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

Who is your Biggest Competitor?

time managementWhen you start a new sales position, one of your first tasks is to determine who your competitors are in your niche industry.

When you start a new sales position, one of your first tasks is to determine who your competitors are in your niche industry.

Depending on where you are working, your employer may already have a list of key competitors, along with descriptions, and a cheat sheet of the fundamental differences between your products and services vs. your competition.

That’s all good news.

But some salespeople are missing the point – your biggest competitor isn’t other companies.

Your biggest competitor is time.

That’s right – time.

Think about it. It takes time to make sales calls. It takes time to do research. It takes time to enter your notes in your CRM. It takes time to leave several messages before your reach your prospect. It takes time to send and respond to emails every day. It takes time to attend sales meetings. Hell, it takes time to commute to work!

Time, then, is your most significant competitor.

How you manage your time can make a difference in achieving your goals or just getting by.

Here are 10 tips for time management

1). Focus on your top prospects first –  However, don’t spend all your time on your significant opportunities, because depending on the industry you are in, your sales cycle could be extended. So, it’s a good idea to mix it up – maybe devote 70% of our time on your larger accounts, and 30% on the smaller ones that you hope to close quickly.

2). Set time aside for administrative work – Too often, salespeople get caught up on administrative work, and they neglect doing what they were hired to do – which is to sell. Unless it’s urgent, I find it’s better to set aside one hour in the late afternoon to handle administrative work.

3). Research – unless it’s a significant account, don’t spend too much time on researching your prospects. It’s very easy to get caught reading too many websites and LinkedIn profile pages. I usually spend no more than three (3) minutes doing research, and then copying/pasting my findings in my CRM for future reference.

coffee breaks4). Snacks – rather than wasting time constantly going to the vending machine or your building’s sandwich shop, I find it’s better to bring snacks to work and put them in my desk. The same is right with water. Rather than run back and forth to the water cooler, I keep a plastic water bottle at my desk. I also bring in a coffee canister from home to save money and time at my local coffee shop. (Plus, I prefer drinking strong coffee).

5). Stay off the internet – it’s easy to get lost online these days, especially if your company gives you a lot of freedom to go on the internet. I always set time aside during lunch or in the late afternoon to go online to read the news. Even then, I keep my reading at a minimum and just skim the headlines.

6). Watch the small talk – it’s so easy to engage in conversations at work. But in sales, you just don’t have the time. Sure, you don’t want to be rude. And sometimes we all need to release tension by talking about diets, movies, celebrities, etc. But you have to work to make money. Through my body language, I try to convey that I’m busy or don’t want to be disturbed when working.  I know that can be tough to do in an open office environment. Just try to avoid eye contact and focus on your monitor.

7). Organize your email – If you’re like me, you probably come in each morning with a slew of emails to read and respond to.  With Outlook, I’ve created several folders and put my emails into each one. It’s saves me a lot of time later when I must retrieve an important email. Also, unless it’s urgent, I try not responding to emails until later in the day when I’m doing my administrative work.

8). Keep your Smartphone out of sight – I purposely put my Smartphone out of sight during the day. I only check my personal emails while commuting to work on the Metro, during my lunch hour, and while commuting back home. That’s it.

9). Email templates – rather than keep writing the same emails repeatedly, I have a file of email templates that I use. However, I will sometimes modify and personalize my emails before sending them out. Also, I usually keep a record of attachments (articles and brochures) that I send out, and I will refresh my attachments with new material every couple of weeks.

10). Schedule calls – whenever possible, I always try to schedule my calls and online tours. Yes, sometimes people will cancel your phone calls at the last-minute, or become complete “no-shows,” but in the long run, scheduling calls beats making repeated calls or sending out tons of emails.

I hope you like my suggestions.

Here are links to other articles on time management for salespeople –

“Eight Time Management Hacks for Sales Reps,” by Andrew Quinn
“6 Effective Time Management Techniques for Success in Sales,” by Jenny Poore

Here are some books on time management that could help you –

11 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople, 11th Anniversary Edition: Gain the Competitive Edge and Make Every Second Count, by Career Press

Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople, by Thomas Nelson

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

Should you send out Reminder Emails?

sending reminder emails to clientsAfter months of work, you finally scheduled an online tour or webinar with a large client. You sent him the meeting invite to his Outlook Calendar. He has accepted your invite.

