is why so many businesses spend a great deal of money each year on marketing and advertising campaigns!

Still others hire salespeople to focus expressly on acquiring those new customers.  But a lot of businesses don’t have salespeople on their staff and, those that do don’t always know how to go about training them.  Salespeople, in my opinion, are essential.

Here, in a few words, are some tips for you and your salespeople to follow:
#1 – Read sales books, listen to sales tapes, attend sales seminars.  Jeffrey Gitomer, author of The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Red Book of Sales Answers (among other books) is a terrific motivational resource AND he’s right on the money when it comes to perspective, relationships, and the entire process of selling.  (  I’ve been in sales for over 30 years and I’m still learning.

#2 – Be sure to utilize multiple prospecting sources (like at least half a dozen), including, for example:  networking groups; direct mail letters with follow up phone calls; cold-calling; contacting current and former clients, neighbors, business associates, fellow members of civic and business organizations.  Salespeople who rely on only one prospecting method (even if it’s within their comfort zone and they are successful with it) seldom have as much success as salespeople who put themselves in front of a variety of people and solicit customers from a variety of sources on a regular basis.

#3 – Spend at least 50-70% of your time on prospecting activities.  Because people would rather buy than be sold to, and they generally only buy from someone they trust, your salespeople need to constantly position themselves so they’re visible, likable, and able to inspire trust and confidence.  It isn’t who your salespeople know, it’s who knows them.  The most successful salespeople are those who spend the most amount of time out in the field, talking to customers and prospective customers, offering assistance, and letting the world know what nice guys and gals they are.

If you retain your current customers and provide them with what they want—especially the type of relationship they want—they’ll help you tremendously in your efforts to acquire new customers.  Don’t hesitate to solicit testimonials from them, using their genuine appreciation to convince potential customers that they should be doing business with you instead of your competitor.  You should also solicit referrals from your customers.  This is such an easy thing to do and, if you phrase your request in such a way that it fits your personality, it will not be viewed as aggressive or as begging.

Think of it this way:  if your customers are really happy with you and the service you provide, don’t they want their friends, family, and co-workers to be just as happy.

Don’t hesitate to shoot me an e-mail with any questions you might have in the area of building your business through sales.  It’s something I’ve been doing forever and ... I do a lot of sales trainings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How's the Employee Morale at Your Workplace?
Morale of employees in the workplace is essential to the smooth running of any business.  More importantly, it is essential to the well-being of both employees and customers.

I was talking with a fellow recently about the disintegrating morale in his workplace.  Here are the details:  Doug, in his late forties and married, is one of three customer service reps in a hardware store.  He’s been working there for about a year.  Scott, in his mid-thirties and married, has been working at the store for about five years.  Neal, not yet twenty-one and single, has been working at the store for about four years.

Neal, who does a great job and actually produces more sales than Doug and Scott combined (when he shows up for work and is in shape to do his job), has some issues.  He calls in sick a lot.  Some excuses he’s used during the past six months are:  food poisoning, the flu, stomach viruses, and a car accident.  (The car accident excuse is the only one Doug knows for sure is true:  Neal had the staples in his head to show for it.)  He’s also had a DUI that required quite a bit of time off from work.

In addition to all this, Neal has a regular Wednesday night social gathering with his friends.  He invariably shows up late on Thursday smelling like a brewery, subsequently praying to the porcelain god all morning.  The store manager has supposedly “written Neal up” for some of his offenses, which include not showing up for work on several Mondays after holiday weekends, not calling ahead when he knows he’ll be late, and not showing up on several of the Saturday mornings he’s been scheduled to work.  The store manager took Doug and Scott out to lunch for the specific purpose of obtaining their input abut Neal and his behavior, which he claimed was “out of control.”  Seems that some of the customers reported noticing Neal’s repeated tardiness, absences, and alcohol use.

 Doug and Neal are frustrated.  So are the customers.  I’m sure the store manager is extremely frustrated.  It’s the store’s busiest time of year:  firing an employee, especially the one with the highest sales, will seriously impact everyone.  But the store manager’s decision to send Neal home for a day or two without pay to think things over after pulling one of his stunts doesn’t seem to be a significant enough form of discipline to convince Neal to change his ways.

