Sales, Networking Strategies to Build Strong Relationships



Sometimes, we have to visit our past as lessons for our business future. Is it your experience, too?

When doing some cleaning, I came across some treasures from my high school years. That included a carbon copy of a thank you letter I wrote to the publisher of The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.

He had given me a scholarship to attend a 10-day workshop at USC with 14 other high school journalists from throughout southern California. It brought back some very fond memories.

eventfile000213537000Key ingredient

Thank you letters matter, but it’s become a lost art in favor of e-mails and uttering the trite phrase, “Have a nice day.” Ugh.

The irony is that thank you letters create a self-feeling of optimism — a key ingredient for climbing the corporate ladder or to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Writing that letter also reminded me how business processes have evolved over the years.

In my talks before college students, audience members chuckle when hearing about how we first used manual typewriters, then electric typewriters followed by self-correcting machines, word processors, fax machines and computers.

Now, watch sales are down in young demographics as the focus for many students is handheld devices for nearly everything they do, including checking the time.

But it is a surprise they’re discovering vinyl records, but they laugh when I describe the process of playing 45 rpm records as a DJ in working my way through college. To many such students, the idea of writing a thank you letter is foreign.

Even in my misspent youth, I did manage to win scholarships, and I always wrote thank you letters to the benefactors. One of them — four years later after I graduated from college — helped me in my job search.

Whom you know

One of the lessons I learned very early was “It isn’t what you know. It’s whom you know.” Knowledge has always been essential. But the ability to sustain strong relationships was and is both gratifying and important for success.

Jobs were obtained and business profits were earned by old-fashioned networking. Building relationships gave companies an entre to customers. They made money by outperforming their competitors and by creating new niches.

That’s still true for profitable companies.

Branding and benefit statements, or value propositions, build a strong image. Most customers prefer to buy from companies they respect and trust. Ironically, customers buy more products when they feel comfortable – not necessarily to get the lowest prices.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect.”
-William Clement Stone

First impressions

So don’t damage your branding by being the low-price leader in your niche. Only 18 percent of consumers buy on price alone. Ignore that market. It’s all about trust and value. Create an impression of value. And first impressions count.

If you stage countless sales, it will condition and numb your customers. The urgency to buy disappears. Focus on the 82 percent of customers who buy for value. There are five motivating perceptions for customers to buy from you. For such value-minded customers, price is only one consideration. (More on that later in the Coach’s Corner.)

Consistency is vital. Customers don’t like negative surprises, and that’s why they often patronize national restaurant brands because they know to expect when the food is brought to their table.

Attitude is important.

“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman, not the attitude of the prospect,” said William Clement Stone, who made millions selling insurance. He coined the acronym, PMA, for positive mental attitude.

Many sales have been lost because the salesperson gave up or failed to continue to deliver valuable information. Customers feel comfortable in sales situations when the salesperson listens during a minimum 80 percent of the discussions.

That’s when customers start revealing their needs and requirements. Ironically, when customers actually do most of the talking, they believe the salespeople are good communicators when they get straight answers from their questions.

Sales IQ

For a simple gauge of your sales opportunities, evaluate the sales aptitude of your employees and you, personally.

There is some overlap, but to be certain about being thorough, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Are we showing empathy about the customer’s problems or requests?
  2. Are we taking the right steps to help the customer feel significant?
  3. Are we giving the customer enough attention?
  4. If there’s a disagreement, do we use diplomacy?
  5. Do we act as if the customer is the reason for our business?

If any of the answers are “no”, the place to start is to ask open-ended questions to avoid close-ended answers. Then, find a need and fill it. Don’t forget to show gratitude and prevent buyer’s remorse.

Thank you letters matter, but it’s become a lost art in favor of e-mails and uttering the trite phrase, “Have a nice day.” Ugh.

