Tag Archives: sales

Top 4 Sales Tips for Success

28 Jan

While there are many great tips for increasing your effectiveness as a sales person, these consistently prove to be among the top 4 sales tips.

  1. Demonstrate Respect
    When you take the time to learn a client’s business and her professional needs, you’re demonstrating respect for her as a client and a person. This might sound simple, but it is no longer the norm and therefore bears repeating. Given the easy access to information via the web, there really isn’t any excuse for not doing the homework needed before calling. A “cold call” should be “warmer” with our present day access to data.
  2. Respond Promptly
    There is nothing that loses a sale faster than not returning a phone call or email in a timely manner. Understandably, you won’t always have an answer to a client’s questions or share the same sense of urgency that she has, but at least demonstrate “signs of life” when she leaves a message or sends an email. By responding to her call/email, you’re at least acknowledging receipt and providing an estimated time for delivery of the information requested. That said, be sure to meet that deadline with the necessary information and/or a status update.
  3. Communicate Effectively
    Many of you who know me are aware of my personal disdain for written or electronic communication that includes multiple font types, font colors, and font sizes. The most flagrant of these occurs when someone has obviously “copy/pasted” a section of the email from another email or document. If you’re going to do this, at least take the time and demonstrate the professionalism to ensure that ALL fonts are consistent throughout your communication. Failure to do so gives the impression that you are not a person with attention to detail. For me personally, this would make me question your attention to detail in the handling of my business.
  4. Create a Long Term Relationship
    Granted, not every piece of business will be the right fit, at the right time, at the right price. However, the care, respect, and attention given during the sales process will provide future success. If clients are treated as partners in business, they will be more likely to refer others and use your product or services in the future. Customer service is the most frequent differentiating factor in making a sale.

We can automate many processes, but people still do business with people, and there’s not an app for that!

Time to Learn Something New

21 Dec

Each year during the holiday season, we close our offices to recharge our batteries. It’s also a great time to work on side projects that require uninterrupted time; time without phones and drop-in visits from colleagues. I also like to use this time to catch up on my own continuing education. So, what’s on my list this year?

PODCASTING
I started learning how to create podcasts last month. I started slowly at first. I quickly realized it requires my undivided attention. It involves both technical skills and creative skills. Mostly, it requires my time and a quiet office. Therefore, it’s the number one skill on my list that I want to improve upon over the next couple of weeks.

READING
I read all the time. However, there have been some business books on my “to read” list that I haven’t had the time to dig into. These are on my list for the next couple of weeks.

I may not accomplish or master everything on my list, but I know I’ll have a great time trying!

 

The Most Important Interview Question

23 May

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – – Eleanor Roosevelt

Who are the successful people in your life? Why are they successful? What do they know that others don’t? How did they learn to be successful? If you can answer these questions, then determining the most important interview question should be easy. We all want use the interview process to hire the right people for the right job. Therefore, let’s take a leap of faith and agree that asking the right questions will yield the right employee for the job.

The Question
We’ve all been through manager training courses that gave us a list of questions to ask; behaviors we should notice; and techniques for determining aptitudes. However, the most important question in an interview:  “What obstacle or challenge in your personal or professional life have you overcome or resolved and how?”

I have been fortunate to know many successful people over the years. Some success is measured by money. Some is measured by independence. Some is measured by the ability to live out a dream. No matter the yardstick of measurement, each person achieved his/her success by overcoming a significant obstacle or challenge. Then, they used that experience as a springboard for their future ambitions.

The Answer
That said, it’s not just the answer a job applicant provides, but the way in which he/she expresses himself/herself. I like problem solvers and individuals who think outside the box…creative thinkers unafraid to step out on the ledge. I want him/her to be able to clearly define their challenge, explain the process of resolution, and identify a usable outcome. As the adage goes, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Ultimately, the obstacle or challenge is far less important than how they tackled it and how they determined a process of resolution.

What is your most important question?

Don’t Font All Over My Email

15 Feb

I just can’t remain silent any longer. Some may call it a pet peeve. Some may call it a frivolous complaint. However, I consider it an impediment to my ongoing obsession with working efficiently and responding to emails in a timely manner. So, what is this thorn in my side? It is the email that contains multiple fonts, multiple font colors, and email signatures that are just as miss-matched as the email preceding it.

