Thursday, March 22, 2012

A True Story of "Hippies" to "Helping Heroes"

Selling is helping!  It really is for some people. They have a sincere desire to use their products and services to help their customers improve something in their life, whatever that something may be. Here's a true story that shows how you can be as successful as you decide to be... especially if you embrace the "Selling is helping"philosophy.  

A chance look at a Facebook page recently triggered a memory in my mind going back to 1976.

Imagine it's 1976 and you're my invisible partner. We drive to a tiny store in what's called "the river bottom" a dumpy area between south Scottsdale and north Tempe, AZ. Two hippie looking young men in sandals greet us at the door under their sign "The Byte Shop."  One of their products is a computer hobby kit. Yes, computers were being built by hobbyists in those days. They were not yet going out to the general was mostly just the "geeks."  The owners of "The Byte Shop", Alan Hald and Jeff McKeever, were both visionaries. Oh, back then they weren't called that-they were most likely called "Hippie Geeks" or "Nerds." 

As you observe this first meeting of Alan, Jeff and myself, you too notice what was catching my attention-their passion and their commitment to succeed. What they wanted was to learn to sell even better. They wanted me to come in and do sales meetings for them and their handful of employees. They told me that if they could sell better they could help more people see the benefits of computers.

Since my approach has always been "selling is helping" we clicked. We agreed on a fee and a plan, and I immediately began to help them help their customers. We did lots of little meetings in that tiny river bottom store-and Alan and Jeff's little business began to experience amazing growth. Four years later they opened their first real store in Paradise Valley Mall. 

They renamed "The Byte Shop" to "MicroAge", took the company public in 1995, and had 6,000 employees doing over $6 billion in annual sales as a Fortune 500 company! Because of their passion for helping their customers understand the computer and its potential impact on their customers' lives, they were driven to succeed.

Now how about you? How much "helping" do you have built in to your business? Are you a believer that when you sell your products and services you're helping the customer? 

It's true, because when your prospects have a need or want that your products and services fill, you're helping them when you help them buy it.

How big do you want to grow? How much money do you want to earn? And more importantly... How many people do you want to help?

Here's what you can do... See selling as helping, even if it's a hassle sometimes. Be passionate about your commitment to help your customers solve their needs and wants with your products and services, and you'll be helping hero in your customer's eyes! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3 Steps to Better Sales Meetings

"Oh, No! Not Another Meeting!"  
Think back to the last sales meeting you attended as a sales professional. It could have been as recent as today. Or, if you're now a sales manager or executive, it could have been decades ago that you sat in a sales meeting as a participant. In either case, you're probably very familiar with what happens. Either the meeting is terrible, or it's amazing! A recent survey by reported these statistics:
  • Only 3.8% of respondents rated their sales meetings as "excellent."
  • Over 79% said their meetings were not even worth attending!
How would your sales meetings rate?
In my professional speaking career and work as an executive speech coach and meeting consultant, I've attended over 2800 sales meetings. Sadly my experience mirrors the survey results above. Why are so many sales meetings generating the cry, "Oh no, not another sales meeting!?"  If you're a sales manager or an executive in charge of putting on meetings of any kind - sales meetings, employee meetings or management meetings - I can help you make them amazing! I've been doing it successfully for many years and now it's become one of my specialties. For example, here are three things you can do immediately. And if you're a Sales Professional, you can pass these ideas on to your Sales Manager. Here they are:

First idea, TLA ... 
That's an acronym for Think Like the Audience! Don't think like a sales manager. Think like the people in the seats. Management sees the big picture and thinks long term. Salespeople think, "What can I do today to make a sale?" 

One client had me attend their sales meeting prior to helping them improve. It was shocking to watch their CEO spend 27 minutes explaining the challenges of a pending IPO scheduled for five months down the road, and then the intricacies of the stock price, and then close with his passionate plea to cut back on their expense accounts. It was shocking because the 287 salespeople in this company didn't have stock options! An IPO was about as important to them as the weather forecast for five months down the road. And "expense account cutting" is the euphemism salespeople interpret as "cut back on spending to build relationships with your best customers and prospects."