The tour or webinar is tomorrow. Do you send your client an email reminder notice? Or do you just assume that he will be available tomorrow when you call and do the presentation?

There are two schools of thought about this issue –

1). Don’t send the reminder

The thought behind this is that if you send a reminder, the client may use that as an excuse to opt out. He may have second thoughts about viewing your tour. As a result, your client may send you a lame ass excuse about his cat being ill, or he has a conflict on his calendar, or he will suddenly be out-of-town tomorrow.

Not only are you a believer in the “assumption close,” but you also believe in the assumption meeting, i.e., you take the client’s word that he’s going to show up, so why give him an excuse to bail out on you. You call tomorrow and hope and pray he will pick up the phone and be available for your presentation.

2). Do send the reminder

The thought here is that by sending your client a reminder you are showing him that you a professional. Sure, you know that your meeting invite is on his Calendar. Sure, he accepted it a week ago. However, you know from experience that professionals like yourself are busy. So sending a reminder is your way of being polite.

What would I do?

I would send the reminder. Why? Because by sending him a reminder a day or so in advance you are showing professional courtesy to your client. But most important of all, you want to make sure your client is really serious about viewing your presentation. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be excited about your product or service as you are. Sure, they may tell you to send them a meeting invite to make you feel good or to save face. But a few minutes before the presentation begins, you receive a last-minute cancellation, or without any advance warning, the client doesn’t appear at all.

In short, you have a “no show.”

We all know it takes time to prepare for a presentation. Like most salespeople,  you already have prepared a set of slides or screens shots in place, and you probably have customized your demo, e.g., adding certain benefits that you know the client will like, or addressing specific pain points that you know the client needs to resolve. But all that work takes time.

Better to know in advance if the client isn’t going to show up, so you can devote more time scheduling other appointments, prepare for other tours, or make sales calls.

And who knows – maybe your client is being honest and can’t view your presentation. No worries. You can always reschedule.

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

10 Tips for Conducting Webinars

how to conduct webinarsWith most of us working from our offices these days, we are relying more on conducting webinars to our clients. The days of the traveling salesperson are slowly disappearing. While some of us are still regularly traveling to trade shows, most companies are trying to cut costs by using online tours.

Tools like ClearSlide, Anymeeting, GoToWebinar are making it easier to do online demos.

But what are the most effective ways of conducting those presentations?

1). Pre-Qualify – If possible, try to pre-qualify your prospect before conducting the tour. This can be done with a short phone call conversation or questionnaire that the customer fills out online. Your goal is to make sure that your service or product will be good fit. You should also try to find out why they are interested in your service or product now. Are they trying to solve an immediate problem, or are they just shopping for prices? And finally, try to find out if they have contacted any of your competitors. If they have already reviewed your competitor’s products or services, find out what they didn’t buy from them. This could give you an advantage of how your pitch your product during the presentation.

2). Research – Let’s say that you don’t have time to pre-qualify your prospect. The next best step is to do some research on your client’s company. With Google, LinkedIn and other search tools, this should be an easy process. You don’t have to spend hours doing research. Your goal is to learn enough about the company to determine if  they will be a good fit for what you are offering.

3). Confirm the appointment – Cancellations or postponements happen. It’s a given in sales. But one of the best ways of reducing cancellations and postponements is to send a confirmation email the day before the tour. Sure, some clients will use it as an excuse not to view your presentation, but at least you will not be wasting your time. And hopefully, you can schedule another appointment during that time slot. However, I wouldn’t give up so easily on a cancellation. Try to reschedule it, or dig deeply into why they are not really interested in speaking with you. Maybe you need to do a better job of outlining the benefits of your service or product. Maybe you’re not speaking to the right person. Maybe its bad timing. Whatever the reason, don’t give up so easily.

