Five Tips to Grow Your Business

Filed Under (OP News & Views, OP Sales Training) by Don on 03-05-2012

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Here are five tips to help you grow your business.  You should already be doing most of these but I hope the suggestions will help you find a new avenue or idea.  Feel free to share any suggestions you have!

  1. Communicate – Use every means at your disposal to reach out and touch your customer. E-Mail, text, statement stuffers, box stuffers, e-newsletters, weekly email blasts, social media.  Be diligent and deliberate and most of all be consistent!  Offer your value message and your brand in everything you do.
  2. Account Penetration – On average you only get about 30% of the total spend in your customers office.  Are you asking about janitorial and breakroom products?  How about stamps, printing, furniture and technology products?  From the reception room to the warehouse you have products to meet their needs.  Take off your blinders and see what you are missing!
  3. Befriend everyone – Be personal and take the time to meet and greet every one possible in your customers office.  From the janitor to the CEO and everyone in between.  You will be surprised the little tidbits of information you glean or the account you might save from your ‘friends’ in the office.
  4. Business Reviews – While this should be a staple in your sales strategies I’m constantly surprised by the reps who never do this with their accounts.  It offers up a treasure trove of information and opportunity and builds upon the relationship with the customer.  Do this twice a year with most accounts.  Accounts with more than 100 employees may require a quarterly review.  Make a big deal out of it and invite the senior managers, order placers, buyers and anyone else you can to the meeting.  Provide lunch and show them how much money you have saved them and share any ideas you have on how to save them even more money.  Bring your manager and if possible your customer service rep in on the meeting and make a positive impression on the value your bring to their business.  Bring a good PowerPoint too, it is absolutely necessary for success with the “C” level managers.
  5. Margin Management – The big boxes do a fantastic job in this arena and have proven success in increasing their margins.  Most reps set up pricing and don’t think about it until contract renewals come around again.  The big boxes manage margins monthly and in some cases weekly.  Changing your product mix and adjusting margins effectively will grow your profit margin and potentially increase your business.  Utilizing the many price matrices available can be a big asset here too.

That’s my five quick tips for growth.  I’m certain you can think of many more.

The last word: “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.” -Peter Drucker

Your Success Depends on the Choices YOU Make

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Suggested Reading) by Don on 17-04-2012

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Success, or failure is highly dependent on the choices you make.  I’m sure this isn’t rocket science to most of us but it seems to me that our current crop of potential sales people are more interested in time off than time spent earning that success.  It isn’t my purpose to put every one of these potentials in a single nutshell but this does seem to apply to a majority.  Lesson number one for you folks is; your success or failure is strictly up to you and you alone.  If you accept a sales job, no matter what the product line represents, it is your responsibility to put forth the necessary effort to learn everything you can about the product(s) and how they are to be used as possible.  Lesson number two is; the second most important ingredient to your success or failure is YOUR attitude.  I don’t want to hear about all the negative influences you have in your life.  Face it spunky, we all have them!  How you allow those negative influences to affect your attitude is a decision you make and it will define how you are perceived by your prospects and clients.  Forgive me for not remembering who said this but there is a quote by one of the great sales trainers/writers that says “Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude”.  Successful sales training is an effective combination of efforts from the employer and the individual rep.  The employer can give you all the tools necessary to help you be successful and sales/selling is a continual process that demands continuous improvement, practice and refinement on your part.

Now you employers are on the hook here too for some shared responsibility.  Back in the mid-1980′s when I was first hired into this industry my new employer met me on my first day with an 1000 page catalog and told me, “Here is what you can sell and here are your prices.  Now go out there and sell something.” This honestly happened to me and I hope it never happens to you. I succeeded because I’m stubborn, hard-headed and darned determined to be successful.  When you bring on a new rep that isn’t experienced in your industry or product you need to have a written plan on how you will bring your new rep up to speed.  In the OP industry you can’t learn 30,000+ items overnight.  That means homework.  Since my primary wholesaler is USSCO then I’ll take their mega catalog and assign categories to the rep starting with the most commonly purchased products such as “Clips”, “Correction” and “Paper”.  After a couple of days I’ll quiz them on what item fits which category and what is the starting page number for that category.  I have reps spend time with the customer service staff, warehouse, delivery and if possible a furniture install.  All these things round out their understanding of what is required to effectively represent the company and it’s products.  While this isn’t an exhaustive list it is a good start.  It is also important that the dealer have the rep participate in wholesaler sponsored training classes.  You (the dealer) must make a reasonable investment in your reps success.

