Think Your Sales Are the Problem? Think Again

October 24, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

If you are struggling to increase sales revenue, you may think the answer is just to get more sales. Or maybe the answer is to sell more. However, as a sales consultant and coach, I can tell you that isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes when sales are the focus of declining profits, it’s helpful to work with a sales consultant with business knowledge and understanding. With both sales expertise and business know-how, we can identify when the problem really is sales — and when it isn’t.

Let me share with you a story about a client. Recently, we sat down and looked at his business. It was going well, but not great. It seemed like every time he would turn the sales corner, something would push him back. It didn’t take long to see that it wasn’t his sales efforts that were impeding his success. It was his team’s inability to deliver his company’s services. He had some employees who were very nice people, but who were just not cut out for providing his service. When we fixed that part of his business, we could more readily focus on the business of his sales. His company has grown more than 30 percent in the last year. Needless to say, he’s ecstatic.

So how do you know when you’ve got a legitimate sales problem and when your problem might be somewhere else?

There are some tell-tell signs to look for:

  • Actual sales figures are up, but profits aren’t
  • Referrals are drying up
  • Clients don’t return from one year to the next
  • New clients come but they don’t stay
  • The amount of sales is decreasing

Any or all of these can indicate that something is amiss somewhere else in the customer delivery system. Like it or not, if you are in sales, you are also in the business of customer service. After all, if your customer doesn’t come back because they aren’t happy with someone else in the company, it’s not that someone else who pays — it’s you who pays.

One way you can keep a pulse on customer satisfaction is to build into your sales system a ‘check up’ with new customers. You might check with the new customer at 30 days and again at 120 days. Don’t let too much time pass between you and your hard-earned customer. It’s you they trust so be sure to cultivate that relationship.

Entrepreneurs who wear both a sales hat and customer service hat will appreciate that there’s more than signing contracts, the signed contract is when the real work begins of keeping that client for life!

Just What the Sales Doctor Ordered

October 8, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Written By Debbie Mrazek

Okay, you’ve decided your sales are in poor health. How do you get your sales healthy again?

The first step is the sales examination. We’ll talk about where you are and whether the cause is internal (that means you are responsible for what’s going on) or external (that means someone else is impacting your efforts). Internal issues could include fear or lack of certain skills or tools needed to be successful. External forces could point to something in your business or company that affects your sales. This could be anything from poor customer service to unfulfilled customer expectations. What are your sales? How do your sales stack up against your sales goals? How do you set sales goals?

Once you’ve disclosed everything about your sales life, it’s time to move to the diagnosis. Asking someone else to walk through a sale with you can give you great insight into what’s working and what’s not. You need a safe environment to explore what’s going on and then pinpoint what’s causing the pain. Choose someone who can be both objective and honest and has a successful track record in sales. The diagnosis might include something that can be quickly addressed, or it might be something that requires longer treatment. It could be a combination of two or more things. What is important is figuring out what it is and moving past it.

What’s the prescription? During this phase, we look at what you can do today to move your sales in the direction you desire. Perhaps we need to begin with goals. Sometimes it can be as simple as that. Goal setting requires a structure that can ensure you are on the right track for you and your company.
How do you keep sales healthy? Once you have a specific diagnosis, you can develop the plan to keep you from returning to that situation. A regimen is a plan that helps you turn your sales efforts into actual, measurable results. This plan outlines what you will do, how often you will do it, what you can expect from your efforts and strategies on what to do when things just aren’t going as planned. It’s a scaffold for you to develop new habits that will make sales easier and that will not only help your sales grow, but will lock in more profitable sales. It’s not enough to grow sales if you don’t realize more profit at the same time. Who wants to work more and make less? Not me!

