Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Hire Professional Services?

My dear friend of many years, Tony Rossell, Vice-President (and Membership Marketing Guru) at Marketing General recently wrote a very informative post entitled Why Hire A Marketing Agency.  While Tony wrote in the context of outsourcing marketing services, points he shares I believe apply to hiring of professional services in general.

As many of you from time to time outsource, hire professional services, I thought you would find his post worthwhile reading.  Therefore, I wanted to bring it to your awareness. (Btw, in the picture above, that's Tony on the right hand side, along with his son.  Tony is a huge baseball fan as well as coaches a local baseball team.  A great friend to have in your corner.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Do Customers Really Want?

Recently I came across answers to what customers really want, in a book entitled "Sales Secrets from Your Customers" by Barry J. Farber.  Farber lists 25 points that customers made during interviews on how sales people should sell to them.  Given my own over 20 years of business development experience in B2B setting, I thought it was an excellent list.  Much of what he shares I can back up with my own sales success.  Therefore I wanted to share this list with you all.  If you're in sales, I think you'll find it very useful.

But first, a special note for my fellow introverts who find themselves in sales.  As I once used to, in this extroverted dominated field, many introverts often feel they are not cut out for selling, doubting their own sales abilities. 

Speaking from personal experience, however, when it comes to complex solution selling, where success is a function of long-term relationship building, I firmly believe that introverts truly rock.  With this in mind, as you read this list, you'll note that many of the items listed actually play to your introverted strengths.  So my introverted friends, never never undermine yourself as a sales person. Tap into your special abilities, apply this list in how you serve your clients, and success is yours to be had.  Now read on.
  1. Don't sell me products-sell me solutions.
  2. Understand my business, my industry, my market.
  3. Understand your products or services thoroughly so that you know every conceivable way it might help me solve my problems or meet my goals.
  4. Know everything about your competition.  I have to make decisions about which product is best, and I need to know what makes your the best choice for me.
  5. Watch what you say about the competition.  I want to know why your product is the best choice, but I don't want you to knock the competition.  Concentrate on your strengths, not their weaknesses.
  6. Don't give me a canned, generic pitch.  Appreciate my unique qualities and challenges.
  7. Have my best interest at heart.
  8. Make me feel important.  Make me believe I'm the only customer you have--even though I know it's not true.
  9. Have a purpose for every call.
  10. Organize your materials so that when I ask to see information, you have it easily accessible.
  11. Return my calls promptly. I expect that you'll be as available to talk to me now as you were before the sale was completed.
  12. Let me know how to reach you. If I can't find you, I'll go with someone else.
  13. Help me solve a problem, even if it's my fault, and I'll most likely remain a loyal customer.
  14. I'm looking for a sales rep I can consider a partner-almost an employee.  When you help me find solutions to run my business better, it's easier for me to see you in that light.
  15. Keep your promises.  If you say you'll get back to me, do it.
  16. Anyone can make a one-time sale. It's the follow-through that keeps me coming back for more.
  17. If you don't have an immediate answer, don't try to fake it or make one up.  I'd rather you say, "I don't know, but I'll find out."  Of course, once you say that, you must get back to me with the answer as soon as possible.
  18. Let me know that you're interested in my success. If that means that you sometimes recommend the competition or tell me I'm better off with the product or service I now have, I'll respect you greatly and find a way to do business with you in the future.
  19. Be my consultant.  Show me how others in my field have been successful.  Become a resource for me so that I can call on you when I'm in a bind and need advice-even if it's got nothing to do with your product or service.
  20. Create added value.  Price is not my only criterion.  The extra service and special attention you give me is worth more than dollars in many instances.
  21. Exceed my expectations.  Let me know that you are willing to go beyond the norm, to make that extra effort it takes to ensure success-mine and yours.
  22. Don't keep me waiting.  If you're going to be late, call me.
  23. Exhibit a positive attitude and enthusiasm about your job and your product. If you don't believe in yourself, I won't believe in you either.
  24. Don't argue with me or be too aggressive. If I feel like I'm being pushed into a sale, I know you're interested in your commissions, not your customers.
  25. Be honest with me in all situations. If there are problems, let me know so that together we can begin to think of solutions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Many years ago, I learned a very valuable sales lesson, that I want to share today.  The example I'll use involved turning an initial inquiry worth only few hundred dollars into an over $25,000 order--and it all started with one simple question.  Before I share though, please know that I post this not to brag but as a way of sharing something I learned through experience--with hopes it'll help you too, as it has me. So here we go.

A client, whom I'll call Mary had called me to get a price on 1,000 sets of index dividers.  Being of service mindset and having a curious mind, I responded saying "Mary, thanks, I'll be glad to get a price over to you very shortly.  If you don't mind though, may I please ask you a question.  That is, how do you plan to use these, what will you do with them? Upon hearing this, she explained that they are in the process of putting together 1,000 conference binders for an upcoming event.  Of course, this lead me to then say "Wow, that's fantastic Mary. Please tell me more about these binders and how you're going about getting them produced."

