5 Tips to Build a Deep Connection With Any Prospect

We’ve all heard it before: “People buy from people they like.” No matter how many people believe this, it simply isn’t true. People don’t buy from people they like; they buy from people they trust and respect. If you’re trying to be your prospects’ best friend by automatically saying “yes” to whatever they ask of you, you aren’t earning respect—and you certainly aren’t closing as many sales as you could.

Instead of trying so hard to be liked, it’s time to shift your attention to building deep connections with your prospects, built on trust and respect. Check out these 5 tips to learn how:

1. Curb the enthusiasm.

All salespeople, at some point in their careers, have been told to display enthusiasm about their product. They’re told that in order to get others interested in their offering, their own enthusiasm has to shine through first. This old-school advice has resulted in all salespeople giving the same over-the-top introduction to prospects. It sounds something like this: “Hi! How are you? I’m so excited to meet you and tell you all about what my company can do for you!”

If you think you’re innocent of making this sales-y intro, try recording your next few phone calls. Does your voice become higher and louder when your prospect answers the phone? That’s the fake enthusiasm that you have to drop. Lower your voice, slow down, and be genuine in your approach. Fake excitement sounds sales-y, but a genuine tone of voice garners trust and respect.

To learn more, check out the video below:

2. Focus on your prospect.

This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many salespeople start conversations with prospects by talking about themselves, their companies, and their offerings. Before you think, “I don’t do that,” grab a pen and paper and write down your answer to this question: “Why should I do business with you?”

Now, read what you wrote. Did you talk about yourself and your offering—or did you focus solely on your prospects and how they benefit from working with you? Your prospects only care about themselves. Make them the center of your conversation, and they’ll soon feel a real connection with you.

3. Offer some value.

To set yourself apart from other salespeople and establish yourself as an expert, try offering some value right out the gate. You have a unique birds-eye-view as a salesperson, so share a few trends you’ve observed in your prospect’s sector. List a few challenges that are common among your customers—challenges you can ultimately solve. Don’t jump into your solution too quickly. This is an opportunity to share some helpful information and get your prospect talking about their own challenges.

4. Transition with a question.

After you list a few recurring challenges you’ve seen in the industry, it’s time to get the prospect talking. Try simply asking, “Do any of these challenges ring true to you?”

This approach is a little bit provocative. You’ll come out swinging, but it will immediately resonate with a prospect who is experiencing those same challenges. You may be wondering, “What if they say no?” If prospects don’t have the challenges you solve, then they simply aren’t a good fit. Let them go and move onto someone who truly needs what you have to offer.

5. Get them talking about their challenges.

You’ve offered some value, listed a few key challenges, and transitioned with a question. Now your goal is to keep your prospects talking. After all, prospects will only trust you if you can demonstrate an ability to solve their key challenges—and you can’t do that until you fully understand their deepest frustrations.

Ask probing questions that will prompt your prospect to open up about their challenges. Think of yourself as a doctor who needs to hear all of the symptoms in order to properly diagnose a disease and offer a treatment plan. By using this approach, you’ll be seen as a “doctor” or expert in the eyes of your prospect and move forward with a connection built on trust and respect.

Follow these 5 tips, and you’ll start building deep connections with customers. You’ll engage prospects in better conversations—and ultimately move those conversations to more sales. Which of these tips stands out to you? How will you use it to adjust your own approach? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Check out this free Special Report on 3 Closing Questions You MUST Ask for more powerful sales advice.

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Marc Wayshak is the founder of Sales Strategy Academy, best-selling author of Game Plan Selling, and a regular contributor for Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post Business section. He holds an MBA from the University of Oxford and a BA from Harvard University.

Salesforce a Leader in the Gartner SFA Magic Quadrant for 11th Straight Year

We at Salesforce Sales Cloud are incredibly honored to once again be named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation (SFA). And it’s far from the first time. In fact, this is the 11th straight year we’ve earned this recognition.

According to Gartner, characteristics of a leader are based on completeness of vision, ability to execute, and input coming directly from clients. In this report, Gartner recognized Salesforce as a Leader positioned highest in execution and furthest in vision for SFA.

