How to win salesperson of the year

Sales PersonInvariably in preparing for a sales presentation the question comes up – “Just how am I going to convey to these clients that what I have to offer will suit their needs best?” These tips will help you create a winning pitch.

Know your prospect

It is vital that you have a solid understanding of your potential client’s business. You can use the Internet to do some background research on their company. Start with having a look at the company’s own website, which should give you a good overview of the business, then follow up any sites that look like they might provide further insight – maybe they mention other firms they do business with and that you will be competing against. Then talk to the company, preferably to the person who will be primarily instrumental in deciding whether or not to go with your product. Tell them that you are calling for some information in preparation for the meeting – you want to make the meeting as meaningful as possible so as not to waste their time at all. You can ask them what they expect from the meeting and who will be attending.

Never assume that all prospects are the same and will be sold on your product in the exact same way. Some will be more interested in the technical aspects, others in the selling points or cost involved. Get to know as much about the prospect’s likely area of interest and develop some marketing messages that tailor the presentation to those interests.

Avoid surprises

Find out how much time you will have for your presentation and in what sort of venue (e.g. office or a meeting room) it will take place. That’s so you can get an idea of what equipment is likely to be available to run the presentation and what you will need to supply. If you’re preparing a PowerPoint presentation for example, you will need a data projector. Does the room have one or do you need to bring one yourself?

Get the audience involved

Getting your audience involved will make your presentation a lot more interesting to participants. You can ask each participant for suggestions on what they would like you to cover and refer back to these individuals when addressing the issues related to their question. If it’s feasible hand around samples of the product or present a hands-on demonstration to make it real.

Focus your presentation on the prospect’s needs

Don’t waste their time or stretch their patience by taking up time talking about you. The presentation isn’t about you, it’s about the prospect and their needs, so the focus has to be on the benefits your product or service has for them. Talking too much about yourself could talk you out of a sale.

Close by creating an opening

Your presentation must end with a call to action of some sort. If appropriate ask for the sale then and there. Where the prospect is going to need a little time before they can come to a decision ask for an indication of how long that might be. In this circumstance a good closing might be to ask them for a follow-up meeting in a week to talk about the next step or to answer any questions that may have come up meanwhile.

Researching your prospect, getting organised and developing a close – all essential parts of delivering a winning presentation. But in the time between these and the actual presentation don’t forget to practise. A couple of dry runs in front of someone on your team will identify any weaknesses in the storyline, provide you with ideas about how to get your points across and give you time to memorise the information so that the presentation goes off smoothly and professionally.

Form A Strategic Alliance

Looking for a smart way to grow your small business? A strategic alliance may be the answer. A strategic alliance is essentially an agreement, formal or informal, to combine efforts with another business. The project may range from leveraging better prices from suppliers by bulk buying to building a product together with each partner carrying out the part of the production process they are best set up for.

Just who might be a good candidate for a strategic alliance depends on what you want to achieve. Partnering with a key customer can cement the relationship and protect your custom with them.  Partnering with a firm that already has a well established brand offers the opportunity to become better known by association. Even partnering with a competitor to achieve specific strategic goals can be beneficial. Apart from the bulk buying type deal, it could involve working with them to win contracts that may be too large for you to handle by yourself.

The nature of many SMEs is that they are specialised in one area or another. That means your skills and knowledge will be most attractive as a strategic alliance partner to a business whose product or service you complement in some way. Relationships can be formed vertically (between supplier and manufacturer or between manufacturer and distributor) or horizontally (between similar firms in the same industry). They can operate at both the local and global level – forming an alliance is one way that SMEs can get started in overseas trade.

Whatever the nature of the alliance there are some rules for ensuring it works out to deliver the advantages you want from it.

Communication should be your foremost consideration. While it isn’t necessary that each member of a strategic alliance have exactly the same objectives, each should still be committed to a common outcome. To make sure that you and your alliance partner share similar goals it is important to be honest from the outset. That is, be frank about what you hope to achieve from the alliance and what you can provide to make sure your partner’s needs are met.

