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4 Lessons We Can Learn From Famous Business Flops

Big businesses have seen their fair share of flops in PR, sales, and marketing. Some businesses are even forced to fold because of their embarrassing mistakes. Here are some of the most famous business fails throughout history and the lessons we can learn from them.

The Hamburger Mistake – Not Knowing Your Buyer

In 1996, McDonalds introduced its Arch Deluxe. The burger cost more than standard McDonalds’ fare and was aimed at “urban sophisticates.” This was outside McDonald’s target demographic. No one bought it, so McDonalds had to take the item off the menu.

The takeaway – If you try to sell to someone who doesn’t want what you’re selling, you’re destined for failure.

The Chip Mistake – Making Claims Too Good to Be True

In 1998, Frito-Lay marketed WOW! Chips. The chips were made with Olestra, a compound that made them fat free. However, Olestra’s molecules were too large to be digested properly. Customers experienced stomach cramps and diarrhea. The chips had to be taken off the market.

The Takeaway – Don’t get so excited about the good aspects of your product that you fail to conduct due diligence. Take your time, do your research, and make sure the data backs your claims.

Nintendo’s Mistake – Offering a Product Before It Was Ready

In 1995, Nintendo released Virtual Boy, new technology that was supposed to transport buyers into virtual reality. The tabletop game console was supposed to create the illusion of depth with stereoscopic 3D graphics. It didn’t. Games had low-resolution graphics, grainy images, and an often-monochromatic display.

The Takeaway – Know your target audience, and give them what they want, but be sure your product is up to the challenge first.

Facebook Home – Making Things Too Complicated

In 2013, Facebook launched an app for Android that makes Facebook’s cover feed the user’s home screen. The app was only compatible with a handful of devices and got negative reviews. Users reported Facebook Home gave them too many notifications and made it hard to see other apps. Critics said it used too much data and battery. Most people uninstalled it.

The Takeaway – Don’t over-provide. Start slow, and build from what works.

Don’t make the same mistake these big businesses did when they lost sight of their audience, rushed in with a product that wasn’t ready, or overcomplicated their sales efforts. Focus on your target market and audience and stay within that demographic. Eliminate unnecessary information and counterintuitive steps so these mistakes won’t happen to your business.

3 Ways to Warm Up Cold Leads in 2017

Jeff Cochran

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Cold calling and cold lead marketing still have their place, even in today’s technology driven world, but, with the digital revolution, there are some new tricks to the trade. We live in a consumer-driven economy, so they’re more ahead of the curve than they used to be. Cold lead marketing is now a combination of digital and traditional techniques, but it has the same end goal: leading a prospect one step further down the funnel. Here’s how to do it in 2017:

1.  Foresee and Derail Common Objections

Rejection is simply a part of the business, and most cold callers know how quickly rejection can derail a call, but doing some customer research can help you identify sources of common objections so you can tackle them before they arise.

Each company will handle an objection differently, but, no matter your response, practice it over and over. For example, a common objection is that a product or service is cost-prohibitive. Be prepared to offer alternate solutions, such as an exclusive promotion, instead of hanging up the phone.

2.   Leverage Multiple Channels

If you’re still exclusively cold-calling, it’s time to come to the 21st century. The digital revolution has opened up several channels for cold lead marketing: email campaigns, social media outlets, and even things like Adwords.

One of the best ways you can nurture a cold lead is by posting relevant evergreen content on your company blog. Evergreen content, like its name, is long-lasting and sustainable. It’s not breaking news or information about the latest trends, so it remains relevant for long past its publication date. This allows traffic to build over time.

To build evergreen content for your website, consider your customers best pain points and design your work around it. These are ideas that will stand the test of time and that you can share through different channels over time (email marketing, social media, etc).

3.  Prepare With Email

Cold calling can be a valuable tool in your sales arsenal, but you can warm up a cold call by sending a quick email. Create a compelling, personalized subject line, then offer a paragraph of content that addresses a customer’s pain point or business concern. Tell them you plan to call to discuss the issue further. Avoid being too “salesy” since you’re not really selling them anything at this point. Focus on providing them with VALUE at this point.

