Sales Practices: Question and Answer #4

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

London - Bankside - Mar 2010 - Closing the Deal

Q. You have convinced me that spending time face-to-face with customers is the best use of my sales time.  How much of my week should I spend entertaining customers; taking them to lunch, ballgames, etc.?

A.  Great question.  Let me answer this is two ways.  First, spend as much time as you can interacting with your customers in social settings.  That means that you should try to have lunch with a customer every day.  You should entertain in the evening as often as your family, your boss, your life style and your budget will allow.

Having said that, here’s a second answer.  The issue has more to do with the quality of the time than it does the quantity of time.  You shouldn’t spend social time with a customer just to meet some quantity goal.  It’s not time for the sake of time; it’s time for the sake of some objective.  If, for example, you take the same customer out to lunch every week because the two of you are buddies, that’s not quality time.  If you take people out to lunch or to a ball game, and those people are minor players in an account, having little, if any, influence on the decision, that also is not quality time.

Instead, be thoughtful and strategic about the investment of your time in your customers.  Make a list of all the people who are important decision-makers or influencers in your “A” accounts.  Then, think about which of them do not know you very well.  This is a critical issue.  Remember, it’s less important that you know them, than it is that they know you.  If they feel like they know you and are comfortable with you, you will have significantly advanced the personal relationship and made it easier for them to do business with you.  So, your primary objective in spending social time with a customer is to have them become comfortable with you.  Your secondary objective is to get to know them better.

With that clearly in mind, identify those powerful people in your “A” accounts who should know you better, and try to spend social time with them.

If I found myself free for lunch on Tuesday, for example, I’d start at the top of the list, and invite my number one candidate.  If he/she couldn’t make it, I’d go to number two, and so on.  That way, I was always focusing on those individuals who were most strategically important.

The amount of entertaining by sales people has dwindled significantly in the last decade.  I recall one of my friends, a manufacturer’s rep who sold automotive components in Detroit, had an entertaining budget in excess of $80,000 annually.  And that was twenty years ago.

That sales person who is able to build real personal relationships with his/her customers will succeed where others fail.

While those days of lavish spending are in the past, it is, never-the-less, true that spending social time with a customer can be a powerful sales strategy.  In my days as a field sales person, I would take two or three customers and their spouses out to dinner at Greektown in Detroit, followed by a Tiger game.  My spouse would join me, and we would have six or eight people together for the evening.  We never talked business, but business in those accounts always grew afterward.  It was because they got to know me on a personal basis.  I met their spouses, and they mine.  We came to know one another as real people, not just people playing the role of buyer and seller.  As a result of forging this personal relationship, it was easier for us to do business together.

That is still true today, perhaps even more so.  As more and more business is done electronically, people hunger for the high-touch of personal relationships that has been excluded by high-tech communications.  That sales person who is able to build real personal relationships with his/her customers will succeed where others fail.

We have some resources to help you with this.  You may want to consider the book, “Take Your Sales Performance Up-a-Notch,” or the CD set entitled, “The Essential Secrets of Building Positive Business Relationships”.

If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center ™, consider Cluster CL-15, “Entertaining your customers,” or Pod-2: “Building Positive Business Relationships.”

Image owned by gareth1953 (cc)

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.  For a limited time, receive $547 of free bonuses with the purchase of his latest book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime.

Copyright MMXI by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved.

Sales Best Practice #21 – Uses an effective system for making appointments

This article focuses on Best Practices for sales people from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.

By Dave Kahle

The best sales people have created a system to consistently acquire appointments with prospects, and continually work to improve that system.

All routine, sophisticated work is most effectively accomplished by implementing a system.  That’s one of the observations I’ve made in my 20+ years of experience in consulting.  It doesn’t matter what area of work we are considering.  For example, cleaning teeth, paving a road, painting a house, laying carpet, creating your income tax returns, etc. are all routine, sophisticated jobs that are best accomplished systematically.

The job of the professional salesperson is crammed with such tasks – sophisticated tasks which need to be done over and over again.  Making appointments is one such undertaking.

sales-best-practices-process
A system is composed, in its simplest expression, of processes, practices and tools.  Processes are the step-by-step series of events that eventually lead to a goal.  Practices are the behaviors which are part of the process, and tools are the specific things we use to accomplish the process.