One of the most common mistakes is a failure to clearly lay out the details of the alliance from the beginning. The result of this failure can be significant – mismatched goals, insufficient commitment, and an inability to alter the alliance easily at a later stage. Especially important is defining where the alliance ends and competition begins.

When considering an alliance look for situations that will deliver strong benefits to both members. Only take part in an alliance when you think it will improve your business relationship with the other party overall, not just during the term of the arrangement. Alliances are only worthwhile if they represent a win/win situation for all parties involved.

For the SME entering into an alliance with a bigger firm there are other challenges.  Try to establish connections with several of the company’s members. This is important because, in a large firm, it is more likely that if one department is dealing with you others will be unaware of, or at least unfamiliar with, the alliance. It could destroy the value of the alliance to you if your key contact suddenly leaves or is moved to a different office.

Don’t get too locked into an alliance. The benefits deriving from an alliance can decline over the longer period as each organisation develops along its own strategic pathway or outside factors alter the situation. One type of alliance may have suited your goals at an earlier stage of the business’ development but have since lost relevance. Others may have proved to be too narrow and need to be widened to meet your continuing business needs.

Forming a strategic alliance is becoming a more and more common tactic for expanding the reach of an enterprise without committing to expensive internal expansions beyond its core business. For small businesses a strategic alliance may consist of no more than ‘bartering’ with customers, suppliers and even competitors. But the terms can go way beyond that and open up the possibility of allowing your business to share expertise, assets, expenses and risk with another business without necessarily incurring cash debt or trading away too much of your equity.

Business website tips

Successful selling online requires a website that is visually attractive as well as easy to use. Here are some tips for developing a website that looks good and is easy to read by visitors.

Make it readable

Visual appeal is nice, but readability must be a top design priority. In order for your content to communicate effectively you need to consider how colours and fonts work on a webpage.

Make the pages easy to view

Visitors do not like to scroll from left to right to see the entirety of a webpage so build it to fit the standard monitor size of 640 by 480 pixels. Larger screens are growing in popularity but unless you are certain that your target audience is likely to be using them, stick with a smaller page size. Also check how your pages display in different web browsers – displaying properly in the popular Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers is a minimum requirement. Long pages that require scrolling down … and down … and down are also poor practice. It’s better to create a number of pages than have this toilet roll effect.

Provide alternate text for images

If you use graphics for navigation (such as buttons) or rely on images to display products, provide an alternative text (ALT text) description in the HTML code. ALT text provides a text equivalent of the image. There are a number of reasons for including a text description:

But be warned – there’s a real art to constructing and using ALT text. The text need not be a literal description of what the image represents. There’s not much point in using the ALT text ‘microwave oven’ if the image is meant to display the product’s most attractive selling features. The ALT text will be better used describing those features.

Keep download time to a minimum

Visitors resent waiting for slow downloading pages. Decrease loading time by paying attention to the size of the webpage. Website developers suggest a maximum of 30K for a webpage overall. Thus, if you have three 6K images on the page, you should not add more than 12K of HTML and text. It’s preferable to increase the number of pages rather than overload a single page.

Davies McLennon are Stockport Accountants

Ten reasons why you should look at using incentives!

Incentives play an integral role in motivating consumers to buy certain products over others. Here are some ideas for incentivating existing and potential customers to use your product.