So with all of the bigger issues confronting the business world why does this bother me? Well, if you read one of my earlier blogs, The New Normal of Email Communication,” then you’ll know there are implications beyond the simple irritant. I won’t rehash those issues here. Instead, the following explains why I prefer you “don’t font all over my email.”

Reading Made Difficult
When you send an email that contains mixed fonts, you make your emails more difficult to read. Example? An email that is a mix of Arial, Times Roman, and various font sizes instantly creates confusion. The reader needs to determine if these mixed fonts are there for a reason, or if they are just a result of the copy/paste function that the email writer used to send the email quickly. This instantly creates a barrier to reading and responding quickly.

If you are using different font colors to differentiate tasks, requests, or topics, consider bullet points instead. Bullet points make it easier for the recipient to interpret your communication and the information you are conveying or requesting.

Note: In my case, I now need to copy/paste your email into a Word or Text document so it’s all in one font so that I can read it clearly and ensure that I can respond effectively. This takes more time on my part and delays a response to the email sender.

Care Enough to Do It Right
We often forget that emails are “the new memo.” They are a reflection of your professional brand. Sending an email that is a hodge-podge of fonts types, font sizes, and font colors may infer that the sender didn’t care enough to send a “clean” and coherent email. If you are using a mix of font colors, make sure there is a reason and explain that reason in the email. (Example: “Answers to your questions are in “red.”)

Note: Our professional communications (written, email, verbal, video) are reflections of our professional brand. They reflect more than just our aesthetics. They reflect our attention to detail, our respect for the communication we are sending, and respect for your recipient’s time.

Your Signature is Your Last Impression
Make your signature consistent with your email. So what do I mean? It only takes a minute to modify your email signature to be consistent with the font of your email. Accordingly, don’t use multiple colors in your email. When your name is in one color/font and your address is yet another, it loses a professional appearance.

Note: It only takes a minute to click “select all” on your email to ensure that your font types, font colors, and font sizes are consistent. If you are unable to change the font on your signature, then use the same font in the body of your email.

Well, perhaps I stand alone in my “fonting” issues. Or, perhaps I’ve brought up an embarrassing topic that many of you have been afraid to talk about. Well, I’ve done it now. I’ve brought “irresponsible fonting” out of the shadows and into the open.  The topic no longer needs to be discussed in hushed tones.

Your Social Media Strategy – Pulling it Together

26 Jan

The final step in this three-part process ensures that all of the work you did in steps one and two of “Social Media Strategies Made Easy,” are put to good use.

That said, by now you should see a pattern of behavior of your audience and be able to match up your social media objectives with the appropriate platforms to reach each. So, this final step is to ensure you “speak the language” of each of the social media platforms to execute your strategies effectively.

Facebook
If you are using Facebook as a “bulletin board” to announce product discounts, special events, pictures or accomplishments then it’s not really complicated. Build your Facebook Page and start posting. Utilizing coupons or discount codes can provide a method of tracking the efficacy of this tactic. If your business is a hotel or restaurant, include a “reservation link” that you can track a direct tie to your Facebook page.

However, if you selected Facebook to engage your audience in a two-way dialogue to get feedback, suggestions for bettering your product/service, or creating a social community, then it’s a bit different (and more fun in my opinion). You can build a Facebook page open to everyone (although I suggest close monitoring if you’re going to allow posting) or you can build a Facebook group that provides a more selective audience.

A Facebook Group offers your audience the sensation of membership and exclusivity. This also allows you to control who participates while staying engaged in a dialogue with a more intimate audience.

Important: As with any relationship (virtual or otherwise), it is important to be authentic, honest, consistent, and persistent. In a wired world, people expect immediate gratification and immediate feedback. If you just pop in and out, they will lose interest in your site and go elsewhere. Technology has shortened our attention span and a successful social media strategy takes this into account.

Tone: The tone of a Facebook dialogue is casual but tasteful. Your tone should be conversational and informative without being sales pitchy. Personality goes a long way to keeping people interested and returning to the site.

LinkedIn
If you’ve determined that some of your audience “lives” on LinkedIn, then this is where you need to be a thought leader. This social platform provides a great vehicle for demonstrating your knowledge and commitment to your industry. It will take some time to find your company’s “voice” on LinkedIn and some trial and error as to which LinkedIn groups and forums prove successful in engaging your audience. However, persistence and consistency will move your discussions to the top of the groups. The most successful dialogues are the exchange of best practices and participation in the Q&As of the platform.

