Successfully marketing and selling to business requires a specialised set of skills and strategies. Simply applying consumer sales strategies in the business-to-business (B2B) context will not produce results. Because small and medium sized business owners and managers are generally incredibly busy and cost-conscious, a poorly tailored marketing message or ill informed sales pitch will quickly put them off-side.
But patience and a marketing and sales strategy that hits the right buttons can mean snaring business customers that will stick with you for the long haul – and often without the need for expensive mass market advertising.
Fortunately, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are 10 tips from experienced sales and marketing experts and high-performing busienss to businesses sellers.
1. Map the market and break it down
There is no such thing as the B2B market; in fact, it is a general label to describe hundreds of markets, each with their own particular requirements and selling points. If there is one consistent message that successful B2B sellers repeat, it is that business customers respond best to a sales pitch that is tailored as much a possible to their circumstances.
A sales and marketing strategy pitched at the general B2B market will be hopelessly irrelevant to individual businesses. To be worthwhile, a strategy must be built on a careful, well-researched segmentation of the market.
How you break down the market depends very much on what is being sold and the value propositions it presents to business customers.
For example, financial software firm MYOB divides up its market based on the capacity of the businesses; a sole trader will do their books very differently to a small business with their own bookkeeper.
By contrast, asset management software company SmartPath starts with the five or six industry categories (often referred to as “vertical” segments) that it tends to do the most business in, and then looks not to the size of the business but to the number and variety of assets they deal with.
Business IT firm Brennan IT takes a more conventional approach, with its market broken down first by location, then business size, and finally by industry.
Other lines markets can be divided along include age, income, political or cultural beliefs and buying behaviour – in the technology space, for example, identifying early adopters can be important.
2. Size matters
A sales and marketing strategy that is not adapted to the different needs of small and medium sized businesses and the big corporates will be unlikely to be successful with either.
This is true for a range of reasons, not the least of which being that small and medium sized businesses hate being treated as second-class citizens. A marketing message that gives the impression it was tailored for a corporate audience sends a clear and negative message to the business owner – “expect to be treated like a second-class customer”.
More practically, often the small to medium sized business will use a product or service very differently from a larger corporation. MYOB is the classic example of a company that appreciates that size matters – its market break-down goes way beyond large, medium and small business to capture a wide range of finer organisational distinctions.
“Our products work across a wide range of vertical segments, but for us it’s the size and structure of a business that makes a huge amount of difference,” chief executive Tim Reed says. “It’s things like whether they have specialised staff or is the business owner doing everything? Do they have section managers or a payroll person? Every business is different, but those things tell us a huge amount about the types of solutions we need to take to them.”
That information is valuable to MYOB because this tells it how and by who its software is likely to be used. But it is also significant in terms of identifying relevant purchasing decision makers and influencers for marketing purposes.
The style of marketing and sales information the small and medium sized businesses tend to be most responsive too also differs. Technical information on performance may impress a specialist in a large business, but business owners – who are often forced to be a jack-of-all-trades – may respond better to testimonial information.
The reason? Small and medium sized businesses tend to be risk averse. If they are going to invest in a product or service, reassurance that it has worked for other businesses will often go further than an impressive list of whiz-bang specs.
3. Train your sales staff to understand business
Many businesses design training programs to ensure their staff are thoroughly conversant with their product or service range’s features and advantages. When selling B2B, however, this is just the beginning.
Sue Barrett, principal of Barrett sales consultancy, says the more important skill a B2B sales person must have is the ability to understand their customer’s business.
In the business-to-customer context, the pitch tends to come first. But Barrett says successful B2B sales people understand that they can only make a strong pitch once they have a strong grasp of what the potential client’s business does and where it is going.
“You need a better quality of skill in B2B sales,” Barrett says. “They need to know how to think, not just what to think, so they can engage in a meaningful dialogue about the future of a business. Just flogging a product won’t get you very far.”
Business clients will expect sales staff to have the business literacy and commercial awareness to engage in this strategic dialogue with them. This will often require more resources to be put into training than would usually be the case.
It also means suppressing the natural instinct of many sales people to let their passion for what they are selling drive their interactions with clients.
Entity Solutions chief executive Matthew Franceschini says his organisation tries to train sales staff not to let their passion for what they are selling prevent them from listening to and focusing on their clients’ needs.
