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.

 

In Sales, Promises vs. Reality

promises not being keptYou’re starting your new sales job. Promises were made. But soon, you discover that you have been lied to by upper management.

Maybe you didn’t get the sales territories you were promised.

Maybe you didn’t receive the compensation package that you were expecting.

Whatever the reason – do you stay, or do you go?

It depends on your situation.

My advice – stick it out for a while and see what happens. For example, there may be a change in management that could work to your advantage. Or another salesperson may leave, and you could inherit some of his large leads or accounts. Or, the compensation package may change. Or, one of your primary competitors could go belly up, and you and others on your sales team could receive more business.

Success in sales, like any profession, is due in part to hard work and smarts…but sometimes it’s mainly due to luck.

As we all know, sometimes it’s being at the right place at the right time when the stars (and dollar signs) are aligned that really matters.

For example, I knew a woman who became a sales manager and earned a lot of money because the entire sales team left. Fed up with what they considered to be the owners’ eccentric decisions and mismanagement, the whole team all walked out the door – expect her. She stuck it out.

success or failureEventually, the owner realized he was over his head, and hired a business manager to run the day-to-day operations. He also hired a team of top-notch employees to help run and manage the production and shipping departments.

With the business finally growing, the owner didn’t forget that woman who stayed with him during the hard times. As I mentioned above, she not only became the sales manager but also collected about 80% of all the significant accounts and was financially successful for several years – until the owner sold his business to a competitor.  As a result, the entire sales team was sold down the river. A year later, everyone was laid off. (But that’s a different story).

Of course, it’s always a good idea to do your homework before you accept a job offer. Yes, you can read reviews on Glassdoor or Indeed. But there have been numerous times when employers will “urge” their employees to write positive reviews to order to attract gullible employees.

Can you trust your gut? Not always.

One of my friends was working as a consultant for a tech start-up. The owner offered him a full-time job with benefits. With a family to support, he accepted the job offer. After all, he had been working as a consultant for a while, and he thought he knew the business. Or, so he thought.

It turned out to be the worst decision he ever made. But he stuck it out for about six months and decided he was happier being a consultant again.

We’re all human. We all make mistakes.

Promises don’t always turn into reality.

But if you stick it out, sometimes those promises may come true.

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

What Girl Scouts Can Teach us about Selling

With so many Girl Scouts selling cookies near my work and grocery store, I have to assume that the Girl Scout cookie season is upon us again. (Girl Scouts sell cookies Girl Scouts selling cookiesfrom January through April, but in some  cases, they may sell them in September).

For most of us, selling is a career that we either start as soon as we graduate college or mid-life when our current job isn’t panning out.

But for most young girls, selling Girl Scout cookies is a Rite of Passage that begins at an early age.

(Full Disclosure – My mom was a Girl Scout leader, and all four of my sisters sold Girl Scout cookies).

What can we learn from Girl Scouts?

Here are some observations

1). Location, Location, Location – it’s no accident that many Girl Scout troops will set up a tabletop display near a busy street corner, a grocery store, or shopping center. They know that location is the key for selling. The more people traffic, the better chance you have to sell more cookies.

(I once saw a Girl Scout troop hold a cookie sale in someone’s front yard. Despite all the cheering scouts, it appeared they didn’t get too much traffic).

2). Product – unless you are a con artist who can sell ice to an Eskimo, selling requires having a good product. Being a connoisseur of Girl Scout cookies, I can testify first hand that the cookies are delicious. (My favorite is Thin Mints®).

3). Free samples – I notice that some Girl Scouts have taken a page out of the professional salesperson’s handbook and are offering free samples. That’s a great idea. It’s an excellent way of driving foot traffic to your location and increasing sales.

4). Branding – at most Girl Scout table displays, I notice a lot of signs. This is not a coincidence. In this busy and hectic age, you must attract attention of busy shoppers and pedestrians. Large colorful signs tapped to a table, or better yet, waved by girls, is a right way of drawing attention and more sales. Also, having a large stack of boxes of cookies on display will help people quickly see the variety you are offering, and enhances your branding too.

5). Variety – According to Girl Scouts’ Meet the Cookies, there are 12 brands of cookies this year. There is a debate on whether companies or organizations should offer too many products or not. Think 1-800 Flowers with its large display of flowers and other gifts. Too many products can be overwhelming.  But given that most people expect a lot of variety when it comes to snacks or desserts, 12 different types of cookies appears to be a good fit.

6). Referrals – most of us have worked in offices where at least one employee has an order sheet in the office kitchen for people to sign up for orders. If it’s the boss or manager, some employees may feel some undue pressure to order cookies to secure favor and harmony in the workplace. But for most of us who like cookies, it’s the convenience of completing a form and knowing that our favorite snacks will be arriving soon.

7). Enthusiasm – I’ve never passed by a Girl Scout cookie display without witnessing enthusiastic girls (and sometimes the adults are more excited than the kids). Enthusiasm is contagious. It also helps with sales.

(Several years ago, I saw an overweight man sitting in an office lobby behind a display of Girl Scout cookies. His arms were folded. He had this overconfident smirk on his face, as if he was expecting people would rush to buy the cookies. That didn’t happen. With his arms folded, no display and no real enthusiasm, he wasn’t very approachable).

