Empower Your Staff

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Don on 30-04-2007

I know you have heard the phrase “Money is Power.”  I don’t doubt that there is some truth in that but I think a lot of people, managers, owners, CEO’s etc. have an even bigger problem with “control is power.”  They have to “control” everything and everyone around them.  Speaking as a former business owner I had a difficult time realizing that I suffered from this control syndrome myself.  I wanted the best for my company and the employees and was convinced that I was the only person capable of making that happen.  One day a good customer and friend told me of a delivery problem he had and that he had asked my delivery guy to handle the issue for him and my driver politely told him that everything had to be approved through me first.  He thought the guy was joking but soon realized that he was being sincere.  My customer friend started laughing at me, in my own office!  I felt insulted and humiliated at first but after my friend made me recognize my obvious weakness I was compelled to admit he was right.  We are still good friends to this day and I respect his wisdom and insights.  It is easy to fall into this way of thinking and not even realize that we are traveling down a path that will not win friends or influence people.  

This “control complex” as I call it is often noted by others long before you may realize you have this problem.  Sometimes it is in the form of a micro-manager and sometimes it is as simple as a supervisor that refuses to let the simplest decisions be made without their approval.  Your Customer Service staff cannot, or they are very limited in power, handle customer complaints or problems without “permission” from the “controlling” manager resulting in a longer than necessary amount of time to fix problems.  This lack of empowerment, in my opinion, is a symptom of a lack of trust and/or confidence.  If you can’t trust your employee’s to handle these situations and support them when they make those decisions then why keep them employed?  There is no cause to be angry or place blame on others as the cause of this controlling complex.  We are human, even us sales people!  We make mistakes but we also learn from them.  Remember if you point your finger of blame to another person there are three more fingers pointing back at yourself.

If you are suffering from the “controller complex” you are destroying your business and ruining the relationships you have with your employees.  Employees (at least most of them) want to be a part of something special or significant.  They sincerely desire to be a part of a successful organization that has vision, goals and a well defined future that offers them job security and peace of mind.  You spend valuable time and substantial grey matter teaching them, training them, cultivating positive attitudes and then you waste away their considerable talents because you will not let them make decisions on their own!  You are no more successful than the people who surround you!  Your employees are experienced and capable, eager to show their expertise and help you grow your business.  Give them responsibility and accountability and you may be surprised at how personal empowerment can generate sales and reduce your personal stress.

Recognize that controllers will let no decision be made without their prior approval.  If they make a decision they get reprimanded or the decision they made is criticized and the employee is chastised.  Your business lacks growth, your staff is lackluster in their attitudes and the excitement of future success is dimmed.  You have lost hope.  Your company is doomed to poor performance and low morale.   Yet there remains a glimmer of hope if you can realize that a simple change in how you think and act can impact your business in a significant way.  As a business owner I was proud of my accomplishments and it was hard to see this problem in myself but it was evident to others.  My pride also made me blind to my own failures.  I had to let go of the decision making responsibilities and delegate those to my staff who were very qualified to make good decisions and knew how to handle problems just like I did.  If they ran into a problem and needed help, they were quick to ask.   I empowered them to make decisions and when I saw the results I knew my friend was right. 

I’ll share a story of a company I much admired years ago.  They began in a small office selling advertising specialty products and the three owners wanted to grow a company that encouraged ideas.  They wanted employees that weren’t afraid to express their ideas or opinions.  Everyone in the company was a sales person and received commissions if they sold a product.  They were empowered to make decisions on their own and were held accountable.  Everyone shared in the growth and profits and everyone had a meaningful, significant role.  What started out as three people with an idea soon grew into the second largest ad specialty company in the U.S.  They employed over 220 sales reps and people were excited to work there.  I had friends that worked there and I serviced the account for most of their office and warehouse supply products.  The atmosphere was electric when you walked in and you could see the excitement on everyone’s faces.  If the company reached their sales goals the company would close down for two days and the entire staff, even the part-timers, would go on a trip such as white water rafting.  They shared the dreams and successes of the owners and they actively cultivated this attitude.  They even invited me to go along on their trips because they considered me to be a contributing factor in their success due to my ideas and efforts to save them money and provide unique services!  Many of their sales reps became millionaires due to the success of the company and themselves.  There is NO reason why you can’t create this same kind of business and cultivate a winning attitude!  This company empowered their people, so can you!  Share your dreams and vision and make your team an empowered partner in that success.

