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.

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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.

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!

Randolph Sterling Welcomes Monica Rosales
January 17, 2011

Monica went to college in Guatemala City and graduated as a Bilingual Secretary in 1997.  She did an internship at the Canadian Embassy for six months in the Public Relations Department, while keeping busy taking different courses like Hotel and Restaurant Administration,  Public Relations, and Ethics.  After she finished her internship she went to work at the airport at TACA airline as a manager of the Baggage Claim Department. After nine months she got a proposal to be the general manager for Mexicana Airlines in the Baggage Claim Department. She worked  there for almost two years while going to the University for Environmental Science.

After three years Monica received her technical degree in Agroecology ( agroecologists may study questions related to the four system properties of agroecosystems: productivity, stability, sustainability and equitability).

While going to school, she applied to work for the government in Guatemala City  in the Environmental Chamber  doing environmental inspections for different companies that were not meeting the requirements established by the government, and presenting several options for them to implement so they would not violate the environmental laws in that country. She completed her five years and graduated as an Environmental Engineer in 2003 (Bachelor of Science).

Environmental engineering involves waste water management and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, radiation protection, industrial hygiene, environmental sustainability, and public health issues as well as a knowledge of environmental engineering law. It also includes studies on the environmental impact of proposed construction projects.

Monica met her husband while going to school 1998 and married him in 2001.  He also graduated as Environmental Engineer.

In January 17th 2004 Monica had her beautiful daughter Megan and in 2006 her son Matthew.

7 Touches and 3 Emails: 2 Important Numbers for Every Email Marketing Campaign
January 14, 2011

Last week I attended a presentation on Constant Contact given by Steve Robinson. Much of it was a refresher. Much of it clarified things I was a bit fuzzy on. However there were two numbers that really stuck out for me. The first was that it takes about seven touches with a prospect before a sale will occur, ideally through a combination of mediums including social media, email marketing, sales calls, advertisements, face to face meetings, and so on. The second number was that when contacting people through an email marketing service like Constant Contact, you only get two or three opportunities to prove the value of your newsletter before a contact will stop opening it, opt-out, or, worst of all, mark you as a spammer.

So how do you avoid such a fate for your emails? How do you increase the likelihood your contacts will not only open them, but deem them valuable?

The short answer, you have to provide value. For the longer answer you have to first ask what your contacts find valuable. That may not necessarily be the same as what you find valuable.

The email you send is not about you, but what you know and what you can offer. This means you want to educate your audience about what you know and what you can offer. To do this, provide them with information, hints, and expert tips though articles highlighting your knowledge, case studies highlighting the services you provide, and a featured employee section highlighting the experience and ability of those who work for you. In doing this, you are promoting your business and building relationships.

This said, no matter how valuable the information you provide may be, it will not matter if your email ends up in a spam folder or is not recognized as coming from you.

To avoid the spam folder avoid excessive capitalization and punctuation, as well as certain key words like “SALE”.

As for getting your company the recognition it deserves, this is where branding comes in. Doing this through Outlook or your personal email account is typically not possible. But, it is a major feature of the major email marketing services like Constant Contact which allow you to use or modify existing templates, or create templates of your own, so that the email you send is recognized by your company colors, logo, and whatever other personal touches you may wish to include.

Welcome 2011, A Year to Work Smarter and Grow the Right Way!
January 3, 2011

Since most of my November and December articles talk about how you shouldn’t stop your sales efforts during the “holiday months” because you will be behind your competition come the start of January, I am sure that all of you are expecting me to be writing something along the same lines. Well we are very busy and I am proud to say that all of your clients heeded our advice this year and are reaping the benefits as phones are ringing off the hook this week (do people still have phones that “hook?”) however that is not what this article is about.

I first want to thank everyone who helped Randolph Sterling, Inc. help more clients than ever before in our history in 2010. From clients to staff to referral sources to friends and supporters, you made our success your business so as President and CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc., I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So what does 2011 look like for you? OK, so it is only days into January so I figured I would take my crack at being an Economics expert (I’m sure my Economics 201 professor from Pace University is glad he retired and happier that I am not using his name here). The economy works in cycles, we all know that. We have been on a downward cycle for awhile, but things have been getting better as we are seeing more companies in more industries looking at opportunities.

I know, you are thinking: “Wow, Rich, great insight. The last time I got insight like that, I at least had dessert from the eggroll I had just eaten!”

We work with several different companies that sell to different industries, from accounting to manufacturing, from healthcare to plumbing and marketing. What I see is an economy filled with smarter decision makers who understand who they are, what they do, and who they serve. More and more people working smarter, not harder. I attest this due to a lot of people who really shouldn’t be in business not being able to survive.

With all apologies to the many good people who have lost jobs or are having trouble finding jobs in this economy, the majority of the people I saw who went out of business (and as a result, many of my clients are now working with their past clients) were people who didn’t realize what value is. They either tried to sell on price or not provide the quality that others in their industry had been doing all along.

We have been spending the last several months asking clients and prospects “What makes you great?” Not good, not OK, not cheaper, but great. It’s OK to say it out loud. Heck, if you don’t think you are great, why would a prospect think so? What do you bring to the table that nobody else can? Who wants it? We have been asking ourselves and our clients to dig deeper so we can help them form the right relationships with the right people for the right growth. My prediction for 2011? Companies will continue to work smarter and grow the right way. There is no easy fix to the economy, just good, old fashioned, SMART work.