Mary went onto explain that they will be getting tabs through us, ordering the empty binders through another company, copying through yet another outfit, and then she and her staff will all get together in their conference room and assemble them.   Knowing she is super busy, I asked if it would help her if she could get all that done in one-place, i.e. one-stop shop.  Given my relationship, I even then mentioned we do such work now and if she would be open to us doing the whole thing for her.  Long and short of it is that what started out as a small order turned into a major project for us, and over time more such project followed, from this client as well as many others.  In the case of Mary, she won through convenience and we generated more revenue and profits for ourselves.  Both won. Win-Win.

For me, two key lessons came out of this experience.  One, be curious, don't assume anything, ask probing questions for they can and often do lead to greater learning and opportunities. Secondly, clients don't always know and/or remember what all services and products their suppliers provide.  They have so much on their minds that they are not sitting their thinking about you.  Therefore you must continually inform and educate your clients (and prospects too), to maintain top of mind awareness. So when they do need your services, you want to be the first one they think of.  

So let me ask you, are you leaving money on the table, missing sales opportunities that are right in front of you? If you are, what steps can you start to take right now, what probing question can you start to ask, with the ultimate goal of uncovering opportunities, better serving your clients, and in the process making more money for yourself, and your company?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Do People Skills Drive Business Results?

Meet Will.  Every Tuesday morning, I attend his spinning class at Tyson's Sport & Health.  His class starts at 6 am sharp and for me to get a spot, I frequently have to get there by around 5:30 cause people start to show up early. 

Recently Will had to take a 3 month break from teaching spinning.  Result?  People can now show up, even after 6, and there are plenty of bikes to choose from.  It's not that the substitute spinning instructors are not competent.  They are highly trained and very good for at Sport & Health, pretty much all the instructors are highly qualified. But these subs in spinning, while good technically, they are not Will.

Will pushes us hard, kicks our butts, makes us sweat 'till we can't take it any longer, and then he pushes yet harder.  And he does it all with a smile and a great attitude.  It's a pleasure to be in his presence.  I miss Will and I can hardly wait for him to return.  Sure the subs also give me a good work out, but it's just not the same. 

I have been a member of Sport & Health for many years and over the years I have noticed that classes which regularly fill up, those that develop a very loyal following, those classes tend to be lead by instructors who have great people skills.  Those who don't, even though they are equally, if not more technically qualified, just don't seem to develop any type of following and their classes always have plenty of spaces in them.  In fact, I have observed this not just in sports, but in numerous other settings too.

Therefore my strong belief is that given nearly equal technical competency, and perhaps even a bit on the lesser side, people choose to work with those who possess people skills over those who don't.  And they are more patient, more accommodating and more forgiving to those who have good people skills.  Therefore, with perhaps some rare exceptions such as highly qualified surgeon, I am a firm believer that there is a strong correlation between strong people skills and strong business results.

What are your experiences and thoughts on this?  Do people skills drive business results?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Isn't Everyone Gifted?

Meet Ngoc.  Her job is doing handwork in a lettershop, which often involves tasks like stuffing thousands of envelopes.  It is something I would not last doing for more then 30 seconds before my mind would go numb.  Yet she has the patients of a saint, manual dexterity of a surgeon, and can carry on such tasks for hours on end, all the while smiling and enjoying her work.

At another time at another place, I had the pleasure of talking with and closely observing software developers and engineer types.  While people skills as well as their comfort level in people dealings wasn't their primary gift from what I could observe, when it came to sitting in front of multiple computer screens for long periods of time coding software and solving very complex technical issues, they rocked. 

Then there is my good friend Samantha.  If she had to write and code software, I am sure that would drive her up the wall.  But when it comes to driving business deals, she has the tenacity and the drive like no one else I know. She is simply one of the best when it comes to making the sale, and she absolutely loves it. 

As I move around, I observe every single day that each and every person on this earth has their own unique blend of talents and abilities.  Each is special in their own unique way and each and everyone adds value in some shape and form.

So whenever I see a sign like the one above, or I hear talk of some gifted individuals, I am left wondering what exactly does being gifted mean.  Afterall, isn't everyone gifted?

What do you think?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What Business Are You Really In?

I have been reading this much talked about recently published book entitled Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.  In many conversations lately this book has come up and I hear that some are even making special visits to Zappos operations, to learn how they create happiness.

While Zappos is getting much attention since the release of this book, the more I think about it, are we not all ultimately in the business of delivering happiness?  While our products and services differ, ultimately, is not our success determined by how happy our customers are, by our offerings and our service?  And is this also not true for all of our various relationships, personal and professional?