As a rep it is your responsibility to invest the time necessary to become successful.  Sales is NOT a 9-5 job.  If you think it is then I suggest you find another line of work.  Sales isn’t for you.  To become and to remain successful in sales is a constant process.  You are a work in progress and you have to feed your mind.  There are so many excellent sales trainers, seminars, classes, mentors, books and processes out there I could not do them enough justice here to recommend them all.  Krista Moore is an excellent trainer, coach and mentor specific to the OP industry.  There is Dave Kahle and one of my personal favorites is Jeffrey Gitomer.  Gitomer has a great line of books that have simple, actionable points designed to make you think and take action.  If you are serious about your personal sales success then be serious about how to plan to be successful.  You are making an investment in yourself and your time spent is the first place to start.  No excuses, no blaming others.  Your success ultimately depends on you, no one else.  God doesn’t make mistakes and He made a wonderful person in you.  He gave you all the abilities and capabilities you need to be successful.  It’s up to you to use those abilities with determination and wisdom.

The last word: “Great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they will accomplish them.” -Warren G. Bennis

Buying Decisions: What Happens Behind-the-Scenes

Filed Under (OP Sales Training, Suggested Reading) by Don on 06-10-2009

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I spent some time on the phone today with writer, blogger and professional sales trainer & coach Sharon Drew Morgen.  Her new book, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it hits the stores October 15th.  Sharon Drew breaks the mold on how we should be selling by thinking about the process from the buyers perspective.  She was gracious to offer us the following guest post for the blog.  I’d like to thank Sharon Drew for her time and I encourage you to purchase her new book early.  Read on and enjoy!

SDMorgan

For some reason, it’s very difficult for sales people to think beyond ‘need’ and ’solution:’  We tend to think that because the buyer’s need matches our solution, and because we’re professionals who ‘care,’  the only thing buyers need to do is choose our solution.

But if it were that easy, buying decisions would get made more often in our favor. We certainly would not lose as many sales as we do. The problem is that the buying decision is so, so much more complex than we can imagine as we stand on the outside looking in.

Sales mysteriously treats an Identified Problem (my word for ‘need’) as if it were an isolated event. But it’s not. There are ramifications to any change, and the ramifications are ones only buyers can see from the inside and we will never be privy to.

WHEN DO BUYERS START FIGURING OUT STUFF?

Buyers don’t start figuring out their behind-the-scenes issues until after we’ve met them, except in cases when buyers call us and buy… in which case they’ve made all of the behind-the-scenes buying decisions before they contacted us and we are just lucky.

We come in at the wrong time, pitching a solution to a small portion of the ultimate Buying Decision Team, and have no tools to help buyers do what they must do first: manage all of the off-line buying decisions that need to happen for them to get buy-in for change.

I have said this over and over: the time it takes buyers to come up with their own answers is the length of the sales cycle. Before they can buy anything they first look into their current teams, partners groups, rules, historic decisions for a simple resolution to a business problem. They come to us by default, and even then end up going back inside (to their old vendors, or the other department heads, or the tech team) to do an internal check on resources before placing an order.

WHAT IS BEHIND THE SCENES?

I’ve fully described the actual steps that happen behind-the-scenes in my new book coming out soon (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what to do about it). To think about this, let’s start with this question: How did a buyer’s ‘need’ get there? It didn’t arise overnight, and people and policies inside agreed to allow it to happen. So the ‘need’ got created behind-the-scenes.

Not only that, the system and rules and people and policies have allowed it to remain as it is – or they would have changed it already.