We believe our placement in this Magic Quadrant means that we not only understand the needs of our more than 150-thousand customers, but strive to continue to meet those needs. Their success is our success.

Download your complimentary report.



From Cloud to AI, Salesforce continues to lead the way

Salesforce was the first, way back in 1999, to take customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) to the cloud. This meant that companies could access all of their customer information on a web site, from any device, anywhere in the world, 24/7. More than 18 years later, we continue to innovate and define the cloud computing space with:

1. Artificial Intelligence

We're not only the world's #1 CRM, we're also now the world's smartest. Sales Cloud Einstein is the first comprehensive AI for CRM, made of up a set of intelligent technologies that make the Salesforce Platform smarter. For example, Einstein uses the power of AI to analyze your history of lead conversions and find patterns you probably didn’t even know existed. Einstein then serves up those best leads, so your reps know which to call first to close more deals, faster.

2. Functional Capabilities

Sales Cloud truly optimizes every stage of the sales cycle. From the moment a prospect becomes a lead until cash is collected, and even beyond. Our customers can engage their customers at the right time, track their journey, get visibility into sales forecasts and team performance, and identify the best opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, from anywhere.

3. Customer Experience

As I mentioned earlier, core to our company values is customer success. And that’s why the recognition for this particular strength in Gartner Peer Insights reviews means the most to us. Customers can automate their sales processes in a way that fits their specific selling needs, thanks to the easy-to-customize power of the Salesforce Platform. And we are the only CRM that is fueled by a free online learning program.

To read the complete, complimentary Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation report, click here.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation, Tad Travis, Ilona Hansen, Julian Poulter, July 2017.

Gartner Peer Insights reviews constitute the subjective opinions of individual end users based on their own experiences, and do not represent the views of Gartner or its affiliates.

The Gartner Peer Insights Logo is a trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc., and/or its affiliates, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.

This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc., as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Salesforce.

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Introducing Team Scheduling for Salesforce Inbox

Anyone who has ever carried a quota knows scheduling meetings is one of the worst parts of the job. It can feel like you're playing a game of calendar battleship with your customer.

Does 2 pm Tuesday work? No. What about 3 pm Friday? No. And the back and forth continues, slowing down your sales cycle and chewing up precious selling time.

Over the last decade, as sales collaboration has increased, the challenge associated with booking customer meetings has exploded. It's hard enough to find a time that works with your schedule and your customer's. Adding in two or three busy teammates like a Sales Engineer or Product Manager makes it impossible. It's no wonder that 66% of sales rep's time is
spent on tasks other than selling.

Despite the scheduling challenges of cross-functional collaboration, it's now more important than ever to sell as a team. The products and services we sell have become increasingly complex, and reps can no longer survive as lone wolves. Successful reps must act as quarterbacks, aligning multiple subject matter experts for each customer call to solve complicated business challenges. According to the Salesforce State of Sales research report, successful sales teams are 2.1x more likely to use cross-team collaboration in their sales process.

Here at Salesforce, our team believes that busywork like scheduling meetings should never stand between you and your customers – that's why we developed Salesforce Inbox. Today, we're excited to announce Team Scheduling for Inbox to help your team sell faster and more collaboratively than ever before.

Get the Right Teammates on the Call to Seal the Deal

With Team Scheduling for Inbox, now it's easy to loop in subject matter experts when you need them on a customer call. In just a couple of clicks, you can add teammates to a meeting invite, see when everyone's free to meet, and share the team's availability with your customer via email. No more long email threads or chat sessions trying to align internal resources.

What's more? Team Scheduling reduces double booking and rescheduling. The email with your team's availability is a dynamic message which means it updates in real time – even after you've sent it. Whenever your customer opens the email, they'll only see your current availability.

Depending on your role on the sales team, sometimes team selling involves scheduling meetings on behalf of your colleagues – perhaps you're a sales development rep, booking meetings for an account executive. With Team Scheduling, you can find and share your teammate's availability, and transfer ownership of the meeting to them as well. That way, when your customer accepts the meeting, it will appear on your colleague's calendar as if they had booked it themselves.

