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Sales Netiquette Pays Off

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 Professional Email Selling Skills

 

The Internet and e-mail have become a primary means for communicating with customers and prospects. Yet how effective are we as salespeople in selling over the Internet to get the results we need? Can email be just as effective as in-person or telephone contact?

 

Before communicating with customers, salespeople should understand each customer’s preferred method of contact (e.g. email, phone calls, visits). While some want personal contact and look forward to chatting with you, others prefer quick and to-the-point e-mail messages.

 

But beware! Without having had prior personal contact or a referral, emails or Social Media contact attempts are not likely to significant sales or appointments. Having worked with hundreds of sales teams, we’ve found that prospecting success rates are usually lower using email vs. proven tele-prospecting techniques

 

Below are some tips for ensuring your efforts to sell via e-mail and over the Internet are effective:

1). USE CLEAR, CONCISE SUBJECT LINES that convey the key point of your email message.

2). KEEP IT BRIEF. Just as good business letters should be kept to a page or less, emails need to be short and concise (25-line maximum, but less is better). Be sure to read and edit emails to cut out unneeded words. Likewise, using shorter sentences makes the email quicker and easier to read.

3). KEEP IT SIMPLE. Address only one topic per email and be clear as to what action is expected (or what action you will take).

4). PAY ATTENTION TO FORMAT. Breaking up the email into short paragraphs (rather than one or two long ones) makes it easier to read. Avoid using either all caps or all lower case letters. And be sure to use proper punctuation for a business email.

5). DON’T USE IT TO REPLACE PERSONAL NOTES. While selling over the Internet via email is quick, recipients rarely get the “warm feeling” of a handwritten thank you note or birthday card. So, when the relationship is important and you want the impact to be high, use other means to communicate (e.g. carefully selected cards or a personal phone call).

6). COUNT TO TEN IF YOU’RE EMOTIONAL. Once sent, an email cannot be retrieved. Worse yet, it can be forwarded to many other people without your permission or knowledge. So, if you’re upset or tempted to send a very negative email, think twice before selling on the Internet and consider the impact if others were to be copied.

7). ALWAYS PROOF AND SPELL CHECK. Your professional reputation is key to your success. Misspelled words, improper punctuation or poor use of the English language can hurt your chances for generating sales, particularly if you sell premium-priced products or services.

8). CREATE TEMPLATES TO SAVE TIME. When you write a good email (e.g. a thank you, appointment follow-up or proposal submittal letter), save it as a form or template. With just a small up-front investment of time, you’ll save lots of time on the mechanics of selling over the Internet.

 

While email can be an effective sales tool, it is not usually a good substitute for things like telephone prospecting, negotiations or personalized notes. Since others can easily be copied on emails, selling over the Internet can be fraught with danger.  Remember, emails that are poorly written, misrepresentative or emotional are permanently irrecoverable!

 

Since the benefits of email are substantial, all salespeople would be wise to adhere to these “netiquette” tips when selling over the Internet.

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, California.

 

 

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Sales Training – Short on Results

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Inferior Sales Training Results

 

Many companies looking for the best sales training classes to help them increase sales.  And while that’s the optimal outcome, many sales training classes fail to produce either short-term or long-lasting results.   
Industrial psychologist and sales researcher Neil Rackham reports in a landmark study that sales results typically went DOWN after traditional, non-customized sales training classes were implemented. Why?

Shortcomings of Sales Training Classes

  1. Sales training class materials were not sufficiently tailored to the client company or industry.  Consequently, salespeople selling products like computer networks were using techniques more appropriate to other industries such as insurance and financial services.  The use of suboptimal, less-than-successful sales techniques resulted in a higher level of objections and lost sales.
  2. Sales training classes used outdated techniques, like classical closing and appointment-setting methods popular in the 80’s and 90’s. Prospects’ everyday exposure to older and commonly-used sales techniques helped them easily identify someone as a “salesperson.”  Indeed, when salespeople are “tagged” as such, they are often “screened” and prevented from reaching decision makers and making sales.
  3. The sales trainer(s) hired to present the training program lacked credibility with the salespeople they were training.  In fact, many of the trainers spent little time prior to the training session learning their clients’ businesses or interviewing program participants.  This knowledge gap was readily apparent to the salespeople who, in turn, failed to believe in or adopt much of what was presented in the training.
  4. When initially trying out newly-learned sales techniques with customers and prospects, salespeople often felt “awkward” and failed to successfully use the new techniques. Consequently, their sales results often went down.  Due to a lack of success applying these new techniques, the most common reaction was to revert back to their old style of selling. Many sales training classes lacked the post-training sales team coaching needed to help salespeople through this “awkward use” phase so that they were consistently and successfully applying the new sales techniques.