“We tell our sales staff that they have two ears and one mouth and they should be used in those proportions. You may have an opinion on the product and what it can do, but it is irrelevant – it is the client’s opinion that counts,” he says.
The good news for small and medium sized business owners is that their experience in running their own business means they will often be in a good position to sell effectively to similarly sized firms. Barrett advises business owners not to be afraid to bring their own experiences to the sales process.
4. Find your place in their business vision
Once you have spent time learning about your client’s vision for their business, the next step is to think about the role your product or service can play in that vision.
This is the essence of building a value proposition around what you sell – seeing how your product or service can help the client achieve their vision more quickly, cheaply or importantly than they could without it.
This is easier said than done – particularly where you are trying to spread limited sales and marketing resources across a large number of small potential clients. But Brennan IT sales and marketing general manager Stephen Sims says a tailored solution for each client still has to be the goal.
“One of the key things we and others do is to understand your market and have a very clear value proposition, ideally per client. We have all been guilty of coming up with a generic statement to market hoping to gain traction, but it won’t get that if it’s not specific, so per client has to be the goal,” Sims says.
“One-to-one marketing is the ideal. It will usually be impossible to do that, but to get as close as possible you need to craft a value proposition around solid information about the company and then have sales staff tailor it further to a particular client,” he says.
One mistake to avoid is taking a scatter-gun approach. The temptation, especially for marketers with a mass consumer market product sales background, is to try and communicate the full range of product and sales options to potential clients in the hope that one will hit a hot spot.
But this is inconsistent with the tailored, one-on-one approach that is most likely to work in B2B. Instead, identify one or two products that are most likely to be useful and focus on them. If they are embraced by the client, further products can be introduced down the track if appropriate.
To make things a bit easier, use research and your anecdotal experience to identify the issues and products or services that will tend to be relevant to clients. For example, Entity Solutions sells administrative services to independent contractors and placement/recruitment services to big corporates. In each case, CEO Franceschini says, the company has a firm idea of the kind of needs they will be addressing.
“We know the big corporates are focused on compliance, so for them our approach is all about peace of mind and credibility on statutory compliance. For the independent contractors administrative convenience is the issue and so for them the message is structured very differently,” Franceschini says.
5. Direct marketing and cold calling can work in B2B
A certain contempt has attached to direct marketing and cold calling, particularly in the consumer space where most people see it as an unwelcome intrusion into their private lives.
The situation is different in the B2B context. Most of the companies SmartCompany spoke to that sell B2B say they find direct marketing (usually by email) and telemarketing to be a relatively cost-effective lead generator.
According to Brennan IT’s Sims, direct marketing success is not just a matter of buying the biggest contact lists – without solid market research, the communiqués are likely to fall on deaf ears.
“The issue with consumers occurs when a business calls them about something they’re not interested in, and it’s the same in the business market if a call or email is irrelevant,” Sims says. “You need to do your research and understand what clients’ issues are and the outcomes they are trying to achieve. If you make a call and help them address that need, they are not going to get annoyed and you will be able to progress.”
6. Online is critical
It almost doesn’t need to be said, but today anyone even thinking of selling to business needs to have a persuasive and professional website.
The fragmented nature of the small and medium sized business market means that, in many cases, you won’t approach them about a sale – they will come to you, via your website.
Asset management software vendor SmartPath relies heavily on the marketing power of its website. The company’s general manager of software asset management Phil Hare says the web helps create something of a level playing field for businesses with relatively small marketing budgets.
“We don’t want to try and educate the market about what we do because it is cost-prohibitive to do so, so we focus on those who hit the website. Because we have a specialised product they are almost pre-qualified if they have come by search to our website, so for us it is a matter of ensuring we present a compelling argument to them.”
To take full advantage of your website, however, it must present a very strong value proposition to visitors, and it must do so on the front page – the further visitors have to go, the more you will lose, Hare says.
Search engine optimisation and marketing are also important tools in ensuring those “pre-qualified” customers who are searching for a product like yours come to your website first.
Carolyn Stafford, principal of Connect Marketing, advises businesses to seek professional assistance in putting together a website.