Cold lead marketing has become more sophisticated than ever thanks to today’s technology. Follow these tips to turn cold leads into loyal customers.

Putting the “We” in Team

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While it’s long been said that “many hands make light work,” a team is more than just a group of people working on the same task. For a team to truly succeed, the individuals need to develop a cohesive bond that allows them to work in synch with each other. Even after you’ve assembled the right people for the job, your work isn’t done. Crafting a team is an active, ongoing process. An efficient team is like a complex machine, and like any other machine, it requires maintenance.

Outline clear roles for each team member.

One of the best ways to build team unity is to make it clear what each team member’s role is. Build a specific process that your team members follow when performing regular tasks, and make each team member’s part in that process very clear. This helps to prevent a situation where one team member ends up doing all the work, which can foster resentment. The other team members may be performing other crucial job functions, but even the feeling of unfairly getting stuck with work that should be divided can lead to a toxic environment. Make sure your team members understand what their role is, as well as the roles of their coworkers, if possible.

Make sure every member of the team feels valued.

In addition to ensuring that team members are aware of their roles, they should also recognize the value they bring to the team. According to a Gallup poll, the number one reason Americans leave their jobs is because they don’t feel that they are appreciated. This certainly includes paying them a fair wage, but it goes beyond that.

When you meet with your team, you should encourage feedback. Make sure that everyone is included in the process and has the opportunity to speak. They don’t have to speak up all the time—in fact, some team members may prefer not to—but it’s important that they know they’re welcome to add to the discussion and that their feedback will be given fair consideration.

Actively listen to your team’s recommendations, as well. Even if you disagree with an idea or suggestion, don’t just dismiss it out of hand. Give it fair consideration. If a team member feels that his or her thoughts are being ignored, it can lead to a toxic environment and damage the team’s cohesion.

Train your team, and revisit that training. (Just once won’t cut it.)

Teams evolve over time. Key team members leave, new workers are hired, dynamics shift, and over time, you can end up with a completely team than you started with. Turnover is particularly common within a sales team, which is why it’s crucial to train them on a regular basis. New employees of any type need to be shown the way things are done within your organization, but veteran team members also often need a course correction. Whether it’s sales management training to unite your team around the best way to move a lead through the sales pipeline or a refresher course on workflow management, training your team helps to ensure that everyone is at the top of their game.

Monitor and discuss team dynamics.

As a manager, it’s your job to keep an eye on the business process, but it’s also one of your key responsibilities to be aware of the dynamics between your team members. Take note of what is working and what is not.

When you meet with your team members as a group, have open discussions about how you can solve problems the team is having. Don’t use the time to criticize each other or whine about circumstances—use the meetings as opportunities to solve the problem together. Encourage discussions, and recognize positive team achievements.

Meet with your team members individually, as well. Sometimes, there are things a worker doesn’t want to say in a group setting, but they will often open up in a more private environment. Take note of your workers’ concerns and address those concerns.

Hopefully, over time, your team members will learn to communicate better and grow to trust one another. Healthy communication is at the heart of any effective team, and encouraging that communication is one of your most important jobs. Invest the effort into facilitating a conversation among all members of your team and they’ll start to come through for you and, perhaps more importantly, for each other.

The Benefits and Pitfalls of Gamification for Sales Team Training

Jeff Cochran

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Gamification, or making ordinary training practices into interactive employee games, is a popular trend sweeping offices throughout the nation. While there are proven benefits to gamification for sales training, such as making training fun and more memorable, it also has significant pitfalls, such as distracting your employees and reducing productivity. It’s up to you to compare the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right course for your business.

 

Good: Better Employee Engagement

Gamification increases engagement for your employees. It’s no secret that almost every business can benefit from more energetic and determined workers. A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that as many as 70 percent of employees in the United States don’t feel engaged in their jobs.