We should take a step back and examine ourselves and see if we suffer from the control complex.  If so, make a conscious effort to change your thinking and make your staff accountable and let them know your expectations and empower them to perform those responsibilities with your support and trust.  It won’t be easy, only in Webster’s Dictionary will you find “success” before “work.”  Change is always difficult but the success or failure of you or your business is at stake.  Which one is more costly?  Personal change or business stagnation or even worse, closure?

I challenge you to take a look at how you empower your staff.  Be honest with yourself, seek out the advice of someone you trust and accept honest constructive criticism if offered.  Old habits can be hard to break but not impossible.  Don’t take care, take a chance!  Enjoy the sweet smell of success and share the wealth with those who bring it to you each and every day. 

Sales Process Development

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Don on 18-04-2007

Sales models are as complicated as or as simple as you want them to be but either way the goal is the same.  One of the projects I’m currently entangled in is developing a hunter-farmer sales model.  We use a traditional outside sales force but the changing marketplace demands that we re-examine our strategies for growth.  I chose this particular methodology because many of the most successful supplies dealers are using some form of this sales model. 

Let’s examine how Quill uses this model.  First thing you need to know (if you don’t already) is that Quill budgets $125 in marketing funds to gain each new account.  This may be in the form of heavily discounted copier paper, percent off savings or a free gift with the order.  Quill sends hunters out in teams of two and calls on prospects and offers them free cookies or something similar if they place an order online during their visit.  They demonstrate their online ordering site, give the prospect a low priced prospecting catalog and out the door they go to the next stop.  Often they will bait the prospect with $19.99 per carton copier paper and usually within 90 days they will have upped the price to $54 per carton.  This customer will remain convinced that they are still paying $19.99 a carton and refuse to believe they are paying such a hefty price until they scrutinize their invoices.  They still have a mental picture of that cheap paper price!  This situation occurs much more often than you might realize but do you really believe that anyone is going to sell paper for that kind of loss for any length of time?  There are several variations of this sales approach but this one has been highly successful for Quill and they continue to experience sales growth.  WB Mason is another example of this hunter-farmer sales model and they have been very successful in growing their business and have become a dominant force in their marketplace.

If you have not really considered what your sales model is or don’t quite understand if you even have one let’s look at a basic, but historically successful, sales model.  I will not go into great detail here simply because you need to think through these processes and relate them to your situation.

Step One:   Identify your prospective customer base or target. Such as medical, legal, government, etc.

Step Two:  Create your prospect list and plan your calls or mailing campaign if applicable.

Step Three:  Identify your prospect bases specific product needs. 

Step Four:  Design and produce (if necessary) your market specific marketing materials. Customized handouts, catalogs, Post Cards, etc.

Step Five:  Make your initial contact.  Time to get to work!  (G.O.Y.A. – Get Off Your A**!)

Step Six:  Follow-up your initial contact with needs based replies.  Address concerns and provide solutions.

Step Seven:  Deliver your proposal or quote.  Maybe you provide PowerPoint Presentations, if this is the case remember to keep them simple and to the point.

Step Eight:  Negotiate (if necessary).  If you have done your homework you should not have to give up any margins and this step is only to solidify your capabilities and commitment.

Step Nine:  Confirm and follow-up with your commitments.  Send a hand written Thank You note to all involved.  If you have involved internal associates in the quotation process don’t forget to thank those who supported you!

While these steps are not all inclusive they give you a good idea of a simple sales process that includes all the necessary ingredients to get the sale.  This basic sales model can be easily modified to suit your specific needs but remember, without a well defined process you are subject to waste valuable time and energy while accomplishing nothing.  Plan your work and work your plan.  I’ll pass along my thoughts on the hunter-farmer model as I progress.  If you have used this successfully in your market I would love to hear about your successes or failures.  Thanks for your time today and I wish you much success.