I see this entire situation as a nightmare with the potential for a number of serious negative consequences.  The store has an employee handbook, which clearly outlines the penalties of unacceptable behavior.  If management isn’t following through with procedures as outlined in the handbook, they’re leaving themselves wide open for a number of things.  First of all, mutiny.  Other employees aren’t going to appreciate the special treatment Neal is receiving.  It seems that bad behavior is being rewarded and good behavior is being overlooked.  Then, there’s setting a precedent:  not disciplining an employee per written procedures.  This could result in a lawsuit if, at a later date, management disciplines another employee for an offense that Neal—or anyone else—committed and wasn’t disciplined for.  Someone needs to take the store manager aside and convince him to look into the future when handling employee issues rather than handling them based upon what’s most expedient at the moment.
This article was originally written with a different ending but I decided to revise it after a conversation with Doug yesterday afternoon.  He and Scott were supposed to work together yesterday morning (a Saturday).  Ten minutes after the store opened, Scott called in sick, claiming to have received food poisoning the night before at a local restaurant.  Doug immediately recognized the excuse as being one of Neal’s favorites.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But Doug seems to think that Scott decided that if Neal can get away with calling in sick, he’ll try it too.  Double-negative-whammy for Doug, who doesn’t play those games.

Oh, did I mention that Scott has season tickets for the local university’s football season?  And that yesterday there was a home game?  Still believe in coincidence?

Morale at this hardware store is going down the tubes.  What began as one young man’s absorption in himself and his social life has now escalated to the point that a number other people are being significantly affected in unpleasant fashion.  The team-building efforts the firm prided itself on have eroded to the point that it’s every man for himself.

Everyone winds up losing:  (1) Neal, who is receiving the false impression that all employers will put up with his behavior; (2) Scott, who’ll eventually wind up getting reprimanded or fired when his behavior escalates.  Management might put up with their top-producing employee’s bad behavior but they won’t be able to afford to do the same when the second of three employees follows suit; (3) Doug, who does his job but hates the injustice--and who’s on the lookout for a new job; (4) Management, who, it now appears, will wind up having to replace three employees instead of just the one.

If you’re in the position of Doug or Scott, there isn’t much you can do about a situation like this.  If you’re Neal, and someone gives you a figurative kick in the butt, maybe morale can revert back to a time and place when it was good.  If you’re the store manager, you need to look closely at your workplace policies and how you treat your employees.  Is your turnover high?  Are your people unhappy?  You might want to do some research.  This store manager did his research but didn’t follow through by doing his homework.  Will you make the same mistake?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Free Business Advice: Telephone Tips

How many of you hang up the moment the person on the other end of the phone begins to sound like a telemarketer?  How many of you use either Caller ID or your answering machine to screen your calls for the purpose of avoiding telemarketers?  How many of you have to make phone calls for your job and just hate it when the person on the other end of the phone hangs up on YOU?  (Or worse, gets nasty or verbally abusive?)

Well kids, I’m happy to report that there are methods and ways of using the telephone to your advantage so that you aren’t hung up on during those first few seconds.  There are also ways to GUARANTEE the other person will hang up on you.  The fellow who prompted this article provides me with a perfect example. 

The name of my businesses is Faulkner Education Services.  One day, I answered the phone, “Good morning, Faulkner Education.”  The caller asked, “Is Mr. Faulkner in?”  Well, since I’m Mrs. Faulkner—and Mr. Faulkner has absolutely nothing to do with my business other than being very happy it earns income—I replied, “There is no Mr. Faulkner.”  What do you think the caller did?  Yep, he hung up in embarrassment.

When calling a business, do NOT expect the person you’re calling to be of a specific gender.  Neither should you assume the receptionist will put you right through to the “owner” or someone else when you ask for the person by title instead of name.  In fact, you SHOULD assume the call WON’T go through if you do that.  Why?  Because you just signaled that you don’t know the person you’re calling and you’re either a sales person or (worse) a telemarketer.  No one wants to talk to sales people or telemarketers and the receptionist has been instructed not to put those types of calls through.  Regardless of how badly you want to speak to your prospect, the receptionist doesn’t really care.  She works for them, not you.

Here are some tips to avoid that conundrum and a few others:
·         Check out the R.L. Polk Directory (it’s in the reference section of the library and can be purchased directly from that company); it includes certain business information along with the business listing—usually the owner’s name and the number of employees.
·         Call in advance to ask for the name of the owner.  Have a legitimate reason for wanting the info—no lying—in case you’re asked the reason for your request.  (You might want to have a co-worker--or your teenager--call on your behalf to avoid the receptionist remembering your voice when you make your call.)
·         Know what you’re going to say, but don’t sound like you’re reading a script!  Sales people/telemarketers often use scripts; good salespeople/telemarketers don’t sound like they’re using scripts.  The key to success in this regard is rehearsal:  repeat what you’re going to say over and over so that it comes naturally and—if you don’t repeat the script precisely—you’re comfortable enough to ad lib.
·         The first thing you should ask when you reach the party with whom you want to speak is, “Have I called at a good time?”  Telemarketers and people with lousy phone skills never ask that question.  It’s a sign of respect and signals that you care about the person you called—even if you don’t know her/him.  If s/he says it’s not a good time, apologize and ask when would be a good time for your return call.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll get that information and will have a pleasant phone call when you reach the person.

