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The Pandora Effect: How to Avoid Losing Customers

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A couple years ago my wife asked me for a Pandora bracelet for Christmas. I was able to easily find the bracelet at a local jewelry store, and bought it along with several charms. It seemed that my wife’s request was the norm that year as we also purchased a bracelet or charms for my mom, sister-in-law and several of my wife’s friends.

The following year I ensured that I made a quick stop by our local jewelry store once again to buy more charms. My ritual, however, came to an abrupt halt this past year when I stopped by the local jeweler only to learn that Pandora had removed their bracelets and charms from several hundred jewelry stores across Canada and the United States with the only options remaining for purchase being online or through a Pandora registered dealer, typically only located in large city centers.

As I stood in our local jewelry store looking for something to substitute this year’s purchase, I witnessed employees in the store tell not one but five different patrons that they no longer sold Pandora during a span of fifteen minutes. In every situation the patron left the store in a huff. When I asked the employees how often this was happening, they said at least several dozen times each day for the past few weeks.

Think of the impact this has had on Pandora sales.

Now there’s no doubt that Pandora made these changes in support of improving or advancing their business model. Possibly they wanted better control over distribution or over their profitability, but at what cost?

My wife, for example, did attempt a purchase online (she shops a little earlier then I do!) and told me that a purchase she made online didn’t end up looking like she had thought it would. She will only purchase in store in the future, and there are no local retailers offering the product…

In addition, the jeweler I visited explained how upset they were with Pandora after they abruptly pulled their product from the retailer.

Here’s my point.

My guess is that you’ve got a corporate strategy set with several key objectives, all in favor of growing your revenue and market share while increasing the control over your operational costs. If so, how have you validated the direct and indirect influences these changes will have on your employees, customers, dealers, agents, or contractors?

The following questions are those that I typically include when helping organizations formulate action plans in support of their strategy, to ensure direct and indirect influences are completely understood and managed appropriately:

1. What are the direct and indirect influences of this objective? Consider your employees, existing and prospective customers, and existing brand and reputation.

2. Which of these influences are the positive versus negative? Sort into appropriately labeled columns.

3. For each positive influence, how can you capitalize? For each negative influence, how can you mitigate or avoid the risk of any negative outcome?

Obviously I’m not an employee or agent of Pandora, and nor is my intention to suggest that they didn’t make the best decision for their business at the time. I’m sure that any improvements they may have achieved as part of this business model change will see rapid decline as a result of the direct and indirect influences of their customers during this past Christmas season.

© Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.

Avoid Going Snow Blind in 2017

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I was returning from a client meeting the other evening when I came upon a sudden snow blizzard. That may sound like an odd statement, but at this time of year in Canada it’s not uncommon to drive into and out of snowstorms.

If you aren’t sure what I mean, check out the photo below which I took while parked in the middle of the road.

When you come across a sudden blizzard there are three simple rules:

1. Don’t panic. Stay calm and slow down while avoiding hitting the brakes.
2. Don’t attempt to look too far ahead as the snow will create confusion. Instead, focus on the roadway directly in front of your car.
3. Use landmarks on either side of the road, such as street signs or telephone poles, to ensure you remain on the road.

These may sound overly simplistic, but trust me when entering a whiteout at speed your initial reaction is often to do the opposite.

  • Panic and immediately hit the brakes
  • Try to peer too far ahead into the blinding snow
  • Stare directly at the snow banks on either side of the car (and we all know what happens when you stare at something while driving)

After navigating through the blizzard it struck me that these simple rules, although they often seem counter intuitive, are the same rules that help an organization survive during turbulent times.

Think about that for a moment.

What I’m suggesting is that when facing challenges in business there are three simple rules that the entire organization needs to respond with:

1. Don’t panic and hit the brakes. Keep doing what you know you are good at.
2. Rather than attempting to predict the future, consider instead the opportunities and challenges currently in font of you and focus your energy here.
3. Don’t attempt to make any sudden moves. Focus instead on the path before you and move forward slowly.

Like a snowstorm, turbulent times in business can be unpredictable and scary, particularly when you are amidst them. Keep these three simple rules in mind and focus your energy on helping your team to follow them and you’ll always come out the other side unscathed and refocused.

© Shawn Casemore 2016. All rights reserved.