Remanufactured vs. OEM Toners

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, The Competition) by Don on 17-04-2007

I’ve not spoken much about the Staples, Hewlett-Packard backroom deal regarding Staples dropping the HP compatibles from their stores.  Make note however that Staples business unit continues to carry the full line of HP compatibles.  Reliable sources state the Staples stands to make forty percent on the HP toners because of this deal.  Tell me, when was the last time you made forty percent on an HP toner?  Many of their toners do well to generate fifteen points and depending upon your specific market even less.  Not to mention HP’s MAP (minimum advertised price) pricing policies.  This means that dealers that buy direct and wholesalers are prevented from advertising prices less than a predetermined market price dictated by HP.  Don’t misunderstand me, I am a fan of HP products and I think in many cases their products, printers, etc. are superior to anything else on the market.  But make no doubt that the Staple/HP toner benefits no one except Staples shareholders.  The average store buying consumer is the big looser here.

Back in 1988 when I started seeing the influx of the HP laser printers in the market I determined that this printer would be a market driver in popularity and quality.  Years earlier I could earn a decent living on ribbons and continuous papers but with this new technology in printing change was just around the corner.  I took it upon myself to get training on the function and repair of the HP printers and began the steady business of supplies and repairs.  Of course it wasn’t long before some budding entrepreneur figured out they could refill the toner cartridges by drilling a hole in the toner hopper, filling it up with new toner, dumping the waste hopper and plugging up their hole.  Thus, a new industry began.  We called it the ‘old drill and fill’, and it had its problems with poor quality and a tendency to dump toner in the machines because of the poor processes used to refill the cartridges.  The advantage was a cost per page of less than half the OEM toner cartridge.  I still remember the problems in those early days, such as drum failure and bad batches of toners not to mention a general poor process of refilling.  I would not use one in my personal printer on a dare!  However that industry has matured and progressed substantially since those early days and now many remanufacturers are ISO9001 and 9002 certified.  Parts such as seals, springs, hoppers, drums, and charge rollers are replaced with new parts and the toners have been engineered for superior service and color.  I use remanufactured toners without hesitation in my personal printers with the sole exception of my color laser. 

The obvious selling point to remanufactured toners is the cost savings.  Remember too that all toner cartridges contain remanufactured parts to some degree so it can be said in truth that even the OEM cartridges are remanufactured to a point.  The difference is when you can show your customer or prospect a savings of up to fifty percent on their toners.  I do still think that the OEM toner has a slight advantage in quality, but like most consumers I prefer to save my money and spend it on something else.  HP has a failure rate of less than two percent in their cartridges and they have a excellent product without doubt, but when I look at my needs and compare them to most of my clients I find that the savings in remanufactured toners is a significant value indeed.  I can also assure you that Office Max, Office Depot and Corporate Express and others are watching intently for their opportunity to sell those products to the unhappy Staples customers.  A savvy sales rep shouldn’t be waiting, he or she should be burning up the road educating customers on the value and cost savings potential of remanufactured toners.

As for my remark regarding the remanufactured color laser toner cartridges; the manufacturers have improved their capabilities in this area a lot in the past couple of years and continue to do so but at this point the color saturation and color hues do not match up to the OEM quality.  I use two color laser printers and have tried both OEM and remanufactured and the printed pages tell the story.  Not to mention that leakage and overall poor performance of the remanufactured toners simply do not give you outstanding quality, yet.  This will change eventually as the manufacturers are working very hard to perfect these color toners.  I have the same experience with color inkjet toners.  However, for many customers these will not be issues so you should not be afraid to sell these products.  You will make a lot more profit selling a good quality remanufactured toner cartridge, and in these days of declining profit margins you are smart to take those profits where you can.  I would also encourage you to learn to repair laser printers.  The training will cost you about $2000 depending upon where you go and what you choose to learn and the learning process is a continuing one but once you have the basics all you need is the service manuals and a good parts supplier.  If you or your dealership sells and repairs copiers then you already have a basic understanding of the printing process and a good potential customer base.  I believe that the place in which I work now is missing a great deal of profit potential in the repair business but that decision isn’t one I can make for them.  It is simply an observation from someone who has enjoyed the profit in my years past. 