In today's complex economy, selling is a team sport. With Team Scheduling for Inbox, now you can connect with your customers in a whole new way.

Start Selling Faster and More Collaboratively Today

Try Salesforce Inbox free for 30-days

5 Tips for Successful Post-Sale Communication

Successful marketers have to keep a 360-degree view of the customer experience. From converting a lead into a customer to maintaining the loyalty of that new customer, businesses who have a solid post-sale communication strategy stand a higher chance at maintaining their hard-won customers.

While many businesses focus on customer conversion, the real gold is in customer retention and that starts with the post-sale relationship. Did you know that it’s six times more expensive to convert a new customer than it is to keep an existing one?

Here are some tips on how to improve your post-sale communication with customers:

1. Purchase confirmation

The first step after a customer makes a purchase from your business is the confirmation message. This is your first post-sale chance to win your customer’s heart with a branded confirmation message. Think it’s not worthwhile investing in an awesome post-purchase message?

Consider the fact that 64 percent of people think that confirmation emails are the highest priority messages in their inbox. And, at 114.3 percent, their open rates soar above bulk emails’ 14.4 percent open rates. So spending time crafting a branded message instead of generating an automated purchase confirmation is a chance for you to captivate your customer at a time when you know they’re going to be paying attention.

Forgo the plain text and the generic writing for a message that gets the customer excited about doing business with you. Use fonts that are pleasing to the eye, add a personalized touch, and use images that reaffirm your brand’s style.

2. Delivery status updates

After making a purchase and receiving their confirmation, the next thing customers want to know is “When is my purchase going to arrive?” Communication about delivery status is key to maintaining happy customers with 66 percent of consumers saying that a positive experience with shipping with a brand is a deciding factor in their purchasing experience.

Senior Director of Marketing at Gilt Group Cynthia Kleinbaum says that “confirmation is a rare occasion when a customer wants to get an email, and open it… after that everybody wants to know when their package has left the distribution center, and a lot of people like to get that push notification.

Keeping customers up to date with the status of their purchase, especially if there is a delay or another issue, is important. In fact, 47 percent of consumers decide not to do business again with a brand because of lack of transparency about the status of their purchase’s delivery.

To offer the most up-to-date delivery status information to your customers, use text messaging. Did you know that 91 percent of texts being opened within 3 minutes of being sent? It’s the ideal communication tool for urgent information.

3. Offer loyalty program membership

The moment after a lead has become a customer is the ideal time for you to offer them a loyalty program membership. They have already taken the leap of faith to purchase something from your brand, so why not seal the deal by rewarding them for it and offering them the opportunity to earn discounts and access to special deals by becoming a club member?

Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert, urges brands to use apps for loyalty programs:

“[T]he convenience of using an app is a powerful driver of loyalty. It’s human nature to stay with a company that is easy to do business with. Once customers know how the company operates and how to use the website or mobile app, they can rely on a consistent experience, and customers like consistency. It creates confidence. That’s what drives loyalty.

Businesses such as Starbucks, Walgreens and Amazon Prime have tapped into what their particular customers most desire through their loyalty apps. For Starbucks, it’s lifestyle enhancement and the convenience of having their designer coffee without having to wait in line to pay. For Walgreens, it’s refilling prescriptions, using their phone to pay for orders and earning rewards.

For Amazon Prime, it’s benefits such as free shipping, unlimited streaming of music, movies and TV shows and cloud storage. What do your customers want from your loyalty program?

4. Offer omnichannel customer service

Consumers today prefer to use a variety of communication channels to connect with brands. Offering customers the option that is most convenient to them, be it live chat, SMS, email, social media, voice call, or video call can improve their experience with your brand.

Did you know that 60 percent of millennials and another 60 percent of Gen Y’ers use at least three connected devices that they use multiple times a day from multiple locations? Beyond that, 43 percent of Americans shop online while they’re in bed while 25 percent shop online while they’re in a physical retail store.

Given these habits, make sure that your business can cater to customers on the go and through the platform of their choice to drive more retail dollars and higher customer loyalty.

