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!

Is Networking Enough

September 18, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

So you’ve decided to do some networking. You attend an after-hours event, arriving early with a stack of business cards. By the end of the evening you’ve met a lot of people and exchanged a lot of business cards. On the way home, the faces are all a blur. You’re stressed out—all “networked out.”

A few days later, in a better frame of mind, you call each person you met, working your way through the stack of cards you collected. You ask each one if they need your product or service. Most say they do not. You’re exhausted again.

This could give networking a bad name.

But is this what networking is all about? Does it have to be a nerve-racking, enervating process that leaves you with an empty feeling? No, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it can be a fun, fulfilling process.

“Fun?” you ask. “Walking into a room full of strangers is your idea of fun?” Trust me, it can be fun, but first you’ll have to make a paradigm shift, move beyond networking into what I call the “R Zone”—the “R” stands for “relationships”—to a place where you’re not really networking so much as building relationships.
Here comes the simple, unadorned truth: One of the most effective ways to build a relationship is to help the other person get what he or she wants first.
This “give first” approach will turn everything you’ve ever known about networking on its ear.

And it’s very simple: Just go into a room full of strangers telling yourself, “All I’m here to do is to help each person I meet get what they want.” Obviously, that requires that you first find out what they’re looking for, and that you actively listen and ask questions that help you understand their needs. Also, that you be resourceful when it comes to coming up with contacts and possible options for your new contact.

When you’re in the “R Zone,” you’re not talking to people about high school reunions or past jobs. You’re not searching to find names of people you know in common. You’re not discussing current movies. You’re not even being witty. You’re focused on only two things: What the other person is looking for and how you’re going to help them find it. When you come up with the name of someone they can call—even if it’s only someone who can point them in the right direction—it’s amazing how they’ll warm to you.

There’s an old adage, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” While the statement is true, it also oversimplifies. For, as many will tell you, simply knowing an important or powerful person is no guarantee your calls will be returned. The other person must perceive you as worth knowing. That’s what gets calls returned. And, there’s no faster way to be perceived as someone worth knowing than to give first.

Here are some other thoughts that can guide you as you develop your ability to work in the “R Zone.”

  1. Do less better. One reason so many people finding networking exhausting: They get frantic. They feel obligated to meet everyone at a given meeting. They have to “work the room.” Leave working the room to the professionals. Go into a networking event with limited objectives. Just tell yourself, “I’ll count this as a good experience if I can have five quality conversations with five quality contacts.” And after you meet five, don’t feel obligated to hang around and meet more …unless you want to. Pace yourself and do less better.
  2. Speak with confidence. Don’t be shy when it comes to telling new contacts about what you can do for them. Speak with calm conviction. Project confidence. Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe what you’re saying, no one else will.
  3. Prepare a memorable introduction. In a quiet moment, reflect on why clients or customers like to do business with you. Then, write down what you would like to say that sets you or your business apart—the benefits more than the features. The introduction should begin with your name followed by your business name. Then it should tell them, from their point of view, why they should want to do business with you—in 20 seconds or less. Practice saying your “introduction” in front of a mirror. You don’t have to repeat it word for word each time. Feel comfortable with the general concepts and phrases. Then begin saying your introduction to new contacts.
  4. Join a contact group. Whether it be an industry association, a charitable organization’s board, or a religious group, make an effort to put yourself in situations where you meet new people.
  5. Tell people what you want. Although in this article I’ve focused mainly on helping other people get what they want, when building a relationship you should be clear about what you’re looking for, as well. When you give first, it’s amazing how quickly people look for ways to help you find what you need. An effective strategy is to tell people what you’re looking for right after your introduction—something like, “And this week I’m looking for someone who can introduce me to …” or “This week I’m looking for companies who need…” naming a specific person or need.
  6. Practice putting yourself in the R Zone. When meeting new people, make an effort to really listen to what they’re saying. As much as possible, find out what they want. Put yourself “at source” to help them find it.