There are other ways you can profit from these products too.  I always picked up the empty toners from my customers and considered it part of my service attitude.  I had several companies that paid me for those empties and I often made over $2000 a month just by sending them my empties and they even paid for the freight!  (Note: the OEM empties always paid the most money) There are many such opportunities available if you just look around and it gives you another service attribute to provide to your customers.  My last suggestion is that you should have your compatible toner boxes private labeled.  If you are buying inkjet or laser toners for resell you need to have your company name emblazoned on those boxes.  Most manufacturers will do this for little or no charge and the value and name recognition it gives you in the customer’s office is priceless, especially if you can service the equipment too.

Telephone Selling

Filed Under (Tele-Sales) by Don on 15-04-2007

My earliest experiences in sales began without any formal training.  I simply enjoyed talking and meeting new people and didn’t want to be burdened behind a desk.  I soon began reading anything and everything related to sales and selling and attended every sales seminar I could find.   One day while out cold calling on prospects in the high rise buildings of downtown Charlotte I stopped into a restaurant for a lunch break.  I struck up a conversation with another fellow whom I presumed was a “lunch loner” like myself and soon learned that this gentleman was very gifted and knowledgeable business owner and salesman.  He and I began a business friendship that has lasted for many years and his experiences helped me immensely during my early years in sales and business ownership.  He was a valuable mentor in my sales and later business life. 

One of the lessons I learned was to not be afraid of the telephone to make sales.   As I mentioned in a earlier post one of my first jobs was writing advertising copy for a radio station.  It soon became apparent that I needed the ability to produce my commercials for the sales reps because the studio staff was too busy to get the spec tapes produced in a timely manner.  Not to mention oftentimes they didn’t understand the “picture” I was trying to convey in my copy.  Since I can be rather impatient I took it upon myself to ask the station engineer to train me on how to operate the production room equipment.  Since I’ve always been sort of a “tech geek” I rapidly absorbed the information and jumped right into production.  The station manager and some of the staff were very generous in their guidance and wisdom and I listened and learned with great interest.  The very first thing they taught me was to smile when I read the copy.  I thought that was the silliest thing I had ever heard!  However, they considered that one little thing so important that they placed a small mirror in front of the microphone every time I entered the production room.  I had to look at myself in that mirror and smile every time I had the mic turned on.  They explained that people can “see” that smile when they listen to your voice on the radio.  I soon learned that they were absolutely correct.  That should be your first rule of practice every time you are one the phone too!  This is an important rule for you to understand.  If you have a smile on your face when you talk on the telephone the person on the other end will “see” your smile and you will have began to break down those barriers of resistance.  I have practiced this for all these years and I can promise you it does make a difference.  That rule applies to your entire staff too.  Everyone in your business should smile when they talk on the phone no matter if they are having a good day or a bad day.  My son gets tickled with me when I am on the phone and says I have a ‘phone alter ego.’  He had stopped by my office the other day to catch me in the middle of several “complicated issues” that were drawing my ire.  My phone rang and when I answered the call my ‘telephone alter ego’ sprang into action.  I was instantly happy, smiling and acted as though I was talking to a long lost friend.  Nevertheless, my son was right.  I still practice the habit of smiling on the phone and being genuinely happy to speak to the caller.  

I know an office products dealer (I’m sure there are many) that has built a very successful business using only telephone sales reps.  To be a successful tele-sales person you must develop good habits such as the smile factor.  Please accept the fact that you are not telemarketing.  You are a sales professional calling businesses, not individuals at home, selling professional products and services to other business people.  You have to ask open ended questions.  You need a good prospect list from a reputable source such as a Chamber of Commerce or a Dun & Bradstreet or some other business journal list.  You need to write a good script.  Don’t just take a script out of a book and use it either.  Make the script fit the person making the calls and role-play a lot.  I cannot stress enough the importance of role-playing.  When I train our telephone sales reps we spend one day writing and re-writing scripts and spend nearly three days role-playing.  We continue to role-play even now to hone their skills and keep them on top of their game.  Documentation is the next critical piece in your phone skills set.  Document everything about your call.  Leave no detail undocumented and refer to those notes on every call back.  Be certain to set an established time period for call backs too and stick to it.  Record keeping is an important step in your success and so is accurate reporting.  Everyone hates paperwork but we need to be accountable for our activity. 