4). Know the attendees – If more than one person is joining you on the online tour, try to find that out in advance. In fact, the more advanced information you have for all the attendees, the better. For example, if you know that your prospect’s boss is going to be joining the online tour, there may be some questions or comments that you don’t want to bring up during the presentation. This is especially true if your prospect is your advocate, but you know he has a lot of convincing to do with his boss. You don’t want to embarrass your advocate by making statements that could backfire on both of you.

5). Keep it short – Long webinars are boring as hell, no matter how exciting you think your product or service is. Keep it short. No more than 15 to 30 minutes at most. Unless the attendees are excited and are asking you a lot of questions (a good buying signal), better to cover the key points that interest your prospect, and then either schedule another more advanced online presentation, or a conference call to hash out the details. People are busy these days. If you tell them the online tour will be longer than 30 minutes, many will shy away from watching your presentation. The goal is to get the sale, not to be long-winded.

how to conduct a webinar6). Know your goal – is it to make a sale on the spot? Is it to move the sales process along? Is it to give a quick overview before scheduling a free trial period? Is it to find out more why the client is interested in buying your product or service?

7). Outline the ground rules – let the attendees know upfront what the ground rules of the presentation are. For example, is it OK to ask questions during the presentation or wait until after you are finish? Is it OK to record the presentation so that the people who couldn’t attend will be able to view it later (which could save you time from doing multiple presentations).

8). Customize it – don’t use generic terms to title your presentation like “Password Security” or “Higher Ed” – instead, customized your presentation by using the client’s company’s name like “ABC Company Password Security Presentation” or “The University of Delaware Presentation.” Even if you are only copying the generic presentation and slapping your client’s name on it, you are still giving  the impression that you spent time putting together the demo and showed some real effort.

9). After the presentation – when the tour is over, what’s next? Besides answering questions, make sure you schedule a follow-up phone call. Your goal is always to move the sales process forward until you get the sale.

10). Review it – if you recorded your presentation, have your manager or someone else review it. It’s always good to get feedback.

For more advice on how to conduct webinars, please check out these books

Deliver Webinars Like a Pro: An Essential Guide for Business Owners. Tips and Strategies to Setting Up and Using Webinars Effectively for Sales Presentations, Marketing Campaigns and Online Training, by Melodie Rush and Carl Stearns

Webinar Authority: The Step-By-Step Guide On How To Prepare, Present, Host, And Execute a Successful Webinar (AMC Book 5301), by Saifuddin Indorewala

For more information on where to find webinar tools, please read –

“6 WebEx Alternatives for Hosting an Extraordinary Webinar,” by Caroline Malamut on the Capterra website.

“The 15 Best Webinar Software Products from Around the Web,” by Nathan B.Weller in Resources on the Elegant Themes, Inc. website.

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

21 Lead Generation Strategies from School Fundraising Events

sales lead generation ideasI received the email below from Ashley Huber, a volunteer at School Fundraising Events, a website that provides a wealth of information on school fundraising and resources.

I’ve decided to publish the email, along with a helpful link on 21 Lead Generation Strategies. I believe the link is a great resource for anyone seeking ideas on how to increase new business.

Please read

Good afternoon,

My name is Ashley Huber and I volunteer with a summer business and entrepreneurship program for gifted children. The students are interested in launching, owning and managing their own companies and brands.  They have been very excited about coming up with creative ways to market themselves and their ideas. Even though the kids I work with are still young, they have been doing a lot of research at home and as a group.

Today, the students came across your website http://dononselling.com/10-things-start-up-owners-need-to-know-about-selling/ while looking for inspiration on how to advertise a businesses and brand themselves through networking and social media leads. We want to say thank you! The students are hoping to use community outreach to expand their own companies in the future.

One of the kids, Nick, did some research on his own to figure out how to attract new consumers and organizations interested in supporting, investing, and buying from a new business. He shared this resource article with the class: https://www.hipb2b.com/library/21-lead-generation-strategies.html

I suggested that he and his peers share this with you because it is such a great resource for anyone looking to generate leads locally, nationally and even online to expand their business and make their brand well-known. I also want to impress upon them that even though they are young, reaching out and simply asking others can help accomplish things that the kids might not otherwise think can.

