Thursday, October 29, 2009

 

Seven reasons why I joined the local Chamber of Commerce

Last week I finally joined the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce. I’ve attended a few events over the past year, but it was time for me to become an active member.

I know in an age of Twitter and LinkedIn and all kinds of alternatives to business networking, joining the local Chamber can sometimes be seen like less of a priority. Many young businesses believe there are better uses of their time and money.

I disagree. It may have taken me longer than it should have, but joining the Chamber was an inevitable no-brainer. Here are seven reasons why.

1. Pipeline Development
For our clients, everything we do is about helping them accelerate sales & revenue. Everything is measured based on its contribution to sales & revenue growth. The way I operate my own business is the same. So reason number one for joining the Chamber is sales pipeline – meeting and acquiring new prospects and clients for us.

My pipeline already has businesses met both directly at Chamber events as well as referrals from Chamber introductions. Two weeks in, and if one of those clients converts, it more than pays for the Chamber membership. That’s already good ROI (and we’re just getting started).

2. Networking
Every business owner needs to devote a significant amount of time to marketing, and in my business that means a lot of networking. Networking with prospective clients, as well as fellow business owners who either might be clients or who know, work with, live with or otherwise associate with prospective clients.

Networking is a numbers game, in which you treat everyone equally. Everybody knows somebody (or is somebody), and the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. A big part of joining the Chamber is having more opportunities to network at a local level.

3. Peer Group
Other Chamber members are a lot like me. They have a business they’re trying to make a success, and grow bigger/better than it is today. We all do different things, but we’re struggling with many of the same issues – growth, operations, product set, sales channels, etc. Sometimes the best new ideas I apply to my business come from someone in an entirely different industry, selling to a very different customer. The more you spend with fellow business owners, the smarter you’ll be about how to operate, optimize and grow your own business.

4. Credibility
As a growing business, being a member of the local Chamber establishes credibility. It just does. It demonstrates to other businesses and prospective clients that we’re a real business, and willing to invest time and money to be an active member of the business community.

If I’m going to be a member of the local business community, I consider it an obligation to do what I can to foster health & growth for that same community. The rising tide will lift all boats. The health of the local business environment is a big part of why I’m in business today, so it’s my duty to both give back and actively contribute to that community.

5. Introductions
My participation with the Chamber has already created introductions for myself and our business to community, government and business leaders I otherwise would have either never had, or taken much longer to gather. Those new relationships are with influencers, “connectors” as Malcolm Gladwell would describe them, people who can open up huge new doors and opportunities for our business.

If what you’re doing or selling as a business has value, and you can clearly & succinctly articulate what that is, others who get it and need it (or know people who need it) will help you identify new opportunities for growth as well. That’s what influencers and connectors can do. And you’ll meet them through the Chamber.

6. Belly to Belly Relationships (“LinkedIn is not enough”)
I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn and other social networking tools. They make creating and fostering a network faster and more efficient than ever. But they’re no replacement for getting out there and meeting people live. They never will be.

Some of the smartest social media people in the world make a point of telling their followers to step away from the computer and get out to actually see people. They know that networking, at its core, is about people meeting people. And there’s simply no better way to do that than belly-to-belly, looking at the whites of another person’s eyes, and demonstrating in real time the value, credibility and trust you (and your business) represent.

7. Opportunities I can’t even think about yet (but will discover and create)
I mentioned above that networking is a numbers game. You meet some great contacts and occasionally some clunkers. Inherent in that belief is the knowledge that enough contacts will net you revenue-producing opportunities. Also inherent in that belief, I believe, is the knowledge that completely unexpected opportunities will come your way when you seek them out, keep an ear open for them, and explore them when they materialize.

If I’m not a member of and active in the Chamber, I’m missing an opportunity to discover something I can’t even fathom yet, an opportunity that could significantly change my business and my life.

I can’t afford to miss that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

 

Keeping sales demand high during the holiday months

We hosted a breakfast roundtable event this morning with several B2B sales & marketing executives, focused on sharing best practices for how best to keep sales and customer demand high during the holiday months.

The handout at this link summarizes many of the points made and discussed during the event.

A couple excerpts:

Focus On Demos: So maybe your customers don’t want to make a purchase decision until January. Even if that’s true, you can focus November and December on getting your prospects as far down the purchase cycle as possible. Focus on doing as many demos as you can. Answer objections, get executive sponsors involved, send out proposals and begin negotiations on terms. Move prospects forward so that you’re set up for a big beginning of Q1.

Help Them Kick-Start Their Own New Year Goals & Results: If what you’re selling can benefit your customers and their own goals & objectives, isn’t it better to have that in place on January 1, vs. waiting to buy and onboard later in the month, quarter or year? Build a sense of urgency that this is exactly the time to make a move and get a head start on next year’s goals.

