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Small Business Sales Dilemmas

Why I am much more important than I was a month ago

By | entrepreneurs, Food for thought, marketing, Training | No Comments

Why am I more important than I was a month ago? Because clearly I am! And, before you start to mutter under your breath about me having over-inflated ideas of my own value, a lot of it is to do with perception.

OK, so let’s have a look at this curious statement; in many ways, I am no different from the Janet who existed one month ago. Of course I have roughly a month’s more life experience (I’m a month older though, so maybe that’s not so good). I have achieved some good things in the last 4 weeks and I hope I’ve spread a little happiness among my friends and some prosperity among my clients, but so far, so normal. Read More

The surprisingly effective sales question you are probably not asking

By | customers, entrepreneurs, sales tips, Training, Uncategorized | No Comments

Some things you learn through training. Some things you learn through actual real life experience. The question I am about to share with you is an example of the latter.

As a sales rookie, I went on loads of training courses which undoubtedly helped me go on to have a successful sales career. However, it is true that you don’t really start to learn the best lessons until you are interacting with real life customers in all their glorious variety! Although I have since come across training which suggests using this question, it is one I stumbled upon by accident and, realising how powerful it was, I still try to incorporate it into as many discussions with customers as possible.

So what is this question? Well it might seem a bit counter-intuitive, but the question is simply this. When you get an enquiry from someone about working with your company, ask them:

“Why are you interested in working with us?”

or, a slight variation of this is when they ask about using a particular service (or indeed buying a product):

“Why are you interested in [insert name of product or service]?”

See – very simple isn’t it?

So why is this such a good question? Well I started using it because I wanted to make sure that prospective delegates were signing up for the right course. There is lots of competition in the training world, as well as a whole raft of different courses offered at different levels with varying objectives and for a wide variety of people. So, I began asking this question to make sure that organisations and individuals signed up to the correct programme that best met their needs.

This is important for several reasons:

  1. Clients often think they know what they want but, after gentle probing sometimes reveal that actually something else is driving them. If I can find out what, I can offer the best possible solution
  2. Business is really not just about taking the money. It can be hard sometimes to question someone who is on the verge of buying, but you have to think long term. Good advice now may yield better results in the future than just the cost of one lost sale. You should be thinking in terms of a lifetime of customer loyalty and you won’t achieve that if you don’t give the best advice you can.
  3. If I get an enrolment and a client comes on the wrong course, they won’t get the maximum results from it, may end up being bored or detached because the content is not relevant and of course, will leave not having achieved their objectives.
  4. This has a knock-on effect within the rest of the class because it changes the group dynamic negatively.
  5. An unhappy delegate will go away without that all-important ‘Wow’ factor, which is so vital. Their feedback won’t be as good and they won’t give referrals as willingly, because the course didn’t meet their needs
  6. Because the overall group wasn’t as engaged, then again, overall feedback is less good with similar results to point 3.
  7. Over time, my brand gets eroded and that is bad for business
  8. The dissatisfied client goes away and has to spend even more money going somewhere else for an alternative solution.

I will admit it’s not always plain sailing. I have had customers visibly surprised when I ask them about why they want to go ahead; after all, in their minds, it felt a bit like I was hesitating to work with them. However, when I explain that I just want to find out what their objectives are, to make sure the course is right for them, then without fail, they understand what I am up to.

Which brings me onto another reason why this line of questioning can be so powerful. By asking why a customer wants to use you (or your service), what will you get? Oh you get something wonderful! You get a list of reasons why they want to buy from you. Pause for a moment and think about that. They actually tell you WHY they want to use you! How fantastic is that? As a salesperson, that has got to be the Holy Grail of selling surely!

It is a super-effective way of making sure you align completely with what customers want. Or indeed, if you can’t help them, you can now save everybody’s time and tell them so – ideally with a recommendation of an alternative supplier.

I not only love the simplicity of this line of questioning, I love the powerful and immediate way it engages with the customer and you get to understand what really motivates them. So much in selling is understanding customers’ needs and to do this effectively, you need to ask powerful and probing questions. So in my book, this is one of the best.

I would urge you to try this question and please let me know how you get on and what results you experience.