AVOID A SHIPWRECK WITH CLEAR VISION

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I’ve noticed an alarming trend in the past couple years while assisting clients in formulating their strategy… There is an increasing desire to avoid “touching” the Vision and Mission statement during a strategy session, in favor of focusing on key objectives to move the business forward.

When I’ve asked why, the answer I receive typically falls into the “time and money” category. You know the one. “We don’t have the time or money to invest in re-formulating our vision.”

That’s fine (well, actually it’s not), but we should remember something. Our vision, for ourselves or our business, is what we define as a desirable future state. It’s where we want to be in the next twenty-four to forty-eight months. It’s something that reignites our passion and drive for our business.

Sure it takes time to come up with a vision that is worth getting out of bed for, and time is money. But who in the world wants to pursue a vision, the same vision in fact, for over a decade? 

Hasn’t the world (and most things in it) changed? 

Don’t customers expect something different than they did just a decade ago?

 Aren’t employees becoming more distracted and needing something that fuels their passion?

I recommend to all my clients that their vision statement is re-visited in its entirety at least every 24 months, using the following questions: 

  1. Why are we here? Who do we serve? What’s the value we offer?
  1. Where do we need to be in the next twenty-four to forty-eight months to remain relevant to our market and why?
  1. What do customers (new and existing) need from us in the next forty-eight months to support their growth?
  1. What purpose is so compelling it would make our employees jump out of bed in the morning?
  1. What new products or services will define our business within the next five years?

With the compiled responses from these questions, you will have the necessary ingredients to create a compelling vision… Just a little polish to make it memorable, and you’ll be set.

Don’t let your vision of your desired future become blurry. Your vision is more important than any other aspect of your strategy, as it is the beacon that shines to guide you and the organization to the future you so desire.

If that’s not compelling enough, then you can continue to beat objectives to death. If it were me, however, I’d want to make sure I was focusing my team’s time and effort on the right objectives, which ties directly back to having a relevant and powerful vision.

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STOP WORRYING ABOUT TODAY AND FOCUS ON TOMORROW

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If you’ve been following recent statistics on millennials in the workplace, you’ll know that as of today there are more millennials working across North America than there are Baby Boomers. In fact, by 2020 it is predicted that nearly 40% of the North American workforce will be millennials.

What does this mean to you?

Well, of course the impact (or lack thereof) will depend on the composition of generations across your organization today. But regardless, an exit of baby boomers from the workforce will have long reaching impacts.

  • A loss of talent and experience that will be hard to capture.
  • Changing demands on the structure and means of communication organizationally.
  • More demand for introducing technology to support efficiency.
  • Less demand for structured work hours.

My guess is you are already dealing with, or at least thinking about, the influences of these changes on your business – if you aren’t, now is the time to start.

But what about the other impacts this shift will have?

  • What is the changing demographic of your key customer accounts?
  • How will your seemingly younger customers or clients prefer to buy?
  • How will your sales team connect with customers using new communication technology?
  • How will you educate employees to deal with multiple generations outside your business?

Let me give you an example of how this might play out, at the simplest of levels.

Over the past few months I’ve been asking CEOs what policies they have around the use of texting in their workplace. The responses have ranged from, “no texting allowed,” to embracing texting on a customer-by-customer basis.

The answers are typically internally focused (what do we want our employees to do), versus externally focused (what do our customers prefer and future employee candidates prefer); Considerate of today (what market are we in) versus tomorrow (what market do we want to be in).

There’s no doubt that the next decade will see some of the most dramatic shifts in workplace structure and culture. The way to ensure you are prepared to take advantage of this shift is to create a compelling vision and strong actions in support of its attainment.

If you are looking for help in making this happen, grab a copy of my strategic action planner.

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WHAT YOU FAILED TO CONSIDER...

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It’s summer here, at least in the northern part of the hemisphere where I live. For a handful of months each year we get to enjoy warmth, sunshine, and all of the things that are great about summer – let’s go Blue Jays! (Lol)

I find that as a result of summer holidays, extended weekends, and a desire for most executives and business owners to take more time away from the office, that the initiatives, projects, and corporate strategy all tend to slow down or get shelved for a number of months.

Is this happening in your organization?

