Learn to Sell Yourself to Beat Competitors


We are absolutely getting beat out on jobs. Even with referrals we are losing bids to a competitor who is doing shoddy work, making mistakes on estimating, installing the wrong materials and billing clients for significant upcharges. Obviously we need to be doing a better job selling ourselves. Help!

Thoughts of the day: Figure out if you’re calling on the right prospects. Help prospects discover your value through questions. Make sure you’re working with prospects who will do more than collect bids. Ask your referrals to get involved in more than vouching for you.

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Think like a detective when it comes to sales


When it comes to selling, I’m figuring out that I have to think like a detective and not a typical salesperson. Do you have any suggestions on how to best do that?

THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: Decide on who is your best customer, then go get more of them. Work through a list of best customer suspects. Figure out where your targets hang out. Find out if you really are talking to qualified suspects. Have a way to circle back to the suspects who don’t seem to fit initially. Get prospects to turn themselves into clients.

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Referrals Can Be a Quick Way to Build Sales

It’s difficult to ask for referrals outright. I feel that people should refer my company’s services because they want to, not because I’m asking them to do it. And I find it hard to ask for a favor, which is what asking for a referral feels like.

Thoughts of the Day: Building a business around your best clients is one of the most successful ways to grow. Asking for a favor tells people you value them. When your marketing resources are limited, referrals can be a fast way to build up sales, which gets you more funds to use for marketing in other ways. Having a system for gathering referrals may help get over the hump of building skill at asking.

If your company is like a lot of firms today, you may not have a big marketing budget. Learning how to get referrals from supportive clients is a great way to stretch marketing dollars. A referral can turn into a press release, a case study, a blog comment, an online advertisement, a recommendation about whom to go after next – the list is endless.

Feeling shy or unsure about how to ask for referrals? Keep in mind that people may not think to provide assistance unless you ask, even though they are more than willing to help. Most people like being asked to help, if it doesn’t take too much effort. It means you value them and their opinion.

Some clients are good at giving referrals, some are not. Check with your buddies on their experience with specific customers you have in common. Look for buyers whose businesses are thriving, who have a positive outlook on the world and who have a reputation of respecting others. Target prospects that are known to crow about the benefits they receive from their vendors.

Can’t get a referral out of a specific client? Ask if there’s a problem with the product or service you provided, and if there is, fix it. Then circle back to re-ask for that referral. Sometimes the best references come from relationships that have been built upon coming through difficult times together.

Think of gathering referrals as a business transaction. Make it part of how you do business. Tell clients upfront that you’ll circle back at the end to insure they are satisfied, and if they are, to ask them to comment on their experience.
Positivity usually brings in more positivity, and one good referral can lead to lots more. Show clients what others have said by keeping a running list of referral comments. Ask them to follow the leader by adding their comments.

Make a follow up phone call once your work is complete. Ask what they would say if contacted for a referral. Start with a couple quick questions:
• Were you satisfied?
• Would you be comfortable recommending this company to a friend?
• What are 2 things that would characterize the product or service you received?
So long as you’re satisfied with the answers, put the client on the referral list.

Want to get into more detail? Script an email or phone call that asks clients to tell about their experience working with your company.
• What was the best part of the experience?
• How did that improve their world, or make their life better?
• Would they be willing to have their company featured in a case study that talks in more depth about the experience they had with your company?

Every successful business has learned how to leverage the experiences of their best clients in a way that leads to getting more great customers. Asking for referrals is one way to do just that. Just put it out there.

Looking for a good book? Book Yourself Solid; The Fastest, Easiest, Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle, by Michael Port.

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Make Marketing Work for You

Other companies are better at marketing than we are; they’re better getting business from it. Help!

Thoughts of the Day: Build a plan and stick to it. Position your company as influential. Integrate marketing with sales. Monitor results. Look for small changes that can produce big results.

When writing out your plan for marketing, start with goals. Build of team of part timers within the company. Hire outside experts as you can afford them.

Think about what you want to accomplish both short and long term. Include a budget for both money and time. Make sure you have enough resources available so that your marketing team can be consistent.

Exercise discipline. Set a marketing schedule and stick to it. If new ideas crop up, take time to properly vet them. Don’t let the flavor of the week throw your marketing program off course.

Diversity is the key, not just what you say, but where you say it. Get the word out through lots of channels. Social media, seminars, webinars, ads in print and online, public relations, white papers, the list of how to tell the world about what you do is endless.

Know what points you want to get across. Why do your customers care so much about your company? What kind of history does your company have? What’s unique and special that other prospects need to be aware of?

Being influential is more important than being polished. Use marketing to build up devotees. Get the word out that your company matters. Be both professional and social: build a community. Be creative. Don’t worry about getting it perfect. Be interesting.

Look for pools of customers and prospects, then focus marketing efforts on getting connected with both. Make your company the centerpiece of the connectivity if you can. Helping people connect to other valuable resources makes your company more valuable, too.

