Archive for April, 2010

I’ve written about the importance of relationships in sales many times. I’ve understood the MASSIVE value of relationships intuitively but last night after attending a Bradley Sugars “Business is Booming” Seminar I gained a new understanding of why relationships are important. Simply put strong relationships provide “life time value”. Life time value is the value of a relationship over time – ideally a life time.

Essentially there are three relationships you need to constantly nurture.

  1. Customers,
  2. Centers of Influence
  3. Host Beneficiary Relationships

Customers: Nurturing relationships with customers is a now brainer. Customer relationship building leads to two things if done correctly. Repeat business and referrals.  How many times are you reaching out to your existing customers? When is the last time you asked them for a referral?  Scratch that. The questions should be “When was the last time you rewarded your customer for a referral?”

The other two relationships are often over looked and equally important.

Centers of Influence: Are you building relationships with key players in your industry? You know the one’s creating the buzz in your industry. The professionals who you read their blogs, books or even attend their seminars.

When was the last time you reached out to a key influencer in your industry and opened a conversation or even tried  to create a relationship. You may tell yourself “but he/she is too busy”. You’re right on one account they are busy, but they are not too busy. They earned their position of “centers of influence” because they take the time to know the industry, players, products and invest time to build strong relationships.  You may not get them on the first attempt. But remember building relationships takes time and energy.

Host Beneficiary Relationships – First of all what is a Host Beneficiary Relationship? Basically it is a partnership with a non-competing company that shares the same customers. For example since one of my companies custom develops software applications we have partnerships with companies who provide hardware like rugged PDA device providers like Psion Teklogix. By building relationships with a “host” company you can then be the “beneficiary” of a referral. The strength of these relationships is the roles can be reversed. Plus because your shared customer profile is the same bringing each other into a deal is a natural part of the business discussions and will be perceived by the customer as your providing more value to them.

Let me emphasize your long term success in sales or business is largely dependent upon the relationships you create not your ability to sell.

Question is what are you doing to nurture your relationships?

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Author: Jody Sedrick
Entrepreneur, CEO, Sales, Mobility and Web 2.0 Expert
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Let me start this article by boldly stating, “Customer Service is the ‘New’ Marketing and Business Winner!”

Now that’s off my chest let’s visit.

The past couple of weeks I’ve conducted some in-depth business analysis for a customer who is in the audio-visual, event production industry.  I’ve gained an in-depth understanding of his business and identified areas where with the right technology mix can bring some immediate ROI to his business. But, what I’ve learned more than anything is his secret sauce to success – Customer Service.

Unlike his competitors he doesn’t send a quote over for a job. He calls or visits the client in person and walks them through the quote explaining each service and product combination that was specifically tailored for their event. He attributes this little extra detailed pre-customer service to an 85% close rate.

This same attention to customer service carries over to post sales. My client follows up on every audio-visual installs two weeks after an installation “just to make sure the customer is happy”.  When customers rent equipment he has AV professionals on call for unforeseen challenges customers encounter. This weekend alone he responded to customer issues even though they were at odd hours of the day.

When a customer was asked why he chooses my customer his response was, “I don’t care about the equipment he offers, even though it is top of the line. I do business with him because when I call he responds.”

I suggest customer service is your single best marketing tool to win and keep customers. This is even more crucial in today’s world of social media where word of mouth not only spreads instantaneously, it spreads exponentially.

We’ve all heard the statements and read things about customer service but how many of us really know what it is?  It is a genuine concern for the future and wellbeing of the customer.  Go the extra mile and make the customer come back.  Don’t make a promise you don’t or can’t keep.  Give the customer more value than they are paying for.  There are exponential rewards for doing this and not just in the form of dollars.

The real customer service expert doesn’t even think about it, they live it, it is a part of their everyday way of being and it shows in everything they do.  I suggest that it can be learned by anyone and that it will change your business and your life as well.

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Author: Jody Sedrick
Entrepreneur, CEO, Sales, Mobility and Web 2.0 Expert
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Cartoon Credits 1099 Professional http://www.1099.com/

There a wide variety of sales and marketing resources available, from books, blogs, forums and seminars, designed to help you overcome customer’s objections and the dreaded “NO”. Certainly overcoming objections is a key skill you need to develop. The question I have for you today is “do you as a sales professional have the  power to say no”?

You’re probably asking yourself, “What are you talking about? The sales person never says no. He wins business”.

I submit that there is a time to say NO.

You say NO when you’re on a path to bad business.

Saying NO to bad business will alleviate the pain and frustration of an unhappy customer, alleviate stress, save your reputation and free you to pursue good business.

I learned this years ago when I tried to convince my Sales Manager that taking a customer project was a bad decision. He discounted my recommendations stating that we “needed” the business. The short story of taking the business – we lost over $100,000 and I spent a lot of time salvaging a relationship.

How do you determine if a potential client is bad business? This is something you will have establish for yourself.  I suggest that you establish a set of criteria for good and bad business. Now don’t be smug and say “I don’t care. I just want customers and I want sales”. If you have this attitude you will soon spend the majority of your time putting out fires for unhappy customers.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Evaluate your current customers. Identify your best and worst customers. Create a list of the characteristics that make them a good or bad customer. This list will help you identify characteristics that will become your personal benchmarks for the ideal  customer.
  2. Set thresholds on the type of business you will accept. This may include the number of users, budget limitations, time to make a decision, etc.
  3. Identify common features that sold your “good” customers. Knowing these features will not only hone your sales presentation it will help you identify potential customers that are seeking the same features. Think of it this way, like minds attract like minds. If your potential customers are seeking the same features as your good customers there is a high probability you’ll be able to meet their needs and statistically they will be excellent customers as well.

Once you’ve evaluated each of these areas you will have your personal criteria for the ideal customer.  If a potential customer falls outside of your established criteria you know that it’s time to politely say NO. Well I’d say it more professionally like “I appreciate your time and consideration but based on …(give the reasons)….. it doesn’t seem like we may be the best fit for your needs.”

Notice that when I tell the customer NO I tell him the reasons why I don’t think I can serve his needs. This provides an opportunity for the customer to clarify points that perhaps I misunderstood. It also lays the groundwork for a future sale. How have I accomplished this? Well in being honest with the customer and not forcing a “sale” I have gained a portion of his trust. Chances are he will either return to me in the future or refer business my way because I was upfront and honest with him.

Sometimes saying NO opens the door to a YES in the future.

Be wise and say NO to bad business and YES to good business. You’ll be glad you did and will reap the rewards financially.

Jody Sedrick
Copyright 2010