 

Indeed, for sales training classes to produce measurable results, it is essential to tailor the training to each company and to select a sales training speaker and facilitator who can gain credibility with the sales team.  The Sales Alliance customizes all sales training classes and, to further boost results, can tie training outcomes to company compensation, incentives, coaching, post-training reinforcement and “best sales practices.”

 

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, California.

 

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10 Ways to Shorten Sales Cycles

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  1. Get Better Prospects: Analyze your past wins to isolate the characteristics present in short sales cycles. Then find new prospects who have many of these same characteristics.
  2. Improve Your Selling Process:  Better qualify each prospect to ensure she has a compelling need and that your firm is a good fit
  3. Ask Better Questions: Uncovering decision makers, buying processes and potential obstacles early on will often result in shorter sales cycles.
  4. Pre-plan Each Sales Call: Pre-planned calls often lead to more prospect commitments and higher closing rates.
  5. Focus on Value: Present a value proposition that shows the prospect that waiting or delaying a decision can cost them a lot of money
  6. Sell High: Create a selling process and value proposition that creates decision-maker access.  Selling to decision makers generally yields quicker sales and lower price sensitivity!
  7. Be Strategic: Creating an account capture plan that helps clients achieve their strategic goals is a proven method for shortening sales cycles.
  8. Enlist Inside Help: Getting a “champion” within the prospect firm will maximize your sales effectiveness while shortening decision time frames.
  9. Focus on the Business Case: Prospects who can easily cost-justify your solution buy more quickly than those who can’t.
  10. Magnify Urgency: Tap into and strengthen the prospect’s sense of urgency in order to make the purchase a priority.

 
Indeed, compressed sales cycles free up selling time and allow reps to handle more opportunities and boost their results. Since extended sales cycles lead to lower closing rates and wasted time, salespeople and managers alike should aggressively implement a selling process proven to shorten them!

 
 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, California.

 

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Consultative Selling Pays Off

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High Payback Consultative Selling

Consultative selling techniques are key to winning sales where premium prices are the norm. With a focus on value and benefits, this style of selling has an excellent track record for producing results.

Dozens of corporate buyer surveys regularly indicate that price is not the number one or two factor in their purchase decisions.  Other factors, such as vendor reputation, product quality and overall value usually ranked higher than price.

Yet buyers often convince salespeople that price is their primary buying criteria.  Why?  They obviously want all the benefits the salesperson can provide but at a lower price, further boosting the value they receive.  Indeed, it’s really about maximizing value, and price is just one of the components of value.

In today’s competitive environment, buyers often have the upper hand, especially when consultative selling techniques aren’t being used.  Many buyers are even taking sales training and negotiations courses to be able to outmaneuver salespeople who try to sell products and services at healthy margins.  Below are just a few of the techniques we teach for selling value.

 

Avoiding the Price Trap

So, how can salespeople use consultative selling techniques to avoid the price trap and instead sell value?

  1. Assess how prior purchases were made.  What were the most important criteria at that time?
  2. Gather information on expected financial results and perform a ROI analysis
  3. Understand the prospect’s buying criteria and ensure you meet that criteria better than your competition
  4. Understand how the prospect benefits personally by a successful implementation of your solution, and explain how you’ll ensure those benefits are realized
  5. Gain strategic commitments, such as the prospect providing financial or competing vendor data, that boost closing odds

 

Using Consultative Selling Techniques Strategically

But, what happens if you do need to make some concessions or help your buyer save face?

  1. Practice consultative selling techniques and perform a complete needs assessment prior to entering into a negotiation
  2. Make sure you’re dealing with the ultimate decision maker before agreeing to any concessions
  3. See if you can trade a reduced price for a higher volume commitment, more favorable terms or referrals
  4. Offer high-value, high-margin services instead of cash discounts.  These services could include extended warranties or upgraded maintenance contracts
  5. In heavy negotiations, pre-plan your approach with negotiation tactics like the walk-away point or splitting the difference
  6. Make sure you don’t grant concessions too early — tie any concessions to a signed agreement

 

Those adept at consultative selling often out-earn their product-selling counterparts.  Why?  Because value-oriented salespeople are great at selling premium-priced, high-margin products and services.  Typically, these high margins provide for fat commission checks and better job security.

Not only does value trump price in the minds of buyers, salespeople using consultative selling techniques have more success and bigger paychecks than the more product oriented salespeople.

 

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, CaliforniaA

 

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Motivating your Sales Team

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Sales Motivation

 

Ten Tips for Motivating your Sales Team

 

For more methods to motivate your team, see our Sales Compensation Programs and Sales Improvement Model.
1 – Work on your own personal motivation.  Energetic and upbeat sales managers are able to spread their enthusiasm, instill superior sales motivation and dispel most forms of negativity.