Janet is based in Enfield, north London and trains small businesses and entrepreneurs how to sell more. She has recently reached the final of the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management’s national awards (BESMA 2016) in the category of Sales Trainer of the Year and, in November 2015 won ‘Start up Business of the Year’ at the Enterprise Enfield Business Awards.

If you enjoyed this article and you would like to receive a free download: Janet’s 8 Proven Sales Tips, please click on this link now.

Click Here for 8 Proven Sales Tips

take a break from selling

5 things a child knows about the Summer sales dip that you don’t

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5 Things a child knows about the Summer sales dip that you don’t.

Work, work, work. That’s what so many of us do isn’t it? We work really hard, putting in the effort and the hours and then, despite our best efforts, during August a lot of our businesses just slow down. Everyone is either on holiday or talking about their holiday. There are fewer paying clients around and, unless your business offers something seasonal, the chances are that this is a quiet time of year and your sales drop. Read More

happy staff using CRM

What is the single most effective tool that will transform my business?

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What is the single biggest tool that will transform my business?

All around us, ‘gurus’ (of varying degrees of credibility) are pushing this system, or that product, or some package or another which will miraculously ‘transform’ your business. Some are excellent, but some are not and there is, of course, a price point for every pocket.

However, I am a great believer in simple things. I have lost count of the number of wonderful sounding tools or gizmos which I have invested in, but which were too complicated to learn or I just never used.

So, as a sales trainer and small business owner, what is my favourite transformational tool? It’s a CRM.

OK – I  bet you thought it was going to be something a lot more exciting didn’t you? Or perhaps that I was going to prefix it with words like “Secret” or “they don’t want me to tell you about this”.

Well I am just as fed up as you are of hearing about the NEW BIG THING only to find out it’s a recycled version of an existing thing. 

So let me explain. I don’t really care what sort of system you have, but you MUST have some way of tracking your leads and your customers. For some people it’s a pile of business cards (don’t really recommend that, but it does work for some people). Others use notebooks, scraps of paper (ouch!), their phone or products like Microsoft Access. 

Read More

frustration from no sale

When is a Sale not a Sale?

By | customers, entrepreneurs, sales tips, Training | No Comments

When is a Sale Not a Sale?

Many people who are new to sales experience the frustration of thinking they have made a sale, but then, when it comes to the delivery of the product or service, confirmation in writing, or payment of a deposit, the customer does not seem to be able to finalise things and get going.

 

It can be difficult to work out what has happened and it can feel awkward re-approaching the customer to say the equivalent of “what is happening then?”.

 

Tips

  • Have a formal process in place, which might include a contract

  • When a sale has been agreed and the delivery of the product or service is not immediate, it is normal to put everything in writing and then both parties know exactly what to expect

  • Has the customer said ‘yes’? Make sure that when you close, you have not misinterpreted what they said. For example, they might mean ‘yes, but not for 6 months’ which makes a considerable difference.

  • If a deposit is needed and they haven’t paid the deposit, then do not start work until they have!

  • If they said ‘yes’ and then you can’t get hold of them, they may have reconsidered going ahead.

Read More

scared customers

5 Things that could be scaring your customers away

By | customers, entrepreneurs, sales tips | No Comments

5 Things that could be scaring your customers away (and what you can do about it)

Let’s face it, customers can be tough to win, so the last thing you want to do is scare any of them away. However, if you are involved in selling in any way at all, make sure you are not doing anything on this list:

Projecting desperation

It doesn’t matter whether it is business or life in general, we can always sense if someone is desperate and we don’t like it. In fact, we are likely to react by withdrawing, because that’s the human response. Remember your focus should always be on your customers and their needs (not your salary, bonus cheque, meeting your target or anything else financial). So even if you are struggling, push it as far to the back of your mind as you can and concentrate on helping your customer.

You don’t look professional

OK, we are not all supermodels, but can you honestly say you project the right image for whatever it is that you are selling? By the way, you don’t necessarily have to turn up in a suit and tie – if you are in an office environment, then that is fine, but you should dress appropriately for the thing you do. I go to a lot of networking meetings, full of serious businesspeople and all of them dressed differently. But the constant? Even the people who work in the more manual type of organisations can always manage to look professional. Clean, neat, tidy. See – it’s not so hard is it?