It was only two weeks ago when I met with a CEO and asked her how her team was progressing against their strategic objectives, that she confided that they had put the strategy on hold for the summer months.

Wait… Did I hear that correctly?

If a strategy is meant to be the plan to achieve your desired future for the organization, how can you decide in good conscience to put the strategy on hold? That’s like saying that my car has a flat tire, but because we are doing a lot of driving in the coming weeks I don’t have time to fix the tire. It simply doesn’t make sense.

I’d even go so far as to suggest you reduce the level of service to customers (i.e. fewer hours staffing a retail outlet or telephone center) before you ever put the strategy on hold – and I’m sure you know that I would rarely ever suggest you reduce the level of service to customers.

It strikes me that those CEOs and executives that have decided to set their strategy aside for a few months have failed to consider that what they are doing is not only delaying momentum and progress, but they are sending a message, often inadvertently, to everyone across the organization that the strategy is not nearly as important as other more tactical daily priorities.

Is this the message you want to send? My guess is not.

So consider these ideas, a few of which I shared with the CEO I referenced above, in order to ensure you sustain momentum behind the pursuit of your strategic objectives during the lazy days of summer.

  1. Set small rewards that combine enjoying the outdoors with achieving actions set out in the strategic plan. For example, those who complete their actions for the month get to participate in a company barbecue or possibly some lawn bowling… Although I’ve never lawn bowled personally, I hear it’s an interesting sport.
  1. Hold strategy meetings outdoors, allowing employees to enjoy the warmth and sunshine, while bringing new energy to placing momentum behind their action plans. After all, Vitamin D is known to increase our energy and general demeanor.
  1. Take a field trip to visit a friendly competitor or complimentary business who is highly successful in achieving their strategic objectives, or who has actually achieved some of the objectives you are striving to achieve (if you’d like some contacts, send me an email at shawn@casemoreandco.com).

My point is simple…

That is unless achieving your desired future isn’t that important to you or your team?

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TIME IS NOT ON YOUR SIDE

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There’s a reason why most CEOs only develop a new corporate strategy every three to five years.

Do you know why that is?

Well, my guess is that it’s not what you might think.

Corporate strategies just seem to be so darn difficult to achieve that many of the CEOs I’ve met actually believe that by adding time into the equation (e.g. a longer duration to achieve the strategy), they increase their team’s chances of actually achieving the strategy.

This makes sense of course, and might work in some strange new world where time stands still, but as of this writing, I’ve yet to learn about such a fictitious land.

In reality…

Think of it like baking cookies. If you screw up the ingredients (which I’ve been known to do a few times!), it really doesn’t matter how long you bake the cookie dough. The result will be horrible.

Watch this week’s short, three minute video to learn what ingredients are crucial to building a strategy that both defines your future and can be achieved in under three years. 

And hey, if you don’t have three minutes now, just deduct it off the completion timeline of your next strategic plan…

click here to watch video

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Five Key Points to Know About Prospecting

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One of the cold, hard facts about the sales profession is that you can't sell to everyone. Any successful sales person knows there will always be somebody who, for whatever reason, either cannot or will not buy. That's why prospecting is absolutely vital. In fact, it's the number one activity you need to do daily — and do well — to achieve long-term success as a sales professional.

Prospecting outranks every other skill and every other business habit, simply because you can’t sell unless you have people to sell to. That's a fact that remains true no matter how successful you become and no matter how many sales records you break. And yet prospecting remains one of the most misunderstood aspects of selling. That's why I’m sharing five key points to know about this must-have business habit:

1. It’s a daily part of the job.

One of the biggest mistakes about prospecting? Focusing on it only when business is slow. If you're in sales, prospecting is not something you do on a part-time basis. Prospecting isyour business. Just as new sales targets are a certainty in your organization, you need to continuously find more people to sell to. That's not something you can do on an occasional basis. You have to treat prospecting as an activity that’s as vital to you as getting paid. Because without it (and in less time than you think), that pay might stop. It's that simple. The stakes are that high.

2. It’s an investment towards your future.

Another common issue is prospecting aggressively only when you need an extra boost in your sales performance figures during a particular quarter. The real truth about prospecting is right there in the word itself; it's borrowed from the Latin word prospectus or "distant view." Prospecting is an activity that serves far more than short-term goals. Think of it as an investment that helps you shape your future and pays dividends not just in the next sales quarter, but in years ahead as well. By constantly finding and developing new leads, you ensure that you’ll always have an audience for your product or service — no matter what kind of market you're faced with.