Networking really isn’t enough because it’s not enough just to make contacts. To be effective, we must build relationships, something that sounds easier than it is. It takes genuine caring and listening skills that make you a valuable asset in any work situation. Don’t always assume that a person you meet at a networking event is looking for a new client or a job. The person may really be looking for a golf instructor, an electrician, a PC technician, a new car … or even a friend! Be there for them. And stay in the R Zone.

The Fastest Way to Increase Sales

September 4, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

A small office building could probably be filled with all of the books available on improving sales communication. While it may be a topic that has gotten a lot of press, I can assure you that when it comes to sales professionals, there’s still a lot of room for improvement by the vast majority.

You might think that talking and listening is quite basic and elementary. But let me tell you that it isn’t. If it was, there would be more sales pros hitting those top numbers. Sadly, it isn’t.

To be successful in sales, you, as the professional salesperson must master three major components of communication:

1. Listening to customers, including watching for body language

2. Questioning and listening to find out what they want and what their concerns are

3. Establishing the connection between their needs and your products and services

Number one deals with really getting to know your customer. Are they being ‘polite’ and just listening for no reason? What are they really saying? What is their body language? Are they crossing their arms? Are they leaning in? Are they interacting? Are they not? Communication is what is spoken and also what is unspoken.

Number two is all about the customer. What do they want? What’s going on in their world? What do they really need? When you really listen and ask questions to seek first to understand your customers’ concerns and issues, then, and only then do you get the chance to sell. It’s not about muscling your way through the door and then blurting out your presentation as fast as you can. It’s about building a relationship that will pay you over and over again.

Finally, number three is about building a bridge between the customer and your company (and yourself). It’s about building upon a strong foundation of trust and earned respect. At this point, you aren’t just pitching a product and hoping it will stick, you are tying the needs to your prospective customer to what your company provides or offers. It is also about not pitching something that will not serve the prospect. Often, walking away from a sales opportunity will act like a boomerang to get another opportunity when that prospect refers you to another company that may be a better fit. Never be afraid of walking away from a deal that will not ultimately serve your prospective customer.

Sales communications begin with you, but it is not all about you. Sales communication is about hearing your customer. What is the customer’s biggest concern and fear? How can you help? You are there to begin to understand how that customer may be served by you and your company and to earn that opportunity. If you get this piece right, you will master one of the most important pieces of the sales pro puzzle.

Einstein Bagel Book Signing at Dawn

March 5, 2008 | Leave a Comment

The Sales Company

 

Debbie Mrazek 

REMINDER…Einstein Bagel Book Signing at Dawn!

Please join me for coffee and a bagel at our book signing for The Field Guide to Sales!  Copies will be for sale and I will be delighted to autograph them for you!!

If you are one of our "EARLY BIRD gets the worm" friends and colleagues, please come and join us on Thursday, March 6th from 7:00 – 9:30 a.m. at Einstein Bagel in Plano (7000 Independence Parkway), next to Kroger’s!

Look forward to seeing you at dawn! J

Happy Selling!

Debbbie Mrazek

PS – If you can’t be with us at sunrise for bagels and want a book, please order today and I will be glad to autograph it for you or inscribe it to whoever you would like to send it to as a gift! J

Contact Info 

Debbie Mrazek

The Sales Company

972-618-1880

Debbie@The-Sales-Company.com

www.The-Sales-Company.com

How To Use Sales Power To Fuel Funding

March 5, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? When it comes to raising venture capital, it’s hard to tell whether a companies sales lay the golden egg or are the golden egg. On the heels of a dot com slowdown, a tried and true business model is reemerging and offering an effective, proven way to approach investors.

It’s no secret that not so long ago investors, eager to cash in on an exploding Internet e-conomy, happily funded technology companies headed by strong teams offering futuristic wares. Some of those companies came to the table with a viable business plan and others hoped that funding could command their business model. It didn’t take investors long to learn the technology ropes. Now, high-tech companies looking for funds have to wow investors the old fashioned way – with an impressive product offering, savvy professional team, investment-worthy business plan and financial data worthy of securing the dough. Funding in the new millennium is hardly an undertaking for the faint of heart.