Important: LinkedIn offers you the opportunity to put your professional face forward. However, be sure to solicit suggestions and advice from others as well. People are more likely to share in your discussion if they feel as though their comments are being considered and respected as well.

Tone: Keep a professional tone. Discussions should remain free of controversy and should not become too familiar. These are business relationships.

YouTube
Whether you choose YouTube or another video platform, adding video to your Facebook group and your company website creates a layer of interest. Keep videos brief, entertaining, and informative. As discussed earlier, the tone and environment for taping need to be professional and without distractions. Unless your business is the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, keep the video free of jumping dogs and flying coworkers.

Note: Adding video to your web site makes it more engaging, and will contribute to search engine optimization organically. Decide on the type of video most appropriate for your products/services. Examples: Training video, How To video, Customer Testimonial video, or Demonstration video.

Whatever your social media strategy, remember that it will require constant review and adjustment. As you progress and monitor your results, try new platforms. Remember to start simple and then experiment with growth. There isn’t a single strategy or template for success that works for everyone. Social media strategies are as unique as the people you are targeting.

Best of luck and have fun!

Social Media Strategies Made Easy– Part 2

5 Jan

The next simple steps are matching your answers to last week’s questions with the appropriate corresponding social media platform options. As the title states, we’re keeping it simple here. With this in mind, don’t bite off more than you can chew. You don’t have to enter every social media platform in existence. Start with one or two at a time. The most important part is to be consistent, committed, and systematic. In other words, do a couple of things great instead of many things half way.

Our first question that needed to be asked and answered was, “what are you trying to accomplish with your social media strategy?” In other words, what is your goal? The answers to this provide the first a major step in planning your social media strategy. Your answer may be one or all of the following:  (1) We want to drive more people to our Web site. (2) We want to let people know what we’re doing.  (3) We want to announce events we have planned and invite people to attend.  (4) We want to get feedback from our clients, know what they want and need from us.

Our second question was finding where your audience “lives” on the Web. This is an important question to answer, as it will be the best indicator for your first couple of entries into social media marketing. The best ways to find answers to is to (1) ask your current customers for the sites they visit, and (2) surf the Internet yourself to identify where your audience seems to show up.

Website: Your Storefront
The first goal of social media marketing is to drive traffic to your Web site. That Web site is your virtual storefront. It needs to be clean, offering robust content, easy to navigate, and representative of the tone and tenor of your company/organization. The following social media tools will “lead the horse to water.” Your Web site is what will determine “if you can make the horse drink.”

Facebook: Transcends the Generational and Technological Divide
Facebook is certainly the most globally accepted.  Parents use it to share pictures and information with family members. Kids use it to communicate with one another. Grandparents use it to stay engaged with their children and grandchildren. Associations use it to stay in touch with their membership. Subsequently, if you have a broad audience you are trying to reach, Facebook is a great place to start.

LinkedIn: Connectivity to a Mobile Workforce
LinkedIn provides a great professional platform to track and stay in contact with your clients, colleagues, and competitors. You no longer have to carry a stack of business cards in order to try to track down your essential business contacts. Equally important are the LinkedIn discussion forums that provide you with an array of knowledge leaders that can offer advice, Q&As, or simply provide feedback. If you are in region of the city, country, or world where you do not have easy access to your professional peers, LinkedIn provides a valuable resource. It also provides a great opportunity to generate your professional profile/resume (including recommendations) that establish your level of experience in your field.

YouTube: Short Videos Add Personality
YouTube offers an opportunity to include videos on your Web site as well as videos to embed in your marketing proposals and presentations. You can start simple and then progress into your own YouTube Channel. Added benefit, Web sites using video in their online content increase the likelihood of your site appearing on a Google search.

Take this week to match your goals and your audience with the appropriate platform(s). Next week, we’ll discuss how your content matters. What is your message, how to say it, and why does that matter? Until then…share your thoughts!

Is Hotel Sales Still a Sales Process?

2 Dec

I spent more than twenty wonderful years in hotel sales and marketing. Now, for the last few years I’ve been working in association management. A great deal of my time is spent planning meetings. That said, a recent experience led me to ask myself, “is hotel sales still a sales process?”

