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Is Your Sales Team Too Soft to Close the Deal?

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We’ve seen it time and time again: a sales team that’s overly careful not to be seen as “sharks” fails to close the deal. The excuses go on and on, but usually sound something like this:

  •  “We didn’t want to pressure the client.”
  • “We thought we would leave the ball in their court for a week.”
  • “They said they needed time to think about it.”
  • “The client loves their current provider.”

At the end of the day, it boils down to the fact that a sale has been lost. If your team is losing sales, then it might be time to step in with some negotiation tactics. Here are some strong approaches you can employ to get your sales team closing deals again.

4 Assertive Sales-Closing Techniques

1. Geoffrey James of MoneyWatch wrote an interesting piece for CBS News a couple years ago, titled How to Close a Sale in 6 Easy Steps. The title leads you to believe it’s too good to be true (it is). The steps to closing a sale are never easy. However, James does start off with a strong first piece of advice: “Ignore the ABC Strategy.” You probably know this strategy: Always Be Closing. The fact is, the sales game doesn’t work that way, but your salespeople may not know it yet. Let them know that they don’t have to Always Be Closing. Instead, encourage them to focus on developing relationships and setting your company apart from the competition. It’s all in the little details… which later lead to assertive sales-closing!

2. Ray Silverstein, writing for Entrepreneur.com, hits the nail on the head when it comes to picking up on details. Silverstein suggests that when you go into a sales call, you think about what the person you’re pitching to wants. This may sound like standard sales advice, but it’s not. Focus on unique emotional wants, advises Silverstein. He draws upon the example of an entrepreneur, whom he believes doesn’t want to make big profits. Rather, “Entrepreneurs are in business for themselves because they want to call the shots. Their true wants including being the boss, ensuring the company’s security and perhaps passing the company along to a successor.” Have your sales team think about how they will meet these unique emotional wants.

3. At least 8 of the 12 Commandments for Closing a Sale by Grant Cardone involve body language and communication. If your sales team isn’t practiced in clear communication and effective body language, then a little bit of sales training can go a long way in affecting your bottom line. Eye contact and a smile is just the beginning.

4. Lastly, how well does your sales team know your product? Jay Delahousay, writing for the Small Business Chronicle, believes that sales teams who are comfortable with their product can be much more assertive and effective in closing sales. He also makes a great closing point: being assertive is different from being aggressive.

Where do you see ‘assertive’ sales crossing over into ‘aggressive’ sales territory?

 

Small Companies are Increasing Their Budgets for Training

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In our last blog post, we shared some information from the latest Training Magazine, which reported that 65% of organizations had decreased their budget or experienced no budget change in 2012 from the year before. Of course, the converse of that fact is that 35% of organizations increased their training budgets in 2012. Let’s take a look at how small companies (100-999 employees) increased their training budgets this year.

According to the Training Magazine report, small companies grew their training budgets in the following ways:

  • Growth of more than 25%: 17%
  • Growth of 16% to 25%: 13%
  • Growth of 6% to 15%: 37%
  • Growth of 1% to 5%: 33%

The majority of training budget growth in 2012 was small, but even a 6% to 17% growth is significant in the world of training. A survey of all size businesses reveals that the vast majority of budgetary growth was in:

  • Increasing Scope of Training (56%)
  • Increasing Numbers of Learners Served (52%)
  • Adding Training Staff (49%)

 Below, you’ll find some effective ways that your small company can grow in 2013…

Increase the scope of your training to get ahead of your competitors in 2013. Training may be stagnant for some industries in 2013. So, while your competitors are cutting corners, know that now is the time for you to push your employees ahead. Look into online training options if your company doesn’t have the time or resources for weekend seminars or month-long courses.

Increase the number of learners served by bringing in a professional training group to deliver a series of brown bag lunch seminars. In order to maximize the effectiveness of these seminars, require employees to get into breakout groups to discuss the topic in terms of their own roles in the company.

Lastly, increase your training budget in 2013. Reduced training budgets may save money in 2013, but will hurt companies in the long run. Without training, employees fall behind in their skill sets, which results in overall depreciation of a company.