“The web is incredibly important, but I see so many business that have a very dull website that is essentially just a brochure in electronic form,” Stafford says. “It is such a critical thing, that you need to make sure it is properly designed and provides rich and changing content to visitors – it is not something you can set and forget.”
7. Information based PR and marketing is cheap and effective
SmartPath and Brennan IT publishe white papers. Entity Solutions participates in a benchmark survey of the independent contractor sector it works in, and MYOB surveys its small and medium size business customers.
The reason? By providing information that potential clients may find independently interesting, they hope to bring them within the orbit of their brand.
The benefits of doing so are numerous. MYOB’s small business survey earns it significant media attention because it is a relatively detailed and comprehensive snapshot of attitudes in the sector, while it also provides the company with valuable intelligence on its client base.
For example, its move into web hosting has been partly driven by a survey finding that a majority of small businesses don’t have their own websites.
“Our survey doesn’t talk about our products at all, but we think it helps us build a brand by associating us with the qualities we want to place on our products,” MYOB’s Reed says. “It is a most effective channel to market because you get broad exposure for next to nothing.”
A website chock full of interesting information will also be more of a magnet for customers, both because of the content itself and the search engine optimisation boost it brings.
For others, the key use of research and reports is to be able to put something other than marketing guff in front of the sceptical eyes of direct marketing recipients.
“There is an awful lot of fatigue in corporate land in terms of being sold to. They’ve seen the sell a thousand times before, but if you can send information to a decision maker that is relevant, informative and helps them carry out their work better, they’ll accept it,” SmartPath’s Hare says.
8. Run seminars and webinars
A related marketing tool also popular among successful B2B sellers is the seminar. Like surveys and reports, it prioritises information over the hard sell, but it has one additional strength – the opportunity for face-to-face meetings with current and potential clients.
The seminars don’t need to be about your product – it is more important to deliver information that is interesting and relevant.
MYOB often runs seminars, both on its product and related business subjects. Chief executive Reed says it is a particularly effective form of marketing to small and medium sized business.
“It is cost effective because it is one-to-many, great for marketing to small business because they tend to see it as less threatening than a sales person coming to their office and, best of all, it is a great way to directly engage with people,” Reed says.
To make your seminar even more attractive to small and medium sized business, consider running it as a webinar – an online seminar that people can patch into through their computer.
“Webinars are great because you cut down the cost of travel and they are a time efficient way for you to touch base with your clients – you can get 10 people together in the three minutes it takes them to log in,” he says.
9. Tap into industry groups and influencers
The business and consumer markets resemble each other in at least one regard – they are both made up of a few key thought leaders who heavily influence the remaining majority.
Finding these “influencers” is the first and most important step, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. Leading members of industry associations, professional services suppliers such as accountants or lawyers, or dominant players in a sector, are all likely targets.
If possible, take any opportunity to participate in, speak to, or meet with any professional associations in your sector. But avoid the temptation to use it as a selling opportunity – a long term strategy of reputation enhancement and relationship making will pay the biggest dividends.
MYOB’s Reed says his business has focused on building up a relationship with a network of accountants who recommend their products.
“Recommenders and influencers are incredibly powerful, but it takes a long time. The accountants that recommend our product are a big part of our strategy but it took 5 or 10 years to earn the confidence of that channel,” he says.
It can also be hugely useful if you can turn your existing customers into advocates for your brand, a process that can be helped along by offering discounts or benefits for referrers.
10. Only use advertising if it is tightly targeted
Given the costs involved, it may come as a relief that advertising is not central to most B2B strategies. Indeed for several firms it plays no role at all.
Entity Solution’s Franceschini says his firm stopped advertising around five years ago.
“We just don’t think advertising is a very effective way of getting to a business audience. We would rather do things like talk at a workplace relations conference or bring out a white paper. Even if we were to advertise in an industry magazine, people will see it and probably not give it a second glance and they know it’s been paid for,” he says.
“Unless you’ve got a huge budget and you’re going to do a concerted campaign to get traction, you’d get far more value spending the $100,000 on a sales person.”
Brennan IT’s Sims says the difficulty in measuring return on investment in advertising is another big negative.
“We think it’s hard to get a message that will pay a return. We’re focused on the mid market, so there aren’t a great variety of mediums available and we don’t have a big budget. If we do advertise we try and be very targeted and look for measurable returns,” Sims says.
