Monday, November 30, 2009

"Power" up your selling skills

My secret weapon arrived in the mail today. This tool has helped me to become a better sales person and sales manager. It helps me to maintain my competitive edge. My secret weapon is Selling Power Magazine.

I have subscribed to Selling Power Magazine for many years. Because Selling Power is written for sales people by sales people, every issue is packed full of actionable ideas that you can take directly to the field. This month's issue includes articles on interviewing, motivation, risk taking, objections, listening, closing and much more.

As professionals we need to invest in building our sales skills. Selling Power is a good investment that will bring you an excellent ROI.

Keep smiling, Keep Selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Why December Matters

December can be a challenging month for sales people. Many of our prospects are either busy or in full-on party mode. There is a genuine temptation to blow off December and join in the festivities. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by the siren call of the eggnog. December may be the most important month of the year for you.

You can not afford to write off one twelfth of your year. The contacts and appointments you make in December will ensure a good January and get your new year started off with a bang. If you slack off in December you will be starting January with your sales pipeline empty. This will make achieving you January goals extremely difficult and force you to play "catch up" all year long.

December is a great time to talk to clients about their goals for the coming year and to secure commitments for advertising. Many service businesses are slow this time of the year and you may be able to get more time from these customers. Your competition may be able to take December off, but you can't.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks, Jim Busch

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Quote

I like quotations because they bring truths into sharp focus. The following statement expresses something we all know but is often forgotten in the press of our daily activities.

"You're only really working when you're face-to-face with a customer. Everything else is only prelude."
Brian Tracy

As salespeople we only get paid for having substantive conversations with customers that lead to a sale. We have to spend time planning , attending meetings etc. but it is in our own best interest to organize your days to spend as much time as possible engaging clients. As an old telephone sales rep I disagree with the phrasing "face-to-face" and would offer the substitution "connecting" as more accurate. Keep close track of your time and do whatever you can to increase the percentage of time you are spending with the people who write your paycheck.

Keep smiling, keep selling!

Thanks Jim Busch

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swimming against the stream

A local Pittsburgh auto dealer has decided to skip the current recession. At a recent Media Association of Pittsburgh meeting Mr. Jim Shorkey explained how he has consistently broken sales records for the past two years. When the auto industry started to slow down he ramped up his advertising. At the meeting he said that when he was told that US auto sales fell to 17 million, he said "Great, I want my share of that 17 mill!" As the local market began to shrink, he almost doubled his budget. By increasing his share, he maintained his profitability. At the same time he enhanced his sales compensation plan "because closing is harder in a tough market." When KIA USA told him that the Pittsburgh market couldn't produce the volume to support a large advertising investment, he decided it could. After 3 months he had doubled his sales and within a year he had the highest sales per capita of any dealer in the nation. Mr. Shorkey spends about 70% of his budget in print with the remainder divided between radio and TV. By refusing to buy into the economic hysteria spread by the national media and following a sound business strategy, Mr. Shorkey has proven the wisdom of advertising when times are tight.

Have a great Thanksgiving Day. Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A fun idea for Christmas

Here's an idea I got from one of our advertisers. It is a great way to bring in holiday business and have a little fun. They headlined their ad with these words:

"Sing a carol and get a 20% discount"
All a customer has to do is sing a few bars of Jingle Bells or Frosty to get their discount. I like this idea because it made them standout from the typical holiday ads. Another benefit is that it enhances the "customer experience," it makes shopping at their store fun. This "experience factor" greatly influences consumer's choice of where they will shop. All things being equal people opt for the more entertaining or unique store. Sometimes they will even pay a little more to go to a place that is more engaging.

Keep smiling, keep selling!

Thanks Jim Busch

Monday, November 23, 2009

Mom was right!

When your mother said "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.", she was absolutely right. Research psychologists have recently identified a phenomenon which they called "Spontaneous Trait Transference." This is described as "In the mind of the listener, communicators are associated with the traits they describe in others." Simply stated, if you say your competitor is dishonest, you will be seen as dishonest. If you say your competitor is hard working, you will be seen as hardworking. This may seem a bit irrational, but it is supported by a lot of careful research. After years in sales and as an observer of human nature, I am only surprised when humans act rationally. The lesson to take away is that sales people must focus on consistently using positive language, to avoid using negative descriptions. Sales people should concentrate on the value offered by their products, not on the faults of opposing products. Mom also said "You are what you eat." for salespeople "We are what we say."

