Where to draw the line.

That’s a good question…..

When training a sales team from Samsung recently, I was asked a question which prompted a lot of thought and soul searching.  I was able to answer it, but was the answer just too easy? 

The question?   Where does an ethical sales person ‘draw the line’?

The answer is simple, and quite straight forward: ‘wherever your conscience lets you draw the line’.  This is obvious, clear and fits all.  However, is it a helpful answer?

The example given by the team member was of a potential customer who used their own ‘pressure buying’ techniques that quickly strayed into bullying; the Genghis Kahn school of negotiation.  Apparently, the buyer would throw his pen onto the table and demand loudly that they accept his terms or get out.  Other tactics of similar aggressive and intimidating nature were used.  Unfortunately, the team member, while an experienced sales person, was not able to walk out on the negotiations as he had been instructed to pursue the business and to win it.  Would YOU sit there and take that abuse?

He had my sympathy.  Most experienced sales people have had situations of similar severe discomfort.  While the buyer rants, raves and threatens, you are sat there wrestling with your own conscience and professionalism. What are your options?

There are many as every situation is different and requires some ‘thinking-on-your-feet’.

Below I describe the two extremes and an ideal. 

1/  Fight back?  This is the most satisfying.  Potentially it can gain respect from the buyer and a mutually beneficial solution could be possible.  However, it is extremely risky, as it may escalate the emotions and temper to the point where errors are made, opportunities are lost, and things are said that should never be said by true professionals.  Are you reducing your own standards by lowering yourself to their position?

2/  ‘Take it on the chin’; in other words, sit there and use silence or passive resistance as your main tool of defense.  This is a very professional approach that will make the buyers behavior seem very childish and clearly bullying in comparison.  However, there is also the risk that they will then take your reluctance to engage in a fight as weakness and assume their argument has been won.

3/  A carefully judged balance between the two, whereby you respond to aggressive posturing with a firm insistence and repeated ‘no’.  Your volume would be higher than usual but less than theirs; maintain eye-contact as much as possible; your words would again be professional, but your manner should show you standing firm but being fair.  Consistency, professionalism, repetition and firmness are needed, with a clear message that you will not be intimidated.

The salesman was strong and held his ground as best he could.  Give-in to a bully and they will always bully you.  If you cannot work with them, and you have the authority, you can walk away, but do not let them win.

Yes, it is up to you and your conscience.  Sometimes it may be a balance between needs and conscience.  Apply your own positive, firm approach but do your best not give in to intimidation. When you can, retain the moral ‘high ground’ and give little away.  No-one likes a bully, and it is a great shame that some believe this is the way to behave in modern society.  However, one cannot deny that they still exist, and we must deal with them while achieving our objectives AND remaining professional.

How to attract new business

Are you attractive?

Whoever said ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’ made a very important observation.

Even if we consider ourselves open-minded and non-judgemental, sometimes we cannot help ourselves.  We can simply look at a person and decide they are not the sort with whom we could work, or who are not the type to want what we are offering.

We all know not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, but the sub-conscious is very powerful and can even over-ride our rational and fair approach to engaging with strangers.  Our subconscious makes around 70% of our decisions for us, compared with the rational thought processes that achieve just 30%.

If someone does not look right, act right, say the right things, even dress the right way, then our subconscious will sense this mismatch, this discomfort, and will develop persuasive arguments not to engage with them.  They will not succeed in attracting us to their business.

So, we must try and avoid allowing our subconscious to take over in this way.  We should remember that everyone has a story to tell; an experience to share.  Never judge a book by its cover!

The other side of this ‘coin’ is just as important.  Whoever we are and however we wish to present ourselves, are we succeeding in attracting as many prospects as possible?  Do WE look right, do we say the right things, do we act as we should?  In short, does the way we present ourselves meet or exceed our prospects’ expectations?  If the answer is ‘no’ then we risk undermining our sales proposition before we have even made contact!

We should consider how others see us; it does matter!  Personal presentation matters, and if we get it right, we have the best chance of impressing our prospective customers with our products or services.  If we get it wrong, success is far less likely.

If you are interested in hearing more about this and how to attract more business, register for the Salient Workshop ‘The 5 Powers of Attraction’ click on this link:Salient Events.

How to overcome Brexit Blues and how the Salient ‘Plan B’ showed the way forward.