How To Improve Your Customer Relationship In Business
Customers are important to your business because, without them, you wouldn’t be making any money. Some businesses often neglect their customers, particularly those who’ve been loyal to the company for a while. So, here’s a few ways to improve your customer relationship for your business.
Easy Ways To Communicate
There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer to have no way of communicating with a business. Some companies, particularly delivery services will have an automated messaging service and no way of talking to someone physically on the phone. Nowadays, this can be extremely damaging to a company because if you’re making life harder for a customer to get answers to their problems, they won’t stick around. Especially when there are so many other businesses who will more than happily accept your customers with open arms.
So in order to help save you losing them, make sure you have a phone number, email and registered address so that customers from all walks of life can get in touch due to a variety of options being available. Social media is a great way of talking to customers directly and vice versa so it might be worth considering having a dedicated individual or team that can handle social media queries.
Listen To Their Issues
Just like a lack of communication, customers hate not feeling valued, especially if they’ve been loyal to your brand for a long time. So it’s necessary to listen to their concerns and issues whenever they address them. Word of mouth is a powerful tool which can either make or break a business. So make it a priority to go above and beyond the call of duty for your customers and they’ll certainly notice it when you do.
Keep Their Personal Data Safe
There no denying that as more and more of us, use the online world, the threat of cyber attacks and data breaches are very real. It’s no surprise that customers are wary of responding to suspicious-looking emails and storing personal information with a company. It’s therefore important that you take every step necessary to ensure that your customer’s data is kept safe.
Obviously, nothing is guaranteed but having strong security systems in place is one way of reassuring them that you are conscious of their data.
Other ways to avoid a data breach and cyber attacks can be avoiding weak passwords or using passwords that relate to the company in some way. Teaching your staff members to be vigilant and have the knowledge needed to spot potentially harmful websites or emails they go on or receive.
Ask For Feedback
There are always ways to improve when it comes to your business and those who know your company best are your customers. They see problems where you might not see them, and this can sometimes make a huge difference in the rate at which your company grows over time.
Asking for feedback is a great way to make your customer feel included in the growth of the business, and its free advice! Create a survey or feedback form in which you can distribute to your email list or display on your website so that customers both new and old can give suggestions on how particular services, products, etc can be improved.
Constructive criticism should always be welcome, regardless of how established a business may be. You don’t have to act on this advice but it’s worth noting. Don’t be afraid to take chances and risks in your business.
Get To Know Them
Traditional forms of media only offer you so much in the way of who engages with your content, campaigns and other advertising or marketing projects.
Now, however, there’s technology available to get in-depth analysis of your customers and potential customers. But when it comes to spark vs mapreduce as two examples, how do you choose which one is best for your company?
While both of them fulfill the same purpose of data analytic, one might work better for you than the other. So it’s recommended to do your research.
These systems allow you to get a more detailed account of your visitors whether that’s on your website or through social media. You can see age categories, geographic locations, and interests to name but a few.
This is helpful in tailoring your future marketing and advertising so that it hits your target audience more specifically.
Customer relationships are a constant element of the business that should always come first. Value each and every one of them, and you’ll hopefully have customers who’ll stay with your business for years to come.
Direct-Selling Businesses: The Myths and the Truths
When it comes to business models that few people truly get, it’s hard to beat direct selling. In reality, many direct-selling businesses are reputable and offer people from all backgrounds and interests a way to earn some nice money – either as their main gig or a side hustle. But sometimes people hear “direct sales” and think “multi-level marketing scam” and run.
To clear up some of these myths about direct-selling businesses, as well as discuss the truths associated with how the business model works, consider the following points:
Direct Selling 101
In a nutshell, direct selling refers to selling products directly to a customer in a non-retail place. Sales usually happen at home, at a party or at work. The products go from the manufacturer to the direct sales company, where they are sent to the person who is selling them-often called a “distributor,” “independent business owner” or “rep,”- and then to the buyer.
In most cases, these items cannot be found in stores; they have to be purchased via the direct-selling method. The independent business owner will sell the items either one-on-one-this can be through an in-person presentation or even going door to door-or they can have a group sales setting like a party.