Keep smiling, keep selling!

Thanks Jim Busch

Friday, November 20, 2009

Weekly quote

This week's quote is from Andrew Carnegie. Since I grew up outside Pittsburgh in the shadow of Carnegie's steel mills I have always been fascinated by this extraordinary man. Carnegie's greatest strength was his ability to sell. He understood what motivated people to buy and how to get them to do things his way. The first steel mill Carnegie built is still operating a couple of miles from my home. The plant is not named after Andrew Carnegie but is called the "Edgar Thompson Works." Mr. Thompson was the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and the largest buyer of steel in the world when Carnegie went into business. Old Andy know how to take care of his prospects.

Throughout his life, the people around Carnegie constantly remarked about his energy and drive. This quote says a lot about how Andrew Carnegie became literally the richest man in the world:

"People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity"--Andrew Carnegie

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A notable idea

There is a Chinese proverb that says "The palest ink last longer than the best memory." This is why I always advise salespeople to take notes during a sales call. Note taking forces you to listen more attentively. Often reviewing notes allows you to see patterns that were not readily apparent during the call. I look for words or ideas that the prospect repeated several times. This is a sure way to identify issues that are important to the customer.

Taking notes sends a signal to the customer. It tells them that you are interested in what they are saying and that they are dealing with a professional. I find that recapping my notes on a follow up call saves time and moves the sales process along. Instead of covering the same ground you can begin acting on the information gathered on the first call.

Don't worry about writing done complete sentences. Record the key words and ideas and leave space on the page to fill in the blanks after the meeting. Underline or circle points that you want to explore further or want to act on.

I've found that many sales people are reluctant to take notes during a call. They seem to feel that note taking is awkward or inappropriate. I suggest you make a point of taking notes during calls in the next few weeks. You'll find that this practice will have a "notable" impact on your sales results.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks--Jim Busch

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Designing Online ads

Designing ads for your company's website is somewhat different than doing layouts for your print product. Most online display ads contain a link to the customer's site. Think of online ads as a high tech headline. Like a headline the banner ad is intended to grab the viewers attention and get them to read further. Online ads must be simple and straightforward to attract viewers who are surfing your site. They should offer to reader value and clearly indicate what the ad is offering "Save Big on Product Name" In this case the "body copy" of the ad is the customer's website. Include a message to motivate the viewer to click through to the link. Use phrases like "Click here for details" or "Click here for coupon." Online ads with heavy copy fade into the surrounding site. Ads that "tease" viewers to access the customer's web site are most effective.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

The "Great Eight"

I am a great believer in the "magnifying glass theory." Like sunlight though a lens, you can accomplish a lot more when you focus your energy. Some people keep a top ten prospect list, as a rep I always kept a "Great Eight." The number you choose doesn't really matter, what is important is that you keep a list of your best prospects. Any territory contains many businesses that could buy from you. The high number of potential customers can cause inexperienced reps to dissipate their efforts. They make contacts but move on to the next target without following up. They do not have the time to thoroughly plan and prepare for any individual prospects.

Choosing a handful of prospects for special attention will greatly increase your chance of success. This accounts will get the "full court press." You should research them, create a complete advertising plan for them and develop a strategy for selling the account. It would be wonderful if you could do this for every prospect in your territory but this would require far too much time. Choose accounts that are in categories your publication can benefit, businesses that have a high dollar potential and highly respected businesses that will enhance your product. Keep them on the list until you've exhausted every effort to close them or until you can move them to "current customer" list. As soon as you move someone off the list replace them with a new prospect.

It is always important to make as many calls as humanly possible and keep in touch with your territory. This is how you know who belongs on your "top" list. Focusing your efforts will move more of these contacts into the "sold" column.

Keep smiling, keep selling!