Remember that preparation plus opportunity equals success.  Only in the dictionary does success come before work.

One last word about selling.  Many excellent books have been written about selling and I doubt I could write one any better, but most of them omit the most vital ingredient: integrity.  The number one reason, in my opinion, that many salespeople fail is they lack conviction in the product, service, plan, idea or whatever they’re selling.  If you can’t be open and honest about the deal then the deal isn’t a good one.  I met a sale rep who bragged about taking remanufactured toners and placed them into OEM boxes and sold them as new.  I was not his manager nor did he work for my company, but I expressed my opinions about his actions to no avail.  I knew that kind of deception would cost him one day and it did.  Sadly he never learned from his mistakes and continued for many years being less that successful.  Good selling happens when a seller can pass their own convictions on to the buyer.  Treat people the way you want to be treated and quit being a wondering generality and become a meaningful specific!

Observations on Competing

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Don on 13-04-2007

While creative marketing isn’t the sum answer to growing your business it is a critical part of your overall success.  I highlighted several ideas in my previous post about marketing your business but I want to talk a bit more about what our competition does in an effort to stir your brain matter into creating something unique for yourself.

A rep came to me today talking about another dealer that is creating some problems in his market area.  This competitor is leaving a document to his prospects stating that his company will “guarantee their prices to be at least 5% less than they are presently paying, guarantee next day delivery before noon, guarantee copier paper for $25.99 per carton and guarantee their contract priced items not to change for a period of 12 months.”  First of all they can’t guarantee a price reduction unless the prospect is willing to show them invoices from their current supplier.  And if they ‘guarantee’ those contract priced items for twelve months how many other items will the prospect be paying retail or higher to make up the margins or where is the fine print in the guarantee?  It has been announced that paper prices are going to increase an average of 9% May 1st, then what will they do with their ‘guarantee’?  What this competitor has accomplished is placing the thought in the prospects mind that they are going to get something cheap or perceived to be cheaper than they already receive from their current supplier.  Then in a couple of weeks if the prospect hasn’t made a purchase they will go up the chain of command and say they are not getting a fair chance at the business to the CEO or some other higher up.  Corporate Express is very talented at going straight to the top of the corporate ladder to get the business and the independent dealer channel hasn’t and the independents have lost many excellent accounts due to this strategy.  A well seasoned rep can explain a lot of this smoke and mirrors tactics to the customer if they have a good relationship but that isn’t always the case and you have to be careful not to fall into the trap of talking badly about your competition.  That is a definite no-no.  Talk about their actions not the company or its people.

Our Big-Box competitors added over one thousand reps last year.  Why?  Because they know that feet-on-the-street is still the best way to get your name out in the market.  Job burn-out among these reps is very high with only about 2 out of every 10 surviving.  Churn is inevitable in this position.  United Stationers has a Hunter-Farmer sales model that is discussed in detail and it has a lot of merit but not in its current form.  I think it needs some revision to better fit today’s marketplace.  But the general idea is sound and I have spoken to several dealers around the country that have some form of this plan in place and it is very successful.  One dealer tells me that he will experience double digit growth this year because if this process that he has customized to suit his needs.  But for this type of sales model to work it takes money, commitment and a sound well thought out process.  I am currently working on just such a model for our market area and will pass along my ideas, successes and failures in the future.  I am not dooming myself to fail but I expect that some things will need to be modified no matter how much thought and research I put into it now.