Ever have a doctor who sent you out the door with a shot and a prescription? Now, how many of you take every one of those pills you are prescribed. We start feeling better, we get our energy back and the prescription goes by the wayside. We behave similarly with sales. Once you have your regimen and you’ve tested it out and it’s helping you with your sales, it might feel like you are cured. A sales check-up can help you stay on track. Talking about what’s working and what’s not working will ingrain the process even more. After all, we all know we eventually will stop doing anything we don’t enjoy or that isn’t successful. The goal of a check up is to minimize the pain so it’s not necessary to get another shot three months, six months or even a year down the road.
So, let’s say, you’ve stuck with your regimen and we’ve talked about what’s working and what’s not and you feel good about where you are. How do you stay on track? That’s where a coach can make the difference between staying motivated and backsliding. Our clients call us the boss’s boss. Making yourself accountable to someone, even if that someone is yourself equates to bottom line success. In a lot of ways, maintenance is the most important part of your sales program. But how do you maintain your program?

The basics are the same for everyone. Apply the knowledge you’ve gleaned from the rest of the process and continue to expand your sales endurance. Like any good maintenance training program, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone everyday – just a little. Make one more phone call, use a different sales tool, push yourself to exceed your weekly goal. Every step you take toward growing your sales repertoire makes what you’ve just learned easier. Each skill builds upon another. You can do this!

Play Dates Pay Over and Over Again

October 1, 2014 | Leave a Comment

If you are like other entrepreneurs, according to recent statistics, you are likely to be working a lot more hours. The question is, “Are those hours working you or are you working them?”

Many books have been written on various ways to cut the hours, to increase productivity, and to do more in less time. Not as much has been written on ways to rejuvenate yourself, and reenergize after long periods of burning the candle at both ends. No matter how much we love what we do, we must still take time to let our mind, body and soul rest.

Some clients have shared they feel guilty about taking time off when there’s so much to do. Others have said they can’t relax when there’s work to do so why bother. Yet others say that playmates seem like child’s play and aren’t responsible.

Play dates pay you back in many ways. First, they give all the parts of your mind a chance to catch up to each other. This means that some of your best ideas will come when you finally stop to take a break. Edison, Einstein and other great creative geniuses knew the secret behind focusing intensely on work and following it by a break.

Second, play dates allow you to check out and detach from your business in a good way. When you let go, all of those things that you’ve been holding onto so tightly have a way of finding answers. You may feel that by working on something harder you will get the answers, but consider whether or not that is really true.

Third, by taking a break, you can be a better you. That means a better boss, a better spouse, a better parent, a better technician, a better sales person, and a better marketer. This one pays dividends upon dividends – improved relationships, improved life, and improved sales.

Last, but not least, when you take a play date to take care of yourself, you give others permission to take care of themselves. The big façade is that successful people work themselves into the ground, but really successful people have figured out that when they push away from the table, they really increase how effective they are. There’s a reason why Richard Branson does business from a tropical oasis, and why Oprah steals away to Hawaii.

Three Steps To a Great Play Date

  1. Schedule Time During the Week. Plan your break during the week, and make it a special time for yourself. Do plan your time off. You can of course take a break when an appointment cancels, but when you plan it, you can breathe easy that people aren’t looking for you. A good play date is at least two hours long, but could be several days if you like.
  2. Make it personal. Do something you’ve been putting off because you haven’t had the time. Choose something that you will really enjoy – golf, visit a museum, take in a movie, hit the spa, or just spend some time alone. If you enjoy being with a favorite friend, invite your friend to come with you and see how much the two of you can do in an afternoon!
  3. Unplug – completely.  A play date isn’t relaxing if it is interrupted by a Crackberry or a cell phone. Turn off the phone, put an auto responder on your email, and unplug so you can be fully present for your play date. Enjoy this time you’ve given yourself knowing that everything is a-okay.
  4. Take notice. When you return to the office, take notice of what happened that was unexpected. What pleasant surprises popped up? Did a sale go through? Did a problem correct itself? Consider making a note of these – mental or written – so you can remind yourself how valuable these breaks can be.
  5. Be great-full. When you return, share your rested, vibrancy with everyone. When people comment on how great you look (and they will), share your secret, and encourage them to do the same. When you are grateful, your greatness is fully available to others to see. When you give to yourself, you give to others as well.

Play dates don’t just happen. They require your attention. If you’ve been secretly feeling like you would like to steal away, pull out the calendar and schedule your play date. It’s time!