  1. Increase product trialing. A giveaway can be used to increase product trialing and brand recognition. For example, at the end of several summer concerts, concertgoers were given sample size bags of coffee in assorted flavours to take home with them. This put the coffee in the hands of a great number of people who might never have tried it otherwise.
  2. Promote website visits. An incentive offer can be used to drive traffic to your website. When the online company Inoutdoors.com wanted to grab the attention of nature lovers it sponsored an online drawing competition. The grand prize of an all-expenses-paid vacation with well known sports celebrities proved to be an alluring incentive.
  3. Increase brand awareness. No matter what business you’re in, keeping your name in front of customers is a top priority. Giveaways such as mouse mats, T-shirts and umbrellas emblazoned with the company logo are popular ways of getting the brand ‘out there’.
  4. Level seasonal variations in sales. The dips and plateaus of the business cycle affect many industries. A well planned incentive campaign can lure customers to buy during the off-season. Having an outdoor barbecue is great in the summer. But how many families enjoy cooking out in the colder winter months? To entice patrons to buy grills during the winter months, a major retail chain offered gas grill buyers a valuable steak package and sponsored on-site barbecues where they gave away steak and burgers to lucky customers. That promotion yielded a 35% increase in sales.
  5. Boost slow moving products. Being associated with well known brands or activities gives less popular items appeal to a broader audience. Offering a free trial, discount coupon or prize of a slower moving product/service to purchasers of a recognised line can encourage their popularity.
  6. Build continuity of purchase. An incentive campaign can encourage repeat sales of a product. The beverage industry is known for motivating customers to make their beverage purchases in bulk by including sequential contests within large cases. In order to win, you must collect all the game pieces – meaning you have to continue purchasing the product.
  7. Increase volume sales. ‘Free with purchase’ premiums aim to increase volume sales while also increasing consumers’ appreciation for the featured product. Consumers are required to buy a featured product in order to receive the premium. Beauty salons often offer free styling or nail service with the purchase of a premium haircut.
  8. Learn more about customers and identify prospects. Premiums have proven to be highly effective in both direct mail campaigns and direct selling programmes as a way of increasing customer knowledge and identifying prospects. By asking for some demographic information on their entry ballot for a competition you can build a more accurate profile of customers. Prospects can be identified by encouraging participants to submit entry forms for friends and family members as well as themselves.
  9. Reach adults through their children. Kids possess immense purchasing power and can directly influence their parents to buy products. When Kool-Aid wanted to introduce its brand to a new generation, it sponsored a ‘More Smiles Per Gallon’ tour. In every targeted market the Kool-Aid Man stopped in popular children’s play areas such as zoos, museums and amusement parks. Free photos with the Kool-Aid Man, an opportunity to play a soccer game, and, of course, free samples with coupons attached, attracted potential consumers and helped raise awareness of Kool-Aid.
  10. Offset price concerns. One way for a company to take consumer attention off the actual price of an item is to offer a valued premium. Mobile phone companies are famous for creating promotions for new subscribers that include a valuable phone when they sign up for a contract package.

When you offer your customers or prospects valuable incentives as rewards for purchases made or enticements for engaging with the business in some way, they are by nature appreciative, so incentive marketing is a great way of cementing customer loyalty and gives potential customers more of a reason to pay attention to your product.

Discounting Is Dangerous

Offering a discount in the heat of negotiations may seem like a good idea at the time but thoughtless discounting is an easy way to lose money fast.

 

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Before you succumb to the temptation to win new business by offering a discount take a moment to consider these ten problems associated with discounting.

  1. Discounting eats away profit margins!

  2. Negotiating a discount focuses the customer’s attention on your price. If your only competitive advantage is price you are in trouble because price can always be matched by a competitor. The focus should be on the benefits of the product to the customer that make the price, if not irrelevant, then at least not the primary influencer of the decision to buy.

  3. Discounting can affect the customer’s perception of the value of your product – the ‘you get what you pay for’ syndrome. The less they pay, quite likely the less they will value it.

  4. Discounting may affect the quality of your service. If you have offered a discount and realise your profit margin is going to be slim if you do the job to your usual standard then there’s the temptation to cut corners. That compromises the quality of your work and if it results in customer complaints it eats into your margins even further. Poor work gets talked about and you risk your reputation and the referred business that can come out of being known for quality.

  5. Discounting can result in reduced demand. Customers might see the opportunity to buy at a discount as an opportunity to really stock up on the item and that can decrease their need to buy for some time into the future. Altered buying patterns can effect sales predictions and cash flow forecasts.

  6. Discounting increases work hours. In effect, discounting means lower income per hour, so to maintain your profit level you are going to need to put in extra hours to compensate for the narrower margins on your sales.