Get the full one-page PDF here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

 

Nurturing prospects into customers

Guest post by Terry Miller, managing partner, CRM Group

It’s a familiar refrain among B2B marketers – “We’re generating all kinds of leads but our sales team doesn’t have the resources to follow up on them in a timely manner.”

Problem: Finding an efficient way to further qualify leads in order to help prioritize sales’ follow up activities.

Solution: Create a nurture campaign utilizing email to get prospects to further self-qualify themselves as they respond to a series of calls-to-action featuring differing bars to entry.

The benefits of an effective nurture customer contact strategy are many:

  • Develop more qualified leads
  • Drive increased revenues
  • Reduce the sales cycle
  • Improve the ROI of your marketing programs
  • Improve the efficiency of your sales team
  • Expand the awareness and usage of your products and services

Developing an email nurture program is easier than you think.

Step 1: Evaluation – take a look at your current communication stream that leads receive and evaluate based on objectives, form and frequency

Step 2: Analysis – engage in a data mining exercise aimed at understanding sales cycle duration, conversion rate and value

Step 3: Implementation – develop a new, multi-part lead contact strategy that delivers your unique value propositions while further qualifying leads based on the commitment required by the call-to-action (click through vs. white paper vs. webinar attendance, etc.). Be sure to take into consideration the length and complexity of the sales cycle when determining number and frequency of contacts (shorter sales cycle, fewer contacts and less time between them).

Terry Miller is the Managing Partner of CRM Group, which helps companies acquire new customers, retain existing customers and improve their customer service. He can be reached at terry@crmgroupusa.com .


Sunday, October 25, 2009

 

Six reasons why your sales suck

Special thanks to the team at TechFlash for giving me an opportunity to share these ideas over the weekend.

There’s no question the economy has softened buyer demand and sales cycle velocity, but in the majority of buying & selling environments, there’s far more at play creating weakness in sales pipelines.

Take a read and let me know what you think.  Let me know especially what I may have missed, and what you may have already discovered (and overcome) this year.

 


Monday, October 19, 2009

 

Stop telling prospects what you do

Your prospects don’t care what you do.  They don’t care how it works.

They’re only thinking of themselves.  And can you blame them?  Their butt is on the line if they don’t deliver results, cut costs, delight their own customers.  They have their own problems, their own pain, their own priorities.

Your prospects don’t care what you do.  They will only care about you if you can solve their problem.  Ease their pain.  Make their job easier.  Make them look like a hero.

Your prospects don’t care what you do.  They care deeply about what you can do for them.

There is only demand for your product is there’s more demand for the solution it represents.

Sell that way.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

 

Build stronger customer relationships by selling the way your customers buy

Guest post by Norman Behar, CEO, Sales Readiness Group

Last month, I attended the Sales 2.0 Conference in Chicago and took note of two major trends to improve sales.

  1. Aligning your sales process with your customer’s purchase process
  2. Collaborating with customers to solve their needs

While aligning your sales process with your customers purchase process seems pretty straight forward, it is easier said than done. Customers have complex and often competing priorities and do not always make their decisions in a linear fashion.

By doing some very basic research upfront, sales professionals can more effectively plan for sales calls and get a sense for overall company priorities. Sales professionals also need to gain a clear understanding of the approval process and who they should be selling to. Budgets have been severely constrained, and more decisions are requiring “C level” approval. As an example, we heard from one senior executive whose approval authority had been reduced from $1 million to $10,000.

It is also essential to realize that customers have access to more information than ever before. They can quickly search the web and gain a clear understanding of both your and your competitors’ offerings. They can also check a variety of sources to get a sense for how well your “solutions” are working. As a result, sales professionals need to bring more that just “solutions” to the table. They need to engage in collaborative conversations that allow the customer to serve as the co-architect of solutions that addresses their specific priorities.

By engaging in this dialogue, sales professionals will forge a deeper understanding of their customers needs and co-create differentiated solutions that are based on value as opposed to being driven by price. Most importantly, they will develop a trusted relationship that will allow them ongoing access to the customer and position them to earn more business as the economy recovers.

Norman Behar is a proven sales leader with over 20 years of CEO, COO and senior sales management experience. Prior to co-founding Sales Readiness Group, Norman served as a Managing Partner at Linear Partners, a boutique sales consulting firm focused on providing sales effectiveness solutions to emerging growth companies.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

 

Five ways to stay focused, get more done & be more successful

I recently asked several business and executive coaches what they do for their clients.  I wanted to know more about their process, their approach, and generally how they create value for the people and organizations they engage.