So what led me to this question? Well, I recently sent a request for proposal out to several hotels in three distinctly different parts of the country. I sent the RFP out via email two full weeks prior to the deadline for submissions. I called all of the hotels first to ensure I was emailing the correct person in the sales office. Days passed and I didn’t hear or receive anything from the hotels. I was puzzled. I never expect to hear from everyone, but it was odd to not hear from someone. Question, “should I have to work this hard to get a response from hotels I’m trying to send business to?

What to Do with a Meeting Planner’s RFP

  • Email me and let me know you received the RFP and indicate that you will call me within 24-hours to discuss my program.
  • Call me within 24-hours as promised and be prepared to give me your rates, dates, and availability…or at least an update on where you are in the process of providing me with that information.
  • Send me a proposal. If you cannot accommodate my program or it’s not a good fit for your hotel, suggest alternatives.
  • If none of these alternatives work, ask if you can send my RFP to one of your other hotels or to a sales colleague at another hotel where my program may be more appropriate.

What Not to Do
Please don’t just ignore the RFP because you don’t have availability or the rooms-to-space ratio doesn’t fit your hotel’s criteria. And, please don’t send an email that simply reads, “Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate your group. Thank you for considering our hotel.”

What Non-Responsiveness Indicates
First, it indicates that you don’t think my business is worth a phone call. Second, you either don’t have time for a new client or the sales staff is understaffed – – neither of which gives a meeting planner a warm and fuzzy feeling.

What You Don’t Know

  • I manage multiple associations and plan multiple meetings from 25 attendees to more than 1,000 attendees.
  • My first impression of a hotel is when I send the RFP. If you are not timely and detailed with the response to my RFP, how can I expect this will improve if I book my group with your hotel?
  • Meeting planners get the best information about a hotel from other meeting planners. Referrals and caveats spread quickly.

All that said, I must give a well-deserved shout-out to some of the best sales managers I’ve worked with lately who clearly understand the appropriate way to respond to an inquiry: Gwen Spencer at the Westin Atlanta Airport, Andrea Richey formerly at the Chateau Bourbon Hotel, and Lisa Miller formerly from the Renaissance St. Augustine. They make every piece of business seem important to them and that will put them at the top of my list of recommendations. They set the bar.

To the many sales managers that are handling leads/inquiries appropriately, thank you. To those that still need improvement, hotel sales is a wonderful profession. In fact, to the many who “do it right” it’s a vocation. Take the time to learn and enjoy selling your hotels. More importantly, take the time to learn and enjoy the sales process.

 

Don’t Waste Your Time

15 Sep

Let’s face it, we all do it, whether we realize it or not. When we’re setting up our Fantasy Football team during working hours, we know we’re wasting our time. However, if we’re conducting a 3-hour Board Meeting each month, we may not be aware we’re wasting our time.

So what are the implications? Does it really make a difference? Well, actually it makes a much bigger difference than we might realize. Using our time ineffectively zaps our time and energy required to make truly important decision. Do you want to test it?

Weekly Diary: Track Your Week
Add up all of the hours you spend in meetings, on conference calls, and answering long trails of emails in a given week. Don’t just guess. Instead, track it like a diary for the week. In just one week, you will notice a pattern. Then, create a list of the “to do’s” that you did not have time to get to and see if they would have fit into that wasted time.

Analyze Your Meetings
Any meeting longer than one hour is ineffective. We’ve all sat in on those meetings or conference call meetings that last 2-3 hours. So how do you ensure you are not guilty of wasting the time of your meeting attendees?

  • Provide a clear agenda in advance so everyone on the call will know what they are expected to be prepared to bring to the table.
  • Limit the amount of discussion on less critical items and decisions. The primary reason meetings run too long are discussions that run off course or simply last too long.
  • Avoid redundancy. Do not review items that have already been covered in other meetings with the same people in attendance. Detailed meeting minutes from committees and departments can eliminate the need to rehash these issues.

Email Energy Zap
How often do you check your emails? If you’re like me, it’s probably too often. If we’re not disciplined in the time that we spend answering, responding to, or writing emails, our entire day’s productivity can be zapped away from us. Learn when to step away from your emails. Reducing the number of times we check our email or interrupt the project we’re working on, the more time we’re wasting. Moreover, each time we interrupt our workflow, we increase the amount of time it takes to complete the project.