Quill budgets $125 to gain each new account.  How much do you allocate for this process?  They use that budget in a number of ways and quite successfully since they continue to experience growth.  Corporate Express uses gifts in entice people to buy.  Customers I have good relationships with have told me that they will buy from these mailers just to get the free gifts.  That mentality makes me insane!  Today’s generation of office products buyers are younger and very comfortable shopping prices on the internet and they expect to be given something when they do business with a company.  Now I feel nearly backed into a corner to some up with some way to offer something similar and frankly, I don’t like it!  Who is going to pay for this free gift?  I posed that question to our sales reps today who want to offer this very thing and I asked if they were willing to give up 1% of their commissions to pay for it, the obvious answer is NO!  Then I asked, how about an across the board 1% load on all products to pay for it?  Again, the answer was NO!  As a former dealer owner I can tell you that as an owner I would not want to pay for it either.  The current, totally ridiculous increases in gas prices would keep me from doing this.  You have to put gas in the trucks to get the product delivered and when the gas prices are increasing nearly daily where are those funds coming from?  The owners pocket!

Enough of my ranting about gas prices.  The point is you and I can compete with these power channel players but we have to be smarter than they are.  We need to keep ourselves educated and on top of our game.  We need to find ways to add to our sales staff and make them accountable and responsible.  If they don’t produce we have to find out why, train or do whatever is necessary to get them up to speed and motivated, and worse case scenario, terminate them.  One last word, treat your sales people with honesty and integrity and make sure they know your expectations.  When they do a good job, tell them so publicly.  If they do a crappy job criticize the action not the person and listen to their ideas when they have them.  Even the bad ideas, but always listen and let them know that you appreciate their work.  The number one thing that employees want isn’t money; it’s recognition of a job well done.  As always I appreciate your ideas and feedback.  If you need help with training manuals for telephone sales staff, I have written several and will be glad to help with one for your business too.

Marketing U

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by Don on 13-04-2007

I want to say right up front that I do not have an MBA in marketing.  I do love marketing but I hate false and deceptive marketing and marketers.  One of my first jobs right out of school was writing copy for a radio station’s advertisers and producing spec ads and live on-air ads.  It was great and I enjoyed the work but the pay was terrible so I eventually moved on.  My experience is a learned one through 25 years of trial and error not to mention that I read everything I get my hands on.  I talk to other dealers and reps and learn from their methods.  You have to remember that what works for me and my personality may not necessarily work for you.  Think for a moment about your personality and think about your company’s personality.  There has to be some portion of you and your company’s personality in your marketing plans because that is what makes you unique. 

Uniqueness sells because it is unique.  Do you remember the ad that asked “Where’s the beef?”  Most of us do.  Like many ad campaigns it was unique and memorable.  Marketing yourself and your business is very similar.  Many of the same components must be involved for you to see any success from your efforts.  Marketing your business can become expensive if you take it too far so let me caution you to plan carefully, thoughtfully and spend your money wisely!  There are certain marketing efforts that should be done without question. 

Here are a few examples:  Delivery vehicle wraps or lettering are an absolute must!  I took that step one further by having the roof of my cube trucks lettered because they traveled the downtown areas in my city and the office workers looking out their 42nd floor office would look down at the street and see the rooftop advertising I had on my trucks.  I received tons of calls from people who saw my trucks!  Private Labeled copier paper is another.  Why do you think Staples and O.D. and the rest wrap their copy paper boxes with their logo?  The copier paper box gets reused more than any other disposable item in the office.  I have seen office staff argue about who would take home the copier paper boxes and when I’m traveling not a single day passes that I don’t see one of these competitors boxes in the back of a truck or minivan traveling down the road.  My wife came home with one from her work one day and I nearly went crazy!  :)  If you purchase at least a truck load of paper each month you can get that paper private labeled for about $0.30 per carton.  A similar product is the top band on your legal pads.  If you buy from TOPS Products direct the cost is minimal and the desktop advertising you receive is worth the fifty cents per dozen up charge.  A product that you do not want to ignore is bottled water.  You probably already sell this product to your customers and if you are you are missing out on a golden opportunity to get your name out en masse!  The last time I checked price a custom four color one liter bottle, purchased by the skid, cost about $0.37 per bottle.  Have you counted the number of soccer and little league games that happen each week during the summer months?  Consider it ad dollars and donate 10 or 15 cases!  The parents will love you for it and your colorful bottles will be seen everywhere and Mom’s will ask Dad’s, or vice versa, “do you buy from these guys?  You should do business with them since they donate products and support or local community like this!”  The best advertising is word of mouth and you just got loads of it!  Send a few sample bottles to your customers letting them know you have the product available at a discount.  I made certain that my supplier of compatible laser toners private labeled my boxes.  If you have a stockless business it may be worth the effort to inventory this product or you can create your own labels to place on the boxes before they are delivered to your customers.

