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

Slow summer sales and the best way of filling a ‘Lull’

What does summer mean to your business?

What does THIS summer mean to your business?

Are you expecting a rush of new business to come to you?  Perhaps other businesses want to invest in you before the markets change, which will happen inevitably.

Or, are you expecting the normal summer lull to be worse than in previous years as, following ‘Brexit’, your customers are being cautious with their investments?

Perhaps you have the type of business which is not seasonal AND is resilient to change in the markets.

In most cases, businesses are expecting some form of downturn or lull in the coming months.  I believe, with careful handling, the pace of change is likely to be slow enough that the markets will not suffer greatly and businesses will become cautiously optimistic over the coming months.  I think WE MUST be optimistic of a favourable outcome.  If we are not, then we should give up now, and that approach is not for us!

So, the old adage ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ could never be more appropriate.

In every lull there is a need to fill the ‘spare’ time or effort with profitable activities.  What better way to fill the time than by training and coaching yourselves or your team to perform significantly better?  When markets start to improve again, for whatever reason, you can then hit the ground running with new knowledge and skills that will help your business to outperform all others.

Reinforcing skills and discovering new ideas and strategies can only make a positive difference to your sales growth and build your business during difficult times.

July and August are the ideal times to improve your skills and your performance.  There will then be time to apply your new skills and boost your end-of-year figures. 

Is that not worth the investment?

Click HERE for a REAL INCENTIVE to book some training.

What politicians could learn from Ethical Selling …and what we can learn from the politicians’ mistakes

 

Thursday 23rd June 2016 was a landmark day for many reasons.  The outcome of the referendum surprised a lot of people and delighted others.  But, why am I blogging about the referendum of all things?   One word: INTEGRITY!  As many of you will know, I fly the flag for honesty, openness and integrity in business and particularly in sales.

Sales and selling has long suffered a bad press due to the involvement of those with little or no integrity; those who firmly believe the end-justifies-the-means and the means can be anything at all to win the business.

There’s the parallel.  The press is now talking about the ‘fallout’.  Now we hear that key arguments and figures were in fact a ‘mistake’.  We have now heard that ‘immediate emergency measures’, means ‘we’ll have to look at it in a few months-time when the dust is settled, as we need stability’.

AND THEY WONDER WHY WE DON’T TEND TO TRUST OR RESPECT POLITICIANS AS MUCH AS THEY WOULD LIKE US TO!

If a certain PM, a particular UKIP leader and a well-known chancellor had done things differently; perhaps they could have kept their integrity AND continued to influence people ethically and positively!  They would have remained respected, believed and would still be able to influence.

The Salient Points:

  1. Politicians need to be good at sales and selling. They are in a position of influence and the people expect to be led and advised with honesty and integrity.
  1. NEVER ASSUME what people want, or the outcome of an initiative. Making assumptions as to what people think, expect, want or need is a recipe for disaster. Identify and clarify the need, what is really the issue, then aim to fulfil that need.  Assuming everyone, or at least a majority are going to agree with you is never a good idea.
  1. If you seek to influence and persuade your customers, or in this case ‘the electorate’, it’s always a good idea to provide accurate facts and reasoned argument.
  1. If you have competition, do not make it personal! YOUR ARGUMENT SHOULD NOT BE LACED WITH PERSONAL ATTACKS ON THOSE WHO OPPOSE YOU!  Sell it on its merits.
  1. If there is any possibility that you may lose the argument, after all there is always ‘the unforeseen’, have a CONTINGENCY PLAN, which helps you to carry on, but perhaps in a slightly different direction. (‘Damage Limitation’)
  1. If you want to remain a supplier to your customers (or ‘in office’), then the following applies:

Be clear and consistent in what you say, giving enough facts to allow an educated decision to be made by your customers (‘the people’).  This wasn’t done well in the referendum.

These facts and arguments must not be exaggerated, or untruthful, because, surprise-surprise, truth will out, particularly in the fall-out after the event.  This happened on both sides.

Customers (the public) will see this disparity between what you promised and what you deliver as a clear manipulation of the process to achieve the sellers’ (politicians’) own ends. They are MUCH less likely to buy from (vote for) them againThe PM is going; others will likely follow.

A customer who is given all the facts they need in order to make an educated and reasoned choice, and these facts are given accurately, without exaggeration, fabrication or vagueness of interpretation, will be happy to deal with you again.  IF the final answer is ‘NO thanks’, they are still likely to return and engage with you again.  Customer retention and loyalty is only possible if you maintain this integrity.