8). Dress for success – most Girl Scouts wear their uniforms when selling cookies. This is important. It shows professionalism and credibility on their part, and underscores that they are raising money for a good cause.

There you have it.

Most Girl Scouts may never be salespeople. But we can learn a lot from their techniques in selling cookies.

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

In Sales, How to Deal with the Hand-off

the hand offYou spent weeks, if not months, working with your client to close the sale. Just when you think you finally see dollar signs in your eyes, your client decides to hand you off to someone else.

What just happened?

You just got handed over to someone else who may or may not give a damn about what you are selling. In fact, he may never even have heard of you or your company before.

Why did this happen?

First, your client wasn’t a serious buyer. Sure, he may have told you he was the decision maker, but he lied. Don’t be surprised. It happens. In fact, it happens all the time.

Second, maybe your client is interested, but he’s too busy working on other projects, or suddenly, a personal or professional crisis occurred, and he has to break discussions with you temporarily. Because what he’s going through isn’t your business, he hands you off to some flunky or low-level employee to keep you busy for a while until he gets his affairs in order.

Third, he honestly wants a second opinion from an outside expert or consultant, so he decides to have an outsider hear what you are pitching. This happened to me once when I was selling password security software. After months of free trials and online tours, the decision maker wanted to cover his ass, so he decided to bring in a cybersecurity expert to review the software I was selling. Was I confused and hurt? A little. But then I put myself in my client’s place – because this was going to be a significant order for him, he wanted to get a second opinion before signing the dotted line. If I were in his place, I probably would have done the same thing.

So, rather than get my feelings hurt, I decided to treat the outside consultant with respect. I repeated all my online tours. I provided him with all the information I sent to my client. I patiently listened to all his questions and answered them accordingly. In a couple of months, my efforts paid off – I won over the consultant, he became my advocate, and I got the large order.

How to avoid the hand-off?

First, make sure your client is the decision maker. And in most cases, the decision maker isn’t always one person. Sometimes decisions are made by a series of people in upper management or even by a committee.

Second, try to get a time commitment from your client. What is his deadline? Is there a sense of urgency on your client’s part to making a purchase? Or, is he just window shopping.

And finally, if you do get handed off, don’t panic. Depending on what you’re selling, the sales process could take a long time. Be persistent. Be professional. And if all else fails, there are other fish in the sea. And who knows, your current fish that you’re trying to reel in may just voluntarily jump on your boat when you least expect it.

A hand-off doesn’t always mean you’re getting the backhand. It just means you have to work harder to seal the deal.

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

 

Sales & Marketing Conferences for 2018

Happy New Year!

And with the new year now here, there are several upcoming sales and marketing conferences you might want to consider.

With so many conferences and so little time, how do you select the ones that will best help you in your sales and marketing career?

sales conferencesHere are some tips

1). Networking opportunities – which event will help you make the right contacts to help your career or business?

2). Good Planning – does the sponsor have an agenda, a floor plan for trade shows (if there are any), and plenty of time to meet people.

3). Discounts – are there any early bird discounts and low hotel reservations available?

4). Speakers – are you going to have an opportunity to finally meet those thought leaders and experts that you read about?

5). Company compensation – if you can swing it, will your employer reimburse all or part of your expenses?

6). Attendee List – as an attendee, your sponsor should provide you with a list of people attending the event. This will help you network better.

7). Location – is the event being held in a city where the location is nice, and you will have interesting sites to visit?

Meanwhile, here are a sample list of conferences for your review –

Sales

AA-ISP Digital Sales World 2018
Dates: Feb. 1st, June 20th and September 6th
Locations: San Francisco, Atlanta and Boston

Revenue Summit
Date: March 1st
Location: San Francisco

Rainmaker
Dates: March 5 – 7th
Location: Atlanta

Sandler Sales & Leadership Summit
Dates: March 12th – 16th
Location: Orlando

Sales 3.0 Conference
Date: March 12th – 13th
Location: San Francisco

Inbound
Dates: September 4th – 7th
Location: Boston

Dreamforce
Dates: September 25th – 28th
Location: San Francisco

For a more comprehensive list of Sales Conferences, please go to this link –

16 Top Sales Conferences You Should Attend in 2017 & 2018, by Leslie Ye for Hubspot

Marketing

GrowthHackers Conference
Date: February 6th
Location: San Diego

SXSW Conference & Festivals
Dates: March 9th – 18th
Location: Austin

Social Media Week
Dates: April 24th – 27th
Location: New York

Gartner Digital Marketing Conference
Dates: May 15th – 17th
Location: San Diego

DigitalSummit
Dates: June 12th – 13th
Location: Portland, OR

Growth Acceleration Summit
Dates: June 18th – 20th
Location: Boston

Seattle Interactive Conference
Dates: October 17th – 18th
Location: Seattle

B2B Marketing Forum
Dates: November 13th – 16th
Location: San Francisco

An Event Apart
Dates: December 10th – 12th
Location: San Francisco

For a more comprehensive list of Marketing Conferences, please go to this link –

2018 Marketing Conferences: The #1 Marketing Events Guide, published by The Bizzabo Blog

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