Archive for November, 2006

Observations on supposed “salespeople”

November 30, 2006

I am involved in a start up venture that is recruiting salespeople to sell our solution.

It is mind boggling to watch how these supposed professionals respond to our job listings.

We have described the opportunity and the qualifications we seek. We have provided links to our website so that prospective candidates can research our company. We have been clear about the attributes of the ideal candidate.

You would be amazed at the unprofessional way that many serious prospects respond. If they are really effective salespeople, you wouldn’t know it from the way they communicate.

Here are the top gaffes:

– No cover letter or note in the email, just a resume. Whatever happened to the days when people would write a concise cover letter explaining why they are interested in the position and how they can add value? When they are hired, will they be equally cavalier in establishing relationships with prospects? It is up to the salesperson to demonstrate their value, not the other way around.

– Spelling my name wrong. I am their potential client. My name is not the easiest to spell, but one can always copy and paste it from the listing.

– Other spelling and grammatical errors. We seek a highly professional salesperson. Spelling and grammar should be important skills in this profession.

– Asking what we can do for them before explaining what they can do for us. Sales is all about establishing value. Too many candidates have responded by focusing on their needs and interests, instead of on communicating how they can help this venture succeed.

– Having a negative attitude. We have spoken to some candidates, and they act as if they are doing us a favor by taking the time to speak with us. To give one example, one candidate responded to our answers to questions with a long, “okaaaaay” as if he were judging and doubting everything we had to say. This is an annoying way to behave, and I wouldn’t buy a thing from someone who speaks this way.

– Doing absolutely no homework. Some people called us asking questions that were right there in the job listing. Others asked us what our company did (rather than going to our website). Come on.

Of course, a few candidates look strong. They have sent a crisp, concise letter establishing their credibility and potential value right up front. They have done some research about us, our industry, and what is required to succeed. They have been polite and professional throughout the process. They strive to build a relationship while also staying on equal footing and asking great questions.

The lesson here for me is that “regular professionals” can do circles around supposedly professional salespeople by learning how to demonstrate value, establish credibility, and remain professional throughout the business development process.

How is your 2007 pipeline?

November 20, 2006

The end of November is upon us, and 2007 fast approaches. It is already almost past the point of creating a strong pipeline for the first quarter of 2007. You have either done the work for that first quarter or you haven’t. However, now is the time to think about 2007 as a whole, and build momentum.

What are your revenue and income goals for 2007? How does that compare to 2006? What is the gap? How do you intend to fill that gap? What business development activities, new solutions, and strategies can have your clients and prospects think of you FIRST when they have a need?

If you want to join a group of like-minded professionals taking a proactive and systematic approach to these issues and to achieving their financial goals while being a trusted advisor to their clients, click here.

It is never too late to get started, and the earlier you make appropriate, tasteful business development a priority, the sooner you’ll enjoy results.

Make 2007 the best professional year of your life.

To rapidly increase sales, start with where you are and where you have been

November 20, 2006

Many members of the Trust-Based Business Development Program ask how they can make rapid gains in revenues, without spending too much time or money, and without doing anything that feels awkward.

The answer: Start with where you are and where you have been.

In other words, look to your current network of contacts and clients.

We spend three calls in the program focused on how to generate the most value possible from our network — without being obnoxious or inappropriate and of course while providing equal or great value back.

Briefly, there are three opportunities:

1. Get better at proactively generating referrals from current and past clients. Most professionals are WAY too passive and hopeful when it comes to generating referrals. There is an effective time, place, and way to ask for referrals from clients.

2. Get better at generating referrals from your network. Again, too many professionals rely on word of mouth, which is not a viable or sustainable strategy. Word of mouth means you rely on the good will of busy strangers. In contrast, there are a number of effective, proactive ways you can put formal referral systems in place with your network — while also growing your sphere of influence.

3. Get better at optimizing the long-term value your provide to clients, so that they remain loyal to you and keep asking you to do more for them. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 firms and independent professionals; both ends of the spectrum leave money on the table when it comes to doing as much work as possible for existing clients.