So, for example, when it comes to making appointments, the process may look like this:

1.  Create a list of prospects.

2.  Research the list, and determine the highest potential.

3.  Acquire their names and contact information.

4.  Deliver a pre-call touch.

5.  Make a phone call to acquire the appointment.

6.  Repeat at least five times, if necessary.

7.  If necessary, send a personal snail mail letter.

8.  If necessary, make a personal cold call.

I’m not suggesting that this is the only process you could use.  I am suggesting, however, that the best sales people have created a similar process, designed for the specifics of their business.

Within that process, there are certain key practices. For example, the phone call that you make to the prospect asking for the appointment is a key practice. To improve the end results of your process, you improve each of the practices you use along the way.  The best sales people understand that, and work on forever improving them.

The final piece of a good system is the set of tools you use to implement the system.  The pre-call touch, for example, is a tool.  As is the script that you use, the letter that you may send, etc. Like your approach to practices, your approach is to forever refine these tools.

Let’s review.  The best sales people have thought deeply about the best way to acquire appointments, and have put together a system made up of processes, practices and tools.  Then, they consistently implement that system, and forever work on improving each piece of it.

That’s one of the things that make them the best.

Here are some of our resources to help you master this best practice:

First Steps to Success in Outside Sales – Chapter Four: Acquiring Appointments.

*  Video – Victory over Voicemail. Visit www.davekahle.com/notch.htm.

If you are a member of The Sales Resource Center ™, consider Pod-32: How to create a system to develop new customers., Pod-38: Mastering the Creative Cold Call, or Cluster CL-87: Making appointments.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, and visit his blog.

Building a Professional Reputation with Your Customers

We’ve teamed up with the best sales people to bring you these insights into customer relationship management each month. Below is the latest Sales Management article from guest poster Dave Kahle, author and leading sales educator.

Meet Your Clients In Person

By Dave Kahle

I just fired my accountants.

They really hadn’t done anything wrong.  They were responsive when I called.  They appeared to keep up with the latest information in their profession. Their work was neat, accurate and timely.  Their prices were fair.  They conducted themselves professionally.

But, I fired them anyway.

Here’s  why.  While they consistently reacted professionally, they never, ever pro-acted.  They never came to me with an idea, never offered a suggestion that I didn’t first initiate.  Never suggested a change for my benefit.  I wanted someone to think about me, to hold my best interests up before their regular scrutiny, to extend themselves in order to keep me at the forefront.

My life insurance agent, on the other hand, makes it a point of contacting me at least twice a year, more likely three or four times.  While there always is a bit of self-interest motivating these contacts (he always asks for referrals), I always take his calls.

He can be counted on to share ideas with me based on his knowledge of my business and my personal affairs.  I don’t know if he has ever tried to sell me something I didn’t need (like more life insurance), but he has consistently demonstrated that he’s thinking of me by making recommendations and exposing me to ideas that I would not have had otherwise.  He recently, right out of the blue, approached me with an idea for a different kind of business retirement plan.  Only one of 100 people qualifies for this kind of plan.  But, he knew me well enough to know that my business did, and to make it a point to educate me about it.

Hmmm.  Keeping my interests at the forefront… Knowing me and my business well enough to be able to regularly scan the horizon and find things that would fit me.  Pro-actively presenting solutions and ideas that would benefit me and my business.  Could there be a lesson in here somewhere?

Of course.  People like to know that you are thinking of them.  (Observe the greeting card industry, which is built on that thought.)  They like to know that you are considering their interests.  They want you to understand their businesses well enough that you can scan the horizon, and spot things that may help them.  When they consistently see that in the people from whom they buy, they quickly develop loyalty to those people.

Why is that important?

You know that it is far more difficult to see your customers today than it was just a few years ago.  People just don’t have the time to spend with sales people today.  Their jobs are more demanding, their task lists are overwhelming.  More and more, they are asking the question, “Why should I see you?”

Ultimately, the answer to that question will, to a great degree, determine your success.  They will make the decision to spend time with you based on what they think of you, and what they expect to get from the time they invest with you.  In other words, they make the decision based on your reputation.

In the long run, your reputation will be your greatest asset.  While there certainly are lots of other elements to your reputation, you develop that reputation in large measure by your proven and consistent ability to show that you are thinking of them.

That doesn’t mean that you show up every month and leave them a catalogue, or that you regularly spew samples of the latest gadget on their desk.  It’s not a “throw a lot of mud against the wall and see if anything sticks” approach.  The world is full of sales people who focus on their product instead of the customer.  Don’t do that.

Rather, spend time coming to know their business goals and objectives and finding products, services and ideas that you believe will help them – whether you sell them or not.  Then make a point of showing those to them and explaining exactly how you think your recommendation will help them reach their goals.  Do this, sincerely, regularly and with forethought and sensitivity.

