How to handle Post-Trade Show Trauma

You had a successful time at a trade show. You were able to attract a lot of attendees to your booth or tabletop display. You gathered several good leads. You had great conversations. Promises were made.

Then, a few weeks later, crickets.

Your phone calls and emails are not being returned.

And if you do reach a prospect, you are getting the brush off, or the famous “do I know you” attitude.

What happened?

You just experienced post-trade show trauma.

What is post-trade show trauma? It’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that all the time and money you invested in attending a trade show went right down the drain.

Here’s the problem with attending trade shows as a vendor – you and attendees get blinded by too much enthusiasm. After all, trade shows are high energy events. Lots of drinking. Lots of talking. Lots of partying. Lots of sharing war stories. Lots of exchanging business cards. Lots of doing sales pitches and presentations. Lots of back-slapping.

But when you return home, reality begins to set in.

Your prospects begin to develop cold feet about speaking with you.

Why?

Several reasons.

First, they don’t have the budget to make purchasing decisions. Sure, they may have told you that they are expecting a large grant or major bucks from an angel investor, but the money hasn’t shown up yet. At least, not right now.

Second, they are not the decision maker as they promised you. Now, they are too ashamed and embarrassed to admit it, so they duck your calls. He said he was a sales manager? Really!?! Then why does his LinkedIn profile say he’s a summer intern whose daddy paid his way to attend his first grown-up trade show. Oops, you didn’t see that coming, didn’t you?

Third, maybe they are the decision maker, but they can’t make a…..decision because they are too overwhelmed with pressing or urgent projects. When crises hit, it’s the decision maker to the rescue. As for you, you’re lucky if you end up on the proverbial back burner before he returns your phone calls.

Whatever the reason, you need to remain calm.

When you sell, especially enterprise products and services, you must be prepared to play the long game. You’re not the only vendor in town vying for the attention and business of your prospect.

Sure, you may have had a great conversation with your prospect at your booth, but a few booths down from you, that same prospect may have had a better discussion with your competitor.

Now, you’re screwed.

Or, maybe not.

Be patient. Keep your pipeline full. Set the right priorities.

Eventually, the post-trade show trauma will disappear once the orders start coming in.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine (workshop)

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, I want to encourage you to attend my friend’s workshop on “How to Turn Your Idea Into a Sales Machine.”

Richard Rothstein, a sales consultant, will be conducting the workshops twice next week. The first all-day workshop will be on Tuesday, July 24th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. The next workshop will be held on Saturday, July 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST. Both workshops will be held at 1776, 1133 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. View Map

The registration fee for either workshop is $500.00. The seminar is an excellent investment for any entrepreneur or start-up owner who is planning to start selling his products or services soon. It’s one thing to have a great idea and product or service; however, it quite another to begin selling it in the open market. Richard can help guide you through the pitfalls and challenges that all new business owners face in today’s hectic and fast-paced sales environment. I would encourage you to attend.

How to Avoid the Inbound Sales Lead Trap

Inbound Sales Lead TrapIt’s always nice to receive inbound leads, especially if you are spending most of your time prospecting for new business.

Inbound leads come in many forms.

For example, someone visits your website and completes a short form to request a download of a report, e-book or some other content.

Or, maybe someone is doing research and requested a salesperson contact them to gather more information.

Or, your marketing department did an email blast promoting a new report, survey or upcoming webinar, and suddenly, your inbox is flooding with leads.

But are inbound leads worth it?

Think about it for a minute. Who is more likely to become an inbound lead? Is it a key decision maker juggling a hectic schedule, or a low-level employee surfing the web?

In most cases, it’s the latter.

You see if you are indeed a key decision maker you are probably not going to spend time researching websites or responding to email marketing. Why? Because you are too busy… making decisions.

So, you have an intern, a secretary or a junior employee do your research for you. As a result, before you get too excited about an inbound lead, take the time to find out who you are speaking to before calling that person. Are you contacting an intern or a CEO?

