Commence Corporation celebrates Take Your Child to Work Day

soma dispenserTake Your Child to Work Day is gaining momentum in the state of New Jersey and provides an opportunity for children to experience what mom and dad do in their careers while the kids are busy at school. It’s a fun time for all and helps build a bond between staff members and their children.

Commence Corporation supported this initiative by creating a few activities for the kids so they could learn about what the company does and how we assist customers with their business requirements. This year the kids were given a series of fun challenges to encourage teamwork and to learn about the features of web based CRM software.

  • Create a new company logo.
  • Search for an image to use in a blog article. You can see the results of this challenge on the Commence CRM Blog.
  • Guess the number of jellybeans in the jar.
  • And a tough challenge… untangling a box of computer cables.

Their day ended with lunch and an outdoor recess. We love the results of their work! What do you think?

TakeYourChildToWork2013

Image “soma dispenser” (jellybean jar) by Troy McCullough on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Pointers for Breaking the Ice with New Customers

Breaking the ice with new customers is based on the initial meeting or point of contact. With that, it is important to have an understanding of the prospect’s purpose and goals. Preparation and planning for that initial meeting is imperative.

Although we use the word ‘meet’ to describe our first contact with new clients and others, what really matters is whether we connect with them. Whether you ultimately want to focus on selling office furniture, IT equipment, or marketing services to the customer, you have to first make a connection.

100147830 Business Strategy by ddpavumba

Every process is easier if you have a strategy.

The best way to ensure that will happen is to have a strategy. Strategies for breaking the ice with new customers should include careful prep work, and the meeting must include interacting with the individuals.

Strategies do not come with 100% guarantees; however, almost everyone agrees that talking with clients and customers is a great way to initiate a connection. It’s what to say and how to say it that seems to cause concerns.

Basic Tips

As mentioned, breaking the ice is not just meeting and greeting a customer; the goal is to make a true connection. In order to do that, it is important to initiate a conversation. Ideally that conversation will start on a positive note.

Real conversations are built on the exchange of ideas. This means each person gives and shares thoughts. As the conversation takes place, other things should also be happening. For instance, this is the time to work at finding a way to link the person with his or her name and personality and ideas.

Preparation for the Connection

Learning all you can about the person or business before the meeting makes it easier to know how to break the ice. Besides providing basic information that will be helpful, the knowledge learned can help you feel more confident and comfortable about the meeting.

It’s also a good idea to learn something about what is happening in the niche or industry that might impact the individual or business. In today’s world, it is usually a simple process to find information about industries, people, and businesses online.

Arming yourself with this information makes starting conversations a simple process. In addition, it makes it easier to align yourself with the potential customers’ perspectives.

Body Language Speaks

Your body language may say more than your words do. This means it is important to give consideration to the way you dress and present yourself. Plus, the tone of your voice and the way you say things does matter.

Customers are people, and they want to connect with individuals they feel comfortable with. Most people feel comfortable with someone who displays confidence and authenticity.

100111317 Confident Young Businessman Posing Casually by stockimages

Do you present yourself with confidence and poise?

Sometimes it’s the simple things that get overlooked. That is, we forget to smile and make eye contact or to offer a firm handshake. Once again, preparation counts. Good posture along with appropriate attire is a great start in the preparation for a meeting with a new or potential customer.

Align with the Potential Client

After preparing for the meeting, you will have some information about what matters most to the potential customer. But keep in mind that establishing a real rapport will make the meeting go more smoothly.

Take the time to ease into the conversation. As the discussion unfolds, it is your job to actively listen to what the potential client is saying. Listen for the deeper messages. This allows you the opportunity to provide insights about how your company or products can help the client meet his or her needs.

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Listen closely for the deeper message behind the words spoken.

Listen Closely

Although you have lots to say about your business or product, it is very important that you listen closely to what the client has to say. Much can be learned about a client’s needs, goals, and desires through the information he/she shares.

After all, most meetings are restricted to a tight time frame. With that in mind, whatever the client spends time talking about ranks high on his/her priority list.

Final Points

When your focus is on breaking the ice with new clients, your real goal should be on ways you can help the potential customers. Approaching the task in this manner takes the mystery out of the process and suddenly potential customers become people that have needs.

Planning and preparing for the meeting will help ensure there will be a true connection. If you are sincere in your efforts to help and you respectfully listen to the client’s ideas and perspectives, most ice-breaking meetings will turn into much more.

About the author:

Debbie Allen is a freelance writer and online marketer who often writes about business topics such as online reputation and selling office furniture.