It has to be said, I am sorry, but it does have to be said.

Brexit has made a difference and will make further differences to business.

Things are changing and there are more changes to come.

But, I am not one of the doom-mongers as I believe it offers us interesting and useful opportunities.  I say ‘offers’ as it is up to us whether we take those opportunities or sit back and just hope.

Whatever happens there will be change, and we need to be prepared as best we can.  But prepared for what?  I believe there are four indisputable facts:

  • Brexit will happen!
  • Markets will change
  • There will be greater focus on domestic markets
  • We will find ourselves competing with more UK companies as larger providers seek to replace off-shore business.

This is what happened to Salient in the last 18 months:

  • Five larger prospects, (£1M turnover+), were reasonably secure in my sales pipeline.
  • As the Brexit vote loomed, happened, and shocked the markets, these five companies retreated, not wishing to ‘spend money when the market was so unpredictable.’
  • My cash-flow forecast dropped considerably!
  • I initiated my contingency, my Plan B, and targeted the smaller businesses that tend to ‘get on with it’ no matter what the market is doing.
  • I had to replace one large opportunity with ten smaller ones.
  • It was successful, and I have now progressed to Plan C where I develop the new smaller company market, while attracting new larger opportunities.

But what of the larger companies?  What will they do in this Brexit uncertainty?

I believe they will do very much as I did and look to smaller domestic markets to fill the gap in their turnover.

In other words, those who rely on domestic markets for the majority of their turnover will start to find more competition from larger suppliers.

There is another side to this.  Those seeking your products or services are less likely to look off-shore for suppliers as these are likely to become more costly.  Therefore, they will actively seek domestic suppliers. It could be you, if you are ready!  Another point is that if they previously sourced from larger companies, they are likely to spend more than your present customers.

To summarise, this could mean for your business:

  • New domestic markets are likely to open up
  • Competition will increase for home-grown opportunities.
  • The new opportunities have different expectations and spending levels

Are you ready?

Is your sales team and/or your sales process the best it can be?

Your sales effort needs to be at its best; sharp; focussed; forward-thinking.

Don’t miss the boat. 

If you fail to address this, others will get there first and will win the lion’s share of the new opportunities.

If you are successful in this, your business growth could be double what you would anticipate for 2018.

If you would like to discuss your experiences of this, please be in touch; call or email Andy

Why you need to know your Sales Conversion Rates

Sales Conversion Rates?  Take the primary conversion rate: the ratio of the number of contacts you have to make and the number of business opportunities won from these contacts, e.g. you may have a primary rate of 1 new opportunity won from having made 20 new contacts.  Such rates can be applied to the whole sales process. Three key rates are given in the example below.

If you do know your rates, that’s great, but what do you do with them?  Do you apply them to your prospecting activities, your marketing, your pitching, negotiating and closing?  If you can do anything to increase your conversion rate even slightly, how much difference would that make to your success and income?

If you don’t know your conversion rates, how can you know if what you are doing is really effective, or mostly a waste of time?  How can you set targets that are realistic and achievable?  How do you decide what works and what doesn’t?

Take this example:

A company has worked out that it needs another £120K of business over the next 12 months; apply your own figures, this applies to any size of business.

How many new opportunities need to be identified to achieve this figure?  If you don’t know your conversion rates, you will have to guess. So, let’s assume conversion rates are known.

We know that the average spend of our customers is around £5K, so, straight away we can say that we need to find 24 new business opportunities.

Conversion rate 1: How many quotes or proposals result in an order?  Say 1 in 2.

  • So we need to have given (2×24) 48 quotes to have the chance of winning 24 new orders, resulting in £120K of new business.

Conversion rate 2: How many meetings result in a request for a quote?  Say 1 in 3.

  • So we need to have had (3×48) 144 meetings to have the chance of receiving 48 requests, …….resulting in £120K of new business.

Conversion rate 3: How many contacts made will result in an agreement to meet? Say 1 in 5.

  • So we need to have contacted (5×144) 720 people/businesses to have the chance of agreeing 144 meetings…….resulting in £120K of new business.