  7. Customers can gouge you. Word of discount deals gets spread around and if you did it for one customer what is your justification for refusing it to the next one who tells you they ‘know you did it for Person X’?

  8. Discounting can be addictive. To make a sale it’s easy to fall into the habit of offering a discount as a first resort instead of as the last. It’s possible to win custom by offering to negotiate on things like after sales service, a longer guarantee period or an added accessory rather than resort to a discount offer. Some of these may never turn into an extra cost to you but are valuable to the customer and may be preferable to a discount in their eyes. Before you discount, stop and think: is this the only way I can give value?

  9. Guessing wrong. If you make up your discount offers on the spur-of-the-moment you are going to guess wrong. It’s very easy to underestimate costs and end up out of pocket. Discounts, if offered at all, need to be based on an itemised costing of the job and include a buffer for any extras incurred should things not go as smoothly as expected.

  10. Discounting starts price wars. The company that usually wins is the one with the biggest balance sheet—the one who can afford to hold out the longest. That’s a dangerous game to play.

Unfortunately, discounting as a business practice has become so entrenched because of its supposed ability to win sales that it is difficult to break the habit. But think about how many times offering a discount has actually been an investment that paid off in the long run.

Of course, there are some valid business reasons to discount, such as liquidating obsolete or seasonal stock or to meet cash flow requirements. But smaller businesses should have carefully calculated strategies for discounting so it’s not done thoughtlessly with a disregard for margins or retaliatory action by irate competitors. If you want to follow best practice then develop a price policy that includes your discount deals and the exact amounts to be offered in each circumstance and stick to it. Base it on an understanding of the real costs of production and your profit margins. If you employ salespeople, make sure they know about it and stick to it as well.

Good Business Deeds Can Be Good Business Deals

Good Business Deeds Can Be Good Business Deals

‘Cause’ marketing that links your company or brand to a non-profit group or charity enables you to promote your business while you give something back to your community. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this kind of marketing is that it’s been shown to make customers feel better about deciding to purchase and that translates into an increase in repurchase intentions.

Consumers transfer their emotional bonds

Many people have emotional bonds with a non-profit group. They may even be regular financial contributors or do volunteer work for a non-profit organisation. When these people see a business that’s supporting this organisation they’ll often be predisposed to purchasing from it. “Look at what you sell and understand the targets you’re trying to reach. Then align yourself with causes that will bring out the emotions of that audience, from a grassroots, a community and a media standpoint,” advises Rodger Roeser, of Justice & Young Public Relations in Cincinnati.

Employees feel better about their employer

Surveys consistently show that whether candidates are choosing an employer or employees are deciding whether to stay with their present company, the degree to which a business demonstrates a social conscience is perceived as increasingly important. In fact, a majority of employees of companies in many industries have said they’d work for less money if they felt their employer was socially responsible.

It’s good for PR and community relations

Naturally, there are a lot of positives about supporting a cause that will benefit the image your business has in the community. You’ll be seen as a good corporate citizen and as an organisation that contributes to the welfare of everyone in the community.

Seek alignment with your business and your customers

There are thousands of causes and some will no doubt relate to your business activities. Find a cause that has a link with your company, no matter how tenuous, so that people will understand how your business fits into the cause overall. The cause needs to also be related to the interests of your customers. It should align with their feelings and beliefs, and not be in conflict with other organisations they might want to support.

Tell the world what you’re doing

Although it might seem a bit ‘commercial’, your business will only benefit if it tells the world at large about your involvement with the cause. You need to spell out what it is you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It will also help if your business becomes a conduit for your customers to help the cause by making donations through your website or at your business premises.

  • Your cause marketing activities should be part of both your external marketing and your internal communications. It should be featured in your promotions, your packaging and your website, as well as referred to in your employee newsletters.

  • Give your employees and your customers a chance to participate in the cause by hosting a function or sponsoring an event where the proceeds go to the cause

  • Ask the cause you’re supporting to promote your association with them. They have every reason to do this; the non-profit world depends on donations and they like to tell prospective donors that they’ll be in good company when they part with their funds.