Now do the math. Twenty seven minutes on the 4-hour agenda. Not that much, right? Hold on. You have to look at those 27 minutes times 287 salespeople! Now you have 7,749 minutes or 129 hours of potential selling time. Wow, that's a lot of wasted time! Next time you put an item on your agenda, multiply it by the number of people in the seats, and ask yourself this one simple question: "Will this help these people increase their sales?"

Here's your second idea... Increase/Decrease
What can you do that will decrease or increase something now being done, that in the mind of your sales team, they will see as helping them sell even more? Can you decrease paperwork, reports, inventory shortages, the number of emails you send? You know this, but it's often forgotten that the only real selling time a sales pro has that counts is when they are face-to-face or voice-to-voice with a qualified prospect. Anything you can do to decrease activities that don't support that, you'll be a hero in their eyes. 
Once you've decreased stuff, switch mental gears and think "increase." What can you bring to your next sales meeting that increases field training, building of sales skills, prospecting skills, product knowledge, awareness of marketing shifts, self-motivation ideas, presentation skills, follow-up effectiveness, customer service, etc! If it doesn't help them sell more, forget it!

And your third idea... Seek feedback 
Why? Because without getting feedback, even if you use TLA, and give them tools and ideas to increase sales, you'll never know how effective you really were. Oh, I know you're thinking, "We do send out an email after the meeting." Right, and if you're fortunate you'll get 35% back. You need 100% feedback and you can get it! Here's how you do it. Let's start with simplest first and move to ideal last. 

The simplest way is to provide a blank index card and prior to closing your sales meeting just say this:  "This meeting was designed to (state your objective). Your feedback is vital to helping make our next meeting even better. Please take that blank 3x5 card and write at the top your job title: Sales - Marketing - Support - Management, etc. No names. Below your title just write a number from 1 Low to 10 High, on how helpful this meeting was to you to increase your sales. Be totally honest. I really want to know! Now please pass the cards to the center aisle and my helpers will pick them up."

If you will do this you will have a baseline for your next sales meeting. It's so simple isn't it? OK, if you just agreed, how about doing the next step... adding two more questions for the 3x5 index card. 

"Everyone please take that blank index card you have and write four things on it. 
#1 - Your job title. 
#2 - 1-Low to 10-High on the overall meeting." 
Just like we said earlier, but now you add these two questions:   
#3 - "In just a very few words, what's one thing we could have done to make this sales meeting even better for you? Please skip requests for free beer or go to Maui. 
#4 - What was the best part of this sales meeting? Your best take-away? Again, in just a few words. I'll know what you mean!"

If you did this you would have such valuable information to help you improve, wouldn't you? 
OK, if you just agreed, here's the ideal way to get feedback. Have a pre-printed card with those four questions on the card: Job Title, 1 to 10 Overall Meeting, What to Improve and What was the Best? Take all those responses and summarize them by category. The numerical responses make it easy to average out. Get a final average score, let's say 7.16. OK, that's your beginning number. Your goal for the next meeting?  8.0+.  Use the responses to the last two questions to structure the content of your next meeting. And what if your attendees think the meeting stunk? At least you'll know what the stinking parts are, and you can fix them! Don't fear negative feedback! Use it to keep improving! Since 1974 almost every audience I've been paid to speak for (and that's over 2800 of them) I've used a similar feedback card. It's the best idea I've ever implemented in my own business.  

So, is that all there is? No, it's really just the beginning! If this has made sense to you, let me give you a list of many other specific ways I can help you make your Sales Meetings AMAZING! For example, I'll help you...
  • Create powerful meeting themes.
  • Add energy-boosting humor.
  • Generate audience participation.
  • Use a pre-assignment to build involvement & positive anticipation.
  • Make your awards & recognitions more meaningful.
  • Create exciting PowerPoint visuals using a little known technique I've developed.
  • Use stories to drive home your message.
  • Stay on time and end early.
  • Follow-up after the meeting is over.
PLUS, you'll learn...
  • A way to use your notes that's totally unique. (It's my invention.)
  • Five keys for using the room set-up to give you dynamic results.
  • Two things you MUST know to read your audience's receptivity.
  • How Bill Murray's movie "Groundhog Day" can change your career forever.
Contact me to find out EVEN MORE about tools, techniques and tactics that can help you... and let's get started!

MAKE it a great day!