Thanks Jim Busch

Monday, November 16, 2009

Five C's equals an A+

When I call on a prospect or a client I like to be prepared. At a minimum I like to know how I am going to open the call and the questions I want to ask. There are five basic things I want to know about any business I am trying to sell. I call them the "5 C's". By asking 5 C questions you can uncover the customer's needs and problems and begin to formulate a plan. Here are my 5 C's:

5 C’s
1. Company
2. Customers
3. Current Marketing
4. Competition
5. Challenges

In the coming weeks I'll elaborate on these and give some examples of question for each,

Have a great week.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Quote

When I was a young man Dr. Lawrence J. Peter's work was very popular. He is the author of "The Peter Principle, Why Things Always Go Wrong." The theory behind this book was that people eventually get promoted to their "level of incompetence." Stated simply this principle says that people are advanced until they reach a level that is beyond their abilities. Dr. Peter had some unique insights into human nature and in his second book "The Peter Prescription" he explored the answer to the problem described above--continual self development and learning.

This week's quote is one of "Peter's Laws"

"Do it by the book...but be the author!"

I totally agree with this thought. We need to establish personal principles and then live by them! Have a great weekend.

Keep smiling, keep selling

Thanks Jim Busch

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Principles of persuasion

As sales and advertising people we are professional persuaders. The following principles are taken from Robert Cialdini's excellent book "Influence: The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion

1) Reciprocity--This is the "I'll scratch your back, I'll scratch yours" theory. When you do something for a person, they naturally want to do something for you in return
2) Consistency--When you make a series of requests that causes the customer to answer in the affirmative, they are more inclined to answer in the affirmative when you make a larger request.
3) Social influence--"Monkey see-monkey do" People tend to follow the crowd and do what others have done. Testimonials are the best way to leverage this principle
4) Familiarity--People are more likely to go along with people they know or like. This is why asking for referrals is so important.
5) Authority--People tend to trust people in authority or who look like an authority figure. Don't forget to dress for success
6) Scarcity--This plays on a fear of loss. When you close an ad by saying "I only have a few sots left on this promo" you are applying this principle

I hope I've persuaded you to read this great book.

Keeping smiling, keep selling

Thanks Jim B.

Proof Reading Trick

Typos in ads are surprisingly hard to find. Our minds sometimes play tricks on us when we are proof reading. We will read what we expect to see, rather than what is actually on the page. If we know the line is supposed to say "Cheese Pizza" that is what we will see, even if the type says "Cheese Piazza". To avoid this problem I like to read all of my ads backwards. We learn to read from left to right, top to bottom, as we get older this pattern becomes automatic. In the interest of speed we stop focusing on individual words and begin taking in information in "chunks." This is why if a word is close to correct we may gloss over it. By reading each line from right to left, we break our normal pattern and force ourselves to read each individual word. Taking a few minutes to do this can prevent typos in your ads and save you a lot of grief from customers.

Keep selling, keep smiling.

Thanks--Jim Busch

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Naked or Armed for Bear?

I frequently get asked, "What should I carry on a sales call?" There are 2 schools of thought on this. Some salespeople believe in going in "naked" with nothing more than a business card. They believe that carrying a lot of sales materials intimidates the prospect and causes them to chase the sales person away.

Others believe in going in "armed for bear" with everything they have to present. I have even known reps who fill in an insertion order before going on a call. Their theory is that you should be prepared for anything just in case the customer is receptive to buying.

I prefer to take the middle path. I like to carry a small neat binder containing coverage maps, pricing and product samples. At the front of my binder I have several PowerPoint slides that talk about the key selling points of my product. This binder looks professional and contains everything I need to present my product to a customer and answer basic questions. I like to use the slides as a visual aid when describing my publication to the prospect. Research indicates that if your words are supported by a visual, the customer is more likely to retain the information. Visuals also enhance your credibility with the client. Everyone is different but this has worked for me for years.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's working in Pittsbugh

At the Pittsburgh Pennysaver we sell a lot of print & deliver inserts (3.5 million in the avg. week). These are available in a variety of sizes and papers. We do a lot of restaurants, pizza shops and other businesses that like to do coupons. One design is particularly popular because it highlights the coupons and gets a great response.

We sell an 11 X 17 flyer that is folded twice. The key to this design is that the first fold is made 2" t0 2-1/2" off center. In other words, instead of making the fold at the 8-1/2" point we make it 11" from the end. When the piece is folded again, this time in the center, a 2-1/2" tab is created. We lay out the piece so this tap is where the coupons are located. When a reader opens the piece the coupons "Pop". This effect can be enhanced even further by printing the coupons in a contrasting color.