3. It requires persistence and dedication.

There are plenty of skilled sales professionals out there who know how to close, to navigate past objections, are adept negotiators, and are great at networking. And sadly, all of those skills will never be applied fully unless those same sales people each possess the discipline to get to their desk every day and make those prospecting calls. It's not enough to just be good at prospecting; you have to be good at being persistentabout it, too.

4. Aim high.

During the sales-training and coaching sessions I conduct, I'm often asked how much prospecting is needed to maintain a healthy pace that meets sales targets. A lot of people are surprised by my answer: take your sales target and triple it. You read that right. Your prospecting activities need to exceed by three times the sales you are expected to produce. If that sounds like it entails a lot of work, well, that's because it does. And there's no getting around it. Sales professionals, on average, close one in three qualified leads that are available to them. This means that if your target for next year is $100,000 in sales, you need to find a way to manage a funnel of potential sales of at least $300,000 in value. Any prospecting sum smaller than that and you will more than likely be the victim of a very sobering statistic: the rate of missed sales quotas. The best way to avoid winding up on the wrong end of that statistic is to make sure your sales funnel is big enough. In this case, size definitely matters. For the exact formulas you need to succeed, check out Chapter 3 — Math and Madness — in my book, Non-Stop Sales Boom.

5. Use your time wisely.

Prospecting is a daily commitment. But how much time should you devote to it? It's a point of contention among a lot of sales experts. It really depends on whether you track your closing ratio on your calls. If you don't measure this, plan to be on the phone prospecting every day for at least two hours. That will yield between 25 to 40 calls, out of which you should be able to secure one qualified appointment per day. If, on the other hand, you do measure your closing ratio, make as many calls as you need to so you hit your sales targets. Keep in mind that three qualified leads will yield you one sale.

Prospecting might often feel like a chore. However, the more you invest in the key points above, the more success you’ll see in return. And, the more motivation you’ll have to make this vital business habit a part of your everyday to-do list.   

Access the Total Value of Your Client List

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When it comes to generating sales, there’s one source that tends to get overlooked: the client list. I am constantly amazed at the number of sales professionals and companies that do nothing to encourage repeat sales, up-sales and cross-sales within their own customer list.

As I write this, many of my clients are struggling with what they can do now to ensure they finish their selling year at or above target. My message to you is this: go back to your current client list.

Repeat sales are more profitable than new sales. Why? For starters, repeat sales are faster. Your customers already like you and trust you. That’s why Chapter 10 of my book, Non-Stop Sales Boom, is completely focused on relationship building to ensure you’re capturing as many repeat sales as possible. 

The sales rule of thumb is that a list loses 10 percent of its value each month of absent contact. So, 10 months of no contact with your clients means your list is worth nothing — and you might as well cold call. Relationship neglect results in many sales losses, including seduction by competitors and the loss of referrals, which over time can result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses for your business.

Your list is as valuable as the quality of the relationship you have with those clients and their perception of that relationship. To sell more to your current clients you must transition your thinking from "customer list" to "building a relationship with my customer."

You can create a profitable relationship with your customers using the following six components:

1. Ubiquity:Recent studies from the Information Marketing Association show that your current clients can tolerate up to 200 contacts per year before they’ll ask you to go away. But that’s only if you provide a variety of touch points. You can't call a customer 200 times a year without landing on the do-not-call list. You can, however, call, email, mail, use LinkedIn, send them to your web page, pod cast and Youtube channel; make contact at tradeshows, conferences and networking events; do face-to-face sales calls, and use article placements in trade journals. The reason customers can withstand up to 200 touches per year is because smart sales people know it makes a difference to mix up the media types they use to contact customers.

2. Frequency:How often are you in touch with your clients? Regardless of whether 200 touches is specifically appropriate for you, don't let the number cloud the real message: you’re likely not doing enough. In my work, most companies and sales professionals feel that if they reach out four times per year, they are stalking the client. I believe that 26 is the minimum number of touches required per year for a truly profitable relationship. Using the first component, Ubiquity, you can build strong relationships with your clients by delivering valuable information on a regular basis using a variety of media types. Once every two weeks is a good target that won’t be overwhelming to clients.

