Tag Archives: value

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!

Why Are We Meeting?

28 Sep

A few years ago, Psychology Today published an article by Ray B. Williams, “Wired for Success” in which Williams argues, that if you want to “improve productivity, scrap meetings.” He sites SmartBrief on Leadership that conducted a poll asking this question, “How much time do you spend in recurring meetings?” The results of the poll indicated that 30% of the respondents are spending between 30-75% of their time in recurring meetings. (Keep in mind, these meetings may be face-to-face, conference calls, or web-based.)

That said, you undoubtedly have meetings that are absolutely necessary and you may not need to “scrap” them. However, meeting leaders are responsible for preparing for the meetings ahead of time, ensuring all attendees understand what’s expected of them prior to and during the meeting, and then the leader must manage and control the meetings efficiently.

The Agenda
An agenda is essential to a successful meeting. If the meeting’s organizer can’t take the time to create an agenda then he/she may need to rethink the need for the meeting. Meetings, by definition, are established to communicate, evaluate, discuss, and produce results. That said the agenda should be disseminated to those invited to attend in advance. There’s nothing worse than attending a meeting having not received an agenda and being asked questions or for opinions that needed advance notice or analysis.

The Preparation
Creating an agenda takes time and preparation on the part of the meeting organizer. They need to determine and define the purpose of the meeting, the expectations during and following, and the objectives the meeting is intended to achieve.

In turn, the attendees should review the agenda upon receipt and ensure they too have done their homework to be prepared with the necessary information, reports, and recommendations on the topics outlined in the agenda. Quite simply, all of those seated at the meeting should be serving a purpose or a reason for their attendance and participation. As the meeting takes place, each person’s role and contribution should be demonstrated.

Useful Tips to Achieve a Productive Meeting:

  1. Don’t hold a meeting unless you’re prepared, organized, and have demonstrated goals.
  2. Distribute a specific agenda including intended outcomes in advance
  3. Be clear about the outcome and purpose of the meeting.
  4. Hold attendees accountable for the reports and information that they are expected to provide.
  5. Don’t use meetings to distribute information or give updates or low-level housekeeping  – –  do that by email
  6. Hold meetings just before lunch so people will value the limited time
  7. Limit meetings to one hour in length
  8. Always begin and end the meetings at the announced times

What tips or guidelines do you use?

Are You Invested?

1 Jul

I’m a voracious reader. I’m always in the middle of at least 2-3 books of which, at least one is a novel. I recently finished Inferno by Dan Brown. Without coming across like a book critic, let’s just say that it wasn’t worth the time it took me to drudge through to the end. Quite simply, the plot was thin, disjointed, and read like a travel log through Italy, I realized one of my greatest disappointments was my lack of investment in the characters. I didn’t care enough about the protagonists even though I read Brown’s other books.

Eager to cleanse my disappointment, I browsed through every bestseller list reading reviews, editorials, and sample chapters. Once again I realized I was looking for a novel with characters worthy of my investment. The story’s important, but a really great protagonist can make just about any story more interesting. The best fiction writers create characters that are multi-dimensional, relatable, and charismatic. The reader wants to spend time, invest time with him/her. They want to be an existential part of the story.

This investment in the main characters holds true in all aspects of life. Think about your best friends – – Your favorite bosses – – Your mentors and colleagues – – Your favorite sales people. We have choices. I go out of my way to purchase and service my car tires from a certain shop because the guys are honest, genuine, and always pleasant. I can probably buy the same tires and other car services elsewhere for even a few bucks less. But I like these guys and I’m invested in them as people.

Ultimately, whether we’re talking about characters in a book or the people with whom we do business, it’s the connection we have with the individual that makes the difference. Like the books we read, we want to work with people who are invested in us and with whom we are invested. Who is worth your investment?

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?

Resetting Expectations

7 Mar

I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee, newspaper, and favorite morning talk show when the host brought up the topic of our 24/7 work lives. He used the term “reset expectations.” My ears perked up. This is such a great phrase. Let’s face it, the lines between “work hours “and “personal time” have become blurred by the accessibility that mobile technology provides. We have become inextricably connected to our jobs and as such, we begin to respond to every email regardless of the time of day or the level of importance. So, how do we regain control of our lives and our jobs? We reset expectations.

What is Resetting Expectations?
If we answer our emails within minutes of receiving them regardless of the day of the week or time of the day/night, then we have set an expectation. Our clients, friends, colleagues, now expect to receive a response immediately. If they don’t, they will send the infamous “did you get my email” email reminding us that we usually respond within seconds of the “read receipt.” Furthermore, we begin to feel guilty or negligent if we don’t respond right away. Well, unless someone’s life or safety hangs in the balance, that email can probably wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow. We need to “reset expectations” so we can regain balance in our lives.

Triage Your To Do List
I think we can all agree that the volume of email requests, text messages, and comments from our social media connections inhibits our ability to manage our time most effectively. The first step in resetting expectations is to establish a triage process. The dictionary defines triage as: (1) “The determination of priorities for action in an emergency.” (2)”The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.” We’re probably all more familiar with the medical application. If we go to the emergency room, the first place they send us (after collecting insurance and verifying payment) is to “Triage.” In that room a nurse makes an assessment of the urgency of our situation and prioritizes our condition relative to others.

