Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Business to Business Selling

clip_image002[1]This article was written by Dennis Wright, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

“That guy could sell ice in the arctic”… “he can talk a blue streak”… “whata’ a salesman that guy would be” !

I heard those words often when recruiting to fill an open position on my sales team, but I wasn’t looking for the proverbial “blind squirrel who occasionally finds a nut” (makes a sale).  I wanted someone who was a good listener, someone who possessed a quiet self confidence and was articulate… I wanted “distance runner”.

Why?  Because experience had taught me there are basically two rules in selling that if followed dramatically improve results:

There are three stages in selling

There are four levels in selling

In this article I’d like to focus on the three stages in selling:

Sell yourself

Sell your company

Sell your product or service

When calling on a potential customer, like it or not, first impressions matter.  It’s in those first few minutes that he/she will decide if you’re someone they’d like to talk with.  So, do some preliminary research; check out their website; become familiar with their business before you visit them, look your best and try to establish a non-business common interest quickly.

The next step is selling your company. By asking probing questions and listening carefully - that includes taking notes - you’ll learn who they’re buying from, what they think of that company and how they feel about the product or service. And since everyone likes a good listener you’ll be building on what you accomplished in “step one”.   By the way, never make disparaging remarks about a competitor; it’s often perceived as a “cheap shot” and in a sense you’re telling that customer that he/she made a mistake when they chose that vendor.   Just make sure they understand what your business can and will do (your strengths) to facilitate comparisons with your competitor’s shortcomings.

The last step is selling your product or program.  You want to familiarize the potential customer with all that you have to offer, of course, but you don’t want to oversell or overstay your welcome.  Once you have a commitment there will always be an opportunity to circle back and cover what you weren’t able to initially… and it’s important to do so.

Remember this, people generally won’t buy from a sales person they don’t like or who isn’t viewed as being credible, from a company they’re not sure of; not confident that it can deliver on the commitments made by it’s representative, and a product or service that doesn’t meet their need and most if not all of their wants. Refine both your approach and your presentation with these points in mind and you should do well.

A wise man once told me that successful selling is not a “sprint”; it’s a “marathon”.

Starbucks Instant? Now Google Instant!

This article was written by Bob Bradley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image002[1]I continually mention in my internet marketing workshops that search engine optimization is a continuing pursuit. It is like running football plays to get down field but there is no real finish line. Just yard lines to pass which are interim goals (like ranking in the top five). It is always advised that Google keeps messing with the algorithms to perfect the search experience thus changing SEO parameters. At the beginning of the year it was Caffeine, now it is Google Instant.  This is not to mention all the “expensive” real estate that Google periodically decides to use for Local Business (the 7 pack) and real time Tweets, all appearing above the fold in the SERPS (search engine results page).

Now Google Instant. You will read and hear how this will eliminate SEO. You will read and hear how this will completely alter your search rankings. You will read and hear that you should consider using only an SEO firm that specializes in Google Instant. You will read and hear about how this is some evil Google method to get more ad impressions and more clicks for their advertisers. As you know, the internet allows all kinds of conspiracy theories coupled with elements of truth. Time usually sorts things out.

Google Instant explodes Google Suggest (that drop down menu that suggest search terms). When you search for GOLF you will get the drop down menu with suggestions but you will “instantly” get the search results for golf without pressing ENTER. In fact you will get changing search results as you type the word GOLF into the search bar. When the letter “G” in entered, the search results are for GMAIL (part of the conspiracy?), when you put the ‘O” after the “G”, you get Google Maps, Google Earth (more conspiracy?), can you guess what happens when you put the “L” in? Wrong, it changes the results to “GOLD”, which Google has a lot of but there are no links to them directly. Does this eliminate the conspiracy?

Now it gets interesting. Add the “F” for the whole word GOLF. All the major players come up in the search results. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. These represent the results that have always come up. Now add the word “PUTTERS” in the search box and once again you get those results that you would have ordinarily received.  Now get creative. Add the word “FREE”  to “GOLF PUTTERS”. This provides a potpourri of results from big players to much smaller ones.