Happy 2011 everyone!

 

Here We Are
December 1, 2010

Here we are…at the beginning of the 12th month of the calendar. Boy has 2010 flown by. It seems like just yesterday when I was writing about the start of a new decade (which is actually this year, but I’m not going to start that conversation again). So much has happened in our world and in the world over the past 11 months. It seems as though the economy has taken a turn for the better, thanks in large part to many of my friends who own small to mid-sized businesses. To paraphrase George Bailey from my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, it is the small to mid sized business who does most of the living and working and purchasing and dying in this world. We didn’t need a bailout, we just needed our entrepreneurial spirit to help us continue to grow in tougher times.

Of course, I did mention that it is the beginning of the 12th month on our calendar, not the end of it. We at Randolph Sterling are very busy with new projects starting every day, and we are seeing clients busier and busier throughout the month of December. Working smarter has definitely prevailed.

Speaking of working smarter, every Monday, we have an internal sales meeting with our inside sales team. We discuss the projects we are all working on and discuss how we can help each other to provide the best possible experience for our clients. We ask our clients to tell us what makes them different from their competition and how can we use that to help find more of the people they should be working with. We also look at the responses we receive in the rather lengthy conversations we have with prospects to see what they are telling us about what they are looking for and how our clients can help them. We are all about developing relationships for our clients, but it needs to be relationships of value to them.

Working smarter does include an amount of fun, as our resident social media expert, Daniel Nuccio, found time to develop two contests this December, one asking you about your favorite holiday song and another trivia contest from the previously mentioned It’s a Wonderful Life. Between developing budgets for next year and making those last few sales of the year, be sure to check them out!

 

Happy Thanksgiving Month to Everyone!!!
November 1, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving month to everyone. One of my favorite times of the year is about to begin. Thanksgiving is a time where we stop (OK, slow down—more on that later) and say thank you for all that we have, no matter how big or small. For all of its faults, we are lucky enough to live in the greatest country in the world and we at Randolph Sterling, Inc. get to work with some of the greatest clients in the world.

We truly thank you for allowing us to be a part of your success.

I said earlier that Thanksgiving is a time to stop and say thanks, but then corrected myself to say “slow down” rather than stop. You see, too many people take the last month and a half of the year to do just that…stop. Stop calling clients, stop finding new prospects, stop developing new initiatives…they just stop. I am all for smelling the roses (or in this case, sticking with the Thanksgiving theme, turkey and my grandmother’s sweet potatoes) but this is the time to be moving forward.

Want to stand out from your competition? Don’t do the same thing they are doing. I was talking to a friend and colleague who had mentioned that she had planned on seeing a bunch of clients and prospects but a huge rainstorm was coming through town so she might have to cancel some of her stops.

I mentioned to her that a day like that is the best day to stop in and see a client to drop off a thank you gift or to visit with a prospect. Why? Because if you want to be different, do something different. When your competition is worried about getting wet in a rainstorm, or, at this time of year, is going Christmas shopping rather than seeing people, and you are the one who is still out there knocking on doors…you will be remembered. I’ve had people meet with me early in my career simply because they felt badly sending me out in the rain. It got me in the door, but I still had to know what I was talking about to close the deal. However, being there when others wouldn’t definitely set me apart.

Remember during this time of thanks what sets you apart. Go the extra mile or simply talk to your clients and don’t just thank them for their business, ask them what they like about your company and what they hope you will be doing in 2011. Who knows, you may uncover an opportunity your competition won’t even be thinking about for another two months!

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s Getting to Be Budget Time
October 4, 2010

The leaves are starting to turn colors and my morning runs that over the summer were done in sunshine are now at the same time done in darkness. It must be October. Autumn is upon us, and that usually means two things—salespeople trying to reach their annual quota and clients starting to work on next year’s budget.

For too many short sighted salespeople these two things seem to be working in opposition. They want to sell more in hopes of making their quota, but find themselves blocked by decision makers who seem to be not concerned about today, but are looking to the next year and what they want to get accomplished. Salespeople who don’t see the opportunity in this often are also the ones who, a month from now, will start to say that “nobody is buying anything” and will start doing their Christmas shopping instead of going to see clients. The professional salesperson, on the other hand, does see the opportunity and, not only has a strong end to the year, but also starts off the new year strong  (For more information on this, see my article “Selling in November and December…The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”).

Yes, you will find in certain situations that decision makers are more difficult to reach this time of year as they are busy planning budgets. If you position yourself as the person who can help them plan the budget, rather than react to their completed budget months later, you will not only become a valued resource in your ability to do some of the “dirty work” when it comes to budgeting, but you will also more likely be the person they call when it is time to start spending some of that money.

I have a client who is a plumbing contractor. Part of our job is to find out what types of corporate remodeling jobs will be coming up in 2011, and position them as the people best suited to assist in the ones in which they are experts. It is amazing that not only do we get a good reaction from people who we ask to come in and do a site survey for, so we can recommend materials and ideas for the remodel, but we also sometimes find a decision maker who will decide to do one more project this year in hopes of spending all of his allocated budget for this year so he gets even more money next year.

How many of those projects are your clients doing? How many are dong them with you, their trusted resource? Finish this year strong and start 2011 ahead of the pack. Be a trusted resource to your clients and help them, stop selling them!