LiveOps did a study about adding game elements to reward its employees. The single change actually shortened call times by as much as 15 percent, increased sales by 8 percent, and increased customer satisfaction by 9 percent.

 

Bad: It Can Be too Generic

If you don’t make the efforts to create a thoughtful and customized plan, you could actually be doing more harm than good. Generic enterprise gamification just slaps point systems and badges onto any process instead of putting emphasis onto the ones that matter. In fact, as much as 80 percent of gamification efforts will fail because of this.

 

Good: Encouraging Progress

Gamification also provides immediate signs of progress and achievement. Employees get many smaller rewards that help track their progress and show their rankings to colleagues and supervisors. This keeps them motivated to always move forward and strive for improvement.

 

Bad: Mandating Drains the Fun

The point of gamification is to encourage workers to play games and have fun. Forcing everyone to partake defeats the purpose. Unfortunately, many employers make this mistake and end up making their workers resent the changes that were supposed to make them happier.

 

Good: Filtering the Best Employees

A gamified workplace also allows the best and brightest employees to shine. The people who make the most progress will stand out. This opens up an entire new platform for recognition and can help businesses pick out good employees.

 

Bad: It Can Cause Discord

People are unavoidably competitive. Gamification creates an outlet for workers to try to cheat their way to the top. This can cause personal issues between employees as they try to scrabble toward progress and rewards.

There are disadvantages to gamification, of course, but with careful planning and implementation, it can be a vital tool for encouraging engagement in the workplace.

Balancing Teamwork and Competition in a Sales Environment

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When managing a sales team, you need to walk a very delicate line. On the one hand, you want every member of the team to have the motivation to make as many sales as possible. One of the most proven ways to motivate sales team members is by offering performance-based commissions and bonuses. On the other hand, you don’t want your sales team stabbing each other in the back to steal sales. Too much competition can lead to a toxic sales environment, which can have a severe, negative impact on your business.

To get the most out of your sales team without causing infighting, you need to promote both healthy competition and teamwork amongst your employees. There are a few ways you can create this type of atmosphere at your office.

1. Set Team Sales Goals with Bonuses

The easiest way to encourage your sales team to work together is to include a financial incentive for doing so. Set one or more sales goals for the team as a whole, and if they reach the goals, give everyone a bonus. When everybody benefits from the team’s success, team members are more likely to help each other out. It fosters an atmosphere of cooperation and communication rather than rivalry. Each team member also has additional motivation to do well, as no one wants to be the person who didn’t pull their weight and let the rest of the team down.

Just because you’re setting team goals doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of individual sales goals. You can still pay out bonuses or commissions to sales team members individually so they also stay focused on their own success

2. Schedule Regular Meetings

One problem with many organizations is that each salesperson is isolated from their peers, so it can be difficult for team members to develop a feeling of camaraderie. You can mitigate this by calling the entire sales team in for regular meetings to go over their results, goals, and any concerns that they have.

Meetings are also an excellent opportunity for sales team training, which many organizations overlook. Continuous training is great for sales employees and your company, as it’s shown to result in 50 percent higher net sales per employee. Despite the enormous benefits, the average company only invests $2,000 per year in sales training, despite spending about $10,000 to $15,000 on hiring each employee.

By training the sales team together, the team members have an opportunity to become more comfortable working with each other.This builds a more cooperative atmosphere, one where the entire team is working together.

3. Put Your Team in the Right Positions to Succeed

Every member of your sales team is going to have their own strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get better results and create a more positive atmosphere when you find ways to leverage each member’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

For example, you may have one employee who is excellent at initiating cold calls, while another is much better at breaking down the products or services that your company offers. Having these employees work in tandem, with the former gathering leads over the phone and the latter closing the deal by describing product features, could lead to far more sales than if they worked separately. At the same time, you could have these employees learn from each other so they are able to shore up their weak points.

It takes time to learn the best way to utilize your sales team. Consider their backgrounds, personalities, and education, and evaluate their performance metrics to get an idea of what each team member does best and where they struggle. As the manager, it’s your job to get the most out of every employee.