5. Upselling and cross-selling

Some businesses may think that upselling and cross-selling come off as pushy. But customers have reached out to make a purchase from your brand to fulfill a need or a desire and offering suggestions that will enhance their experience with that purchase or even suggesting that they go the next step up can greatly improve customer satisfaction.

Automated suggestions after a purchase is made, or having a trained agent with knowledge of your entire product line guide a customer through their buying process, can both increase sales and provide a better experience. That way you provide the customers with exactly the product(s) they need to have the experience they want. Amazon is the master at this with 35 percent of their sales revenue coming from cross-selling.

Post-sale communication isn’t something you can ignore. Hopefully, these post-sale tips will help you enhance customer experience and improve customer satisfaction!

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Alexa Lemzy is the customer service expert and content author at TextMagic. She mainly writes about customer communication, mobile marketing, and small business. Alexa is also a fan of all the things that make processes effective and teams productive.

 

The Most Effective 21st Century Sales Strategies Aren’t Digital

"There's nothing like meeting people in person."

That’s definitely what I believe, but I was stunned to hear this sentiment coming from a millennial. Aren’t they supposed to be addicted to their devices and to prefer electronic communication? But my meeting with this young man proved why face-to-face communication matters. When we’re in another person’s physical presence, we connect in ways that just aren’t possible by typing.

The 21st-century workforce is rapidly building skills in multiple facets of technology. Computing jobs will more than double by 2020. Kids and college students are encouraged to pursue STEM careers, because technology is the future.

Yes, the world has changed. My liberal arts degree probably wouldn’t qualify me for a B2B sales job today … or would it? Just because people have technical skills doesn’t mean they have business skills, communication skills, leadership skills, or plain ole people skills.

It takes more than technical expertise to survive and thrive in the 21st-century workplace, especially in sales. Gone are the days of techies working all night and being found in the morning slumped over their desks with empty pizza boxes on the floor. Sure, you can still find this demographic, but they’re not the people to put in front of your clients.

A little technical savvy is certainly a plus for salespeople, especially those in high tech. But B2B sales is still about people buying from people. Even in the digital age, the best tool for lead generation, prospecting, and account-based sales is still relationships. And the best sales strategies put relationships first.

Don’t Let Digital Distractions Ruin Your Relationships

Our dependence on technology has gone too far. It’s taking away our ability to talk to each other, to connect, or even look each other in the eye.

There’s nothing more important than being present—whether you’re with a customer, your co-workers, your friends, or your family. When we’re constantly checking our phones to make sure we’re not missing something “out there,” we’re actually missing out on opportunities to connect with the people right in front of us. Suddenly, people think it’s acceptable to check sports scores during dinner or to text while in the middle of a conversation. They feel the need to always be connected.

It’s called FOMO—fear of missing out. However, when you’re glued to a screen, keeping up with what’s happening “out there,” you miss out on the people in front of you.

Forget FOMO. Digital distractions can ruin a person’s relationship-building MOJO. And the 21st-century worker will need more MOJO than ever before.

Forrester Research predicts that e-commerce technology will render 1 million sales jobs obsolete by 2020. Who will remain? Strategic, proactive salespeople who are subject matter experts, not just order-takers, and who know how to build relationships with prospects, clients, and referral sources.

What About Relationships?

To thrive in the 21st-century business world, salespeople must be able to build long-standing and trusted relationships—networks of satisfied clients and close colleagues who can vouch for the value of their product or solution and who are happy to provide referrals.

Technology takes us just so far. But it doesn’t help us make real connections. That requires taking off our digital blinders and having meaningful interactions between two human beings. Always has and always will.

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Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling—the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Notes From the Front Lines: Sales Manager Excellence

When you’re part of an organization whose sales team is spread out over a large territory, it’s easy to lose touch with what’s happening on the front lines, where staff works directly with prospects and customers.

Your sales managers are your leaders of people on these front lines.

Since my coaching and sales training includes a lot of work in this area, let me share my notes from the front lines about how to spot greatness in your sales managers.

They are metrics driven

Great sales managers manage their people and run their operation based on facts, not assumptions. They don’t treat metrics as a nuisance. They’re data junkies. Why? Because collecting data and understanding information is how you gain knowledge. Without this, it’s impossible to achieve goals or be able to produce accurate forecasts. Measure everything that’s meaningful. Remember: metrics aren't just something we conduct for the benefit of others: it directly helps each of us do our jobs well.  