Would you please add a link on your webpage to the resource article Nick found? He would be so proud to see that you did, even if it’s only for a little while, and we also think that your other visitors will find it useful. I also don’t think it hurt that I promised the whole group a networking and pizza day if you added Nick’s article! Please let me know if you’d be willing!

I hope to hear from you soon!

Ashley

Ashley Huber
ashley@schoolfundraisingevents.com

Motivational Business Quote of the Month: “Communication is the key to success in business!”

Five bad habits to break at Trade Shows

I just got back from a large trade show and I notice five bad habits that I think all vendors should break.

don't be late for a trade show1). Tardiness – if the trade show starts at 9:00 a.m., then make sure you get your ass there on time. The last thing you want to do is come to a booth late, and find a note from a potentially good prospect who writes that he may stop by later. We all know from experience that most prospects are not going to “stop by later” because they get busy visiting other booths, attending workshops…or meeting with your competitors!

2). Arrive early to set up your booth or tabletop display. I know. As much as we try to plan ahead, things happen. Your flight is delayed. Your hotel claims they don’t have your reservation. The taxi cab driver doesn’t know where the convention center is located. I get that. But try to get to the exhibit hall area ASAP. You never know what problems you are going to face, e.g., there are no chairs because your department didn’t know they had to rent them before the trade show, or there is no electricity because you didn’t know you had to purchase it for the booth, or the scanner you are renting isn’t working properly, etc. You get the drift.

I actually once worked for a company that required all salespeople to arrive one day in advance to set up the booth. However, I realize that some companies have tight budgets and depending on the location and flight availability, you may have to fly in the same day the trade show begins and quickly set things up a couple of hours before the doors open. I understand. Just do the best you can.

3). Don’t leave your leads out all night – I will sometimes arrive early to an exhibit hall to check out other exhibits and get ideas. This is especially true if I’m the only one managing the booth and I don’t have time during the day to walk around. I’m constantly surprised by the number of vendors who leave their leads out on the table all night long. Sure, we’re professionals. We don’t steal. But how can you be sure that some unscrupulous competitor isn’t going to come along and pinch your leads? This is especially true at large trade shows where there isn’t enough security. Either hide your leads in your booth (some trade shows rent locked cabinets) or take them to your hotel room.

BTW, the same goes for candy. I once left a candy bowl out on the display table and when I returned in the morning, most of my sweets were gone. So hide your candy too!

4). Don’t stand or sit like a statue – engage. It amazes me that companies will spend thousands of dollars sending salespeople to attend trade shows and they don’t engage with attendees. Instead, they sit on their butts working on their laptops (which only signals to prospects that are you too busy to be bothered) or read their own marketing literature that they should be handing out.

You need to engage.

That means if someone gives you eye contact or looks at your booth, you may ask them “does anything catch your eye?” or “have you heard of our company or product?” Hopefully, by asking those or other questions, attendees may approach your booth and you can engage them in a conversation to determine if they are good prospects or not.

engage with attendees at trade showsAlso, don’t trust that your booth display or table top will be enough to draw prospects to you. While your marketing department may do a good job developing interesting visuals, at the end of the day it’s up to you to bring home good leads. That means if someone walks by and starts avoiding eye contact with you, call them out by asking them a direct question. By doing so, they may come over and speak with you. This tactic is especially helpful at large trade shows of 100 plus vendors where attendees are overwhelmed, busy and tired. You have to think of attendees as cattle – you have to drive them home through the open range.

Attendees, like cattle, need direction.

5). Turn your frown upside down. I understand. Trade shows can be long and sometimes boring when walk-thru traffic is slow. You get tired. Your feet ache.

But put yourself in the place of the attendees – they are sometimes spending hours walking from booth to booth, listening to sales pitches, and having sales literature thrust among them.

The last thing an attendee wants to see is a sad or disappointed salesperson at a booth. So smile. Be enthusiastic. Show real interest. Be curious. Who knows, you may land a sale or two that could put you over the top when meeting quota.

There, you have it. Break those five bad habits and you should do well.

Now go sell!

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