Along this topic, in another recently book, Business of Happiness by Ted Leonsis, Ted states that while success does not lead to happiness, happiness surely leads to success.  Perhaps there is another point.  That it is if we are happy, then we are already truly successful.  So when all is said and done, are we not all in the business of delivering happiness for we all want to be successful and the ultimate success is being happy?

So I am wondering out loud: How do you create happiness, and create even more of it, for others, as well as for yourself?  

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Remembering Dad

This year is the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan. In his celebration, this weekend Parade magazine is running a piece entitled "Remembering my Father", with a picture of President Reagan and his family on the cover.

As my dad was a strong Reagan supporter, today I am remembering (and missing) my dad, which I do often. When I look back, frequently I wonder where the time went and how I missed so many opportunities to spend more time with him and to be a better son. As I myself get older, face my own life's many trials and tribulations, I become increasingly appreciative of how much he (with my moms support) accomplished in life and how so many lives he touched in a very positive way. If I can achieve and do for others even 1% of what all he did, I would consider myself very fortunate and blessed.

So today, to all the dads and sons (and mothers and daughters too), I want to invite you to stop whatever you are doing and take just a few moments to listen to this very special song called Cats and the Cradel by Harry Chapin. Cats and Cradel is one my favorite songs and each time I hear it, it stops me in my tracks, bringing tears, reminding me what's truly important and meaningful. I think you'll feel the same.

To listen to it, go to this link: Then do whatever you're moved to do. We don't have to wait for any specific days such as Father's and Mother's Day. Why not make today, this moment, special by reaching out to those in your lives and doing something special for them, even if it's just a quick call or email letting them know how much you love them and how much they mean to you. What a beautiful way to start a new year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Have Your Sales Hit a Brick Wall?

In many businesses, a point comes when revenue flattens out. Team continues to work hard yet revenue increase is nowhere in sight. You feel like a gerbil on a wheel, running harder and faster, yet not making any significant progress.

What are you to do?

If this sounds like your situation, here are two solutions to consider, that may help you get unstuck and back on the growth path.

1. Refocus: Over time nearly every business picks up variety of customers who have various needs. While each provides revenue, not all revenue is the same. Some customers actually cost more to serve then the revenue they provide.

For example, for a printing company, a customer who continuously purchases only small print jobs that are not in line with their core offering, those projects can actually consume significant resources, using up valuable staff time and energy that could otherwise be spent on serving your core/best customers as well as acquiring more like them.

Therefore as you begin this new year and your sales have hit a wall, it may be time to reevaluate your customer base and projects you are taking on, and then make adjustments accordingly. In the short run this may cost you some revenue. Fear not. By refocusing, you will more then come out ahead. For more on this, check out my post "Sweet Spot" that I wrote back in January 2009.

This will help you work smarter, leading to much greater returns. Think of it as "sharpening your saw", as Steven Covey once said.

2. Reexamine: Ask "What business are you really in?". How you see your business determines your outlook which in turn impacts decisions, actions and ultimately outcomes. Therefore if you see your business in a new light, that inner shift may lead to expansion, identifying additional service opportunities, right within your existing customer base. After all one of the keys to growth and greater profitability is to do more for your existing clients, since it's much easier to sell more stuff to them then to get new ones. When you do that, it further strengthens the relationship and deepens the value you provide. Both win.

Let's look at some examples:

Say you're a marketing company. Are you in the business of helping your clients acquire new customers, or are you helping them drive revenue growth and helping get new customers is just one of the ways you help them grow revenue?

If you're a printing and mailing company, are you in the printing mailing business or are you in the business of helping your customers move information, move communications?

If you're a promotional products company, are you in the business of selling promotional products or are you in the business of helping your customers build & strengthen relationships, increase client acquisition, drive profits, and improve client retention?

If you're an association, are you in the business of serving the profession, the industry, or your members?

You get the idea.

If you have hit a wall, this is a great time to refocus as well as reexamine what business you're in with a fresh pair of eyes. You may be very pleasantly surprised at the outcome. Give it a try.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


The holiday festivities are over. It's time now to begin work that will lead to 2011 becoming a great year. But, where do you start? Where should resources be applied? What exactly needs to be done?

If you're unsure, a great starting point is asking, among your leadership team as well as with involvement of other key players, 5 key questions. It is through these critical conversations focus, alignment, direction and next steps will emerge. These questions are:

1. Who is that we serve? What does our ideal customer look like?

2. For our core customers, what problem do we solve, pain we take away, and value we deliver?

3. Why is solving this problem important to our clients, and to us?

4. What are the 3 critical "things" we must accomplish this year?

5. What work needs to be done to accomplish these, i.e. who will do what by when, and what resources are needed.

Best wishes!