This is, of course, the classic ‘Sales Funnel’ approach.  Do you see how it works?  With just three known conversion rates, you can work out how you might achieve your target.  In this case you will need to contact in the region of 720 prospects in order to achieve your contacts.  If you are just one person operating in sales this could be a problem!  If there are a team of you; say five sales people, then we are back to 144 meetings each which need only be 2 or 3 per day.

However, it should be remembered that a sales person’s life is not just calling and then meeting customers.  There is planning and preparation, prospecting and analysis of the list of targets. Then there is pitching outside of the meeting and writing the quote or proposal. Some negotiation is bound to be needed and there are many skills in closing.  Beyond that there is the client management and development needed to retain and grow the customer loyalty and ‘spend’. With a team of 10 in sales, the overall targets will, of course, be proportionally higher.

This is just a quick demonstration of how knowledge of your conversion rates will help you to plan, devise strategies and manage your resources to make sure your targets can be met in the right time frame.

There are a number of key techniques for improving these conversion rates which will help you to hit targets or even exceed them.  For instance, what would it mean if you improved conversion rate 2 from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2, i.e. if you were better at pitching and matching the need?  Or, what difference would it make if you improved conversion rate 3 from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3, i.e. if you were better at making contact and making good first impressions?  Believe me, it would be significant!  If you would like to hear more about these techniques for improving conversion rates and how to apply them to your business, please contact Andy at Salient.

Who would make a good CEO?

Who would make a good CEO?

– with thanks to David Joel of Lanson Consultants for his inspiration.

I am happily married with four lovely daughters.

I think any involved parent is a CEO.

I am an equal partner CEO in the parent company.  Two of our branches believed they would be more successful away from the control of the parent company and so we have come to a mutual agreement to separate. The longest established branch has formed a successful joint venture by merging with another to form a separate company, and the other branch has changed markets and moved to develop within a larger concern in London.

–  This has resulted in reduced costs and improved productivity of the parent company and day-to-day running is noticeably less frenetic.

The remaining two branches are still being developed and have interesting prospects for the future.  They have each developed in very different ways addressing widely differing markets; one in entertainment and the other in service industries.  Once each has reached fully profitable status and is attractive enough for a (hopefully) more established concern to take notice, then these too will likely separate from the parent company as ‘going concerns’.  Some support will have to be maintained during the transition phase at least, and possibly longer.   I envisage maintaining a non-portfolio directorship for some time but doubt my influence will be considered valuable by then.

–  The timescale for these changes is difficult to determine.  We are hoping for 5-6 years but suspect it may be considerably longer.

Once the parent company has been ‘asset stripped’ in this way, we hope it will remain a viable concern, able to tick-over at least for a few years.  Returning to full efficiency and optimum profitability may take some time but once achieved then a more bespoke, higher level, occasional consultancy may be the structure adopted.

As for passing the company on to future generations…..

I hope this analogy resonated with some of you. 

Finally, a question to ask yourself; am I being a good CEO or am I simply ‘doing a job’?

©Salient Sales & Training

5 Top Tips – contacting prospects

5 TOP TIPS:  Making contact with new prospects

Many people find contacting the most difficult of all sales activities.  This is likely if we are ‘cold-calling’, but if we have manageable list (not so large that we cannot follow-up all the contacts made), and we have a few useful techniques for winning their attention and gaining their interest, then we stand a good chance of doing business with them.
Here are 5 tips designed to help achieve good and profitable contacts every time:

  1/  Make sure your prospecting has been effective and you have identified those who will be most likely to understand why you have contacted them; what you are offering and will have an interest in hearing more from you.
  2/  Try and identify the Decision Maker before you make contact, or at least a named employee.  Asking by title may well draw a blank, whereas receptionists or ‘gatekeepers’ are likely to respond positively if you can use a name.
  3/  Make friends with the Gatekeeper.  They are not interested in fulfilling your need so simply ask for their help.  Many will deny an approach; ‘I need to talk with…’ whereas few will deny a plea for help.
  4/  Apply ‘AIDA’ to the conversation (if this is not familiar email or call and I’ll explain!).
  5/  Try to emphasize the benefits of your product or service which are relevant to the          role of the contact; a buyer will be interested in price and delivery, whereas an MD          (or FD) will be more focussed on return-on-investment and cost-effectiveness.

These are just a few tips; there are many more tips and techniques you can use to great effect.  If you would like to discuss these or learn more, please call or email.