Category Archives: Sales & markeing

How to Gain More Sales Through Referrals

I’ve been coaching a lot of financial advisors lately on building their book of business by leveraging the power of referrals.  Referred prospects make faster decisions and do more business than prospects through any other marketing strategy.

I LOVE referrals…and I get a lot of them.

The problem for most business owners is that they’re afraid to ask for fear of seeming pushy or needy.  Colleagues are afraid to provide them because they don’t trust you enough to not jeopardize their relationships in their network.

So what’s a business owner to do?

When we’re in a slow economy, people are naturally hesitant and leery of making major investments.  If you’ve found yourself making lots of offers but getting few of them accepted, you’re not alone. The problem may not be that what you have to offer isn’t valuable.

It may be that your approach is off.

Referrals could be the key to your recovery.  Referred sales take less work. They close faster. They bring in more money.  And if you know the secret to leveraging them, they can pull you right out of this financial doldrum most of the world is trapped in.

Here are the 5 steps, R.E.F.E.R. to getting all the referrals you can muster.

1. Recruit
It’s important to identify the right referral partners.  These might be good clients or colleagues who sell non-competing products or services to your target market.

2. Educate
In order to alleviate that “I’m-not-sure-I-want-to-endorse-you” hesitation, you have to properly orient your referral partners.  They need to know not only what products and services you offer but how you’re going to treat their colleagues when you meet them. They have to feel confident that you’re not going to embarrass them or irritate the person they’re connecting you with.

3. Facilitate
Many people believe that giving you the name, phone number and email of a prospect is all that it takes.  In fact, that’s the weakest kind of referral you can ever get.  It’s better than a cold call for sure, but not strong enough to oversome the reluctance people have to meeting unknown sales people.

You want your colleague to talk to the prospect on your behalf and ‘grease the  slide’ for you before  you ever contact them.

4. Engage
Meeting your new prospect for the first time is a sensitive and delicate ocassion.  If you blow it, the relationship could be over for good. And you could be jeopardizing your relationship with the person you already know. You have to make sure your new prospect is comfortable meeting with you and minimize their discomfort and fear that you’re going to take advantage of them.

5. Reward
Once you’ve met with the prospect, whether or not they buy from you, it’s important to properly thank the person who made the introduction. Thanking them can take many forms.  The choice of how you show your appreciation should be commensurate with the business opportunity you had.  It should also be personal enough that your friend or colleague knows that you gave this gratitude process some thought and didn’t just send them the exact same thing you’d give to everyone.

Sure, you can have a canned referral program but unless your standard gifts are whopper, super-duper items, they won’t have long lasting motivational impact.  Gifts don’t have to be expensive, just tailored and thoughtful.

Follow this 5-part system consistently and you’re pipeline will be packed with prospects clamoring to do business with you.

How to Position Yourself for the Economic Recovery in 3 Simple Steps

The economy is showing signs of recovering.  It may be a slow rebound but there are things you MUST be doing now to make sure you participate in the recovery when it comes.

I talk to many business owners who are either hunkered down themselves waiting for the economic ‘storm’ to blow over or they’re trying to sell their products or services to those who are hunkered down.  Either way, not much is happening in the small business world.  Even the executives I speak to in corporations are still being a bit cautious about the investments they’re making in people, products and services.

1. Improve systems

Now is the time to make sure your internal engine is running properly.  Evaluate your sales, production, service delivery and administrative processes.  Determine how well they are functioning.  Do this even if you are the only person in your ‘company’. Ask yourself and your team if you have one where breakdowns happen. Who’s not getting the info they need?  What’s taking too long to happen?  What can be automated or streamlined? What needs to be documented so others can carry out the task when a transition occurs?

I helped one of my clients and his team eliminate the breakdowns between the office and field functions.  Right after that, his business exploded.  While we didn’t work directly on sales, he confided to me that if we hadn’t fixed his process breakdowns, they would have not been able to handle the onslaught of work and would have looked like “complete idiots”.  Save yourself from that potential business-killing embarrassment.

Improving systems improves your profitability.

2. Improve you

When you’re trimming expenses, it’s tempting to cut training.  Large and small companies often make the mistake of eliminating training when budgets are tight because the ROI on training seems slower and in some cases, hard to measure.  Yet, It’s during times of trouble that you MUST make sure everyone is functioning at their optimal level…including you!

You and your staff are your company’s most valuable possession. You might have some trademarked or patented processes. But even still, you and your people are carrying them out. No people or ineffective people, no profits.

Times are changing.  Even when the economy recovers, nothing will be quite the same again.  Make sure you and your team are mentally ready with the skills and attitudes that will carry you through the next iteration of the global economy. Invest now and position yourself to trounce the competition.

3. Improve sales

When you do the first two things, it’s likely that your sales will increase on their own.  However, here are a few tips for increasing sales even more.  Get feedback from clients about what you’re offering them and they need now.  Make sure you’ve adjusted to the current environment.  Consider flexible payment terms.  Cater to a different (hungrier or higher-income) crowd. Offer new products, programs and services. Talk to more people.  If you’re not having a number of sales conversations every day, you’re leaving money on the table.

Focusing on these three simple steps will help position you well for the recovery. Don’t sit around moping.  I’m sure you heard the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” when you were growing up.  Implementing these steps is one way you can help yourself. Get to work!