Direct Sales are Not Always MLMs
One of the most common myths regarding direct selling is the assumption that all direct sales companies use multi-level marketing (MLM) methods. Direct sellers make money when they sell a company’s products. MLM sellers earn income on commissions from products sold, and also from the sales made by other business partners who they recruit into the company.
Is Direct Selling a Pyramid Scheme?
A pyramid scheme can seem similar to multi-level marketing, only it’s far more sinister and typically illegal. Pyramid schemes require you to invest a ton of money up front to become a distributor, and the main goal seems to be in getting other people to sign up to work for the company. Single-level direct selling does not do this-people are not required to shell out big bucks to purchase items up front, nor are they asked to recruit others.
For example, Amway is a global direct sales company that offers home, health and beauty products. According to it’s website, its “IBOs make money through the sale of products … and don’t make any money by bringing more people in – not a single cent.” So is Amway a pyramid scheme or multi-level marketing company? No, it’s neither. As you research other direct sales companies, look for these key features to differentiate between business models.
Direct Selling is for Everyone
Another persistent rumor about direct selling is that it’s only done by stay-at-home moms. Although there are plenty of moms who sell products to earn some money while working around their family’s schedule, lots of people from all types of backgrounds are distributors as well. Many are college students, or adults with full-time jobs who are earning some extra money on the side.
Debunking the Myths
While some of the myths surrounding direct sales may persist for awhile, you now know the complete truth about this great way to earn income. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired to become a rep-whether it’s as a hobby or a full-time job, direct selling is an honest and flexible way to make money.
Effective Sales Prospecting Techniques You Should Be Using
Prospecting is a key process for any business, finding those unqualified leads and nurturing them to be happy customers. But for something that sounds so simple on paper, it can be tricky to know if you’ve really done everything you can, or if there are more effective ways of getting better results. Here are a few of our favorite techniques.
Yes, prospecting is a key part of the sales process — but it isn’t selling. When you’re first reaching out to leads, the last thing you want to do is scare them away with a hard sell.
The original prospectors would sift through the mud and stones to find gold, but they weren’t the ones who refined and crafted the gold. That was someone else’s job.
In the same way, your job is to find the ‘gold’ prospects, nothing more or less. In most cases, there’ll be someone else who’ll do the selling, but even if you’re a solo salesperson it’s important to have a clear distinction between the prospecting and the selling.
Instead, your first contact with a prospect should have only two key objectives:
- To provide value
- To pave the way for a second contact
If your pitch is all about you and how awesome you are, your prospects aren’t going to be impressed. Instead, spell out exactly what’s in it for them. You need to provide actual value right there, or at the very least make it clear what value you can provide in the future.
Then, rather than closing your message with the hard sell, aim to start a conversation. A great way of doing this is asking a sincere question to open up a dialogue. No rhetorical, obvious questions here, please.
Sound like a human being, not a cheesy infomercial.
How are you dealing with ?
Are you ready to start winning and stop being a loser?
Mix it up
We all have our favorite methods of communication. Unfortunately, that can often blind us to other methods when it comes to prospecting. Whether you prefer getting in touch with your prospects via email, phone calls, social media or carrier pigeon, you need to consider several factors.
First of all, each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. Cold calling is great for getting attention, but many people will screen their calls and may not be open to approach that way.
Email prospecting can easily be scaled up to massive numbers, but it’s also easily ignored. Social media may be great for specific markets, but your ideal prospects may not even be on the network. And while everyone loves carrier pigeon, they may take a long time to reach your prospect (even longer if they have a cat).
Different methods will work better for different prospects, but it’s usually difficult to know the best way beforehand. That’s why we recommend mixing up your approach and getting in touch using different methods.
The two most effective methods have proven to be emails and phone calls, so start with those. For example, use a phone call for your first attempt, then follow up with an email, alternating until you get a response.
Using sales prospecting tools
One of the top sales prospecting mistakes is trying to do all the work yourself. It’s essential to keep it personal when it comes to your prospecting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it easier and reach more people with the right tools.
There’s a lot of services that’ll take care of the manual, time-consuming tasks, leaving you to personalize the important parts.
For example, you could use:
- Email verification tools to quickly verify long lists of email addresses,
- Data enhancement apps to find out more about your prospects before you get in touch,
- Email automation software like Reply to send effective prospecting emails at scale.