If you are proved to be false or manipulative, then you should not be at all surprised if the customer then goes elsewhere.  That’s politics as we know it!

As it should be in SALES and in POLITICS, it is down to motive, intent and conscience. I aim to sleep well every night.  Do you?

Move your own goal-posts.

Do you really want it?

Lots of money; holidays; cars; clothes; lifestyles…..?

Do you really want it, or do you just want the end result, the reward?   Do you want the omelette but are not prepared to break a few eggs and spend time whisking?

Everything of value to you has to be fought for.  A struggle is often needed to move forward.  This could entail time; working all hours, repetition; over and over again until you get it right; changes to relationships; being with patient people who share your dreams, and so on.  Whatever you do requires effort.  How much do you want that dream, that wonderful end result that will make you happy?  Are you prepared to struggle to achieve it, to work through the process time and again and again until the outcome is secure?

I meet many people who claim to have a dream, a goal, an objective, but have not yet asked themselves these questions.  In fact, too many have not even made a plan or mapped out the route they would need to take to get to where they want to go. (Have you?)

Here’s an example (names and figures have been made up to protect the guilty):

John wants to be successful   –  how successful John?

John’s dream is to achieve a turnover of £100,000 in 5 years  –  where are you now John?

So, John needs to find and win £85,000 of new business within 5 years – really?!

That is as far as John gets with his dream.

John’s approach is to keep doing what he is doing to make the business grow.*  He believes that “opportunities will arise along the way which will boost the business”.

Hands up who is surprised when, in 5 year’s time, John is turning over £32,000, and most of that is from a couple of clients who are personal friends.  John’s expansion plans are on hold.

Did John achieve his dream, his goal?  No.  Why not?  Probably because he chose a goal without considering the process, the effort, the struggle that would be needed to set his sights that high.

Every dream has a cost.  That cost includes the time and effort, the loss of focus elsewhere, the reduction of short-term-gain in favour of long term benefit.  Likely there will be disappointment, fatigue, despondency, even despair in yourself, and possibly those close to you.  Is it worth this struggle, or is it likely to damage other things you value more; your family, friends, principles, standards, enjoyment?

If you have considered all this and it is worth it, then go for it!  Or, as I read on Facebook last year: ‘Don’t downgrade your dream to match your reality, upgrade your faith to match your destiny’!

However, if the process, the struggle, the ‘pain’ proves too high a cost; lower your sites.  You can still win, and enjoy the journey.

* Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Beware the spread of ‘Sales Phobia’

Has anyone else noticed this? ‘Sales phobia.’

A contact of mine who runs a business that provides professional training to education, public sector and professional bodies, was telling me that his clients appear to have adopted sales-avoidance strategies.  I suspected this was a wind-up until he told me that, for some, their new term for this was ‘Customer Engagement’.  Others had replaced sales and selling with the catch-all of ‘Business Development’.  I had previously heard of a consultant in the south of England effectively demoting sales by saying it was part of the discipline of ‘Business Strategies’.

Sadly, there may be a simple reason for this; bad experiences of being sold-to and more people are expecting to be given the ‘hard sell’ As a result they do not respect the sales process or people who sell.

Having spent 20 years in field sales and sales management, I have been very aware of the pressure that senior management put onto their sales teams.  In the companies I worked for, it was always ‘do whatever it takes to win the business’.  In the extreme, one MD said to a colleague of mine ‘if you don’t win the business, don’t bother coming back’!  This culture fostered some terrible sales practices, all based on pressure, manipulation and worse.

At the same time, business-to-consumer sales was facing growing and tougher competition and so, instead of offering better service as an enticement to buy, they too adopted pressure selling techniques.  We all remember the awful reputations gained by car and double glazing salesmen!

Unfortunately, I believe that, while some improvement has been made, pressure selling is still rife and the sales discipline as a whole has become tarnished by these unethical practices.  The culture is also perpetuated by the likes of The Apprentice, and, occasionally, even Dragon’s Den., i.e., if you don’t do what is expected, if you don’t win, you are humiliated and you are out.

When selling, how far would YOU go to protect your income, your standard of living?

I suspect that this continuing culture has caused the name change.  Perhaps our own professional bodies should take notice and make solid pronouncements against pressure selling techniques.  Perhaps not enough has been done to ‘clean-up’ sales with clearly defined boundaries of what is ethical and what is at least ‘dodgy’.  I feel passionately about ethical selling and have flown the flag for some years now, but I too come across very negative attitudes towards selling and sales people in general.