So what? Information and data always tell you something. Getting the search results as you type in letters in the search bar may result in a particular search result catching your eye during the process and diverting your attention from your primary goal which was to find free golf putters. I may have seen the results for GOL (which are gold links) and found something interesting and proceeded to click on it. Never would have done that before. So searchers may well be exposed to other links while they are typing in their primary search query and subsequently be diverted. The diversion may not be so convoluted. Search results could show golf drivers, golf courses, or anything more closely related resulting in a higher propensity to stop and click, but not on my original search topic.  When and if behavior changes, the search paradigm can change. Marketers should always be on the lookout for behavior changes.

Additionally, think what else this is telling you. One, the suggested terms in the drop down menu just may be keywords that Google knows are good ones. Two, the search results that you see when you use Google Suggested Terms, or even your own search query, mean that those results may have been optimized for those keywords. You can see the changes in search results as you add search words to your query. You may be able to better optimize your website for general and longer tail keyword phrases.

There will be fascinating exchanges of ideas, thoughts and conspiracies in the coming weeks and months. I am sure we are only days away from the first SEO promotion touting an expertise in optimizing your site for Google Instant.

Read more about Internet Marketing at www.rjbradley.com/wordpress

Employees vs. Independent Contractors – Don’t Put Your Business at Risk!

clip_image002[1]This article was written by Bern Lefson, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

All too often we find employers upset with the high cost of workers' compensation and associated employee costs who decide to employ Independent Contractors.  While the perceived incentive of lower cost is attractive, this decision can put an employer out of business.  Both the State and the IRS are seeking revenue and this area is ripe grounds for additional revenue.

The most significant potential liability of worker misclassification is back federal, state and local payroll tax withholding (e.g., FICA and income tax).  The IRS has made reviewing employee misclassification a priority when conducting audits.  Other potential liabilities include overtime, benefits, and unemployment compensation.  The IRS does aid small and large businesses by posting the rules and tips on  its website. Below is one of those tips that may assist you in avoiding  fines, penalties and bad publicity.

Here are the top ten things every business owner should know about hiring  people as independent contractors versus hiring them as employees.

1. Three characteristics are used by the IRS to determine the relationship between businesses and workers: Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and the Type of Relationship.

2. Behavioral Control covers facts that show whether the business has aright to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training or other means.

3. Financial Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker's job.

4. The Type of Relationship factor relates to how the workers and the business owner perceive their relationship.

5. If you have the right to control or direct not only what is to be done, but also how it is to be done, then your workers are most likely employees.

6. If you can direct or control only the result of the work done -- and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result -- then your workers are probably independent contractors.

7. Employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors can end up with substantial tax bills. Additionally, they can face penalties for failing to pay employment taxes and for failing to file required tax forms.

8. Workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their proper status.

9. Both employers and workers can ask the IRS to make a determination on whether a specific individual is an independent contractor or an employee by filing a Form SS-8 - Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding - with the IRS.

10. You can learn more about the critical determination of a worker's status as an Independent Contractor or Employee at IRS.gov by selecting the Small Business link. Additional resources include IRS Publication 15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee, and Publication 1976,  Do You Qualify for Relief under Section 530?  These publications and Form SS-8 are available on the IRS Web site or by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676 (800-TAX-FORM).

Successful Sales Management

clip_image002This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Most small business owners who hire sales people complain that they never know what the sales people are doing, they are costing too much and/or they are not producing.

The first step the business owner must realize that getting a salesperson up to speed is time consuming. The owner’s response is I don’t have the time to “hold their hand”. Think of it another way: Does your company have the money to flush their salary and expenses down the toilet monthly?

In hiring a salesperson you are looking for somebody that can be a long term employee. This means you don’t want to hire a part time or semi retired person, just because you can get them cheaper. You want somebody whose livelihood rides on being successful with your company. It may save some time in hiring a person with your industry experience but having good sales skills is far more important. Because they have been a salesperson for 10 years doesn’t mean that they are good! I have occasionally cooked for nearly 50 years, and I still stink!