Here is a diagram that may help. Please note that I obviously do not have a graphics department.

On several occasions, this idea has helped me to close a sale.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friday Quote 11/6/09

This week's quote is from one of the great creative minds from the "Golden Age" of advertising, David Ogilvy:

"Whatever you do, you should want to be the best at it. Every time you approach a task, you should be aiming to do the best job that's ever been done at it. Anyone who does that will be successful...and rich."

Ogilvy is one of the founders of the Ogilvy and Mather advertising agency. He is also the author of two great books on advertising (Confessions of an advertising man & Ogilvy on advertising)) Ogilvy was highly creative and a superb copy writer. He put the eye patch on the Hathaway shirt man and wrote "At 60 miles per hour the only sound in my Rolls Royce is the ticking of the clock". I suggest picking up one of his books , in spite of their age they are still packed with useful ideas on creating powerful ads and on the creative process.

I've received a number of requests for a list of books that I would recommend. This is a daunting task, but I've started putting it together. I hope to launch a website soon and this will be a part of my page.

Keep Smiling, Keep Selling

Have a great weekend. Thanks Jim Busch

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making Headlines

Here is a quote from Your Attention Please* by Paul Brown and Alison Davis:

"On Average. five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90% of your money"

This is something to keep in mind when creating ads for your customers. Your customer may want to see their name at the top of the ad. Unless their name contains a key selling point (ie. Cheap Carpets) this is not a good idea. The name will only help them attract customers who already know them. If they want to attract new customers, a headline that features a value statement is the way to go. Their regular customer's will see their name in the body copy.

Use the quote above and tell the customer "research indicates..." Remind them that you are the advertising professional. This is worth fighting for because strong headlines have a significant impact on how effectively the ad will draw customers. Customers who buy effective ads are the customers who remain customers.

*This is a great book for those of us who earn our paychecks selling and writing ads

Keep Smiling, Keep Selling

Thanks Jim Busch

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Knee Jerk" Objections

What do you do when you walk into a customer's place of business (or call them on the phone) and they immediately say "NO". This is what I call a "knee jerk" objection. They are not really objecting to what you have to offer, at this point they don't even know what you are offering. They are conditioned by long experience to react to salespeople with an immediate rejection. The best way to handle this situation is to step around it.

I start with a bit of verbal Judo. I respond to the prospect by saying something like "That's okay, I wish everyone would buy something from me, but I know that's not realistic. Thank you for your time." This statement defuses the situation and sets up my next move. Next I start a conversation about their business. I will ask a question about something on display in their store or something in their office. I may ask them how long they've in business, anything to start them talking.

When they first identify you as a salesperson, the prospect erects a barrier to keep you away. By engaging the prospect in conversation you begin to crack that barrier. The longer you keep them talking the less they think of you as a salesperson and the more they think of you as an individual. You can then start asking questions to uncover needs and move on to a sale. This technique is much more effective than trying to confront the objection directly.

Keep smiling, keep selling.

Thanks Jim Busch

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thanksgiving letters

Time keeps rushing by and November is here already. Here is an idea that I have used both as a sales person and as a manager to set myself apart. I always sent my advertisers a Thanksgiving letter. Every vendor sends out Christmas cards, so it is easy to get lost in the pile. Very few business people acknowledge Thanksgiving Day. It is the logical time to reach out to your customers, to thank them for buying from you. When I do this, I always get very positive feedback, often clients actually pick up the phone and call to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving.

Here is the copy I used last year:

Thanksgiving is a season of reflection, a season of giving thanks for our blessings throughout the year. It is a season to remember the special people who have helped us and whose very presence brightens the world. I always enjoy speaking with you and having you as a customer has made my job a great pleasure. As Thanksgiving approaches I’d like to express my gratitude for allowing me the privilege of working with you. Thank you for your business and for always being so pleasant. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.

I print these out on Thanksgiving stationary from the office supply shop and mail them to all of my clients. This is a low cost, high impact way to build your relationship with a customer.

Keep smiling, keep selling

Thanks Jim Busch