They are exceptional coaches

In sales, management means coaching. That’s the #1 job function of your best sales managers. The best coaching involves having consistent one-on-one meetings with individual sellers every few weeks. They use the data that’s been collected to better define goals and opportunities. They also participate in ride-alongs within their sales territory to see for themselves what’s working and what’s not, and to share with the rest of the team what they’ve learned.

They are change agents

The best sales managers are fearless about change. They’re willing to experiment. “What should we be doing differently to get the results we are looking for?” That’s the question they’re most prone to ask. To answer that, they’ll look at revising compensation plans, replacing or reallocating staff, reorganizing territories and rebuilding offers to the market.  No change is off the table for discussion. What they won’t do is accept the status quo as a solution to a problem.

They are both curious and skeptical

These aren’t contradictory qualities. Great sales managers on the front lines ask a lot of questions, but they also don’t automatically accept the first answer they get. They go digging and question assumptions. They’ll challenge their sellers to separate fact from fiction: “Give me an example…Tell me more about what you’re talking about…what proof is there to back that claim?”  Remember, being skeptical means trust and verify: as opposed to being paranoid, which means mistrust and deny.

They are team players

Being a top seller is the salesperson’s job. The sales manager’s role is to teach and refine the skills of their sales staff to help them get there and stay there. They have a team-focused mindset: checking their ego at the door so they can give their best to others. Your best sales managers succeed when their top salespeople are outperforming what they once achieved as sellers themselves. They take those wins and learn how to use those top sellers to the team’s advantage.  

They teach the fundamentals and curate excellence

Note the distinction. If all a sales manager does is try and teach excellence based solely on their own experiences in the field, their coaching will fall short. The best ones teach the fundamentals of sales: time honored principles that work. And then they showcase the very best examples of what they see others doing in the field today. Curating winning habits of others is a much longer undertaking, it offers more variety and it’s timelier.

To conclude: your sales managers are responsible for executing strategy and getting those who report to them to perform at peak potential. So it’s important to be able to spot the attributes and behaviors shared by the very best in that role. Keep an eye out for each of these six attributes when staffing sales manager positions in your organization.

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is the President of Engage Selling Solutions, and an award sales consultant, speaker and best-selling author, including the recent Nonstop Sales Boom. Business leaders trust Colleen to deliver immediate and lasting results with strategies proven to work in today’s competitive market. To follow Colleen and her latest sales insights, visit her blog, connect on LinkedIn and join the conversation on Twitter: @engagecolleen.

How to Speed Up the Contract Process and Lose Fewer Deals

The importance of contracts

Even the speediest sales and legal teams get bogged down in contract negotiations. This is particularly frustrating when all parties involved would like nothing better than to get across the finish line, where agreements are signed and they can move on to delivering or receiving the goods and services to which they’ve committed.

Costs

Frustration is not the only issue. Managing contracts well is a huge part of today’s business landscape. 60-80% of B2B deals are managed by contracts (Gartner), with the average business managing 20,000-40,000 contracts (PwC).

If these contracts aren’t managed well, there are considerable costs – and significant benefits if they are managed well. Ineffective contract management can cost businesses up to 9.2% of annual revenue (IACCM).

The Answer

The answer to these delays is to streamline your processes with end-to-end contract management. This means integrating CPQ, your contract management solution, and eSignature capabilities, creating a seamless workflow.

Step #1: Quoting

Sometimes there are delays in the sales process from the beginning, in producing the quote. Factors that can slow down the quoting process include: quotes generated from a combination of tools (Excel, Word, ERP, email, etc.); difficulties in finding clear, accurate pricing and product information; and, slow approvals for discounts.

With Salesforce CPQ, the sales rep can quickly and easily pull accurate client data and complex pricing information into the perfectly customized quote. One major component in speeding up the sales process is getting the quote right the first time. Salesforce CPQ allows you to get it done right – and fast.