(I know a sales department that spent nearly 15 years contacting the same inbound lead before realizing the person wasn’t serious. The guy just liked talking to salespeople).

LinkedIn, of course, is your best choice for research. A company’s website may also help you.

Inbound sales lead trapInbound leads can also help you uncover customers that you didn’t know existed or you would think would not be good candidates. Depending on your industry or the size of your market, it’s usually challenging to discover on your own all the potential customers you need to contact. Thus, email blasts and good marketing content on your website are like fishing lines dangling from a boat with juicy bait waiting for a catch.

What you don’t want to do is fall into the trap of thinking that every inbound lead you receive will be the crucial decision maker. In 99% of the time, that will not be the case. Instead, view the incoming lead as someone who can open doors for you. Hopefully, that person will be your advocate and shepherd you through the bureaucratic maze of reaching people who will assist you in closing the sale.

Receiving inbound leads is nice. But too much of a good thing could turn into a bad outcome if you are not careful with your time. Don’t be ensnared in doing a lot of busy work contacting the wrong people or developing false hopes of sales that will never close. Instead, view inbound leads for what they are – a way to get your foot into the door for more substantial opportunities, or to unearth hidden gems.

Traps are for animals, not salespeople.

NoteIf you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

What Salespeople can learn from Local Political Candidates

campaign signs at polling areaFor many jurisdictions, it’s primary season. If you’re like me, you have been getting your daily dose of recorded phone calls from local candidates. Your mailbox is probably stuffed with campaign literature. And if you’re like me, you just recently voted early and dealt with a gauntlet of campaign workers or even candidates asking for your vote or trying to hand you campaign literature right before entering your polling area. And if you can’t find your local polling area, don’t worry. There is probably a sea of campaign signs blocks away from the polling area that will lead you to where you need to vote.

What can salespeople learn from local political candidates?

1). Most people have already decided on who to vote for by the time they enter a polling area –

If you are a candidate or campaign worker trying to persuade a voter as he’s walking to the polling area, you’re too late. I would argue that most people, especially those who vote early, have already done their homework and know who they are going to vote for before arriving at a polling place.

That’s the same for most customers. If someone is calling you about your product or service, chances are, they have already done their homework and are already leaning towards making a purchasing decision. Sure, they may be contacting your competitors, or just shopping around, but in most cases, they are ready to buy. The only question for you is – will they buy from you or someone else? That’s when you need to ask open-ended questions and qualify prospects to ensure they are going to be a good fit for your product and service.

2). Campaign literature doesn’t work unless you are unique –

Almost all the campaign literature I received offer the same promises from candidates. Examples include improving schools and reducing crime. All noble goals. But are any of the candidates offering anything unique? Are they distinguishing themselves from the rest of the crowd?

The answer – NO.

And that’s the problem that many salespeople face. The “we can do the same thing or better than our competitors” mantra isn’t going to cut it anymore. In an age where we are inundated with social media, advertisements, commercials and other distractions, you must grab prospects by the collar and clearly and distinctly show them how you are different from the rest of your competitors.

What are you offering of value that will persuade a prospect to become your customer?

Is it lower pricing?

Is it a better product or service?

Is it more reliable shipping?

Is it better customer service?

woman voting3). Developing a strong base of supporters helps before Election Day –

As a political candidate, you must lay the groundwork early long before Election Day. That means you need to be a community activist. Examples include attending PTA meetings or joining groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. You could also join a local citizens committee sponsored by your city and becoming a regular attendee at local council meetings. Being a chief advocate for an issue like better walkways for pedestrians in busy traffic areas, or higher pay for teachers helps too.

The same is true for salespeople. You need to incorporate yourself in the industry you are serving. It’s not enough to sell products and services to vendors in an industry. You need to network, i.e., join LinkedIn groups, attend conferences and trade shows, and be active on social media. In short, you must give a damn about your customers so they, in turn, will support you with their orders and referrals.