Image “Business Strategy” courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Confident Young Businessman Posing Casually” courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image “Thoughtful Business Person” courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting the Right Sales Model is Critical for Small to Mid-size Businesses

10043467 Money With Magnifying Glass by Sujin Jetkasettakorn

According to industry reports…

More than 41% of all small to mid-sized U.S. businesses reported that their sales and marketing efforts fell short of achieving their Q1 revenue goals.

 

“This is nothing new.” says Larry Caretsky, president of CRM solution provider Commence Corporation. “I think the biggest challenge facing small to mid-size companies today is dealing with the evolution of how products and services are sold today.  The Internet has created an on-demand mentality for all kinds of products and services – products that were once sold by professional sales people, either face to face or via the telephone.  While the bigger guys have adapted to this new sales paradigm, many small to mid-size companies are trapped in old school thinking.  They tend to stay with what they have done for years even though it is no longer working.”

Let’s look at an example.

THE GOAL   The ‘NewCo’ company sells sales management software and consulting services to mid-market companies via a direct sales team.  They have an average sales goal of $20,000 to $30,000 per customer – not huge but enough to cover the cost of sales salaries, commissions, and overhead and still make a profit.

THE CHALLENGE   Over the past 5-7 years, the industry has changed substantially and has become even more competitive.  Web based programs can be deployed via a cloud-computing environment, and require no hardware or software.  The competition’s software is available over the internet at a fraction of the cost of NewCo’s  original sales software.

THE STRATEGY   NewCo responds with a new web based offering of their own at a competitive price, and retains their highly skilled sales team as their only sales channel.

THE RESULTS   While they are winning sales, they are losing money on every one.  Why? Because their cost per sale is simply too high. Competitors are selling their products over the internet using lower cost telesales representatives.  If NewCo doesn’t find a way to reduce costs and improve their efficiency they will likely be out of business.

THE OPTIONS

There are three selling models to consider (excluding retails sales).

  • Direct Sales – a well-trained in-house sales team employed by you
  • Channel Sales – third party companies that sell your product or service based on a percentage of revenue or business they close
  • Internet Sales – low cost telesales staff that simply process orders or assist customers with the order process

Of course, you can have a combination of the above.  Your decision with regard to which one(s) are most appropriate for your business will be based on the overall cost of your product, the cost associated with selling the product (i.e. , salaries and commissions) and your margin or profitability on each sale.

In NewCo’s case, it is clear that relying solely on direct sales will no longer work for their business, but perhaps adding a telesales team with some regional channel partners will.

The world has changed, industries change and you have to be willing to change with it. It’s that simple.

Meeting your quarterly or annual marketing and sales objectives is not as simple as just adapting to the right sales paradigm.  This is critical, but the next step in the road to success has to do with implementing the proper sales structure and process.   I will discuss this in part two of this whitepaper – “Using CRM to Leverage Sales”.

About the author:

Larry Caretsky is president of Commence Corporation a leading provider of online CRM software.  Caretsky has more than 30 years of experience in the client management software industry and has written numerous whitepapers on the subject along with an eBook Practices That Pay. He leads a consulting team that assists small to mid-size businesses implement best practices for sales execution and sales performance.

Image “Money With Magnifying Glass” courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sales Question and Answer #22 – Does dress matter?

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.

100123160 Adult Man Fastening Tie by imagerymajesticQ. What are your views on dress? Does it matter?

A. Sure it matters. Everything that you say and do matters. Dress can be a powerful part of your persona. On one hand, how you dress can facilitate your objectives and make you more effective, and on the other, inappropriate dress can present an obstacle to your interaction with customers.

Let’s get some basics out of the way.

1. Your dress should never be provocative or suggestive.

2. Your dress should never be outlandish or foolish.

Now, let’s get down to the strategic use of dress. Here is the next rule:

3. Dress like your customers, only a little better.

Your dress should convey to the customer that you are like him/her, not different from them. There was a time when men wearing a suit and tie, and women a skirted suit was the expected mode of dress. However, if you are calling on maintenance supervisors, foremen, or uniformed personnel, for example, that suit and tie separated you from your customer, making you seem aloof and unapproachable.

So, how does your customer dress?

One of my clients sold supplies to farmers. Dressing in flannel shirts, blue jeans and boots was OK, because that was how the farmers dressed. Note the second part of the rule, ”a little better.” That’s where your positioning as a successful, competent person comes in. You should, within the context of the customer’s world, look successful, competent and confident. So, if you are going to wear jeans and flannel shirts, they should be good quality jeans, (a good brand name), clean and pressed. Your flannel shirt should be a better than average brand, clean and pressed.