How will you train your employees in 2013? Are you increasing your budget or decreasing it?

Training Expenditures are Decreasing

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Training Magazine has just released their annual “Salary Survey,” and the figures are a little disheartening for the training industry. According to the report, “Total 2012 U.S. training expenditures – including payroll and spending on external products and services – fell 6.5 percent to $55.8 billion.” The report also mentions that 65% of organizations either decreased their training budget or kept 2011’s budget.

While the current trend is going against training, many business owners are coming to realize the impressive ROI of professional training services. If you are one of the companies in that 65%, consider these affordable options:

 

“Learning Teams”

Donna Flagg, writing for the Huffington Post, advises that employers encourage “Learning Teams” in the workplace. A “Learning Team” can take on the form of a business book club or an arranged weekly lunch. Essentially, diverse groups of employees in your organization get together to discuss an idea or share experiences. This is a great way to supplement your current training curriculum.

We believe that this strategy works best in a mature organization that employs leaders who are willing to take charge in discussion. Otherwise, these “Learning Teams” can turn out to be nothing but wasted man-hours. If you choose to start “Learning Teams” within your organization, encourage younger employees to share new strategies with top leadership, in addition to having top leadership share about their experiences.

 

Formal Mentoring Opportunities

Mary K. Pratt, a Verizon employee writing for Computer World, suggests that employers set up in-house mentoring programs. Pratt cites an example in which a Prudential executive selected 10 of her best leaders and 10 of her best new employees, and paired them together for nine months. The process was entirely voluntary (a huge factor in its success), and took place off-site, outside of office hours. The mentored employees were encouraged to share their goals and objectives, while senior leadership provided guidance and made suggestions.

This is a great way for the senior leadership on your team to share formal training experience with newer, younger members.

 

Online Training & Blended Solutions

Even if your budget is down, that doesn’t mean you can’t afford professional training. Many companies (SNI included) offer blended training solutions with strong online components. If you want your employees to have the best training experience possible, without breaking the bank, consider exploring one of these blended training options.

Training your employees doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and strategy!

Have training ideas of your own? Share them in the comments section below.

Negotiation in Different Cultures

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In our increasingly globalized world, many businesses that used to be 100% local are outsourcing their needs to foreign firms and agencies. You probably have at least one or two suppliers, distributors, or customers overseas for whom English is not a first language. Then again, you could be negotiating with someone in your own city that doesn’t speak English as a first language.

 Getting Past Language Barriers

If clear communication is a challenge for you and one of your business contacts, here are a few words of advice to help you get on track with your language…

  • Avoid euphemisms and idioms. “The cat’s out of the bag” can be a very confusing way of letting a business contact know that one of your secrets has been made public knowledge. Avoid phrases like these when communicating with someone of a different cultural or ethnic background.
  • In Basic English, there are 850 words, only 18 of which are verbs. Don’t use big or impressive words – especially if they’re not particularly relevant to the line of work you and your business contact are in.
  • Keep your written and oral communication brief and to the point – even at the risk of overstating/oversimplifying.

 

The Negotiation Phase

Once you’re comfortable with communicating clearly, you can turn your attention to negotiating with the contact of a different background. In negotiating, body language goes a long way. Different cultures use body language in different ways. Understanding how your culture and how another person’s culture uses body language can eliminate the risk of offense and achieve results.

 

Here are a few examples of how body language varies from culture to culture:

  • In Asia, it’s common to avoid eye contact, as looking down is a sign of respect.
  • In Middle Eastern cultures, people of the same gender are likely to stand quite close to one another.
  • Crossing your legs while negotiating with someone of Islamic culture can be perceived as offensive.
  • Handshaking and touching is common in North America, France, and Italy, but these practices are much less common in Asia and northern Europe.

 We can’t highlight all of the body language differences between cultures in this post. Rather, the point is to give you some insight into a few types of body language you might not be aware of. Before negotiating with someone of a different culture or ethnic background, you should always do some preliminary research on body language.

As for the negotiation part, don’t be afraid of making your needs and desires known. However, express yourself with sensitivity to the other person’s cultural background. A little bit of willingness to learn about someone else can take you a long way!