 

2 – Begin and end meetings on a positive note with words of encouragement.  All too often, meetings are routine and lack the positivity detract from sales motivation.

 

3 – Develop spiffs or other incentives to boost sales of high-value products and services.  It is said that salespeople are “coin operated.”  Using incentives to reinforce ideal sales behaviors is often money well spent!

 

4 – Add creative, motivational components to team meetings (e.g. contests, guest speakers).

 

5 – Look for ways to leverage (and reward) the effectiveness of your high performers such as providing them with administrative or telesales support.

 

6 – Scrutinize, then streamline, your sales processes.  Salespeople will rejoice when you reduce paperwork !!!

 

7 – Conduct loss reviews to see why your people lost accounts and to prevent the same things from recurring.  Salespeople are motivated by retaining existing customers and improving their closing ratios.

 

8 – Find ways to boost salesperson time spent in contact with customers and prospects.  More contact means more sales.  And more sales mean happier salespeople and enhanced sales motivation levels.

 

9 – Determine what motivates each of your salespeople, then use specific, individualized rewards to positively impact sales behaviors.

 

10 – Share success stories.  Sales motivation is enhanced when personal accomplishments and others’ successes are recognized.

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, California.

 

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First Impressions and Etiquette Count

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phone etiquette

 

Buyers, who have a plethora of options as to whom they buy from, are cutting potential vendors very little slack. And phone etiquette counts!  In fact, many screen out potential vendors within the first minute of telephone contact based on their initial impressions and “gut feel.”  Negative impressions that “turn off” buyers often include: being put on hold for more than a minute, not being able to easily reach someone knowledgeable about the firm’s offerings, “talky” or pushy salespeople, a perceived lack of professionalism and poor phone etiquette.

Clearly, first impressions are critical to sales success and the use of successful sales techniques is critical.  So, make it a resolution to start out your New Year by improving your phone etiquette and approach.  Let’s start by looking at your customers’ perspectives and asking some important questions.

 

Sales and Phone Etiquette

 

1). CONTACT EASE: How easy is it for prospective buyers to get a hold of your or someone else who is knowledgeable?  How well do receptionists take care of people who call in?  Do callers become frustrated by confusing voicemail systems, “voicemail jails” and auto-attendants?  Do prospects reach voicemail more often than live people?
 

 

2). ATTITUDE: How is the phone answered and what is the demeanor of the salesperson? Are callers treated in a consistent manner on each and every call?  One client of ours has a standard of first mentioning their company name, then introducing the call handler by name, and then making the statement in a very positive tone, “I can help you.”  Indeed, well-designed call handling strategies and proper phone etiquette often pay off with more business and higher levels of customer satisfaction. .
 

 

3). DICTION: We’ve observed many sales and service people use informal language with words such as “dude,” “radical,” “cool” and “let’s boogie.”  While some customers may be entertained by or even like this, others see it as overly casual or unprofessional.  Indeed, sticking to more mainstream words and diction is the safest phone etiquette and runs little risk of offending people.
 

 

4). VOICEMAIL GREETINGS: Many individual voice mailbox greetings (e.g. “I am on the phone now…leave me a message after the beep”) are simply unimpressive and/or non-productive.  Likewise, we often hear greetings that are out of date (e.g. on Wednesday we hear a greeting that states “it is Monday and I’m out of the office today”).  Good voicemails, on the other hand, often convey useful information (e.g. “I will be returning calls between 3-5 pm today”) and provide the caller with useful options (e.g. “If this matter is time sensitive, call me on my cell phone at 858-945-8888 or contact my assistant James at 858-452-9211”).  Good phone etiquette and effective voicemail greetings are critical to presenting a positive image.
 

 

5). HIGH-QUALITY EMAILS: While an advantage of emails is that they are expected to be somewhat informal, many are simply unprofessional.  Email glitches include: spelling errors, grammatical errors and long, rambling sentences. Moreover, salespeople and companies often don’t use a standard signature line on emails.  A good signature line can serve as a promotional message (e.g. use your firm’s slogan/tagline) and should also contain name, title, phone numbers and website address.
 

 

6), APPEARANCE: If you are meeting with customers or prospects in person, how do they perceive you based on your appearance? Is the salesperson well groomed and appropriately dressed?

 

When companies use a customer-oriented, respectful sales and phone etiquette, people notice!  And unfortunately, when a highly-consistent, high-quality manner of treating customers is lacking, prospective buyers notice even more and tend to take their business elsewhere.

 

 

All Rights Reserved.  The Sales Alliance Inc.  San Diego, CA

 

 

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