Additionally, you could use cold email prospecting email templates or cold calling scripts, to make sure you’re never stuck staring at a blank page or wondering what to say next.
Of course, it’s important to do your research before you decide on your tools. Have a clear idea of your prospecting process, and identify any parts that are time-consuming or difficult to scale manually. Ask fellow prospectors for their recommendations.
Check out any available reviews and testimonials. Just as you wouldn’t try to build a house with your bare hands, neither should you try and build an effective prospecting funnel without using any tools.
Segmenting like a pro
If all this talk of automated prospecting has you wondering how you can possibly keep things personal, segmentation is essential.
If you have a clear idea of who your prospects are (based on hard data, rather than assumptions), you’ll soon start to see distinct groups emerge. These might be across industry, job title, behavior, location, or other demographics.
Group your prospects
Start breaking down your prospects into these groups, imagining as you go that you’re separating them into different physical rooms. Maybe one of your rooms contains C-level management who you’ve contacted before and are based in Europe, while the next room contains salespeople from America who’ve never heard of you.
Now, imagine standing in front of one of those rooms and talking to them. Are some people looking confused, maybe even falling asleep, wondering whether what you’re saying has anything to do with them? Then you should consider segmenting further.
On the other hand, is everyone in the audience nodding along, certain you’re talking personally to them and them alone? That’s the power of good segmentation, which leaves your prospects with an uncanny feeling you were reading their mind.
Each prospect on your list is unique, but not as unique as they may think. By segmenting them into groups with common traits, you can talk to them personally, but on a larger scale.
There are many more prospecting techniques you can use. However, by making sure you’re not going immediately for the hard sell, mixing up your contact methods, using sales prospecting tools and segmenting your list, you’ll have a solid foundation to your next prospecting campaign.
4 ways sales automation improves efficiency through data visibility
Sales automation software delivers a huge amount of data for B2B organizations to analyze. When provided with this information, field sales reps can make informed and educated sales decisions as well as providing beneficial advice to your customers.
Due to the large increase in CPG brands and wholesalers using sales automation tools, managers and CEO’s have more data available to them than ever before and many rely on this new wealth of data to help their sales teams thrive.
Let’s look at how…
1. Focus on the right sales activities
The best sales reps know that to increase revenue they must focus on adding value, by prioritizing the right opportunities with the right products, at the right time. How do they do this? Using a sales automation tool such as mobile CRM allows them access to relevant information telling them exactly who to visit.
Sales tools such as a sales order app automates sales tasks providing more time to meet high value clients face-to-face and more.
In addition, automating data entry reduces inefficiency and errors and real-time visibility helps companies identify problems and risks early so they can address them before they erupt into major and expensive crises.
2. Customer experience is the top sales benchmark
The B2B buyer has changed beyond recognition. Millennial customers are sophisticated and knowledgeable about the product they want by doing their own online research before they even meet a sales rep.
Because of their familiarity with advanced B2C sales cycles, they want and expect smarter and smoother B2B sales experiences, and they want sales reps that act more like personal consultants to address their individual challenges and solve them.
Although the priority for sales reps is closing the deal, the most successful ones also know that it’s vital to maintain long-term customers through memorable purchasing experiences.
Sales automation helps by providing a 360˚ view and personalized picture of every customer to ensure they are each provided with the experience they expect.
3. Collaboration between departments
To provide an excellent customer experience also requires cross-collaboration between all departments. It’s no good providing a seamless order-taking experience, only for the wrong delivery to turn up. Sales software provides the platform for all your sales tools providing complete visibility into the customer journey.
With consistent data, everyone can be responsible, respond quicker and more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.
It’s no longer acceptable for different departments to operate in siloes, a B2B sales platform will connect, sync data in real-time, improving efficiency and speeding up your entire sales workflow.
Sales software has multiple benefits especially when it comes to providing a large amount of data to increase sales. Adaptation is important, but sales teams need not fear. To build relationships, they will always be needed to be in front of the customer, understanding their needs and more.