In return, they’ll come to respect you.  They’ll see you as an important and integral part of their business. You’ll develop a reputation as a valuable professional.

In the long run, nothing is more valuable.

If you are a subscriber to The Sales Resource Center, check out Pod-33; Positioning Yourself with Value.

About the Author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and seven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.

Copyright MMXI by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved.

Sales Managers Find Good Value in Commence CRM

manage remote sales team analyticsThe efficient management of a sales organization is no easy task these days particularly when members of your team may work in remote locations or outside your country of origin.  Lead capture and distribution, and the management of the sales cycle become more difficult if you don’t have the proper tools and processes in place to support remote management.  Companies with this challenge are turning to web based CRM software programs like Commence CRM to help automate the sales and lead management process.

Commence is a cloud based CRM solution that is targeted at mid-size companies and small enterprises that have outgrown traditional contact management software. These businesses now require robust lead management, sales management and marketing campaign management functionality.  What sales managers have found particularly interesting about Commence CRM is the product’s automated business processes that enable the capture and automatic distribution of leads and the ability to rate and color code leads based on specific criteria. Red colored leads represent qualified opportunities, yellow promising new opportunities and blue are ones just starting the sales process.  This unique feature ensures that sales representatives are always working on the most qualified opportunities and not chasing tire kickers.

Lead Qualification and Scoring View zoom

Commence CRM also incorporates an automated organization chart that details the reporting structure of every lead and account, and highlights the person name, title, telephone number and e-mail.  This allows sales managers to assist in the sales process and quickly identify the economic buyer and influencers within any organization.

OrgChart Reporting Structure
Org Chart helps you identify the key contacts

Commence CRM is clearly focused on helping companies improve the management of leads and the selling process and offers functionality not available in competitive offerings such as Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com. For more information about Commence CRM software, visit the company’s web site at www.commence.com and ask for a free trial.

Best CRM Software for Small to Mid-Size Businesses

Small to mid-size business are beginning to engage in the use of CRM software at a higher rate than ever before.    There are several reasons for this, but the growth is primarily driven by the rapid deployment and low cost of today’s CRM product offerings.  Most of the small to mid-size businesses seeking a CRM solution have experience with traditional contact management software. They have been using these desktop solutions to manage their interaction with people but they now require more advanced functionality.  The capturing and distribution of leads, management of the sales process and the ability to promote their own products and service using bulk e-mail programs are the driving force behind the interest in CRM software.  The biggest challenge for these businesses however is finding a quality solution that deploys rapidly, is easy to use and has the scope of functionality they require at an affordable price.

One of the CRM software solutions that has become very popular among the mid-size and small business community is Commence CRM from Commence Corporation.  Commence is a web based CRM solution that is deployed via a cloud computing environment. The product offers one of the most comprehensive suite of applications in the industry including contact and account management, activity management, lead management, sales opportunity management, marketing, customer support, a document library, project management, reporting and an accounting interface.  E-mail integration with Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, Mac E-mail and access to the CRM system via any hand held device is also part of this robust offering.

Upon entering a password and login, users are greeted with a cosmetically appealing home page or dashboard which is completely customizable by job function and enables the end user to manage their daily activity without leaving the screen.  Customers report that even the most novice PC or Mac users quickly become comfortable with Commence CRM.

commencecrmdashboard

The Commence CRM platform also mirrors that of enterprise level programs like Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Built using a Java backbone and SQL server,  Commence is highly scalable and offers excellent performance — two important decision criteria not commonly found in lower end CRM offerings.

While the company’s twenty year history and track record for producing award winning software is a comfort to most companies that select Commence CRM, the product offers several unique features that are simply not found in competitive CRM offerings.  First is a customer account rating feature that allows the end user to rate and color code their customers based on the value they provide to your business.  Some of the rating criteria include company size, revenue produced, profitability, cost of servicing the customer, the potential for growth and retention.  This feature enables management and staff to quickly identify their top customers based on their rating and color.  This rating feature has also been extended to the leads application allowing sales management and their sales team to rate and color code leads based on where they are in the buying cycle.  Another core feature that customers find unique and valuable is an automated organization chart.  The chart is tied to the account and contact records so that employees and management can quickly determine the reporting structure of every customer.

Commence CRM offers an attractive blend of features, function and price that have made it perhaps the best CRM solution for small to mid-size customers.  To learn more about Commence CRM software visit the company’s web site at  www.commmence.com.