Let’s address one more marketing area that I think independent dealers really struggle in, your public web site and presence.  I’m not referring to you online order site, although I think independent dealers need a lot of help here too, but until the back-office systems providers step up to the plate and offer something equal to or better than our super store competitors at a reasonable cost we will continue to be followers and not leaders in this area.  What I want to address is your home page that people go to when they look you up on the internet.  If your only web presence is your online ordering page you are missing valuable “face time” with your customers.  I am by no means a web site code master.  However, I wrote the copy and published my company’s web site without the help of a single programmer.  Our company site focuses heavily on education and information.  I keep it updated and fresh every week.  It is a lot of work but I know the customer recognizes the effort because our customer feedback says so.  Our vendors love to see me feature them on the site and help me with ideas and new products to keep the site in top form.  You can do the same thing for yourself and your business.  It really isn’t difficult with the excellent software on the market today.  If you have not done this you are missing out on a prime opportunity to communicate with the internet shoppers.

There are probably another dozen ideas I could throw at you to help you market yourself and your company that have been shown to be successful.  You are only limited by your creativity and willingness to try different things.  Some ideas require follow-up by sales people but we will discuss that another day.  Until then, happy marketing and I wish you much success!

Upselling for Dollars

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Tele-Sales) by Don on 05-04-2007

No, it’s not the latest game show but it is a game you need to know how to play and you should play to win.  You have enthusiasm and energy.  You’re excited and you’ve worked hard to learn your products;  their strengths and weaknesses.  You’ve done your homework and you know your companies capabilities.  Now the right techniques and words can make all the difference.  Your new skills are ready to “Up” the sell.

To “Up” the sell we take a product or service and skillfully sell the customer either a higher quantity of product or a higher profit margin item that will accomplish the task in a better form or fashion.  As a skilled listener and problem solver you can understand their needs and make informed recommendations.  You will ask open-ended questions to discover details of the customers’ experience and intentions.  You’ll ask closed-ended questions to find out specific information.  By utilizing techiques of persuasion a skilled rep can anticipate future problems, and solve current issues confronting customers thereby demonstrating that you genuinely care about the customers success and further cement your relationships.  Be innovative, curious and creative.

There are three big mistakes you need to avoid.

  1. The rep comes across as being pushy
  2. The upselling attempt comes across as a phony or feable attempt so the customer refuses
  3. No upselling attempt is made

Assume the sale in a positive tone.  Sell the product or service’s benefits not it’s features.  Remember everyone wants to buy but no one want to be sold.  Ninety percent of a sale is emotional.  Use words like “gain,” “improve,” “sale,” “free,” “new,” to appeal to the customers emotions.  Ask customers how they feel not how they think about adding a suggested item to their order.  Close on an up-beat note because your last comments will be what the customer remembers most.  Listen carefully for buying signals that are inferred but not spoken.  Using other customers stories of satisfaction about products is a good way to show that other people have enjoyed success and satisfaction with your product or service.  Relate things that other customers have said about your products and services is a good form or personal endorsement but only if the information is truthful and genuine.  NEVER lie to a customer to sell a product!  This is unethical and unprofessional and most companies and organizations have a low tolerance for such tactics.  

Utililzing up-selling and cross-selling techniques as a genuine way to build your sales and increase customer satisfaction and is another tool in your arsenal of relationship building weapons.  It’s all in the attitude so do not forget to smile if you are on the phone!  If your attitude is suffering then let me borrow a phrase from Zig Ziglar and suggest that you get a “Check-up from the Neck-up!”