Before a buyer will buy or choose any solution at all, they must first figure out and manage the very idiosyncratic and mysterious ramifications of change. What will a solution change internally? How will the people and policies interact differently if/when they decide to resolve an Identified Problem and bring in something… something different that isn’t already there? Obviously, the sales model doesn’t equip us with the tools to help buyers manage these issues, and we cannot do it for them.

And no solution will be purchased if there is any possibility that the client can resolve their problem on their own.

As we think about sales, and wonder how to close more sales, quicker, we must realize that by merely focusing on the solution-placement area, and we do our ’understanding’ – understanding need, understanding the decision making, understanding the requirements, helping buyers understand our the judiciousness of our offering - we are not helping the buyer do the behind-the-scenes work they must accomplish before making a buying decision. That work is private, idiosyncratic, personal, unique, and not open to outsiders. And, unfortunately, buyers don’t know how to do this work easily because it’s new to them. But we can help – with a different set of skills.

 
We can help them by being true servant leaders, true trusted advisors and relationship managers, and guide them through their systemic, off-line, buying decision issues. But it’s not sales. In this time of economic uncertainty, add Buying Facilitation® and differentiate from your competition – and truly help your buyer buy. And, stop selling.
sd

Sales & Marketing Must Connect

Filed Under (OP News & Views) by Don on 28-08-2008

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Many office products dealers are finally learning they have a need for a marketing person in addition to their traditional sales staff to drive business growth and help create a recognizable brand. This is great news because it means that dealers are beginning to realize they need to embrace technology and marketing concepts to have a better understanding of today’s marketplace and how to best reach out to their customers and prospects.As a former business owner I have successfully performed the functions of sales manager, delivery guy, marketing, warehouse and logistics, accounting and collections, purchasing and various other administration duties including chief cook and janitor. Obviously some of these jobs are less than exciting! I said I successfully performed all these functions but I didn’t say I was especially great at all of them. I hated the accounting piece and did not enjoy being “Guido” the past due bill collector. I can wear the black hat/suit and be intimidating when necessary, at least my son says I do it well, but I don’t enjoy that. My skills and talents are in sales, sales management and marketing/advertising. I love creating marketing materials, custom catalogs, writing scripts and ads and I used those skills to market myself and sell my products. I read many books on both topics, attended seminars and training camps and had a great business mentor that didn’t mind giving me a kick in the pants when I needed one. So here is my kick in your pants, you need a marketing person to help your sales team drive new business and account penetration if you want to succeed on today’s marketplace!

A marketing person can be a great asset to your growing business but there is a potential dilemma to your new position. The problem with many marketing people is the lack of understanding of sales. The skill set of the professional sales person and those of a marketing person are completely different, however, the successes of both are completely dependent upon each other. This doesn’t mean that a successful sales person can’t become a successful marketing person or vice versa. A successful sales person understands very well how to market themselves and their products but may not have a full grasp of things such as e-mail marketing, web development, catalog programs, advertising mediums, ad copy etc. On the other hand a marketing person may not fully grasp the processes the sales rep goes through, what the market can bear on price or market demands for specific products and their local popularity. Therein is the potential for disconnection between marketing and sales.

Don’t make the fateful mistake of considering these two functions as separate entities. They are joined at the proverbial hip and need to be closely integrated with one another. Sales must understand the relationship they need with marketing and marketing must understand the need for information from sales. When properly aligned these two groups can be a powerful force for your business. They must perform as a close knit team with the same goals and objectives. Marketing can provide valid, qualified leads, great prospecting tools and materials to aid in account development and penetration. All this is accomplished with the help and guidance of sales. Sales can provide market information back to marketing regarding product needs of the marketplace, information regarding competitors, customer perceptions of new products and future growth. How well these two teams work together to accomplish their goals can result in great success or failure depending on the nature of their relationship. Like all relationships they must be nurtured and encouraged. Empower them but hold them accountable equally. One last word of advice let your marketing person do the task they are responsible for. They are not your fill-in for your other office personnel such as showroom sales person, receptionist or receiving clerk. I’m not saying they are too good for those duties but they deserve the same respect as do your sales and accounting people.

The last word: “Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.” – W. Clement Stone