You promise everything

Seriously, the chances of you being able to give every customer every thing they need is small, so don’t feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to each request – if you do that and then the customer wants it, you are going to be in big trouble further down the line.  It is better to be honest (or perhaps sell them an upgraded package with the ‘thing’ they want for more money!). It might not be easy, but a lot of sales is about compromise anyway – just give them all the facts and keep mentioning the benefits of your solution. If you do your job well, there is a good chance you will get the sale anyway. Better than a false sale followed by a refund!

You don’t take notes

This is about two things:

  1. Listening carefully and paying attention to the person who has been kind enough to grant you some of their time. This is respectful. There is a phrase ‘people buy from people’ and one of the building blocks of a good relationship with customers is the ability to listen and understand.
  2. Ensuring that you don’t forget important details and, because you have written down key points, you can summarise and check your understanding. This is professional and it reassures the customer because it shows that you are less likely to make mistakes with their precious money if they use you.

You are irritating

What does your voice sound like and what is your body language saying? Do you repeat things, tell boring anecdotes, take ages to get to the point, or make negative comments about other people? Now of course, we all think we are wonderfully interesting, but what if (shock horror) we are not as engaging as we think we are? Look out for signs that you are boring or irritating your customers. Yawning, loss of attention, or early conclusions to meetings are tell-tale signs that you are being less than captivating. Consider taking someone you trust out with you on a sales call to give you some constructive feedback and help you improve.

So with any luck you are not a desperate, unprofessional, “say yes to anything”, irritating salesperson with no notebook. However, if you are, perhaps you have a few things to work on!

Happy selling!

Small Business Saturday

I love Small Business Saturday (and you should too)

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Well, what is Small Business Saturday?

The website www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com explains:

Small Business Saturday UK is a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities.

The day itself takes place on the first Saturday in December each year, but the campaign aims to have a lasting impact on small businesses. In 2017 Small Business Saturday is on Saturday, December 2nd.

On Small Business Saturday, customers across the U.K go out and support all types of small businesses, online, in offices and in stores. Many small businesses take part in the day by hosting events and offering discounts.

And it works….look at some of the stats from 2016:

How the UK supported Small Business Saturday 2016:

  • Customers spent £717m with small businesses on Small Business Saturday, an increase of 15% on 2015 spending

  • Over 140,000 tweets were sent on the day reaching 130 million people, trending on Twitter in the UK and globally

  • Over 80% of local authorities across the UK actively supported the campaign in a variety of ways, from networking events to free parking, meaning wherever you were in the UK, Small Business Saturday was happening nearby

So what are you waiting for? Check out some of the events happening locally. I’m taking part – I’m delivering a free seminar at Enterprise Enfield. If you want to come along, here’s the link How to Sell Without Selling.

But there is loads of other good stuff too

I hope to see you there!

5 star tadpole training

50p the cost of great customer service

Why Outstanding Customer Service Doesn’t have to be Complicated

By | customers, entrepreneurs, sales tips | No Comments

Why Outstanding Customer Service Doesn’t have to be Complicated (or expensive)

This morning I had an almost flat tyre.  Not an actual puncture, but something I noticed last night and forgot to deal with.

I was on the school run, so I had to make sure the children were dropped off on time, then I gently drove the car to the nearest petrol station and parked up by the air machine. Then I realised – I had been on the school run, so all I had was keys and my phone.  No money. I needed 50p.

I did the regulatory scrabble under the seats, in the nooks and crannies and glove compartment and came up with ….36p. Not enough.

Faced with the choice of driving home and possibly damaging the tyre, or throwing myself on the mercy of the staff at the petrol station, I chose the latter.

“Excuse me, I need your help – I’ve got a flat tyre and I’ve only got 36p. Is it possible…….?”

I never got the chance to finish. The man behind the counter walked off, grabbed something and plopped a 50 pence coin into my hand.

I started to thank him and promised to call by later. He just waved me away and smiled.

Now, I am sure he is a kind man who just wanted to help a fellow human being, but he actually did so much more than that – through his simple act of kindness he made a potentially complicated day suddenly simple and helped a rather frazzled mother on the school run calm down instantly.