In today’s competitive world consumers want to know what a business stands for. Cause marketing will tell them about your business values and reassure them that part of their purchase money is going to a good cause.

Make Buying From Your Website Easy

Busineecart.gifsses have by now spent money developing a website to feature their products. But actually getting a return on that investment through attracting leads and making sales doesn’t necessarily follow. Many are so poorly designed and constructed that they drive customers away instead of encouraging them to buy.

Tuning up your website by implementing just two basic principles will improve your chances of keeping visitors interested in looking around and progressing to a purchase.

1. Make The Navigation Customer-Centric

While part of the pleasure of shopping in a bricks ‘n mortar store may be the ability to leisurely browse your way over to the item you came in for, that’s generally not the approach of the website store visitor. These shoppers are very intolerant of delay in getting to the product they want by being forced to click through numerous pages, or worse, being so frustrated by poor navigation that they can’t even find what they are looking for at all. Customer-centric navigation tools guide shoppers directly to the products they want to buy before they lose interest.

If you sell a lot of different product lines try to classify them in some way that brings all the items in a particular line together. For instance, if you were selling pool supplies you might use categories like ‘pool cleaners’, ‘pool pumps’ ‘pool heating’, ‘pool filters’, and ‘pool toys’. If there aren’t a great number of these categories then display an individual navigation tab for each, otherwise a drop down menu from a ‘Products List’ tab is a better approach. Use the terms that the target audience is likely to use and recognise – common descriptions if you sell retail to the general public or technical terms if you deal with people in the trade.

A category listing should be only one of the ways of providing access to your products. Search functionality is necessary to complement the ability to browse around in categories. Searches can be set up in any number of ways. A particularly useful method is to provide an A-Z listing of all products so that a person looking for ‘Floating Pool Lights’ can locate them by looking under F and clicking straight through to a list of the types you hold. Even more helpful would be to also have them listed under P (‘Pool Lights – Floating’) and L (‘Lights – Floating Pool Type’) to cover the different ways people approach searching for items.

Some visitors will already have a particular brand in mind while others will be after a replacement part from a particular manufacturer so an A-Z listing of products by manufacturer is also helpful. The shopper in need of a replacement ‘Poolrite’ cartridge filter can go straight to the information on them. Even a parts number search is useful in some situations.

If you deal with price conscious shoppers then the ability to sort results by price can make it easier for them to make a choice. Finally, allow for the user who just isn’t sure and provide a general keyword search option.

2. Make It Easy To Buy

Having made it easy for your visitor to find what they want, now make it simple for them to buy it.

First thing is to provide multiple payment options. These days most website shoppers expect to be able to make their payment online – more than 90% of all online business is done using credit cards. True, not everyone is comfortable providing their card details over the Internet and not everyone likes to shop with a credit card, so to cater to these customers also provide more traditional pay routes like ordering by telephone, by fax and by mail.

Central to making a sale is the design of your checkout process. Studies reveal a distressingly high rate of cart abandonment by online shoppers. There are many contributing factors but in most instances it is simply that the customer can’t follow the process because of unclear navigation. Common features for a smooth checkout include giving the customer the option to continue shopping or proceed to checkout as each item is added to their cart, showing the details of each item they put in their cart including an image of the product and a link back to the page they found it on, and making it easy for visitors to change their mind by altering quantities or removing an item.

Your Internet store is not only open 24×7, it is visible worldwide – so consider what would make purchasing from it easy for a shopper located in another country. Provide your full street address to reassure the customer that they are dealing with a legitimate business. Add a handy currency converter and provide solid information on postage and handling costs.

Instead of just costing you money, a well designed customer-centric website will start doing what it’s supposed to do – making you money.

3. Are you getting the hits? Having a website is one thing, having it ranked highly with Google is something entirely different. It is usually well worth investing money in optimising the ranking of your website. Do not make the mistake of assuming your webdeveloper is doing this for you. It takes time and effort, and unless you reach an agreement and pay for it, you can safely assume it not being done.

Davies McLennon are happy to give independent advice on how you can address these issues.