Sales and product training is critical. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself look for help. I am glad through SCORE, along with other members to provide assistance and help develop sales programs.

In training, telling them what to do is NOT an effective way to develop staff members. In fact after just 24 hours most people retain:

7% of what they hear

15% of what they read

25% of what they learned with video or computer based training

30% of what you show them how to do

People learn by doing. They will retain:

50% of what they learn through discussion

75% of what they learn when they practice the skill

95% when they have to teach the skill to other folks.

If you are doing and they are watching you are not developing good sales people.

Tracking the sales person efforts is critical. You need to know how many contacts they make a day, how many clients expressed interest, how many ordered and the overall outcome. This can easily be tracked on different sale software programs, along with the contacts name, follow up information, and email. Sales planning is just as critical as making sales presentations.

You need to regularly meet with the salesperson to discuss their customer follow-ups, success stories, the reasons customers are not buying, what your competition is doing, and what are their short and long range goals. At the same time, you need to evaluate how the sales person is doing on obtaining their goals. Establishing sales goals for your staff is critical. Without a target we have no direction to aim. The targets need to be obtainable but they have to be a stretch.

An effective leader creates imbalance. They know for their business to survive and grow they have to constantly change the status quo. The marketplace changes weekly with new competitors, new customers, old customers disappearing and new ways of doing business. Good managers recognize what got them there won’t keep them there. The manager’s job is to create order with systems and procedures to create predictable quality, high productive, consistent results and a wonderful customer experience.

Like any other part of your business you need a plan, establish goals and methods to measure. Listen to the input of your clients and staff, they will determine how you do business.

Teamwork -Still the Champion for a Prosperous and Growing Business

clip_image002This article was written by Hillel Pitlik, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Traditionally, business organizations establish a hierarchical structure of supervision. Unfortunately, this method can cause the organization to act in a fragmented manner where ideas are suppressed and cooperation is thwarted.  In many cases, problems which arise in everyday activities are left unsolved because the responsibility chain is not clearly defined.  I'm reminded of a visit to China when a faucet in our hotel bathroom was not functioning. We called the desk and they sent a plumber to fix it. We asked him, "Why the cleaning personnel had not found the problem and reported it?"  He replied, "That isn't their job."  Unfortunately, this happens in our organizations much too often.  While your organization has specific goals - never underestimate how much your employees can contribute to greater success.  It is the objective of good management to harness the power and ingenuity of the people.  The basic question to be addressed is.  "How do you get all the employees pushing in the same direction while keeping their eyes out for problems?"

Today's mantra for such an organizational fabric is "Teaming".  It's important and vital to any business because it is your people who best understand the nature of the problems they face in their every day activities, and they are almost always the one's best able to devise workable solutions .   A methodology that encourages these ideas is the one that will best serve the total enterprise.

Teaming is based on the premise that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts. Each individual has something to contribute and taken together success is more frequently assured.  A simple example that comes to mind is a small manufacturing business that has lost a key manager.  The documentation for the products of the company was largely in the head of this key manager.  The workers in the shop had been there as long as the manager.  There was a critical need to recapture the lost information.  By empowering the working team that had the equivalent knowledge, the business was able to survive this information loss.  In fact, the resulting documentation incorporated many improvements that the individual employees had introduced on their own.

By engaging the team, the efficiency and productivity of the organization improved substantially, because the workers were not just automatons but part of the entire process.  In addition to solving problems, the team can establish goals for productivity that become a commitment and thus the team's success is a group objective that has a higher probability of being achieved.  The best team structure demands that the team supervisor is part of the team.  The supervisor is there to make sure that the resources the team needs for success are provided in a timely manner as well as working in the team to assure success.

Think TEAM and your business will flourish beyond your expectations.  Your employees will be happier and you will realize the business success that a good enterprise deserves.