It’s tough being a political candidate, especially during the primaries when most people don’t vote. Since most primaries are held in the late Spring or early Summer, people are too busy celebrating graduations, preparing for summer vacations and doing yard work to follow politics closely. So, it takes a lot of work and commitment to encourage people not only to go to the polls but to vote for you.

As salespeople, we face similar challenges. Our prospects are busy with work and personal commitments. Their attention spans are getting shorter. It’s not enough to bombard prospects with emails, direct marketing, and advertisements. You need to draw a clear distinction between yourself and your competitors. You need to offer real value. You need to embrace the industry you are serving.

In summary, you need to be shrewder than most local political candidates who think that recorded phone messages, “me to” campaign literature, and last-minute pitches at the polls are going to get them votes.

Work hard, yes. But also work smarter than local politicians if you want to get ahead.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book  — Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

 

How to Prevent Losing a Large Customer

Sad when losing a large customerSmall customers come and go. But when you lose a large customer, it can be both a financial and psychological toll for you and your entire sales team.

After the finger-pointing and blame games die down, everyone needs to take a step back, take a deep breath and evaluate what happened and how to prevent future losses.

Here is what you need to consider

1). Why did you lose the customer?

How do you find out? Ask. Sure, sometimes customers will be evasive and give you wishy-washy answers, e.g., the budget or a change in upper management. Sometimes those answers are correct. But if you to feel that’s not the case, you need to dig deeper. There are several reasons why customers will leave you. Examples range from a competitor offered a better deal, to your customer felt your pricing increases were getting out of control.

2). Did you see the signs?

Be honest with yourself. Were their signs there and you simply missed them? Examples include your key contacts not returning your phone calls or emails. Or, there was a sudden change in management. Or, maybe some of your key contacts got laid off, were fired, or quit.  Did the financial outlook look bleak for your customer? Was there a merger or acquisition?

3). Did you stay in touch enough?

While you don’t want to be a pest, you should stay in touch with a large customer at least once a month. I don’t mean sending the usual “just checking in” email. I mean sharing important information that your customer might be interested in using for his business.  Or making sure they know about the new features or benefits that were added to your product or service recently. Or, asking if others at your customer’s company would like to see a tailored made demo or online tour on how to better use your services better. Every time you contact a large customer, you must always add value. The “just checking in” email or phone call isn’t going to cut it because everyone is busy these days. We all want to feel special. Large customers are no exception.

Are you using your time wisely4). Are you using your time wisely?

Of course, you should always provide excellent service to all of your customers, regardless of their size and revenue. But let’s the real here – everyone in sales is stretched thin these days. Like it or not, you must set priorities. A small customer who is only generating $500.00 a year in sales isn’t going to be as important as one who is giving you $50,000 in sales. Sure, you hope that the small customer will grow with you over time. But in sales, money talks and everything else walks. You must follow the money.

That’s why if you have a large enough sales team, you need to divide up the sales process so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Examples include

One group that handles research for new prospects. This means using lead generation tools, Google, and other sources to find companies to contact.

One group that manages existing accounts. (And I would go further and divide up the tasks between small, mid-size and large customers). This means holding customer’s hands to ensure you are taking care of their needs and concerns. Examples include being a troubleshooter for billing or shipping problems, seeking upgrading or cross-selling opportunities, and being a watchdog to prevent your competitors from stealing your business.

One group that prospects and schedules sales appointments.

One group that conducts presentations (in-person or online). This group would probably be your closers. They are the ones to make the sales pitch, handle objections, answer questions, and hopefully will see the buying signals to move forward with the sale.

And depending on the size of your company, one group that devotes most of their time on the road attending trade shows and conferences. These are your road warriors. If your company has a large enough budget, these folks could be traveling for weeks, uncovering good leads at events and handing them off to the sales team.