The first steps towards getting your sales team working together while still working hard is setting up team goals and holding meetings regularly. Then, take a deeper look at the skill sets of your sales team to help them reach their potential and succeed.

Negotiations Training for Creatives

Jeff Cochran

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Negotiations with customers take on an entirely different shape and form in creative industry businesses, but it’s just as (if not more) important. Creative products and services, such as paintings, photography, and handmade crafts, have unique value demands and artist’s compensation is often a gray area. It takes knowledge and skill to gain the maximum profit for your creative work without pushing away customers.

Mastering this kind of negotiation can seem more than a little intimidating – especially if you’re not confident about your pricing in the first place. However, if you keep these things in mind, you’ll stand out among competitors and earn the profit you deserve.

 

Do Your Research

The first step to negotiating is to be well informed. You need to know the ins and outs of appraisal techniques as well as comparable pricing from other artists. Remember that experience, rarity, application, and materials (among other things) all play a role in the total value of your products.

 

Be Confident

The quickest way to devalue your work is to second guess yourself. Take your time and crunch the numbers, then stand by them. Any time a client is haggling, they’re essentially arguing about the value of your work. Don’t be afraid to be flexible about special requests, delivery options, and other unique situations, but stay confident and firm with your pricing or others could take advantage of you.

 

Communicate Well and Listen

A negotiation is a two-way conversation. Any time one party takes over, all progress will be halted. It’s absolutely crucial that you listen to your customer’s ideas, questions, and concerns. You’re not just making a sale, you’re building a connection. Get your own points across, but pay attention to theirs, as well.

 

Show Your Worth

You know what they say – seeing is believing. You can’t expect customers to understand or agree to the value of your work if they aren’t familiar with any examples. You need some sort of gallery, whether it’s a mobile portfolio or a whole art studio for them to walk through. Show them the kind of quality they can expect and they’ll be less likely to haggle.

 

Build From Your Reputation

Negotiating will be more difficult in the beginning, but as your portfolio and customer service reputation grows, it will become easier. Clients may one day be fighting over your artwork regardless of the price. Stay motivated and determined – things can only get easier from here.

MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference

Jeff Cochran

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This past month, SNI’s Master Facilitator, Jeff Cochran delivered a keynote speech to Medical Group Management Associates at the 2017 MGMA Financial Management and Payer Contracting Conference held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference is highly regarded and attended by medical practice professionals that go to enhance their financial education to advance the profession of medical practice management. Jeff’s keynote was entitled Negotiating: Strategies for Success. Since 1926, MGMA has created successful medical practices that provide the highest level of patient care through member benefits, education, resources, news, information, advocacy, and networking opportunities.

 

 

SNI’s approach to negotiations challenges traditional perceptions of approaching deals. Jeff spoke on the foundational teaching of Shapiro Negotiations Institute- The 3 P’s systematic method to managing negotiations: Prepare, Probe, and Propose. Through an interactive role play, Jeff taught attendees to cultivate long-lasting relationships with their counterparts by utilizing the 3 P’s correctly. The reactions from the conference attendees exhibit not only the charismatic delivery of Jeff, but, more importantly, how beneficial SNI’s Systematic Approach to Negotiating can be.

 

(Photo from https://twitter.com/MGMA)

 

We value all of the training feedback we recieve and were happy to hear from Kelly Mattingly, the Director of Contracting and Credentialing at Practice Velocity about her experience at MGMA:

 “I thought your talk was the most valuable session of the conference. You were entertaining, the topic was very relevant, and the hands on aspect was engaging. In my opinion negotiating is all about doing your research and finding your (and your opponent’s) strengths and weaknesses, knowing when to play your cards, and understanding who you are dealing with on the other end (because in my opinion…that may change my strategy entirely). I work in an industry where our negotiating leverage is pretty minuscule to non-existent. I was reminded to treat each negotiation as if I had more leverage than the last. I think sometimes when we are defeated often, we forget to reset …gain our confidence, and give the next negotiating opportunity an A+ effort. I won’t underestimate my strengths again, and I won’t talk myself down before I sit at the negotiation table. I look forward to hearing you speak again in the near future.”