3 Motivational Sales Meeting Ideas That Will Transform Sales Performance
As you approach sales kickoff time, you’re probably putting all the final touches in place to ensure another great event — you’re finalising ideas for the theme and content, checking you have the right entertainment organised and making sure you have the speakers booked. After all, the sales kickoff meeting sets the tone for the year ahead.
But while many salespeople will be looking forward to the annual get-together, there will be many more who dislike taking time away from the office and their families for the sake of what they perceive to be long days in rooms with no windows, watching the same people win accolades that they can’t ever seem to attain.
Publicly acknowledging an organisation’s top sellers is a common element of most sales kickoff meetings, but it can leave your hard-working mid-range salespeople feeling despondent. After all, they’re putting in just as many hours as those salespeople up on stage, but they’re not being invited to President’s Club.
Of course, training is key to helping those mid-range sellers “level up”, but you can’t expect to achieve a total transformation in a one or two-day sales kickoff meeting. Instead, consider your sales kickoff meeting as an opportunity to get them off to the right start, using these three motivational sales meeting ideas.
1) Find a Theme That Is Constructive
There are plenty of sales kickoff themes that are essentially meaningless. For all the heart-pumping appeal of a Daft Punk song they possess, vague sentiments like “Better. Stronger. Faster” are unlikely to provide much motivation for your mid-range salespeople.
It’s easy to get carried away with coloured balloons and fun goody bags, but it’s important to remember not to choose a theme just because you need a slogan for this year’s T-shirt. Themes enable you to weave all the events, training and content of your sales kickoff meeting into a cohesive narrative. Narratives help us engage with materials, meaning we are better able to recall those materials over a long period.
We know about using storytelling techniques for sales and ensuring our customers can see themselves in the stories we tell. In the case of the sales kickoff, you have to think of the salespeople as your customers and make sure that they can see themselves in the narrative you’ve created.
If you’re focused on a “superhero” salesperson, make sure it’s clear to your mid-range sellers exactly how they can become that person — otherwise, you risk further disengagement.
2) Use Your Top Sellers to Motivate Your Mid-Range Salespeople
Typically, a sales kickoff meeting will include at least one networking opportunity per day, which might be dinner, golf or some other “non-work” event.
Before the meeting begins, make it clear to your top performers that you expect them to use these opportunities to meet and talk to the “up and comers”. They don’t need to share their worldly wisdom there and then, but relationships forged at the sales kickoff can pay dividends in mentorships throughout the year.
If you don’t trust that this will happen naturally, make it happen. For example, you could create a table plan for dinner that puts possible pairings together. You could even hold a special event exclusively for salespeople who show a lot of potential, hosted by the top sellers, with the intention of pairing up mentors and mentees.
Sales coaching is a proven means of improving sales performance, and who better to coach your sales team than those already excelling at their job?
3) Ditch the Slide Shows for Panel Discussions
If you have access to a motivational speaker who will take the time to create something that really speaks to your business — great. If not, consider replacing their slot with a really juicy panel discussion — or a couple, if you can.
Watching one person on a stage can make the audience passive. If it’s a great speaker, we might get fired up for a moment, but the great ones are few and far between. Watching an interactive discussion is far more engaging. It encourages us to consider our own responses to the questions on the table.
A panel discussion that accepts questions from the audience is even better.
Who could your panel include? Consider the following:
- Top sellers — sharing what works for them, best practices, success stories, etc.
- C-suite executives — discussing brand vision, appraising the year that’s passed and looking to the future.
- Happy customers — talking about why your company has been important to their success, providing insight as to what was helpful to them throughout their buying process, etc.
- A formerly unhappy customer — wouldn’t it be interesting to hear from someone who could talk about what went wrong and how it was put right?
- An average Joe/Jo field-salesperson — it’s equally important to have a ground-floor perspective to represent the viewpoint of the majority of the attendees.
If you go down this path, remember to appoint a separate moderator. This task might be best outsourced to a professional, as it’s a real skill to direct and share a group discussion while avoiding having four people answering the same question.
However you celebrate your achievements at your 2019 sales kickoff, don’t forget that the majority of your salespeople are not at the top of the leaderboard — but they all have the potential to get there with the right training and motivation.
4 Ways Our Sales And Marketing Almost Failed
The sales and marketing teams are the lifeblood of your organisation. They are your reason that customers find their way to your brand and convert into loyal fans. These are the people who have direct contact with the outside world to try and demonstrate to them what you have to offer and what sets you aside from the rest.