The key to not wasting our time comes down to asking ourselves these questions: First, is this the best use of my valuable time at this moment? Second, am I doing what I want to do or what I need to do? Third, do I need to reassess my priorities and adjust my work plan?

One of my personal time-saving tips…since our office is very casual, I usually wear a white t-shirt and jeans to work. I can always throw a blazer or sweater over it should someone unexpectedly stop in. This tip saves time and energy. I don’t need to waste either in the morning.  The time I save in deciding what to wear to work frees up my time for important decisions.

I hope you will share your thoughts, feedback, and suggestions for better managing our time.

Everyone Sells: It’s Just About How We Sell.

26 Aug

The sales process has changed since my first sales job in the 1980s. My customers were busy, but they would make time to sit down and listen to my sales pitch and give me feedback how my product and service may or may not meet their needs. They didn’t have a Blackberry beeping and ringing, emails popping up, or virtual meetings with colleagues around the world. I had their attention the entire time they committed to when I set my appointment with them. Bottom line, my customer’s time and attention was not pulled in a million directions and technology had not made them accessible 24/7. No cell phone. No iPhone. No Internet. No email.

In 2012, customers no longer have time for me to come to their office. We are more likely to talk by phone or video conferencing. And, I know that even when they’re talking to me, their Blackberry is beeping, vibrating, and indicating that their next meeting is in 15-minutes. Their “family/personal time” takes a greater priority. They are less likely to accept an invitation to go to ballgame after or play golf on a Sunday. Most importantly, they won’t take time to read a brochure, magazine article, or email that is longer than 4 lines on their smartphone.

Now, I have to do my homework long before I meet with my prospective client. They don’t have time to explain their business to me; instead, I need to utilize the Internet, industry journals, discussion forums, and my association memberships to learn as much as possible about my client. I know that I can’t afford to waste my time or theirs if my product is of no use to them. And, I know that if they are doing business with my competitor, I better be able to offer a reason for them to consider change.

Finally, time and shortened attention spans require me to deliver a “60-second elevator pitch.” My message must include the features and benefits of my product, and should be clear, concise, and prompt further interest. My demos/presentation must be entertaining as well as informative. Moreover, I must engage with them through social media platforms and remain visible at every opportunity. And, I know that “selling” is not going to happen in a tradeshow booth…it’s a strategic process. Making a successful sale is invigorating. Developing a mutually beneficial relationship with clients is rewarding.

Every day we all sell something. Whether we’re selling a product, service, idea, or new business paradigm, everyone sells. Make your sales effort work!

The “New Normal” of Email Communication

15 Aug

How often do you get a reply to an email and scratch your head as to the response? Do you wonder if the person even read your email?

Well, they probably read as much of the email as they could see on their Blackberry or iPhone (at a glance). More and more emails each day are answered via smartphone. And, most of those are being answered while in a meeting, in a car, on a train, on a plane awaiting take-off, or during a television commercial.

Remember when Twitter first emerged? Many skeptics thought it would fail since a “tweet” could only be 140 characters. Now, think about it. How many emails do you respond to now via smartphone longer than 140 characters? More importantly, how many of the emails you receive do you read in their entirety before you respond?

So, here is what I have learned from this “new normal” in email communication:

  1. Get Right to the Point: The title of your email and the first 140 characters are the most important since they are the most likely to be read.
  2. Set the Right Expectations: Don’t send an email that is a long trail of other emails that must be read to truly understand this email. If you must do this, say so in the first sentence so that you get an accurate response from the reader. (Or, he/she can choose to read the entire email later and before responding.)
  3. Don’t Hit “Reply All” Unless You Really Mean It: It’s happened to all of us. Be certain that whatever you are replying to is intended for everyone. Even someone that may be “blind copied” on the email that was sent to you. (You know what I mean!)
  4. Know When to Send an Email: Some discussions are just better over the phone. A long and detailed email usually requires some “background information” that is relevant to its understanding. We know that everyone wants to document everything. If you must document the discussion, send a follow up email that recaps the conversation.

At the end of the day, technology does make us more efficient. However, we must learn to change the way we use these tools and adjust our communication paradigms.

%d bloggers like this: