Archive for the ‘RandolphSterling’ Category

Don’t Be the Restaurant No One Wants to Eat At Because It Is Empty
June 6, 2011

You are walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood with a couple of friends. You are on your way to a party or perhaps just a movie. But you have a bit of time and decide to stop to eat dinner first. You can’t be too choosy, but it appears you have two options. From the outside both look clean and well maintained.  The lights are working. From the menus posted in the windows, both seem to offer some appetizing choices. And neither you nor your friends are opposed to either due to personal tastes. But, there seems to be something off about one of them. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first, but then you realize what it is. One of them appears, for all practical purposes, to be empty, save the one out-of-place guy in the corner you see while peering through the window, while the other is overflowing with patrons waiting to be seated. Which do you choose?

Unless you are really short on time, you choose the one overflowing with people. Why? Social proof. You assume that the place with more people is probably better, while the place with no people is in some way deficient, even if the deficiency is not easily discerned from outward appearances. You assume if so many people like something, there must be something about it to like. You assume that if so few people like something, there must be a reason why.

Social proof is one of the six principles of influence professor of psychology and marketing, Robert Cialdini, wrote about in his popular book Influence, and he covers it there much more extensively than I can here. But, given the attention I have seen it getting recently in social media circles, felt it might be worth a brief discussion.

In an article I wrote up on Constant Contact’s recent “Get Down to Business” seminar, I wrote of how one of the points I took away, or at least felt was worth reiterating after it was reiterated to me, was the following:

“People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through you social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.”

But, how do you get such displays of social proof on your social media page? Well, to begin, have you asked for a recommendation from one of your connections on LinkedIn? If so, assuming the person you asked provided it, then you already have attained some level of social proof through social media. But, the social proof you can get through social media does not end there. No, on LinkedIn you can get similar recommendations for your company pages. And, technically speaking, just having a large number of Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn connections can serve as social proof as well. High levels of activity on a Facebook page or blog is even better. And, fully fledged recommendations or thank you by satisfied customers on your Facebook page are even more beneficial. Going back to the restaurant analogy, if both restaurants were equally well populated, having such a recommendation from a friend (or from Yelp) might make you choose one over the other, or maybe even go to the less populated one in the original example if the recommendation was strong enough or from the right person.

Yet, now you ask how do you get such recommendations on various social media sites beyond LinkedIn which already has recommendations as a built in feature you’re required to use if you want to get you profile to 100%?

Simple, you ask. When you have a satisfied customer or client who sends you a private email or tells you in person how much they appreciate what you have done for them, you thank them, but ask if they could post it on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter or write a review on Yelp. None of these take much time or effort on their parts, but can be greatly beneficial to you. And, if you have a very satisfied customer, you might even ask if they’d be willing to give a video testimonial for YouTube and your website.

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Sales Is Simple
June 6, 2011

People often attempt to make a relatively simple issue more complex. At the end of the day, sales is pretty simple. I’m not saying anyone can do it, but I’ve been doing it my whole life so that fact alone means there must be some simplicity to it!

People want to buy “stuff,” and we want to sell it to them. If we just get out of our own way and listen to what they want, we are much better off.

One of my first ever sales calls (not counting the days as a kid when I would go out with my dad as he visited clients in his territory) found me walking into a prospect’s office where he pulled out a little hourglass from a board game. He then said to me “OK kid, what do ya got?”

I had no clue what to do. My sales training had not prepared me for a lunatic with a mini hourglass. There was no time to go over everything we could possibly do for him so I responded the best way I knew how, by saying “I don’t know, what do you need?”

The prospect put away the timer, smiled at me and commended me for being the first person to “answer his question correctly.” He was the client, it was his money I wanted in my pocket, so I had better understand his needs AND THEN determine if I could HELP him, not waste his time by showing him all of the ways I wanted him to sell him.

I still have a business relationship, and a friendship, with him today.

Talk to the right people at that target company, listen and understand what their needs are and determine if you can help them. While you are at it, it might not hurt to make sure they have the budget to implement your solution, and the time to actually do it.

It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

Getting Down to Business with Constant Contact, Social Media, and Daniel Nuccio
May 31, 2011

Last month I had the opportunity to attend Constant Contact’s “Get Down to Business” seminar in Chicago.  Not only was I able to meet with a variety of people working in social media, or at least implementing it for their businesses, as well as see presentations from several top people in the industry, but I was also able to attend a special lunch with Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and a small handful of respected guests and loyal Constant Contact customers.

Now, trying to sum up a morning-long seminar with about half a dozen speakers, followed by an hour and a half lunch in only four to eight hundred words would be a bit of a challenge, and I know I surely would have to leave a number of things out. Therefore I will just present some highlights, and interesting pieces of information I learned, or had reiterated to me, that I believe may be beneficial to those I share them with. Some are deserving of full length blog posts, which, if you are one of our loyal readers, you may see in the future, while others are just small golden nuggets.

Everyone’s doing it…or at least soon will be. The numbers show that more than 160 million people are tweeting while 500 million people actively use Facebook. And, according to Sprout Social’s Justyn Howard, in the near future, more small businesses will have a Facebook page than a website. Similar numbers Howard presented at the seminar indicated that in 2005 marketing efforts typically consisted of TV commercials, emails, phone calls, and face to face contact, whereas today, many of those older forms of marketing are being overshadowed tweets, check-ins, and Facebook status updates

Get involved where your clients, prospects, and potential customers are involved.  If you do not know where they are involved, ask. There is no point in using LinkedIn if everyone you either have or want to have a business relationship with is on Twitter, and vice versa.

Social bookmarking sites are dead…or at least soon will be. The only people who still use them are diehard social bookmarking site users. Unless you know your clients or prospects are diehard social bookmarking site users, don’t waste your time on Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, or the others.

When you do get involved, be a concierge, not a salesman. There is a commonly used analogy in social media circles that going on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site is like going to a cocktail party. When you arrive, you do not go to a bunch of random people saying “My name is Mr. X.  I sell Y. This is why Y is so great. Would you like to buy Y?” Instead, you mingle with people. You join the conversations already going on. Many of these conversations may have nothing to do with business. But, while you are mingling with people, you are building a certain level of rapport with them, and, when they need Y, or know someone who needs why, they will be more likely to think of you.

Social Media is not a quick fix! If your business is failing or has a bad business plan or has an ill developed sales process, social media probably can’t save you. Implementing social media takes time. Again, it is about relationship building, not selling!

People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through your social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.

People are terrible at measuring the indirect effects of social media…probably partly because doing so can be difficult…if not near impossible. I am aware of how this sounds…It sounds like an easy out for any social media consultant not doing their job properly or investor in a bad social media tool trying to convince others things aren’t so bad, and unfortunately the above can be used this way. But, at the same time, simply taking a look at whether your business is doing better now compared to before you implemented a social media program may not necessarily give a clear answer given the myriad of factors that can influence success or failure. Now, I suppose an experiment or quasi-experiment can be done, things like the number of retweets you get or the level of activity on a Facebook page can be measured, and new clients/customers, can be asked or surveyed about how they found you, but, at the end of the day, activity on a social media page is not always converted into new business and even when asked, your new client/customer may not be able to tell you that they received your contact info after a friend recommended you after checking out your website after seeing a tweet of yours retweeted by a different friend.

There are no social media experts…just people who might know a little more and have a little more experience. Everyone who works in social media knows this. Anyone who says differently is likely doing so either due to ignorance or deceit. Now, again, this is not to say that there are not people who know more or have more experience, and if you are hiring someone to help you with social media you should be able to reasonably expect (or demand) that they have a certain level of familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, that they know which sites are being phased out, and that they know how to use some of the more prominent social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, but, that said, there are changes being made to all the major social media sites quite frequently, and new social media sites, management tools, and other various instruments to make any number of social media related tasks easier are being developed everyday, and even people like Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and Justyn Howard, among countless others, will admit that there is always more to learn.

April Showers Bring May Flowers
May 11, 2011

As they say, April showers bring May flowers. That always reminds me of when I first started selling right out of college. I worked for a company that expected their salespeople to literally walk the streets and cold call companies. My favorite days were the rainy ones because there were fewer people out there knocking on doors, so there was a better chance of me actually seeing a decision maker. It also helped that as a kid in my early 20s walking in with a wet overcoat on, many a receptionist took pity on me and helped me to see a decision maker—heck, whatever helps get you in the door!

You don’t see as many salespeople canvassing industrial parks anymore. It is an art that has lost favor in lieu of the phone, email and social media. It does remind us however, that no matter how you find that new prospect, you do need to continue to cultivate the relationship and allow it to grow much like the April rain that helps the flowers to grow and bloom in May.

What have you been doing to help cultivate and bloom your own flowers (or prized accounts?)

Don’t worry, we can help you. Whether it is reaching out to the prospects that your sales team just never seems to have time to reach, following up with prospects from a trade show that your team went to, or covering an open territory while a sales rep is being hired, we can work with you to cultivate those relationships that will give you the flower garden you always wanted.

A Few Additional Thoughts on Executive Leadership
May 1, 2011

I’d like to start this post by thanking Russ Riendeau for his great stories and lessons, and for his contribution to our blog as our first guest blogger. We appreciate it, and hope he is not our last.

Now, here’s a few thoughts of mine on Russ’ lessons.

  1. Missionaries get paid well, at best, for a short period of time. If you and the client are not on a same page, no matter how much they pay you up front, it will most likely not be a beneficial relationship for either of you.
  2. Solid referrals are more profitable than weak prospecting. I say this only hours after meeting with a referral from Russ (who is hoping to need him in the next few months as things continue to grow) who also referred me to another client. Referrals that are well thought out and make sense are worth their weight in gold. Referrals for the sake of looking like you know people end up being a waste of three people’s time. I’ve had people call me who were going to a “leads group” and needed to make a referral so they asked me if I knew of anyone who might need a printer: BAD REFERRAL. The ones Russ gave me of companies who want to increase sales and take some of the initial relationship development work off of the plate of their salespeople: GOOD REFERRALS. Also, prospecting with a purpose is a great way to find new clients as well. Ask yourself, what do the people you work with all have in common besides the things you can search for on Reference USA? What makes you great and a great fit for them? Searching them out as well as telling your referral sources are very effective ways to build a great client base. Buying a list of people who are not in your target…probably not the best use of resources.
  3. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a doubter. This is the hardest thing for a salesperson to do. We talk to salespeople all the time and ask if they have done everything they could. Did they listen to the client’s needs? Are they just not the right fit? Do they just not get it? Is it time to simply walk away?
  4. Have good data and documents to shore up every statement you make. We spend most of our time telling prospects what we did for a similar company and asking questions about them, rather than telling them how great we are. They can find that out on their own. We are a much better resource if we understand their needs and show we have similar experience before trying to sell them something.
  5. It’s not the price. It’s their lack of perception of your value, and it’s your duty to point out the real costs they’ll incur if they don’t use your services.ABSOLUTELY! If they see how the solution will make them money, or save them money, they usually can find a way to buy it.
  6. It’s really fun and empowering to say NO to working with someone that you can feel will be a struggle. It boosts self-confidence and gives courage to believe in yourself and abilities. NO IT ISN’T…just kidding, I was testing the strategy…I feel more empowered already.

April, My Favorite Month of the Year
April 7, 2011

April is my favorite month of the year. Spring is finally in the air (and hopefully the snow is finished for Chicago), baseball season has started, we’ve had our first softball practice of the spring, and there are two very important birthdays coming up: mine and Randolph Sterling, Inc.’s.

My long time friends will tell you that I generally begin celebrating my birthday sometime around April 1 (even though it is not until the 25th) so as much as I act like a 5 year old when it comes to my own birthday, I think I am even more excited about the company’s birthday.

On April 22, 2003, I officially incorporated Randolph Sterling, Inc. Back then, it was just me and an idea that I could help some local Chicagoland companies by acting as a part time sales manager, although I had always had the idea that I could grow the company into something more than that, which is one of the reasons why the company is named Randolph Sterling, Inc. and not Rich Burghgraef Incorporated (although as a baseball fan, I guess I could have called us RBI).

Our goal has always been to help our clients grow. Over the years, we have added additional people, additional offices, and additional services to be able to help more companies in more ways. We still provide sales management services which include the work I originally did when the company first started out, but we now do so much more including:

Thank you to our clients, friends, and supporters for eight great years, we look forward to many many more helping you grow because right from the beginning one thing has remained constant—YOUR SUCCESS IS OUR BUSINESS!

Social Media for the Intermediate User
March 22, 2011

Not too long ago I attended a social media seminar hosted by Constant Contact and presented by their regional director for Illinois, Steve Robinson at an Ing Direct Cafe in Downtown Chicago. Despite spending a little time brushing up on some basics, this was not Social Media 101, but an interactive discussion for intermediate users on how to use social media the right way.

At the event we talked about how many social media sites can be, and are being used as places of commerce, and as tools to market ones products and services. According to Constant Contact’s statistics, 51% of small businesses use Facebook, 29% use blogs, 27% use LinkedIn, 26% use Twitter, and 16% use YouTube. But, as any social media consultant will tell you, it is not enough to just use them. No, what is important is that you use them well.

You cannot have a static social media page. In fact, you really shouldn’t even have a static website any more. No, you need to have a social media page where you actively connect with, converse with, and disseminate valuable information and content to others while building and strengthening relationships with them. Through these pages you can reach out to fans, customers, and prospects, and build your network by sharing relevant, valuable content, and reaching out to and engaging more people. By doing this you can increase repeat business, as well as online referrals in the form of others sharing your content making online endorsements.

Unfortunately many people will never really get involved. Why? They psych themselves out knowing they’ll never have millions or even thousands of followers. They are unmotivated or uninterested in writing thought leadership articles. They think they will never have the dedicated staff to do it right. Or they feel they don’t have the time to stay current.

But what these people forget is that it is not about the quantity of your followers, but the quality. And, for those who feel unmotivated to write thought leadership articles or feel they lack the staff, ability, or time to do social media well, they may wish to consider hiring a consultant or content manager.

That said, if you do get involved, you may wonder how you decide which tools to use. Well, fist ask yourself where your customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors are. If you do not know, in most cases you can simply ask them. Also, use different media’s together.

Now, once you are setting up your pages, be sure to look professional, to take advantage of all the features each site has to offer (or at least the free ones), and to make sure that you properly brand your pages. Also, post some starter content to drive people to your pages or at least to make the pages look active. This can consist of company information, tips, practical advice, opinions, links to archived newsletters, polls, event announcements, blogs reviews of your products or services, articles, discussions, etc. Then, once your pages are up and your starter content is in place, announce your presence with an email with a strong call to action, ideally using an email marketing service such as Constant Contact. And, once you get going, be sure to be an expert, trade useful information, offer valuable insights, and engage your audience.

The Luck of the Irish or the Luck of Having Lisa Pickens
March 9, 2011

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner I tend to hear a lot this time of year about “The Luck Of The Irish!” I never thought that it was the 1/4 of me that is Irish that made me particularly lucky, and not specifically during March. I had thought it was hard and smart work.

Trust me, I have had my share of good luck as well as bad. One of the strokes of good luck for Randolph Sterling was hiring our inside sales manager, Lisa Pickens almost 6 years ago. Lisa is an incredibly valuable member of the team who not only does a fantastic job with the clients she works with directly, but has also helped us to find some other very talented members of our team, as well as manage them so they continue to grow.

The running joke in the office is that no matter what opportunity comes up, Lisa has experience in that industry. Between having a varied work experience before joining Randolph Sterling (ask her one day about her days as a professional billiards player) and having the opportunity to work on so many projects for us over the past 6 years, she brings so much to the table both for the team at Randolph Sterling and for our clients.

Lisa has been so successful in working with clients that many times she is requested specifically to work on their project. Unfortunately, she can only work so many hours in a day so we can’t always accommodate that request. The bright side of that is that Lisa is also an accomplished manager and has done a fantastic job in showing the rest of the staff the “Randolph Sterling Way.” We found this to be just as effective and a lot less expensive than investing in human cloning!

Big Whale Accounts Are Great, But Developing Relationships with Referral Sources Can pay the Bills
March 7, 2011

When you work in sales one of your primary goals is to get big accounts and yearly contracts: “the big whale accounts.” However, it is also important to keep an eye open for smaller, regular, everyday opportunities because many times these are the ones that pay the bills.

While working as part of Randolph Sterling’s outsourced inside sales team for a plumbing company, I was having a slow day searching for prospects in all the usual places one would think of for that industry. But then I came up with this idea of calling insurance offices and trying to get our client’s number and information on their recommended vendor lists.

At first, I wasn’t even sure insurance offices kept such lists, so I called my own insurance company, asking for a referral for plumbing companies, just to see how it worked, or if they even gave referrals. Sure enough, they did. While on the phone, I asked to see how they got those numbers and why they recommended them. Most of them came through referrals and good customer feedback. They then even offered to send me an email with a list of good plumbing companies in my area.

The next step was to begin working to get our client onto the referral lists of the insurance offices in their area. Now, no, getting our client onto these lists is admittedly not the same as winning the big account or yearly contract, but when you do work that people need to have done every day, you cannot deny the value of having your name and contact information being given out by the those first contacted by the people who need your help. These insurance agents get to provide an even better service for their clients by researching and recommending service providers, thus differentiating them from their competitors who don’t do more than just collect premiums every year. Our client gets another sales team (in addition to us, of course) who is keeping their name top of mind when people need them.

It may not be “the big whale account,” but developing relationships with strong referral sources can definitely positively assist your bottom line.

Welcome to February Everyone, the Month Known for Love and the Hope of an Early Spring!
February 8, 2011

I am very excited about pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training in a couple of weeks. The winter, so far, has been long, gray, and cold, even if business has been very positive. Since mid-December we have taken on 6 new clients and our team is doing very well in assisting them to build up strong relationships with the right clients.

So what does this have to do with Spring Training?

I was having a conversation with a colleague last week and was asked what I feel is the best trait that I have that allows me to do my job well. My response was my ability to play baseball. Those of you who know me know that I make a lot of parallels between baseball and sales so before thinking that my goal here is to make Randolph Sterling a professional baseball team…hmm Burghgraef Field, what about Sterling Diamond? Has a ring to it…Ok, I’m back. Read on.

I have always found that playing a game where even the best fail 7 out of 10 times has been great preparation for a career in sales. It has allowed me to learn from everything I do as there is always room for improvement in the quest for perfection that the law of averages says simply will not come. It has also given me a short memory so when it is one of the times when I don’t get a hit, I don’t let it linger too long. It also helps me not to rest on my laurels when good things happen. This reminds me of a scene in one of my favorite baseball movies, Bull Durham, right after “Nuke” LaLoosh strikes out the side:

Crash Davis: “Your fastball is up, you are hanging your curveball; in “the show” they would have crushed you.”

Nuke: “What’s wrong with you, man? Can’t you just let me savor the moment?”

Davis: “Moment’s over!”

We only have 28 days this month, so savor every moment but keep on looking forward and keep selling!