Next, enter sales. What if tech companies incorporated their Plan B into their Plan A? Ah, yes, now we are talking. Plan B, of course, is to start selling the product or service – just in case the VC doesn’t come through. Spin that idea around and marry it to Plan A and you have a tech formula for success.

Sales could be your key to the VC vault. Venture capitalists are looking for a revolutionary product or service that can offer them a handsome return on investment. If your company sales prove that your product has a market – we’re talking customers here – and you have the plan to take it successfully to that market, then you are that much closer to securing the funds you desire.

Powering up sales to ignite funding offers more than a safety net. In one instance, a company incorporating a sales plan with the path to funding found that company sales funded the business sufficiently enough that venture investment/funding was no longer needed. The team redirected more energy and effort into sales and increased the company’s return exponentially. If the company moved along the funding path, it could still be waiting for VC instead of running an explosively successful operation today.

So what does it take to put your sales vehicle in motion? You need to start with a plan. As critical as your business plan is to your venture, so too is your sales plan for your sales activities. Time is money and, as an emerging company, you have to maximize both. Unless you successfully have managed the sales process, it’s wise to spend the money and invest in a person or a company that has a track record in your industry for growing companies such as yours. Be sure that the sales pro knows how to work with the resources you have available.

When you meet with prospective sales consultants, be honest about your situation.

  • How many people can focus on sales activities?
  • What, realistically, is your sales budget and how long can you commit to the plan once it is developed?
  • How much time can company leaders devote to tracking, follow up and redirection?

Next map out who, what, when and where.

  • Who will develop the sales strategy and plan?
  • Who will execute it?
  • What is the process?
  • What are the goals?
  • When will you start? When will you review your results?
  • Where will you begin your action plan?
  • Where will you find the operating funds to keep the show afloat until you realize tangible results?

Then, put your plan on paper and commit to it. Set your weekly, monthly, semi-annual and annual sales goals. Execute and analyze. What’s working? What isn’t? What can you do better – smarter? What was a miss and why? Log all activity into your sales journal and tweak the process until you get it right.

Once you are on the sales track, reach out to mentors or others you know who have successfully grown their companies through increased sales. In sales, the goal is to work smarter, not harder. Tap into your true sales potential and you will be on your way to growing your company and securing funding – through VC or, at a minimum, your own sales power.

Top 7 Ways to Recession Proof Your Business

March 4, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

Good companies and good products are in demand no matter what the economy is doing. Just because there is a recession, it doesn’t mean that everyone is experiencing the same effect from it.

The key to riding out the recession is to create a plan to address it. Simply planning ahead is one of the best strategies companies can use when experts begin to whisper recession.

Recession-proofing your sales begins with you, and being proactive is one of the best ways to ride high when others are crashing.

Put these seven easy strategies to work for you and you’ll soon find that recession or not your sales are soaring!

1. Lock in client loyalty. Remember, you aren’t the only one facing a possible recession. What can you do to serve your best clients? Call and ask.

2. Dig out lost proposals. You never know if those lost proposals went to another company that may not have been the perfect fit.

3. Make time for Face Time. It’s easy to slip into the habit of staying in the office and doing business by phone and email. Drop by or schedule a time to meet with clients. Listen for opportunities where you can offer a solution for their problems.

4. See a Need and Fill It. In a possible recession, sometimes luxuries are the first to go. However, if there’s a need, there’s usually money to pay for a solution. Can you create products or add-on items that fill a need?

5. Create package options. In hearty economic times, there’s more to go around. When companies face a possible recession, slashing expenses is one of the first things companies do. To stand out from others, create package deals that offer lots of value-add for the buck. This way you will stand out as a good deal.

6. Do more for less. We aren’t talking about giving away the farm. We are talking about doing just slightly more for the same amount. If you would normally tack on fees for an item, throw it in for free. Gifting ignites the law of reciprocity and loyalty follows.

7. Put systems, marketing campaigns, and people in place sooner than later. Businesses that take a proactive approach will feel less blind-sided. Create your plan now and implement it. And whatever you do, don’t cut back on sales and marketing initiatives!

Recessions are part of the economic landscape. They won’t be going away anytime soon. The best thing you can do is plan now instead of later. Determine a plan of action and work that prior to and through the tougher times.