I aim to bring back enjoyment and satisfaction in selling by teaching a clear and clean sales process that is open and understood by all prospects.

In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson; “Everyone lives by selling something”.  Often this is just selling ourselves; making a good impression; having a positive impact.  If we cannot do this without being devious or manipulating our prospects, then clearly we cannot be trusted and perhaps we deserve the demotion to a sub-discipline.

In short, ethical selling must inherently be more successful, especially in the longer term.

  • Pressure selling is less likely to result in repeat business or referrals.
  • Building business relationships and selling ethically reduces the need to keep looking for new customers.
  • Customers who don’t enjoy buying from you are less likely to come back for more.
  • Keeping existing customers AND finding new ones will build a business far quicker than if you constantly have to look for new opportunities because former customers have voted with their feet.

If we don’t all start flying-the-flag for strong, ethical sales, then fewer people will respect it, expectations will remain negative, and we will all become ‘customer engagement’ experts!

Do you have a ‘Sales Phobia’?

Let me ask a different question:

Does the idea of selling cause you to palpate or procrastinate?

Do you fear a prospect rejection, or worry about making a fool of yourself when asking for the business?

If the answer is yes, you may have a sales phobia.

Unfortunately, I fear this is becoming more common.  I am doing my best to change business culture to accept that sales can and should be ethical, simple, jargon-free and enjoyable!  I achieve this in most cases.  However, there is a risk that this phobia is becoming institutionalized.  It should be a high profile and honourable profession.  Don’t let the gainsayers try and tell you otherwise!

Selling can be even more fun than buying!

How to become more ‘Proactive’.

The most common issue found relating to sales growth:

Having presented many courses on various sales and business-related subjects in a variety of lengths, I have found a few issues that arise that prove common to all my clients.  Perhaps the most important of these is the need for the sales individual or team to become proactive as opposed to reactive in their approach.  In many cases, sales leads are obtained from responses to marketing effort or repeat business.  This is excellent, as it means that the market has seen the value being offered and is keen to purchase.  However, maybe due to new competition, or failing customers, this can result in reduced turnover.  They have recognized that relying on existing clients or responses to marketing can become risky and unpredictable.  Moving to a more proactive approach will help ensure all sales opportunities are found, targeted and won.

What do we mean by ‘proactive’?  How can we be MORE proactive?

Identify two key aspects:

The markets you are serving already, and

The markets you would like to serve.

…or, put it another way….

Your existing or past customers, and

New customers

Simple strategy for being proactive in sales;

1/  Decide the best balance for you of existing customer and new customer business.  You need both!  One for ‘bread and butter’ income; to cover the ‘overheads’ and more, and the other for business growth and future strength.

2/  Revisit existing or previous customers on a regular basis.  Calling is best; sending a newsletter is the minimum contact.  Never miss an opportunity for repeat business or to cross and up-sell.  Lack of such contact allows the competition to ‘move-in’.

3/  Choose your new markets and prospects carefully.  Make sure they are likely to have the need, the money, and that they are likely to appreciate the value you offer.

4/  ‘Seed’ that market; make sure your business is known to them before you make contact, by;

  • identifying likely decision makers and sending them publicity materials, or,
  • using the internet, finding a mutual contact and asking for a referral, or
  • invest in exposure in their trade press or institution website, or,
  • any of the above and more…..

5/  Following number 4 above, any contacting now will be far less cold.  If you have gained a referral, they will be happier to take the call.  If you haven’t, you can at least refer to your article or letter in the publication or website related to their industry.  It doesn’t have to be a ‘cold call’!

This is just one approach you can use to help you find new customers and win new sales.

Being proactive should also include actions to:

–          plan where to target new prospects
–          regularly monitor and review your carefully chosen KPIs to ensure positive progress                and growth
–          ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty
–          prepare responses to possible criticism
–          prepare contingency plans in case the unexpected prevents progress in your chosen                direction

  • There are many advantages to being more proactive, you have;
  • Higher profile with existing customers and new prospects
  • Warmer contacts!
  • The chance to target and win far more business opportunities
  • Greater credibility and respect in the industry or market
  • More resilience against competition
  • More market knowledge, particularly in future trends.

So, don’t wait for them to come to you.  In market downturns, this can be fatal.  Be proactive, ‘go-and-get-it’!

As my late Father used to tell me;  “The door to success is labelled ‘PUSH’.”