Care to share any of your telephone tips?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stress: What Drives YOU Crazy?
I just read a terrific article in my most recent issue of Romance Writer's Report (which is available to all RWA members). In it, the author explains that stress is anything that causes you or your body to tighten up. Webster defines stress as a constraining force or influence (yes, I looked it up).

Which got me thinking and doing a little research. Consider the following:
  • Stress is the body's response to a stimulus; a stimulus can be:
    • Real or imagined; and
    • Physical; psychological, cognitive, or behavioral.
  • Stress manifests itself in three steps:
    • Alarm is the first step, which usually causes the body to produce adrenaline and, in some cases, cortisol (aka fight-or-flight response);
    • Resistance is the second step, which causes the mind and body to develop methods of coping (i.e., eating, drinking, screaming at loved ones, etc.); and
    • Exhaustion is the third and final step, which causes severe biological results, such as ulcers, migraines, depression, and other medical conditions.
POSITIVE things can cause stress. Yup, your daughter's upcoming wedding, next week's date with that guy you've been ogling at the gym for months, the birth of your child (or grandchild), etc.

We all know that negative things cause stress, so I don't need to give you examples. Perhaps you need to be reminded, however, that while we can't control the positive and negative things that happen around us, we CAN control how we respond to them--both physically and mentally/emotionally.

I've experienced a number of significant changes in my life in recent months, which include relationships (both personal and business), the sale of one of my insurance businesses, and my increase in freelance writing jobs. Not to mention the darned lousy weather that continues to mess with my plans.

Having and utilizing effective plans to reduce stressors and our responses to them is an important part of achieving personal and business success--and getting done all the things we want and need to do. I've implemented a plan to reduce MY RESPONSES to the stressors in my life. I know what drives me crazy ... now I'm working on methods to avoid the crazy part.

Now I want to hear YOUR advice, suggestions, and tips.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why you should quit worrying...

Here's a blog post I stumbled upon via a Tweet from my Twitter friend, Matt Medeiros. It's titled: Why You Should Start Writing, Stop Hiding, and Quit Worrying About the Competition:

The blog is titled The Sales Lion and has EXCELLENT marketing and sales information that all businesses and professionals will find helpful.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's in an Attitude?
 What kind of person are you: is your glass half-full or half-empty?

Which of the following two poem excerpts is the REAL you?
  • The Optimist - author unknown
    • The otimist fell ten stories, At each window bar he shouted to his friends, "All right, so far!"
  • The Pessimist - Ben King
    • Nothing to do but work, Nothing to eat but food, Nothing to wear but clothes, To keep one from going nude.
When researching Taking the Mystery Out of Business, I stumbled across scientific fact that proved a personal theory of mine: Being, and remaining, positive is harder than being, and remaining, negative. It also nets better results.

Our human brains contain what is called a Negativity Bias. It responds more forcefully to negative stimulus than it does to positive or neutral stimulus. Why? Because, in an evolutionary sense, it has been far more important to our survival to take note of negative events than the positive.

You know, that old flight-or-fight reflex? Well, it's more advantageous to notice an evil beast hiding in the bushes (and run away) than it is to admire the sweet fragrance of the roses growing on said bush.

If you want to read some interesting information about the Negativity Bias, I've provided you with two links (there are tons more on the Internet):

On the other hand, Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., the Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Principal Investigator of the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, developed the Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions to explain how positive emotions are important to survival.

Studies show that all emotions lead to specific action tendencies and Dr. Fredrickson's research shows that people who continually experience positive emotions  and thoughts exhibit higher levels of creativity, long-term resilience, growth, and development.

Which means that making a conscious decision to think and feel positive thoughts and emotions offsets the power of negative thinking--when not running away from the beast hiding in the bushes, that is.

What are YOUR thoughts and feelings about negativity versus positivity?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review from School of Business, University of Montana, for Taking the Mystery Out of Business

Janel Queen, Director of Career Advancement, School of Business, University of Montana

Yes, Clueless is a dangerous place to be!  That’s why, regardless of whether someone is a budding entrepreneur, a new graduate just getting started, or an experienced professional, Linda’s book is a must read!

For those who haven’t run a business or managed people, it might save their career or their business. For those who’ve already been at it for a while, it’s a gentle reminder of important concepts and good business practices. Her customer service stories and principles are outstanding illustrations of what to do and not do.

The way Linda writes makes reading her book enjoyable and memorable – which makes it very useful as well. Her examples help make it real for newbies so they don’t have to learn the hard way and gently reminds veteran business managers, as well. Linda’s book really is an arsenal of tools and resources to help managers and their businesses succeed.  I can see myself referring back to the book regularly--I’ve been at this a while!