If are calling on management level people, it gets a little more challenging. In today’s world, some companies adhere to a coat and tie discipline, where others prescribe “business casual” for their employees. Honestly, I keep notes in my customer files as to what the mode of dress is in that organization. I keep it simple by using two categories: C&T (coat & tie), and BC (business casual). When I’m making one of my rare live sales calls, I check the file the day before so that I know how to dress.

One of the sales people in one of my classes shared his approach with me. He explained that he always wore grey dress slacks, a light blue button down collar shirt, a tie and a navy blazer. That way, he could dress up or down, depending on the situation. With the tie and blazer, he felt comfortable calling on coat and tie executives. If the call required a conversation with a front line supervisor, he’d remove the tie, and leave the blazer in the car. A nice approach. I’m sure there is a similar outfit that can be spontaneously dressed up or down for the women as well.

4. Once you have incorporated the previous three rules, if you want to take this issue to the level of the masters, and then incorporate the final rule: Dress in a way that expresses your own unique style and persona.

I’ve come across sales people who always wear lapel pins, for example. I vividly recall one sales person who wore the loudest tie I ever saw. When I asked him about it, he indicated that he found these very loud ties to be a conversation starter and a unique emblem of his. People remembered him for it.

In the last couple of years, I’ve come, more or less by accident, to develop a “style” of my own. Whenever I speak, I always wear a silk or cotton mock turtle neck shirt with a sport coat or blazer. Even though I routinely speak at conferences and conventions to audiences in the hundreds, I seldom wear a tie. That combination is now my style. I arrived at it by chance. Since I travel so much, like all frequent travelers, I try to fit everything in a carry-on. The silk shirts can be rolled in a ball and stuffed into the tiniest corners of a carry-on, without showing wrinkles or taking up nearly as much space as a starched shirt. After a while, I’ve standardized on them.

Hope this helps.

Article By Dave Kahle

Image “Adult Man Fastening Tie” courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Your Digital Reputation Tells Customers

The Internet is the first place people turn when they want to learn more about something or someone. Think about it. What’s the first thing you do after thinking “I wonder…”? You type the thing you’re wondering about into Google or another search engine. This is the same thing others will do when they want to find out more about you.

Your online reputation is what people are going to use to judge you and decide whether or not they want to do business with you. So when they Google (or Bing or Yahoo!) you, what do they see?

What Others Think

Obviously. When you search for something/someone online, some of the first things you are going to find (after the website that you spent months getting on to the first page of Google) are reviews, articles, posts, etc., that talk about you and what you have to offer. They will see what others have experienced when working with you and what they thought of that experience.

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How You Respond to Criticism

What do you do when someone posts a negative review or a piece of negative feedback about you? The first thing someone is going to do when they find that review or article is check to see what kind of response you have to it. How you handle a situation that is not entirely within your control says a lot about you and what kind of person (or business) you are to work with.

Your Commitment to Your Community

People want to know how community-oriented you are. Sometimes this is literal: They want to see if you do volunteer work or help people who need it. The rest of the time, they want to see how much time and effort you put into giving to others. Is everything you post a thinly veiled sales pitch? Or (preferably), do you put at least as much effort into simply entertaining, informing and helping your audience? Do you give more than you try to take?

Who You Are Personally

When someone types in your name or your business’s name, they are undoubtedly going to come across some information and evidence of who you are outside of work (your personal Facebook page, for example). Remember, humans are inherently curious creatures. They want to know as much about you as possible—they’re going to click on your personal social media links, blogs, etc.

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Is this you?

 

Your Competition/Campaign Style

What you say about others, particularly those who compete against you in the marketplace, says a lot about you. Do you put a lot of time and energy into trashing your competition? Or do you acknowledge them as worthy competitors and simply work hard to make yourself look as good as possible? A potential customer is going to want to know why you think you’re the best and how you address that question says quite a lot about who you are.

Each of these brushes helps paint the portrait that is you. Before you let that freak you out, think about this: You do have some say in what kind of online reputation you build for your company. You are in control of what you put out into the world. What you put out into the world has a direct impact on your reputation. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward!

About the author:

Erin Steiner is a writer and vlogger from Portland, Oregon. She has written extensively about small business, personal finance and internet related topics.

Image ‘Social Network’ courtesy of Renjith Krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

Image ‘Malice’ courtesy of Rattigon/FreeDigitalPhotos.Net