3. Consistency:All 26 touches should arrive as expected and anticipated on a regular schedule. Consider sending a monthly email, along with a monthly hard copy newsletter, at two-week intervals. You could also advertise a free monthly web or tele-class for your clients on product training or business topics complimentary to your products. Trust is built with consistent behavior over time. If you consistently and reliably deliver your message to your clients it will demonstrate you can be trusted to deliver what you said, when and how you said it. Clients don't like surprises. They like results.

4. Trust:In order to build a trusting relationship with your clients you must maintain constant contact with them without lapse or interruption. What do you think would happen to the relationship with your spouse if you didn't come home one night, didn't call, didn't email or attempt contact, and then arrived home unexpectedly three months later? When you don't call your friends for weeks at a time, does your relationship grow stronger or weaker?

I’ve often thought that sales relationships are similar to dating. In both cases, it takes ongoing communication to build trust. If you don't contact the person you’re seeing at regular intervals, they’ll move on to someone else. Likewise, if you neglect the clients on your list, they’ll build a relationship with someone else instead (i.e. your competitor.)

5. Appeal:Be entertaining and friendly, yet professional. Remember that all selling (B2B and B2C) is about selling to humans. Your clients want to laugh, have fun, and be entertained. (Just don't go too far or you sacrifice your message.)

Which airlines, for example, command the most customer attention during the pre-flight safety announcements? Southwest and WestJet? Or the more traditional airlines such as American, United, Air Canada, and US Air? Southwest and WestJet have the most appeal; they’re more engaging because they make the announcements fun and friendly while still being professional.

Another step for being appealing to clients? Make sure that every contact attempt you send is worth opening, reading, and acting on. For instance, an industrial supply company recently distributed invitations for their annual charity event to all of their customers. The majority of invitees said no but dozens said yes. And many asked for a follow-up appointment to revisit their product mix and to add products.

6. Exceptional: This doesn’t mean using the best paper and the most expensive pen. It means being sure to include information, education, entertainment, and other interesting "stuff" that is relevant and valuable to your clients — delivered from an interesting person: you. Don't just "pitch" your clients each time you reach out to them. Share interesting ideas, your favorite books on business, and your thoughts on articles they might find useful. Remember that you are a human, selling to a human.

Using the six components above as your guide, it’s now time to try the following strategies as part of your 26-touches-per-year plan:

  • Thank you card (hand written, personalized, and not on corporate stationary)
  • Publishing or sharing an article on LinkedIn
  • A case study sent in the mail
  • Weekly video tips for using your products
  • Invitations to seminars — live or on the web
  • Advertising specialties, sent as a thank-you, that your clients will want to use, such as pens, mouse pads, calendars, etc.
  • Podcasts or client interviews
  • Company anniversary cards
  • Invitations to trade shows and conferences
  • New product announcements (separately or in a newsletter)
  • Market reports or analyst reports
  • White papers

How will you know when you’ve succeeded in accessing the total value of your client list? When your customers routinely go to you first instead of to other providers. And when they readily refer you to others. This will, in turn, create more sales, more acceptance of regular communication with them, and more action on your promotions and offers.  

Plan Ahead to Smoothly Navigate Pricing Objections

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"That price is too high."

“Why is this so expensive?”

“I have a better offer. You’re going to have to lower your price.”

The dreaded pricing objection. We've all had to deal with it at some point in our careers. Regardless of what form it takes, it can be one of the most frustrating challenges sales professionals have to face.

As part of a series of articles, we'll be taking an in-depth look at what you can do to overcome this most difficult of client objections. We start today by tackling the question of how to prevent the pricing objection before your clients bring it up!

Address it from the start

If price always seems to become an issue for you, one of the most effective strategies is to preempt the question by dealing with it up front.

Don't be afraid to talk about price. Train yourself to bring it up first and put it on the table as early as possible in the sales dialogue. Try telling your prospective client something like:

“I want to be up front that our product won’t be the cheapest available. You will always find someone who is less expensive than us, and you will always find someone who is more expensive than us. We are always competitive. Knowing that we are not the cheapest, does it make sense for us to go ahead?"

