Sunday, February 26, 2017

Jump on the Hidden Fast Track

As a kid, I wasn't a fan of homework. I'd slam through it as quickly as I could, and focus on fun. In college, I began to appreciate homework, because it was an opportunity to direct my learning towards the specific end result I wanted. I couldn't believe the professors would let us choose so much of our own direction! Still, I looked forward to ditching the homework, and moving on to living my life.
I wanted to do well in my jobs, and I wanted a comfortable paycheck. How? Kiss butt? Work crazy hours? Meet the right people? I was pleased to learn none of those were the answer. I quickly figured out that my coworkers who moved up the fastest were looking stuff up, reading about it, and practicing outside of work.
Well! I've always been a fan of acquiring marketable skills more quickly, and I sure do love to get a raise. But what to read? How much reading? What to practice? How do I get in on this fast track? I asked the rising stars, and I received several answers, all of which had one thing in common: look at research. Case studies, articles in trade magazines, books by experts, and lectures and focus groups all made the list.
I started reading 30 minutes a day, usually at bedtime. When I came across applicable research (like most sales are closed on the 8th -12th interaction) I made notes, and took them to heart. And I developed skills and got results at work. (There are very few skills you can't strengthen by looking things up on the internet, reading a book, or joining a group.)
I've stopped doing homework a few times in my career, and the same thing always happens. My skills develop more slowly, and I don't get raises or promotions as frequently. And I end up going back to homework.
That extra 30 minutes per day has added up into hundreds of hours. I've read scores of books, trade magazines and studies. And over the years, I've developed expertise and a reputation for excellence. "How did you become such an expert?" people ask. I smile. 30 years in the workforce was a good start. But there was more to it. I gesture to my bookshelf, my Kindle, both of which are in plain sight, and say, "I read."
Elisabeth Marino is an outsourced sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with her here, on Facebook as Sales Dynamo Consulting, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why You Need a PRSP

What's a PRSP? As you probably know, it's shorthand for Proven Repeatable Sales Process. Everybody talks about it, and throws around other business terms like Sales 2.0 and Inbound Marketing. Sheesh! Just keeping up with the trendy lingo can be exhausting, let alone figuring out if any of this stuff applies to you. So does it? Well, the PRSP does, and I'll tell you why.
It makes zero sense to repeat what you know doesn't work. How many sales calls have you and your staff been through? Does anybody keep track of the number of sales in relation to the number of sales calls (sales ratio?) Do your sales people write down the objections they hear in each sales call so they can spot trends, and adapt their sales call? Do some reps have sales that get returned, refunded, or reversed more than others? These are just a few of the ways to monitor what doesn't work.
What do all the sales that stay sold have in common? They had a sales process that worked. The 1) right prospect was asked the 2) right questions, needed 3) a solution you offer, provided with the 4) right information, reminded of the 5) urgency to solve his pain point, and provided a solution at a 6) price they thought was fair. There may have been all kinds of window dressing around it, but if the sale was made and stayed sold, these 6 points were there.
Look at each numbered point. Each one is a spot for a natural objection; it's an opportunity for the conversation to end, or to move forward with more confidence. If your prospects are well qualified, your reps can move easily through the process. If you prospect isn't a qualified buyer, the PRSP uncovers that before the conversation gets awkward, and you can visit them at another time when the fit will be better.
What if your sales reps used this 6 point system consistently, and didn't go off track? I'll tell you - fewer of your sales calls will end up in the weeds. You'd make more sales, and the sales would stay sold. But there's more to it than just copying the sales call of your best guy. Each sales rep and client are different, and you need to be able to frame the conversation and the information to fit each individual.
How do you make it happen? Start with those 6 points. Build a sales call worksheet that is as generic as possible that still fits all 6 points the way they work for your industry. Leave a spot on there to fill in objections, and track and count them. As the objections change and evolve, teach your staff to respond to them with information and confidence. You'll have a solid PRSP in no time!
Elisabeth Marino is an outsourced sales process adviser working in Buffalo, NY, and a frequent contributor to LinkedIn. She has worked in sales development and evaluation for 17 years, and helped dozens of organizations improve their sales numbers. Connect with her here, and follow her on Twitter @SalesDynamoNY.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

How "Do-It-Yourself" is Killing Your Business

As technology has exploded over the last decade, business has the opportunity to work with more apps, programs, cloud services, and self-driven media than we could even have imagined. There is little in the business world that you can't do yourself: HR, payroll, marketing, sales management, logistics, accounting, taxes, photography, banking, investing - almost anything you can think of has an app ready to download to your phone. Largely overlooked is the quality of these solutions - they are not right for every business.
There is no question that it's wiser to save money than spend it when you're likely to achieve equal or better results. What causes trouble is the number of businesses who don't realize when to use an app or program, and how to audit the program's success. I can cut my own hair, but I assure you that though it's cheaper, the results are not equal or better! It's wise to start with a professional, and move to an app or program over time as the needs of your business become consistent. Some apps can then support systems on their own, but many systems will need the occasional tweak from a qualified professional to achieve optimum results.
Example: There would be no Turbo Tax without tax professionals, and many of us do just fine using it, or another program to complete our taxes. But how many of us have taken our taxes to a professional to confirm the numbers given to us by our program? Just because we can file through a program doesn't mean we should. These programs don't offer advice on capital spending and improvements, or the allocation of human resources. Tax planning is the art of arranging your business purchases and expenditures in ways that delay or avoid tax liability. Good tax planning keeps you from paying unnecessary expenses, leaving more money invest or spend as is best for your business. The tax professionals who designed popular tax preparation software are well aware of the limitations of the product. Most small- to medium-sized business owners are not, and that's the problem. (Did you notice that you no longer have the option of having your returns reviewed by a certified public accountant within the program?) In order to save a few hundred dollars on professional tax prep now, many companies run their taxes through a computer program, only to discover months or years later how costly a lack of tax planning truly was. Tax software is just one example where a professional probably should be part of your system.
Many small businesses exist due to the need for outsourcing. Attorneys, CPAs, payroll processors and other professionals who serve small business and individual consumers urge us to buy local, and keep local dollars in our communities. What is happening by dependence on apps and programs is "downsourcing." We are self-limiting our resources. Not only are we not getting the insight and advice we need from the professionals in our community, we are limiting our businesses to the actions available to us through a mouse-click. The money spent on the app or program leaves the community. We are making our options fewer, our possibilities weaker, and we're putting ourselves and our neighboring professionals in an ever-declining economic position.
As you move through the next few weeks, take note of the number of parts of your business you run via an app or program. If you don't have a means to audit the success of the program, it's probably time to check in with a professional for a consultation. By pairing your programs with the right advisers and consultants you'll breathe new life into the infrastructure of your business.