Step #2: Negotiation

Once the quote is ready to go, it is sent to the customer, who then responds with redlines. But emailing versions back and forth can have some serious down sides. It’s hard to tell where a contract is in the process, who it’s with, and how long it has been there. Sometimes the wrong version gets redlined, or changes are made to a document without being tracked. The process is slow and error-prone. Then, when there’s finally agreement on the final version, there are legal delays. It’s enough to discourage even the most intrepid sales rep.

With Conga Contracts, the sales rep takes the finalized quote in Salesforce CPQ and sends the document directly from Salesforce for secure, transparent negotiation. The customer receives a Word document for redlining. When the rep gets the redlines back, versions are tracked and all accepted changes are stored in Salesforce. It’s easy to see a contract’s status and how long it’s been at that stage. Best of all, the system creates a record of contract processes and creates visibility into system-wide slow-downs, pain points, and inefficiencies.

Step #3: Execution

The traditional method for executing contracts calls for printing and copying the contract, mailing it, then waiting for the other party to sign and mail it back. Not only is this expensive and time-intensive, it also creates a lot of paper that your company has to store and keep track of. It’s easy to lose track of the terms and conditions of paper contracts, just as it’s easy to lose them altogether (12-15% of contracts are lost, according to Aberdeen Group).

The simple solution to this last piece of the process is Adobe Sign. Send the finalized document for secure, instant electronic signature, with all needed signer authentication and document validation requirements in place. You can get your signed contract back within minutes, and move on to fulfilling the terms of the contract.

End-to-end contract management

With the seamless integration of Salesforce CPQ, Conga Contracts and Adobe Sign, your contract processes will be accelerated, meaning shorter negotiation cycles and faster time to revenue. Your Salesforce will be up-to-date, your forecasts will be accurate, and you will have insight into how to further optimize your contracting behaviors. You’ll spend less – less time and less money – getting contracts done, and you’ll get them done right.

Find out more about this powerful alchemy of solutions in our webinar, the end-to-end contract experience, on July 13th at 1 pm EDT.

How To Build and Foster Long-Term Business Relationships

Technology has changed the very landscape of business and human relationships. It has created a global economy and allowed us to communicate and trade faster than ever before. However, while technology and a global economy have allowed us to meet more people it has also made building long-lasting relationships with people that much more difficult. Building a solid rapport and eventually, a long-term relationship with someone takes a lot of work, and in this fast-paced environment, it can be challenging to create an atmosphere where an individual feels that they are truly valued and not just another sales lead. Regardless if you are working as an entry-level sales associate or a high-level account executive, building solid relationships is still valuable. Let's take a look at some ways you can build solid rapport and long-lasting relationships with individuals.

Create Connections

Good relationships do not materialize out of thin air. They require a solid foundation built on good rapport and ultimately trust. It is the key to any business relationship and can’t be faked. It has to be real. A good start is by trying to find common interests. This will help lead your initial meeting in a direction that feels more like a conversation and less like a sales pitch. Talking about common interests can help you move the conversation towards finding out more about your prospect’s goals and challenges. It should be noted that not everyone is going to want to engage in small talk about last night's game or the weather. Rapport requires two-way communication so if it is apparent your customer doesn't want to chat about personal things, be prepared to move forward with company news and business in a way that shows genuine interest beyond the typical rapport-building topics.

Look Out For Their Best Interests

Ultimately, building a solid relationship with another person in sales requires you to do what is in their best interests. In other words, your focus should be on helping to identify products or services that will make their life easier or solve a problem they have. You shouldn't be trying to sell them the goods or services that they won’t benefit from; even if it means a lesser sale or no sale at all. Putting the customer first in all situations creates a positive experience for them which ultimately builds trust and confidence -- which is essential for any successful long-term relationship.

Maintain Communications

Relationships are built and fostered even when you are not looking to make a sale. It is a good idea to call up clients and check-in on them. This type of engagement makes your client feel special and valued, and it can potentially create future sales opportunities which is a win, win. Make each of your interactions with clients meaningful by sharing relevant industry news, by complimenting them on a recent product launch or other personal success. It should not be the standard, “just calling to touch bases with you” call; it should have value for them. It is the little things that go a long way the next time you re-connect with them. A relationship that is built upon trust leads to a warmer reception the next time you place a sales call to them, and even if they aren't interested in buying that time around they will still listen to your pitch and perhaps even recommend a friend or a colleague to you.