Networking

Here are seven tips for networking at meetings:

  1. Rehearse your approach the day before. Know your elevator speech with differentiating benefit statements. Visualize having a good time.
  2. At the meeting, smile.
  3. Appear to be more approachable by continuing to stand.
  4. Be assertive. Don’t wait for people to approach you. Shake hands firmly. Be enthusiastic and quietly confident.
  5. Ask open-ended questions. Show interest. Don’t give away your power. The more you know about them, the better your chances for success. And the people you meet will conclude you’re a brilliant conversationalist.
  6. End the chat by showing gratitude and appreciation. Shake hands. Exchange business cards. Get an agreement on what you’ll do next as a follow-up. Don’t leave without giving the prospect a statement to prevent buyer’s remorse (e.g. “you’ll be delighted with…”)
  7. As you soon as you discretely can, make notes on the back of the person’s card. If appropriate, send a thoughtful, handwritten note. In it, remind the person of your value propositions – based on their concerns. Include a thank you for their consideration, reiterate your buyer’s remorse statement, and reiterate your next step.

The ability to build and sustain relationships remains paramount for success.

From the Coach’s Corner, this article, The Seven Steps to Higher Sales, has the secrets for sales success – seven steps to higher sales, five value perceptions that motivate customers to buy, and the three-step process for overcoming sales objections.

“The less things change, the more they remain the same.”

                                          -Sicilian proverb


 __________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Best Way to Get a Job Isn’t by Networking — Study



Job experience counts more than whom you know, according to a nationwide survey of job hunters by Beyond.com
.

Networking with contacts was cited as most-important by fewer than 20 percent of the respondents.

The firm interviewed 1600 people in order to ascertain the insights of professionals in its April, 2011 study.

David Castillo Dominici graduateThe survey results:

— Experience – 45 percent

— Education – 21 percent

— Contacts – 20 percent

— Communication skills – 14 percent

The emphasis on experience is part of an emerging trend.

“At one time it was all about who you knew and who in your Rolodex you could connect with in order to secure an interview,” says Rich Milgram, CEO of the company.

“While networking is and will continue to be an important component of the job search, it can only get you so far in the process,” he adds. “Employers are looking past just ‘who you know’ and making sure candidates have the right qualifications and experience before hiring.”

My sense is the results of the study are universal. Most employers are being more careful to hire the right experience in this economy. That’s what I advise in any economy.

It’s up to the job seekers to brand and market themselves correctly.

Job-hunting strategies

If you’re a jobseeker, here are ideas to create some career luck:

Research and target the companies you respect. It can be an endless cycle of career defeats – if you go to work for companies that aren’t good at what they do.

You’ll repeatedly find yourself in the unemployment lines. It’s hard to network if you’re constantly standing in lines, and it’s hard on morale.

That implies the need to focus more on quality. Responding to dozens of ads on Web sites will not yield the desired results. Try to focus on the jobs you’d actually want.

Another successful strategy includes literally doing the footwork. Show up in-person at prospective employers like a cold-calling salesperson, and explain you’re looking to make an appointment.

In this way, you’ll be able to size up the companies. They’ll get a firsthand look at you. And you’ll be more comfortable if you get an interview.

Be tenacious and organized. Don’t give up and keep good records for follow up.

If you really want to stand out, create a blog about your expertise. Employers will become more acquainted with your approach to your work. If you’re a good writer, they’ll appreciate your writing-communication skills.

By the way – in hiring – many employers have complained they can’t get enough talented employees with adequate soft skills in communication, teamwork and customer service.

As for timing, I’d suggest midweek mornings for prospecting and scheduling interviews.

And have fun. Treat it like an adventure. Good luck!

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more tips:

Discouraged in Job Hunting? Powerful Tips for the Best Job — Whether unemployed or under-employed, a person needs two things: A sense of hope and the right tools to negotiate a job. Here are both.

15 Tips to Improve Your Odds for a Job — If you are unemployed, you are probably feeling desperate. But take heart. Here are 15 proven strategies.

Job Hunting? Tips to Land Your Dream Job with Style, Substance — If you are unemployed, you are probably feeling desperate. But take heart. Here are 15 proven strategies.

Career Advice — An Alternative to Applying for Jobs Online — As a job-hunter you know that a significant number of companies, nonprofits and public-sector agencies use an online tracking system to accept applications and screen out applicants. It cuts down on their paper work and saves them time.

Career Advice for College Grads Facing a Firewall — Lessons in the Disparity between Expectations and Reality   Are university graduates overly optimistic about their career options? Yes. Apparently, they have mistaken perceptions. Worse, a major consulting firm is seemingly contributing to the problem.

I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

__________

Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.