Identify niches where your company can shine, and use expertise, product mix, pricing and packaging, and connections to resources as ways to stand out. Mirror what you see and hear in specific niches to build relationships. Tell stories people in specific niches can relate to. Romance your prospects. Put your company on display and ask people to engage.

Make sure every lead counts by educating your sales people on the efforts that the company goes through to open new doors, and mine existing niches. Insure proper follow up by providing detailed information on where the lead came from, what similar companies have needed, and who to contact to get optimal play.

Ask sales people to contribute suggestions on where else to look for leads. Ask them to do research with existing customers and prospects. Make their lives easier by organizing activities like trade shows, lunch and learns, and networking events.

Check in regularly on all marketing efforts. Record details about where leads come from. Assign someone to keep up on how your social sites are being used.

Automate as much as possible, using social media doesn’t have to be time consuming. Look into sites that allow you to schedule Facebook posts and tweets. Learn how to use groups on LinkedIn, and find ones that would be interested in what your company is talking about.

Not all prospects are created equal. Go for growth and profit. Focus on targets that are most likely to consistently make high quality purchases. And look for forward thinking prospects who can be your customers of tomorrow.

Establish a system to add qualified prospects every week. Add 10 qualified prospects to the database every week, and in a year you’ll have 500 more. Give several people the task of making a few calls every week to gather basic qualifying data on a list of suspects.

Set up regular follow up once people do express interest. Don’t give up after one or two tries. Automate follow up with useful information that goes out regularly. Periodically call to see if now is a good time to talk. Recycle if not, and keep in front of prospects. Persistence builds impressions, builds awareness, builds familiarity, which leads to opening doors more easily.

Looking for a good book? Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition, by David Newman.

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Build a Tip-Top Sales Team

48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect, 25% make the second contact and stop, only 12% of sales people make more than 3 contacts. 80% of sales are made of the 5th to 12th contact.

I’m trying to get my sales force into shape. One of my people is not a tigress at prospecting; another will call on existing contacts and referrals, but if I send him to a networking event, he might leave without picking up any contacts or business cards. We need qualified leads and it’s taking too much time, trial and error to learn how to get them.


Thoughts of the Day: Make it clear what’s expected. Build a complimentary team. Make sure marketing is doing its part to deliver opportunity. Review results and get people into the right jobs.

Lay out expectations from day one. With existing personnel assigned to sales, go over the basics. Develop a weekly report that people have to complete and talk about.

We use an excel spreadsheet, with rows for the activities expected, and columns for the weeks. Rows include networking, cold calling, sales class, intro letters sent, intro calls made, weekly sales lead group, referral meetings, trade shows. We have 2 rows for each: the first row is to check off if they did the activity. The second row is to record contacts uncovered through those activities. The bottom of the report is where they recap the number of leads identified, qualified, moved into the sales process, and closed.

We show this report to prospective sales people. Existing sales people review it weekly in our staff meetings. Making it clear what’s expected, and that activity, or lack of activity will be visible, helps people who want to be in sales know this is a serious opportunity.

Try to get a mix of people, and get them working together. Include people in operations, who will be talking to customers all the time. On the team you want some people who are good at opening doors, effective networkers: picking up contacts and information about where work is likely to come from. Others on the team should be good at follow up and closing. Consider putting someone from the back office on the job of keeping track of a database of prospects, and review progress weekly.

Check on the number of leads that the company produces for the sales people to follow up on. If it’s very limited, put some more dollars into marketing. The most expensive part of sales is usually door opening. Try to reduce the cost of making new contacts by investing in programs that will identify warm prospects. Letter and mail campaigns, outside vendors assigned to make calls, booths at trade shows, etc. are all ways to get warm leads for the sales people to work on.

Take a look at the spreadsheet after it’s been in use for a couple months. Look at who has been effective at various activities. Make sure you have people assigned to work in the right part of the sales funnel. Someone who’s always going to networking events but never identifying leads either needs training, or needs to spend time doing something more productive. Someone with a lot of leads and very few closes may also need training, or may benefit from being teamed up with a closer to learn how to make things happen more quickly.

Keep in mind that everyone seems to run through hot and cold spells. If someone has low results for a couple of weeks, don’t panic. Take time to talk about what’s going on, and see if there’s some other activity that can be added to the mix that will lead to more results. Give it another couple weeks to take hold. If a drop in results persists, check to see if it’s a warning sign about the viability of the market the person is calling on. Or, is this person just souring on sales altogether, in which case it may time to make a change.

You job as manager is to step back from the action and keep an overview of what’s going on. Move people around. Push up on marketing efforts. Make sure that new activity is flowing steadily through the pipeline. Learn to read the reports to see what’s going on.


Looking for a good book? Talk Less, Say More: Three Habits to Influence Others and Make Things Happen, by Connie Dieken


PDF Version:Ask Andi – Build a Tip-Top Sales Team