Sales is a human field. The more you can connect with people and foster relationships with them, the more successful you will be at making sales and maintaining long-term contacts.

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Nick Kane is a Managing Partner at Janek Performance Group. He has trained more than 15,000 sales professionals worldwide during the course of his career, and is passionate about helping sales professional improve their selling careers – and as a result, their lives as well. Nick has co-authored a book called Critical Selling: How Top Performers Accelerate the Sales Process and Close More Deals which was released by Wiley Publishing in October 2015.

3 Strategies to Get Your Business Off the Cash-Flow Roller Coaster

Landing new clients is exciting. So exciting, in fact, that many companies prioritize exceptional client service over generating new leads. Having worked for two companies that failed primarily due to a lack of new business, I’ve made it a huge focus in my company to never run out of leads.

When I was working in the finance department at Boa Construction in 2004, for example, we saw revenues increase by about $18 million in just a few years. But with the market becoming more competitive and the economy beginning to decline in 2008, our sales group couldn’t land any new business. We ran out of work because we had never established a system to consistently bring in new prospects, leads, and clients.

The truth is that most businesses are the same: a bad month or two away from going broke, constantly trying to figure out how to meet payroll and struggling to maintain consistent profits. Without systems in place to keep new clients flowing in, you’ll be hustling nonstop to find new business.

To avoid this kind of anxiety — and its potentially devastating consequences — you can take a few simple steps to continuously move your business forward every day.

Acquisition or Retention? You Need Both

Balancing great client service with lead generation and prospect cultivation means investing time. Here are a few effective, incremental strategies for generating new business that won’t leave you scrambling. The best part? You don’t have to do all of this at once. 

1. Devote 15 minutes a day to building your pipeline. 

Dedicate small increments of time to marketing outreach, and make it nonnegotiable. This could entail strategic LinkedIn messaging over the course of a few months, weekly LinkedIn Group announcements, or regular updates to your social media profiles — the best systems combine these tactics. 

Using our Case Study Strategy, we land at least 12 appointments every month. First, we develop a simple case study related to our ideal prospect. Then, we find at least six candidates who match it using a LinkedIn profile search and send requests to connect. Once they’ve accepted, we send concise, personalized thank-you notes, including the case study tailored to them. 

2. Stay in front of prospects with personalized emails. 

Nearly 60 percent of internet marketers believe email marketing outperforms all social media. Why?

People don’t always check their LinkedIn or Facebook profiles regularly, so messages on those platforms sometimes go unread. However, most check their email frequently. We filter out prospects who’ve replied in some way to our previous messages, and then drip a follow-up email campaign to anyone who hasn’t yet responded. Persistence keeps you top of mind until prospects are ready to buy.

3. Keep detailed records of all touchpoints with each prospect. 

Plan ahead by scheduling scripts and tracking where prospects are in the campaign. Don’t be sloppy and send the same message twice or leave important contacts off your list. Believe me, people know when they’re receiving canned mass communications.

Most importantly, keep an eye out for responses in your inbox — the quicker you respond, the greater your chances of building a connection. According to one study, of 433 sales departments contacted, only 7 percent responded within the first five minutes. A staggering 55 percent didn’t respond within five business days.

Don’t be like those slow-to-reply sales teams. If someone expresses interest in talking with you, respond quickly and thoughtfully to keep the discussion going. There’s nothing worse than coming off as unresponsive or looking like you don’t have your act together. What’s more, having all of that information will also make for a much more seamless onboarding process when you do close a sale.

Seem like too much to tackle yourself? Customer relationship management software can automate some of these tasks for you. You could also add a live chat feature to your site for an even faster direct response.

Spending just a small amount of time each day on outreach can keep you off the cash-flow roller coaster by generating consistent leads you can nurture into new clients. How do you keep your team flush with leads?