Longer term though, he will be the winner. Of course he will get his 50p back. But he will get much more. Because of my gratitude and the fact that I will remember that feeling of panic which he diffused, I will use his petrol station again. In fact, I will probably make a point of using it even more. So he will sell me petrol, the children will ensure we buy sweets and drinks, I will definitely use the car wash and it is likely that we will make various spur of the moment purchases, just as everyone does.

He will reap far more than 50p. Maybe knows it, maybe he doesn’t, but if he treats all his customers like me, I have a feeling he will have a very successful business.

So, if you are in Edmonton, London, go to the Jet Garage at 134 Hertford Road. There! Now he’s got a referral too!

See how that 50p has grown?

Happy Selling!

5 star tadpole training

Historical lady saying no

Have you ever talked yourself out of a sale?

By | customers, entrepreneurs, marketing, negotiation, sales tips, Training | No Comments

Have you ever talked yourself out of a sale

(and what should you have done differently?)

It is important to understand when to talk and when to stop. When we are being sold ‘to’ none of us likes to be with someone who talks constantly; it is irritating and it can make us feel resentful because it is taking up our time. This is especially true if we have already made our mind up to buy.

When you are the one doing the selling, you should also be aware that not every customer needs to know everything about your product or service – all they really need to know is whether it will solve their problem or meet their objective and how. Anything else is just clutter and can put the sale at risk. Read More

Annoying sales issues

7 Things that we all hate about selling

By | entrepreneurs, marketing, sales tips, Training | No Comments

5 star tadpole training7 things that we all hate about selling

1. Cancelled meetings

Especially when they ‘forget’ to tell you and you’ve physically travelled to the venue before you find out. Also annoying when you have done tons of preparation and they no longer want to see you.

2. Being stereotyped as a pushy charlatan

This image persists, yet nearly every salesperson I know is a thoroughly decent (normal) human being. In fact, the people who are best at sales are usually highly focused on helping clients. They are some of the kindest and most empathetic people out there, but everyone else thinks salespeople are a cross between Attila the Hun and Gordon Gekko.

3. Being nice to people who you don’t like, but who have the power to approve the sale

You get to deal with all sorts in sales and so by the law of averages, you are going to come across a few you don’t like. However, if their money is good and they are a good fit, you must still deal with them and try and make it look like a pleasure.

4. Shaking on it then they change their mind

You do the work, you agree terms, everyone is happy so you shake hands (or get verbal agreement, or whatever your standard is for the thing you do). Then, you get that call (and often they just leave a message) saying they no longer want to go ahead or they have changed their mind. Can you get back to them to talk about it? Of course not. The draw bridge has gone up. Leading me on to ….

5. Not returning calls

When they are interested or want your help or advice, clients will talk to you. In fact, they may call you at all sorts of strange times. However, when they have other things on their mind, or when you just need a bit of feedback to move the sale forward, what happens? Yup – suddenly it’s impossible to get through. Messages go unanswered, colleagues can’t say when your contact will be available and you hit a brick wall. You know what’s coming next don’t you?

6. Answer machines

I prefer speaking to actual people. I suppose we all do – but now everyone has an answer machine, somewhere between 50% and 85% of calls go straight to voicemail. Do you ring once, twice, 5 times, 10 times? And at what point do you turn into a Stalker? And then there are the messages left on your own phone that you miss, then 3 days later you just decide to check, only to discover that something urgent needed to be dealt with yesterday.

7. Asking for a discount

I blame car boot sales for this. It’s acceptable to ask for a discount when someone is selling their leftover and unwanted things from their home, but actually it’s not OK to ask for a discount when you are discussing a high quality, well crafted, bespoke product or service that is probably priced fairly for the market place. Yet still prospects do this. Even if, as the person selling, you have done everything right; showed the value of what you offer and demonstrated how many of the prospects needs and objectives you solve, you can pretty much guarantee that, before you get the sale, you will be asked if you can drop the price.

So, if you’ve been in sales for more than 5 minutes, I’m sure you recognise a lot of these. Fortunately, nothing comes even close to that feeling you get when you smash that target!

Happy selling!

Janet Efere is an award-winning sales trainer based in Enfield, North London