In medical triage, we wouldn’t want someone awaiting a rhinoplasty procedure to go into surgery before a patient in need of heart bypass surgery. While the person awaiting their nose job thinks it’s pretty important, of course everything can’t be equally important. If we want to reset expectations we need to triage our requests from friends, family, clients, and colleagues to ensure the most important things are getting done first and the most important emails are being answered first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love everyone equally, it just means that we need to be more efficient, healthy, and at peace.

Communicate Expectations
Of course we can’t reset our expectations in a vacuum. We need to communicate with our clients, colleagues, and family so there isn’t any misunderstanding. Suggestions:

  • Evaluate the scope of services you have with your clients and ensure you communicate and mutually agree upon the times you will be accessible. Set/reset the expectation of a reasonable time frame for discussions, deadlines, and status updates.
  • Use your auto-reply. Don’t just say you’re out of the office. Instead, be specific about the day, date, and times you will be unavailable and leave emergency contact information.
  • Show some self-discipline. Just because you can answer that email quickly, don’t. Unless you’re sitting in the dentist office with nothing else to do, chances are it’s an interruption to what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Put down the Blackberry and iPhone during family/social time! We all do it subconsciously. We reach for our phones, glance at our emails, look away from our conversations, and convey (though unintentionally) the message that something may come across our phone that’s more important than the person/people we’re with at the time.

Warning: I’m going to try to reset my expectations. While I am eager to receive your comments, feedback, and most of all suggestions, I will not be checking my blog via phone during dinner this evening.

“A Fish Always Stinks From The Head”

3 Mar

While many cultures claim the proverb as their own, the interpretation is consistent. If a government, business, or organization fails, it is the leadership that is the root cause.

I think of this proverb often lately. Why? Well, I suffer the frustration of poor customer service on a daily basis. Am I unique in my suffering? I don’t think so.  I really don’t think I’ve set my expectations too high either. In fact, if I set the bar any lower, I could step over it! Let me give you an example and let me know if any of this rings true in your life.

When I contact a sales person at a company for a quote on a product or service they provide, I expect a returned call. When they say they will send a proposal, I expect them to do so. If they are unable to accommodate the scope of my request, I expect them to pick up the phone and let’s talk. Don’t just ignore my voice mails and emails. Bottom line, care enough about your reputation and that of your company to treat prospects with respect.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this article? It’s my opinion that if this lack of customer service exists in a company, then it’s because it is tolerated. And, if the leader of the organization doesn’t know that his/her employees are handling prospective customers this way, then there in lies the rub. A good leader knows his/her staff. He cares about his service and his customers. The leader sets the tone of the company, the expectations, and establishes ways to monitor and measure against these expectations.

I’ve had the pleasure to work for some great leaders so I know value of their influence. Tom Marello, my general manager at the former Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Atlanta used to require his Executive Committee members to take at least one hour each day to walk around the hotel and meet the staff, and take the time and effort to coach them in areas of deficiency. Tom knew the name and family members of each of our 200 hotel staff. We worked hard to impress him and he worked hard to give us a great hotel product to sell.  The real winners were the guests/customers. We wanted them to respect us and respect our boss. We wanted to give them a great customer service experience because we had pride in our hotel and in our boss.

If you’re a boss, give it some thought. Are your employees a positive reflection of your company or department? If not, it’s not too late to “clean the fish.”

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!

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.

 

The American Midlife Career Crisis

10 Oct

Rarely does a week pass that a former colleague, client, or friend doesn’t bring up the idea of changing careers after more than twenty years in their chosen field. Equally as often, I come across articles that discuss the need for people to reinvent themselves or their careers either by choice or necessity.

So what should you be doing to prepare yourself should that time come?

Always Be Self-Educating
With the advent of Web 2.0 we no longer need to pay a lot of money to take courses and training seminars. There is a wealth of free knowledge at our fingertips. Identify thought leaders in your field(s) of interest and read what they’ve written. Watch their videos, participate in their webinars, follow their blogs, and search the Internet for all of the wonderful online self-educating tools available.

Be Connected
Having a LinkedIn profile with 300+ connections isn’t the same as being connected. LinkedIn is one of the best tools out there to develop your professional identity and brand. It’s not enough to build a database of “connections.” You need to participate in discussion forums, send congratulation messages when your connections are promoted, and participate in the exchange of best practices. Actively participate in this professional business community. It’s no longer just an electronic rolodex of past and current colleagues and their contact information.

Continue to Improve Your Skills
Time doesn’t stand still and neither does a skilled marketplace. Identify the areas you are skilled in and develop them further. Create a game plan for your path to improvement. It may be as simple as reading books by a respected author, participating in a professional association’s conference programming, or participating in an industry webinar series. Move your skills from good to great.

Develop Your Free Resources
If you’ve identified some potential industries or positions that you find interesting, identify people in those fields and reach out to them. Ask them to share their insights and experiences. See if they will allow you to “shadow” them for a few days to see what their jobs are really like. If you don’t know anyone in that field, use your LinkedIn connections for introductions. If you’re actively working LinkedIn, you might be surprised who is connected to whom.

Elevate Your Thinking
Don’t assume that by changing career paths that you have to start at the “bottom” of the ladder. Identify your skills that are transferrable to your new career interest and elevate your thinking to pursue mid-level or upper-level entry into the field. It is very common for “industry outsiders” to see things with a fresh perspective and a willingness to try new methods of improvement or problem solving.

Find Your Self-Confidence
The most challenging aspect of changing careers midlife is finding your self-confidence to do so. With so many years of experience in your current field and presumed success, it is scary to start something new. At the same time, it is energizing, invigorating, and exciting.

Life’s too short to not love what you do!

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