Although each had a slightly different take, it all boiled down to one thing – focus.  Each successful coach produced results for their clients by helping them get the most out of themselves and their teams, in every case by focusing time, talents, resources and values.

What I heard generally fell into five distinct areas of focus:

1.       Focus on what’s important.   It’s easy to feel successful in a day that’s busy.  Filled with putting out fires.  Getting things done.  But often, we don’t get the right things done.  By stepping back and focusing on what’s most important (not necessarily what’s in front of us, or what’s easiest, or what’s screaming the loudest), we make far better forward progress (and often in less time).

2.       Focus on what you’re good at.  Know your strengths, and lean into them.  Compare that to what your organization needs, and ensure that others are doing everything else for you.  Yes, there’s a cost to delegating, but the results will far outweigh the investment when you have more time for your strengths, and others are accelerating your cause by leveraging theirs.

3.       Focus on fewer things.  Most of us take on far too much.  Even if those are all things that are both important and speak to our strengths, there’s not enough time in the day to get it all done.  Make the hard trade-offs for what’s going to drive the most value, and make the hard decisions to put other projects on the back-burner.

4.       Focus on the basics.  What’s most important to your business?  What’s fundamental?  What got you where you are now?  What are your values?  Getting back to the basics of your business can oftentimes be the simplest and most effective way to accelerate growth and productivity again.

5.       Focus on what you want.  It’s amazing to me how many people let the day and its myriad influences direct not just day-to-day, but larger directional decisions that affect personal and professional success.  When’s the last time you took 30 minutes to reflect on what’s most important to you?  What will make you happiest and fulfilled?  How do you map those priorities back to your life & your business?

Of course, achieving one or many of these areas of focus is far easier said than done.  If you have the discipline to address and stick to these on your own, you’re in the minority.  For the rest of us, finding a coach (or even just a mentor) to keep us accountable and help unlock the full potential of our focus can reap significant dividends personally and professionally.

 

 


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 

Help your customers buy more

Your current customers love you, but they still may need a little push to buy more (or more often).

Andy Sernovitz (the godfather of word-of-mouth marketing) offered three simple ways recently almost any business can make it easier to buy. My favorite is below, but click here for all three (worth the fast read).


Make it easy to upgrade

One the fastest ways to earn more sales is to make it easy to upgrade your product. Anyone who’s ever bought a domain from GoDaddy knows how enticing a few helpful upgrades can be. From the online shopping cart, GoDaddy offers tons of opt-in upgrades — often with special coupons. You can try adding more sales on top of existing ones with some helpful upgrades, a great extended warranty, or some relevant accessories.

The Lesson: Earn more sales not by creating new products, but by giving fans the chance to upgrade what they already love.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

 

Direct marketing & the sales process

Guest post from Howard Sewell, president, Connect Direct

Choosing the right audience and the right message are two of the three most important factors (the other being a compelling offer) in the success of your direct marketing campaigns.

For some companies, particularly in B2C markets, these choices are more
intuitive. For others, particularly high-tech companies in emerging B2B
categories, the audience decision in particular is a difficult one. For example, if
you're marketing a new breed of enterprise software, is the best target:

- The IT manager who approves technology choices?
- The relevant line of business (LOB) VP?
- The finance director looking for savings and ROI?
- The end user most likely to be “feeling the pain?”

In the absence of hard data or test results from past campaigns, marketers
often make these decisions based on the sales process. They examine 1) where
the sales force is having the greatest success penetrating accounts and/or
closing sales, and 2) what messages are achieving the greatest traction with this
audience - and then construct their campaign accordingly.

However, sales success doesn't always translate into direct marketing success, for two reasons:

1. The individual that buys your product, or the person who has primary
influence on the selection of your company, isn't always the person most
likely to respond. Your most likely respondent is someone who feels the pain
that your product can solve. That could be the decision-maker, but more
likely it's someone further down the food chain.

2. "Reasons to buy" and "reasons to respond" are very different animals.
Example: how your product or service differs from the competition may help
you win sales – but is unlikely to cause someone to respond to your
campaign, unless that person is in the process of actively evaluating vendors.

By all means listen to your sales force – their input can often help optimize your
marketing strategy. But unless you're in the mail order business, the goal of
your campaigns (generate a response) is not the same as that of your sales reps
(close deals), so be wary of attempting to duplicate a winning sales strategy in
its entirety.

Instead, test your assumptions. Pit key benefits against each other in competing
subject lines or headlines or envelope copy. Split lists based on company size,
job title, gender, age group, etc. to find out precisely the group that responds
best to your message.

For a free copy of Connect Direct's free Direct Marketing Handbook, click here.

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