 

Thanks again to MGMA for the great opportunity! 

Retail Sales Training: What it Takes to Succeed in Retail Sales

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Working as a salesperson in retail has evolved into a very unusual profession. When people walk into a store, it’s a fair assumption that they would like to buy something. Otherwise, they wouldn’t really have any reason to enter the store. Ironically enough, though, many people will do everything in their power to avoid engaging a salesperson. They will avoid eye contact, “casually” wander into a different part of the store, or sometimes, just turn around and walk right back out the door.

It turns out that people typically do want to buy something when they enter a store—but they don’t want to be sold to. For centuries people have been bombarded with images and stories of the crooked salesman. And, even the salespeople that don’t have shady intentions, are portrayed as being a “hassle.” How often do you go into a clothing store looking for something in particular and tell the salesperson you are “just looking” in response to his/her offer to help you?

So how does a good salesperson succeed? How can you sell something to someone who doesn’t want to be sold to? What can sales workers do to go beyond the negative stereotypes and help their customers to walk out the door satisfied with their purchase?

While some parts of finding success in retail sales come naturally, there are other skills that can be taught and honed through retail sales training. Our team at Shapiro Negotiations can help you and your team to develop these skills and so that not only will you be able to make the sale—your customer will be happy with their purchase.

So what are some of the skills your team will want to develop to be really successful in sales?

Sincere Customer Service

One of the most important skills any retail salesperson can develop is customer service. After years of distrust, most customers are wary of salespeople. In some instances, they see the salesperson as their adversary, someone who is trying to sell them something that they don’t want to buy.

Part of a salesperson’s job is to convince the customer that they are not, in fact, an adversary who is trying to convince them to buy something they never wanted. Instead, the salesperson is an ally and a facilitator. The salesperson is there to help them buy something they do want. Considering the fact that they have already taken the first step of walking through the door, this is a fair assumption.

When working with customers, be sincere. The minute a customer suspects that a salesperson is trying to manipulate them, they will snap a wall into place. Once this happens, any potential sale essentially becomes a lost cause.

Communication

When we are trying to convince someone of a point, the natural tendency is to talk more. After all, the more a salesperson talks, the more of a positive impression they can give of their product. If the salesperson talks enough, the customer is sure to by, right?

Hardly. A successful salesperson listens more than talks. In order to better determine what the customer wants, it is important for them to ask sincere, probing questions. As it becomes clear what the customer is looking for, the salesperson can then help to guide them to an appropriate choice. Dale Carnegie put it best with a short couplet in his 1936 book, How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

SNI’s retail sales training is based upon our founder Ron Shapiro’s book, The Power of Nice.  The goal is to find a situation where everyone wins. After all, if a customer walks out the door satisfied with the purchase he has made, he’s much less likely to regret the purchase and return it. Meanwhile, he is more likely to return and even recommend the store to others.

Product Knowledge

In order to convince someone that a particular product will meet their needs, a salesperson should have a solid working knowledge of that product. The salesperson serves as an expert on the product and should be able to answer any questions the customer asks. If a salesperson demonstrates that they are unfamiliar with the product they are pushing, it can seriously damage their credibility in the customer’s eyes. After all, if a salesperson doesn’t know anything about the product they are selling, then how can they honestly know that it will do the job the customer needs?

A good salesperson must be able to identify and capture the value that their product will deliver to the customer. To do so, they need to know the product backwards and forwards. The customer will naturally have objections, and a salesperson will need to overcome those objections. SNI’s trainers can instruct sales teams just how to do so through a five step process and help them to develop answers to some of the most common objections in our clients’ fields.

Industry Knowledge

A salesperson’s knowledge should go beyond just the individual products they are trying to sell. Knowledge of the industry is important as well.

By knowing about recent innovations in the industry, a salesperson can make recommendations to a customer, sometimes even beyond those that they have available to sell (see Sincere Customer Service above). SNI’s trainers can teach your team to discern what exactly a potential customer is looking for and then apply industry knowledge to direct them to products they may not even know about.