The most successful professionals reach a point where the above three opportunities account for most of their revenues. However, whether you are only starting out or a veteran, these activities need to be a priority, and need to be done right.

Are you visible or invisible to your target prospects?

November 8, 2006

Too many professionals sit back and wait for the phone to ring. Is it pride? Self-righteousness? Cockiness? Fear of business development? A desire to avoid the awkwardness that can come with traditional approaches to marketing and sales?

The uncomfortable but true fact is that the most qualified professionals are not always the most successful. A mediocre (but competent) professional who knows how to develop business will be hired more often than a brilliant professional who sits back and waits for the phone to ring.

To work with the most interesting and desirable clients and achieve your financial goals, you have to make business development a top priority.

Part of doing this means getting visible. Take the following assessment to determine if you are visible enough:

1. You reach out at least every 3 months to a network of at least 200 other professionals.

2. You have frequent conversations with current clients about people who might refer business your way.

3. You speak at events where your target market congregates.

4. You write articles in publications (online and offline) that your target market reads.

5. People you don’t know call you because others have told them about you or because they love the contents on your website.

6. Prospects associate you as the”thought leader” on a particular issue, problem, or solution.

7. You are active in your community in ways that put you in touch with opinion leaders in your target market.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Are you visible enough?

Why nice professionals finish first

November 2, 2006

Two colleagues contacted me last week to discuss how we might exchange referrals, and the contrast in the two approaches was telling.

The first wanted to set up some sort of arrangement where he would receive a percentage of any deal he refers my way. I don’t care for this kind of arrangement because it creates a conflict of interest. I want referrals from people who value my expertise and want people in their network to benefit from my services.

The second had an approach that I really liked. “Andrew,” he said. “I really like your work. I have tons of clients that could benefit from what you do, and I want to introduce you to them. In exchange, maybe you can do the same for me when you see the opportunity.”

I asked him about his philosophy of exchanging referrals, and he said, “To borrow from Yiddish, there are two types of people: those who are mensches, or nice, and those who are not. I like doing business with mensches and thing that in the long run, nice guys and gals do finish first.”

He went on to tell me about a colleague of his who always wants a referral fee, and how tiresome it is to work with him as a result.

“So I just try to help people succeed, and usually it pays off — often in unexpected ways.”

Who can resist this approach? What better way to get someone on your side than to make the first move and really help them succeed? It is a great way to build trust and show that you are committed to the other person’s success.

By the end of our conversation, I wanted to open my entire contact list to him, and we have since brainstormed about how to work together! Meanwhile, I haven’t called the first colleague back.

Nice professionals finish first. Are you a “mensch”?

How to gracefully fire a client

November 2, 2006

Many members of the Trust-Based System to Attract Clients ask what may seem like a strange question: “How do you fire a client?”

Top professionals come to realize that some clients are no longer a good fit. Either they demand too much from the professional compared to the value they bring (in terms of revenue, referrals, attitude, or the overall satisfaction of working with them), or the professional’s practice has evolved beyond a client’s needs.

Every professional should periodically review his or her client list and determine whether some clients are no longer a good fit. (Of course, the inverse is also true: It is equally important to determine which clients are worth an additional investment in building the relationship and demonstrating value; but that is for another blog entry).

For those clients that are no longer a good fit, here is how to handle them:

If your practice has evolved:

1. Let them know that your practice is evolving and that you can no longer serve them effectively.

2. Refer them to a few firms that can help them (so that you don’t leave them hanging).

3. Thank them for their business.

If the client is what might be called a “nuisance” client who takes up too much of your time for too little reward:

1. Have an honest discussion with the client and let him or her know that you’ve reviewed your capacity and can no longer offer service.

2. Determine ahead of time whether there is any fee structure at which you would be pleased to continue working this client and, if there is, propose the new structure.

3. If the client balks, refer them to another firm and thank them for their business.

Remember: In all things in business and in life, you get what you tolerate!