By dividing up the sales process, you make certain that you prevent losing more large customers down the road.

So, you lost a large customer. It happens. Stop whining. Stop complaining. Stop blaming others. Get off your ass and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Note: If you like my post, please read my book –  Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

In Sales, Should you Leapfrog?

leapfrog over your sales leadYou received an inbound lead. After weeks or even months discussions, exchanging emails, doing online tours, giving on-site presentations, maybe doing a free trial or two, you feel the sale is about to close.

Then suddenly, crickets.

No return phone calls. There are no responses from your emails.

Nothing. Silence. Dead silence.

You thought everything was going well. Your inbound lead asked all the right questions. He showed interest in your product or service. In short, he was making all the traditional buying signals.

Now what?

You now face an impasse that most salespeople fear – do you leapfrog over your lead and contact higher level, and perhaps better, key decision makers?

Or, do you continue to be patient, make more phone calls and send out more emails, with the false hope that your contact will finally respond and say those magic words that we all want to hear “Let’s order.”

My answer – if you have honestly made every attempt possible to reach your lead, and he hasn’t responded to your repeated efforts, it’s time to leapfrog.

But first, let’s back-up – Why is leapfrogging even necessary?

Several factors come into play

First, you are dealing with the wimp factor –

Your inbound lead is a wimp. Straight-up. He may be afraid to talk to people in upper management. Maybe he doesn’t want to interrupt busy bosses. Or he’s worried they will reject his idea and possibly demote him, or worse, fire him. Perhaps he never had permission to speak to you in the first place, and now he’s caught between a rock and a hard place – a persistent salesperson (you) vs. a dreadful manager.

Like it or not, many people are employed in toxic work environments. They have to deal with layoffs, lousy morale, unpleasant bosses, endless gossip, etc. In those malicious environments, some employees are afraid to speak up or offer ideas.

Second, you were never working with the key decision maker –

Yes, people lie. Sure, they tell you they are the decision maker and puff up their responsibilities and role, but when push comes to shove, they play “duck and cover” when you start insisting on a decision. Of course, maybe you should have asked tougher questions in the beginning about how decisions are made, and if others are involved in the decision-making process besides your initial contact.

And third, you are getting drawn into office politics –

Never underestimate the power of office politics when it comes to hurting your chances of landing a sale. You may think everyone loves your products or services, and that the world revolves around you, but that’s rarely the case.

For example, several years ago I was trying to sell a password security software program to a major hospital. While the IT Director admitted to me that my company’s software was better than the competition, he had to purchase the other program over mine. Why? Office politics. Because my prospect was hired recently as the IT Director, he didn’t feel he earned enough brownie points or confidence yet in upper management to recommend a higher price – but better – program. As a result, he purchased what he knew to be an inferior, but a cheaper product, to keep his job.

On the other hand, around the same time, I was also working with another IT Director at a major university. He held his position for nearly 20 years. His colleagues and upper management respected him. So, when he recommended that the academic institution purchase my company’s software, he faced very little opposition or objection.

leapfrog over your first leadHow do you leapfrog?

First, research and find out who you think the key decision maker is.

Second, send him an email briefly describing your conversations with your initial contact (but don’t chastise him).

Third, in the same email, explain the value that you are offering the company.

And finally, propose the next steps – e.g., schedule a phone call, meeting, online tour, etc.

Then wait a few days and follow-up again. Send another email. Make some phone calls. Leave some voice mail messages. You know the drill.

Sometimes the critical decision maker will respond quickly. He may even ask your initial lead to contact you to continue the sales process with firm marching orders on how to proceed with you.

Or, maybe nothing happens at all. In which case, you may have to go higher up the ladder until you reach someone who will see the value of what you are offering and continue with the sales process.

Yes, you may offend your initial lead. Yes, you may not get the sale.

But when you’re hitting a brick wall, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea to pursue.

Note: If you like this post, please check out my book – – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career