When you ask this question, one of two things will happen:

  1. The buying cycle will end immediately because the client only wants the cheapest product and you don't have it. Don’t be alarmed. This is good news. There's no point wasting your valuable time with someone who has no intention of buying.

Or

  1. The client will say, "No problem, we're not making our decision on the basis of price alone." This will effectively eliminate the client's ability to raise this objection later on, and allow you to move forward with a high degree of certainty that price will not become an issue.

 

Give a ballpark figure ahead of time

Another way to reduce the number of times you hear "your price is too high" is by literally telling your customers your price (or an estimate of your price) before you give it to them in writing. This will allow you to deal with any potential pricing concerns in person, before your client receives a formal proposal.

NOTE: The estimate I give is always about 20 percent higher than I think the real highest price will be. This helps ensure I have a little breathing room later on.

Be ready with alternatives

When you're ready to talk price, have several options prepared beforehand to handle your client's response, whatever it may be. This will enable you to retain some control and momentum regardless of whether their reaction is positive or negative.

If the client reacts negatively through body language — such as flinching, shrugging, rolling their eyes, or falling off their chair onto the floor — you can say:

“I sense I’ve missed the mark. What were you expecting to invest?”

Or

“You don’t seem comfortable with that price. Have you found something lower?”

Notice that both of these questions have two distinct parts. First, you acknowledge that the client appears to be uncomfortable. This will help build trust and get them on your side. Second, you ask a direct question. You can use this formula every time you are faced with an objection.

If the client verbally tells you that your price is too high, your first move is to take a breath and remain quiet for a full three seconds. Then ask them, "I guess you're looking only for the cheapest price?"

They will either say yes or no. If they say no, you can ask, "Really? What else is there?"

If they answer yes, you can say, "Okay, knowing that we will not be the lowest price, does that mean we will never get the chance to do business together?"

Utilize the key word for managing objections

When it comes to handling sales objections, "never" is the most powerful word in the English language.

Most people hate it. Very few are willing to commit to it. As a result, the vast majority of prospects will respond to it by saying, "Well, no… Not never!"

In that case, your job is to simply ask, "Really? Why?" The client will then either tell you what it will take to do business with them or ask you for something that you can't provide. Either way, this puts the control back in your hands by letting you choose between making the sale or turning down the deal and walking away.

If a client is dead set on getting the lowest price and you know you can't offer it, then you may as well end the conversation right now and get to work on deals that have a better likelihood of closing. Spending time trying to sell to someone who is never going to buy from you is a bad decision — and a costly mistake.

Create and fine tune your best responses

The final step is to sit down (on your own or with your team) and brainstorm your best possible answers to every potential objection.

Practice your responses out loud until you've mastered them. Make them your own. Then review your work each quarter to make sure that everyone on your team knows which responses are working best.

Overall, if you can reduce the number of objections you receive, you will sell more. Period.

Feel free to visit our website, where you can find more articles on the best ways to handle pricing objections. https://www.engageselling.com/

Spring Clean Your Sales Approach

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There’s a canal I like to run beside in the city of Ottawa that’s cleaned out twice a year. Before the winter season, the water’s drained and the litter removed so it’s smooth for ice skating. Once the spring thaw hits, the canal is flooded and more debris floats to the surface to be taken out ahead of boating weather. This cleaning process is what allows the canal to be fully enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. It’s also similar to how we run our businesses.

We all need to regularly spring clean our sales approach in order to function at our best. This means completing an inventory of how we interact with prospects and customers and getting rid of the strategies and selling tools that just aren’t working. After all, a key element of sales success is about accurately meeting the needs of our audience, which is hard to do if you’re surrounded by the clutter of outdated methods.

Here’s a Top 10 list of the most common sales issues I see when coaching and consulting clients. By spring cleaning your approach, you can avoid making mistakes that stand in the way of closing new deals and retaining great clients.

1. Continually selling to no-potential buyers

Many salespeople fall into this trap. They hold onto a long list of poor-quality leads in their pipeline simply because they believe there’s safety to be gained with padded numbers. But bad leads will always be bad leads and will only suck time and resources out of your day. Either you qualify them in your pipeline, or you spring clean and send that list of bad leads to the garbage bin.