All of these skills can be significant assets when negotiating with a customer or helping to direct them to the right product. Also, keep in mind that many customers will come in seeking to use their own set of tactics to negotiate a lower price. As part of our training, SNI can teach your sales team how to recognize and respond to these tactics. For more information, contact us, and we will help you to determine how best to train your sales team so they can achieve the best results possible.

Super Bowl 2017: X Lessons in Sales From the Best Commercials

Jeff Cochran

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With another Super Bowl in the books, the world can once again analyze some viewers’ favorite part – the commercials. Your sales team can benefit the most from looking back on the failures and successes of this year’s Super Bowl advertisements to more effectively reach customers.

 

Understanding the Weight of Super Bowl Ads
One thing that’s important to understand is just how much most of these companies risk with their advertising techniques. Each 30-second ad costs a whopping $4.5 million, and, of course, longer ads run an even higher tab. The successes are extremely powerful and the flops hit exceptionally hard, so every reaction should be seriously considered.

DO: Make a Powerful Statement

The best Super Bowl commercials this year (such as Budweiser and #LikeAGirl) have one thing in common – they make a statement. They’re bold, unabashed, and ready to add a lot of power behind their message. Whether it’s your own commercial or a mission statement, you have to figure out the power behind your company and run with it. Be bold and powerful about what you’re doing or what your company offers, and don’t let anyone stand in the way.

DON’T: Use Advertising Without a Plan

You can’t just throw up commercials or sales pitches without purpose. If you’re talking just for the sake of talking, it will only devalue your brand and its benefits. Always lean on having a purpose. If you don’t have a clear one, wait until you figure it out before pushing further.

DO: Make Your Brand Memorable

People remember things that are unique. You must make your products and services stand out against a host of competitors. Figure out what it is that sets you apart and cling to it. Different might be a bit intimidating, but it can definitely be a golden ticket.

DON’T: Go Too Far

Uniqueness and memorability are vital, but you must remember to keep things in line with your company beliefs. Often, things like excessive vulgarity may help potential customers remember you, but in a negative way. Salespeople should never tarnish or devalue brand promises just to make a deal. Find your purpose and pursue it, but don’t go too far.

DO: Back Up Every Claim or Pitch

If you’ve been spending time saying you’re the best, make sure you’re ready to prove it. Whatever your purpose, you need to have skill and passion to follow up your claims. Some of the biggest Super Bowl flops are those in which the commercial was better than the brand itself.

A Year in Review: 2016 Training Industry Report

Jeff Cochran

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On average, negotiations training and other training expenditures increased for both small and large companies in 2016, while remaining consistent for midsize companies. Seems like good news, right? Underneath this seemingly bright information for companies that specialize in training and consulting, is the raw truth that businesses are spending more on training because they have more employees.  They are spending about 10% of their budgets on training, which is down significantly from last year…

What does this mean? As training becomes less focused on in-person facilitation, and more focused on online learning tools, training and influencing companies have begun to offer products that reflect the market. Companies are looking to train the largest number of employees for the least amount of money. There is little evidence that online training is as successful or impactful as in-person facilitation but, none-the-less, the shift towards mass, online training is underway.

Personal facilitation is still a relatively big part of training budgets, but the use of blended learning techniques is rising significantly, as the combination of instructor-led classroom training, virtual classroom/webcast training, online and computer based training, mobile device training, and social learning becomes more readily available. These blended learning techniques are often delivered in one of two ways: learning management systems (e-learning) or virtual classroom/webcasting. Why? Overall, technology use among companies is rising, meaning their sales or negotiations training programs are beginning to mirror this.

Looking ahead at 2017, training and influencing companies need to understand the current and adjust accordingly. Outsourced training programs are likely to be more successful in small (100-999 employees) and midsize (1,000-9999 employees) companies, which will be looking to invest in the programs with the best blend of innovative learning techniques.

Cheers to a new way of training and to a profitable year!