Is Your Brand Increasing Your Sales or Killing Them?

mercedes-logoI talk with a lot of marketing strategists who extol the importance of branding for a company’s success but it’s like pulling teeth to drag most of them down from the conceptual clouds and get specific about exactly what they mean.

Every company has a brand whether you’ve proactively designed it or not.  Your brand isn’t just the way you present your company; it’s how you’re seen in the eyes of your prospects and clients.

coke_logoMost of us recognize the highly advertised brands like Coke, Mercedes Benz, Nike etc., but someone the connection between what those big companies with huge advertising budgets do doesn’t clearly tell  smaller business owners what they should do and why.

According to Rob Frankl, “branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competition; it’s about getting your prospects to see you as the only solution to their problem.”Nike-Logo

Here’s what I discovered when I went on a quest to clear up my own vagueness about this topic.

There are 3 major components of a brand: content, style, and graphics.

Content derives from your values, beliefs and key messaging you deliver to the marketplace.  What do you say about your company or products and services?  Why are those things important to you?  Do your ideal clients actually care?  How do you know?

Style reflects the personality of your brand or firm.  Are you intelligent, fun, stodgy, casual, conservative or out in left field?  Again, is there a style to market match?  You need credibility with your marketplace and the way you ‘behave’ in your market will either attract or repel them and determine how much they trust you.

Graphics is all about the visual, physical representation of your company. It includes colors, font, logos and photography.  It is the first thing people tend to focus on and create but really should be the outflow of the first two components.

You must know who you are but if you create your brand just based on your internal interests, you could miss the mark by a mile.  You must also thoroughly have and understand your target audience before you attempt to ‘present’ yourself to them.

It your brand is appealing, it will make people want you.  Real branding raises your bottom line revenues, lowers customer acquisition cost, increases customer retention and profitability. So review the way you’re portraying your company, check with your clients and prospects to understand how they view you and if you’re confident you’re sending the message you intend, market the heck out of it (in all of the right places, of course)!

How Strong Is YOUR Will to Survive?

While the economy is showing signs of recovery, many business owners are still being cautious about their investing and spending. Last year was a real challenge for many.

As a business yourself, you may be experiencing the results of this with reduced revenues for your own business.

DeadDandelionLast week, while I was gardening, I noticed how persistently the weeds were continuing to grow in spite of my efforts to spray the life out of them.  (On a spiritual level, it bothers me to kill anything but in the case of crickets in my house and weeds in my yard, I make an exception).

Anyway, I noticed that even after the poison had taken effect and the bulk of the plants were brown and decaying, the seeding process seemed to get stronger than ever.  Have you observed that?

It made me wonder if my business owner friends were being as tenacious about their marketing and sales efforts as these weeds were about their own survival and propagation.

Sales, after all are the most critical aspect of having a thriving enterprise.  And even in a slow economy, we can’t afford to just sit a back and wait for the storm to blow over.  Companies that choose that option likely won’t be around to enjoy the recovery when it’s in full swing.

So, last week as a reminder for the topic of this edition’s article, I snipped off some unopened buds from one of my victims.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in my office a few days later and found that these unopened …and detached…buds had continued their maturation process and produced seed ready to fall to the earth and begin life anew!

How persistent are you?

Are you acting like your life depends upon your ability to press forward even when you’ve been poisoned by the economy…crippled by being cut off from that which sustains you…denied the things you believe are most important to your success?

If this is true for you, even just a tad, WAKE UP!

You are in more control than you think.  The key is, you have to TAKE that control. Get on the phone. Connect with people. Add value to your community.  Invest in your business. Invest in yourself.  Do what you know works. Try something new.  Stay focused on your purpose. Take decisive action.

Not out of desperation, but out of a keen sense of survival and will.  Allow yourself to be guided to new opportunities and act on them when they arrive.

Here’s a quote I found helpful.

Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence.” Denis Waitley

Take it to heart and plant your seed everywhere it belongs.

Are You an Ostrich Or an Eagle in Your Marketing?

ostrich-head-in-sandThe ostrich is the world’s largest bird.  It can run at speeds up to 43 mph.

Contrary to popular belief (and apparently contrary to this photo), ostriches do not hide their heads in the sand at the first sign of trouble. According to the National Geographic, ostriches lie low and press their long necks to the ground in an attempt to become less visible.

soaring_eagleEagles on the other hand, tend to cause trouble for others.  They get many of their meals from fishing, scavenging or even stealing their meals from other predators.

Are you striving to lie low and wait for the economic rebound to take hold? Or are you on the hunt for opportunities?  I’m not suggesting you steal from others, but do recommend you become more proactive at seeking out your next client.

Here are some simple actions you can take to create more revenue opportunities for your business:

1. Stay in touch with prospects and clients. Even though they may not be buying from you right now, they are more likely to reach out to you when they do start spending if they remember that you exist.  People are bombarded with messages all day long through the media, email and face-to-face interactions.   If your name, face or logo aren’t in the mix, it will disappear into the background and you’ll lose out on potential future business.

2. Create partnerships with kindred spirits. Find people/businesses that sell to the same market that you serve and package your services in unique ways that others can’t match.

3. Upgrade/update your offer. F ind out what specific problems your market is suffering from right now that you can help with.  Design something new to meet the current trends and issues of the day.

Simple targeted acts can make a big difference.  It’s action that matters.  Jay Conrad Levinson, Guerrilla Marketing, said “Consistency and persistence will pay off better than occasional brilliance“.

Take consistent action even if it’s not the perfectly though-out mega plan in your head.