Getting The Right Sales Mindset

February 28, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

Have you ever noticed when it comes to daytimers or pocket organizers, there are three kinds of people? One kind buys the next year’s daytimer in September so they can hardly skip a beat moving from one year to the next. Yet another group of people pony up to the sales register with organizational tools in hand. They aspire to be organized, yet never seem to get the shrink wrap off. And, finally, there are those who have just accepted they will never be organized and they will have to come to terms with their constant state of disorganization.

And what does this have to do with sales? Simply, put, it’s the same way with sales. Are you the type of person who absolutely hates sales and believes you can’t sell? Or the type who buys all the latest sales books yet hardly cracks the spine? Or do you take sales on with the vigor of an Olympic athlete?

Let me just say, as a member of the 1% club (the top 1 percent of sales professionals), there was a point where I HATED sales (and selling). The last thing I wanted to do is sell. We all move through phases of sales power. Some days it seems like we could sell ice to eskimos. Other days, it takes all we can to summon the courage to pick up the phone to make the calls we know will result in the filled pipeline that we need to continue to be successful. And, then, there are days when we just want to throw in the towel.

And that’s okay. If there’s anything I would like for you to know today it is the idea that you CAN sell and, if you don’t give up, you WILL accomplish your sales goals. I think Woody Allen said it best. Eighty percent of success is just showing up. Be honest with yourself, do your best and it will come. Accept that there will be ups and downs on the way to the finish line.

I wish there was some super magic bullet I could give you that would be the panacea for all of your sales ills. But there’s not. And, truthfully, anyone who says there is may be thinking they have some oceanfront property in Arizona they may like to sell you. The reality is that sales are not a ‘one point’ process where things happen from doing ‘one thing.’ It takes consistent, forward motion to excel in sales.

The best advice I have for you from the field is for you to stay in motion with intention and focus. Do one thing each and every day that adds to your company’s (and your) bottom line. If you stay focused today, tomorrow’s results will take care of themselves!

Get a Shot in the Sales Arm

February 21, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

Use this prescription to build healthy sales for your business.

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!

Counterintuitive Selling Rules During a Recession

February 20, 2008 | Leave a Comment

Written by Debbie Mrazek

5 Tips to help your business weather a recession.

When panic about a sliding economy hits the airwaves, the first impulse is to react. Most business react by constricting into a ball. The strategy is to drop and hide until the recession passes – no matter how long that might take. Businesses that take the counterintuitive track of boldly staying the course and selling more – not less – will find that the competitive landscape is largely void of the usual suspects.

 
The sales mentality during a recession is just like it is in the summer. Sales people think everyone is on vacation, so they don’t make the calls. Similarly, they think everyone is not buying during a recession, so they don’t make the calls. The sales go to those who make the calls.

Recession-proofing sales begins with a counterintuitive mindset. Your mind might be saying, ‘run, run’ but if you will have the courage to go forward during this time, you will find that there’s actually a better chance for you to rack up sales. I have worked with many companies during recession periods and some of these booked as much as 110% of their goal while competitors were closing their doors.

Here are her five suggestions for surviving – even thriving – during an economic downturn:

  1. Sales and marketing rule. A recession is the time when you really want to pull out the sales and marketing magic. The key here is to stick with what you know works.
  2. Commit to learning. Those who know everything have nothing to learn. In a recession, it’s a great time to look at things from a fresh perspective. How can you do things better? Serve clients smarter?
  3. Go for the long shot. Why not go for gold? This is the time to be bold and go for those big accounts you wouldn’t dream of calling on during a boom time. You just never know what might happen. Chances are you won’t meet with a lot of competition.
  4. Drill deeper. When clients are doing great and you are part of that success, see if there are other opportunities to do more. Think outside the box and have more fun – try new ideas.
  5. Embrace change. Most companies buy into the Big Bad Recession theory and before you know it the wolf is at Grandma’s house! Embrace this time and you’ll weather the recession and do better than you think.

 
If you stay the course, you’ll be that much farther ahead. During a recession, it’s better to break away from the pack.

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