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Entrepreneur and Wall Street Journal best-selling author Josh Turner is considered one of the leading experts in utilizing LinkedIn to grow your business. He’s the founder and CEO of LinkedSelling, a B2B marketing firm that specializes in LinkedIn lead generation campaigns. Josh also operates Linked University, an online training program for LinkedIn marketing. Learn more about Josh’s LinkedIn and business expertise in his books “Connect” and “Booked.”

 

How to Create a Collective Experience for Your Clients

Strong partnerships between sellers and buyers were once considered the key to success in the marketplace. Yet, despite having the ability to customize products and include clients in the sales process, there was often a barrier that made buyers feel like outsiders. That’s why today it’s all about creating shared experiences and a sense of community.

Top sellers are now treating buyers as insiders whose values and expectations are aligned with the company. What’s more, the best clients are willing to pay extra for collective experiences within like-minded communities.

To create a community of shared experiences for your buyers, let’s first look at the five most common traits of these groups:

  1. Members have the same values and expectations as the community and have willingly joined, versus being strong-armed by sellers.

  1. The community is formed around populations of buyers who relate to the products or services and have a similar viewpoint.  

  1. Every member adds to the community and enriches the collective experience. 

  1. Members can feel they’re providing value and steering the course of the overall group. Younger buyers who are active social media users are particularly attracted to this aspect. 

  1. Sales teams provide resources and interactive tools that support the exchange of information between members so there are opportunities for education.

Among the companies who’ve successfully built these communities of collective experiences is Starbucks. Visit any of the coffee chain’s locations and you’ll always find a line of customers. If the Starbucks is in an airport, the wait can be as long as 20 minutes. And that’s even when people could easily swing into nearby coffee shops and pay less! But, these buyers are loyal. They’re familiar with the brand and tend to have their go-to orders. And they can earn points and discounts through a rewards program.

In fact, more and more companies are benefitting from loyalty programs like the one above. As an elite flyer, I’m reticent to use any other airlines except the ones of my choice. I’ll go out of my way to stay on American Airlines or Canada Air because I don’t want to sacrifice those miles to a company I’m not going to use. The same goes for hotels. I’ll always look for my preferred hotel chain first to maximize my points.

Build a collective experience

Now that we’ve discussed what communities of shared experiences look like, let’s examine how to build one. In today’s competitive market, these groups are vital for retaining clients and for leveraging them for higher yields. Whether it’s by implementing an online forum on your company website, hosting a members-only blog or LinkedIn group; or communicating the latest information through e-news blasts, success ultimately rests on proper execution. Here are several steps to incorporate into your strategy:

Share your knowledge

Insights from the field are precious commodity nowadays. People are seeking good ideas and it’s your job to share what you know. Also, don’t worry about “oversharing”: there’s no cut-off for the amount of knowledge you can provide to your community of buyers.   

Highlight your community’s members

Assemble client testimonials, case studies, and references to demonstrate to your prospects that your clients each share something in common. Fully illustrate how they’re a community with shared experiences in the marketplace. 

Encourage interactions

Help foster a desire for prospects to associate with members of your community. Create environments where like-minded people can interact in person or virtually on a regular basis, and enhance their overall buying experience with your company.  

Support the open exchange of ideas

Once you’ve created the platform for community discussion, step back from micromanaging the conversations. Allow your members to have a free flow exchange of ideas.

Form sub-groups when needed

Create segments within your overall community that can assist members who have common challenges. Give members access to specific problem-solving experts within your company who can offer them privileged insight.

Keep building relationships

Never stop contributing to a good rapport between your sellers and buyers. It’s people who do business with other people, not with faceless corporations. Create new connections and find client advocates by leveraging your community.

By including these measures in the creation of your community of like-minded buyers, you will see a noticeable difference in the way your sellers and clients interact. And in the overall success of your company within today’s competitive marketplace.  

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Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is the President of Engage Selling Solutions, and an award sales consultant, speaker and best-selling author, including the recent Nonstop Sales Boom. Business leaders trust Colleen to deliver immediate and lasting results with strategies proven to work in today’s competitive market. To follow Colleen and her latest sales insights, visit her blog, connect on LinkedIn and join the conversation on Twitter: @engagecolleen.