2. Sounding like a skipping record with old testimonials and references

Your testimonials must be current, compelling and credible! Prospects want to know if your products and services work in today’s marketplace — not the one from five or 10 years ago. This point applies similarly to references. You can’t reinforce your “social proof” in the eyes of prospects if your references can’t be reached, are retired, or simply shouldn’t be references at all. Case in point for that last item? Years ago I was with a company that sold software to Enron (very legally.) They were a great customer to work with at that time. Obviously, however, I couldn’t use them as a reference today!

So, the moral of the story? Find new references from your current clients. And do it regularly.

3. Appearing too ‘scripted” on calls

Be objective. Are you using “salesy” sounding language in your script? Do you resemble a radio ad or a telemarketer? Are you talking more than listening on your first call to a prospect? If you answered “yes” to any one of these three questions, you need to spring clean your approach and start over. By all means practice and know what to say to potential buyers, but make sure it becomes internalized so you can then focus on personalizing the dialogue for each prospect.

4. Not creating a buying vision

Effective sales conversations need to emphasize the results your buyer is looking for. Make sure these discussions utilize real-life success stories, case studies and business-use situations that create a vision for your customer of how your solution will be implemented successfully in their company. And, as mentioned in Number 2, spring clean the older materials and replace them with current examples.

5. Choosing only one marketing channel to reach customers

To get attention and be memorable in the eyes of prospects and clients, you need to implement an omni-media approach. As I discussed in Nonstop Sales Boom, you should spring clean your old methods and aim to be ubiquitous. From websites to social media, from paper-based marketing to face-to-face meetings, invest time in ensuring your message is loud and clear across a number of platforms. Each marketing channel is capable of contributing something unique to the buying experience of your customers.

6. Using cold calls as your primary lead source

You should shake your head about this one! Last year, only 3 percent of all sales were closed from cold calls. The other 97 percent? Those came from a range of sources, including client referrals, web inquiries, whitepaper/trial downloads, and live chat conversations. Spring clean your cold-call approach as your top lead generator. There are field-tested alternatives out there (including the ones I’ve mentioned) that will yield much better returns in less time.

7. Caving when your client wants a lower price

Trash this approach! Instead, emphasize the value of what you offer to your customer and provide options rather than discounts. Also, position yourself uniquely in the market so you have less direct competition.

8. Depending on your client for referrals

Asking clients, “Who do you know?” in order to score referrals should be scrapped immediately. That question almost always yields disappointing results because it’s not specific enough and puts the onus on the customer to do all the work. That’s why the most common answer you’ll hear is: “No one comes to mind right now, but let me think about it and get back to you.” Guess what? You’ll almost never hear from them again. Instead, try this approach:

“I would like to meet Randy Smith at the XYZ Company. Can you help me with an introduction?”

Or:

“I’d love to meet your VP of Sales. Can you help me with an introduction?”

And here’s one more winning approach:

“I’m going to be calling Randy Smith at the XYZ Company this week. Can I tell him we’re doing great business together?”

9. Ignoring your leads

In my experience, I’ve found the vast majority of sales leads aren’t ready to close until there have been as many as seven follow-ups. If you regularly make fewer attempts to touch base with potential buyers, spring clean this approach. Instead, increase follow-ups by investing in the ubiquitous, omni-media approach mentioned in Number 5. Keep track of every attempt with CRM software or at least a spreadsheet. Skip relying on just sticky notes or Outlook!  

10. Being unfocused

A few years ago, some salespeople could manage to eek out a living while being lazy — just sitting by the phone and waiting to take orders. In today’s economy, however, the only way to succeed is by being disciplined in how you work. It’s time to toss out those days without any scheduling and replace them with structured business hours in which prospect development and client contact are top priorities. Fill those empty blocks on your calendar with activities to build up your prospecting pipeline.

If you’ve been using any of the Top 10 poor selling strategies above, the chances are good your results are suffering. In today’s economy, what was five years ago no longer works. Sure, this message is a dose of tough love, but it’s necessary.

Make a decision right now to spring clean the methods that aren’t working for you. You can’t afford to be trapped any longer by a pile of business habits that prevent prospects from becoming customers — and new customers from becoming repeat ones! Look objectively at how you work and choose three things you can change right now. Down the road, when you measure your results, you’ll find you’ve generated a rather tidy new profit! 

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