So, what happens if you are seeing a bit of a lag in customer acquisition or sales? What happens if the sales aren’t coming in like they used to, or if leads are really starting to become few and far between? I took a look at what happened in my organisation and thought I would share some of my fixes that I made to get those sales up again.
Keep in mind, a full analysis of your organisation is needed in order to ascertain just where the problem is, but it doesn’t hurt knowing where you can start looking!
Trying To Do Everything Ourselves
We had to take a step back, swallow our pride and realize that we simply couldn’t do it all ourselves. We have young, bright minds on our team, but the team is still quite young. So, we decided to outsource our internet marketing function. Let me rephrase, we brought in an agency to take over our digital marketing for a while to get us a step up.
This is what we got out of it.
- We learnt a few things from them. Being absolute experts, we found ourselves learning quite a lot from them and we could start implementing that in our own methods once the contract expired;
- We got a chance to focus on other avenues. With them taking care of a time-consuming function, we could build foundations in other areas that would have been impossible to do;
- They provided much needed unique ideas. Suddenly we had so many new concepts and ideas that we decided to do a full rebrand, based primarily on unique thought.
We Weren’t Actually Listening To Our Client
We had a set strategy in place. A set marketing plan, concrete content plan, scripted sales calls and a mapped-out plan to deal with our customers. The problem is, customers are not robots. Customers are actually real live, feeling, breathing people. Shocking right?
Our lesson came one day when we lost one of the hottest leads we had received in months. It would have been a massive deal. Everyone in the company was excited. At the last minute, the sale fell through and we all went into shock. What had happened?
It turned out that the customer had requested some personalized additions to be added to the sale. With a bit of innovation and a little bit of hard work from our side, we could have actually lived up to their expectations and delivered their requirements.
This is where we learnt the valuable lesson to actually listen to our customers, hear what they want and act on it! Chances are that if one customer wants personalization, that product will appeal to other customers too!
We immediately started implementing a system where we reached out to our customers and asked for their feedback. We sent out surveys asking them why they loved our services, why they didn’t, what we could have done differently, what more they expected from us. The results were astounding and based on them, we could go back and start making the vital changes that needed to be made.
Customer Experience Management Was Just A Phrase
We realized, especially after the loss of this huge potential client, that the two customer-facing points in our company had no customer experience management knowledge. They were not able to identify what the customer’s needs were, be innovative and meet the requirements. And why should they, they were used to working solely on scripts.
The company had to take a huge step into mapping the customer journey and developing every single one of the touch points. In order to do so, we hired a customer experience professional who was able to come in and spend every hour working on the customer’s happiness and loyalty.
Our mission was to surprise and delight the customer from the minute they made contact with our brand. This meant that every single touchpoint needed to be optimized, each team needed to communicate with each other. The flow of information about the customer, their needs and their expectations had to be managed perfectly. Every communication process within the team needed that bit of hard work to make sure that our customers become loyal to the brand. With this information flowing from customer entry right through to acquisition, their needs were effectively managed and we could live up to their expectations.
We Actually Didn’t Know Who Our Customer Was
Another key lesson that we took out of losing this great customer was that we simply didn’t have our finger on the pulse of who our customer was. As much as we wanted them to have a great experience, how could we if we didn’t even know who they were!
We decided to take a deep dive into our customer mapping in order to understand our customer. Understanding demographics, their wants, needs and expectations allows you to have a full view of who you are targeting and who you are speaking to. You will then be able to create a message that will speak directly to them!
We also started monitoring their behaviour to identify what they were about to do next. Where they going to upgrade, had they been with us long enough that we could cross-sell them? Or were they about to churn? This was vital, as losing existing customers was having a huge impact on our income. We needed to understand why customers were churning and what was the main signs that they were about to quit the brand. Once we had this, we could reach out to them with an offer that they couldn’t refuse.
It has taken us two years to evolve the organisation and its unique elements, and it is still very much a work in progress. What was vital to us was making sure that our current customers didn’t drop away as we worked out that finding new customers is more costly than keeping existing customers on board. It is not going to be an overnight success. But, in the end, it will be worth those high-paying loyal fans!
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