My Love Affair With LinkedIn

10 09 2010

I am always astounded when people tell me that they do not “need” LinkedIn.  That’s crap.  Unless you live under a bridge and plan to keep it that way, everybody (especially sales people!) can benefit from using LinkedIn.  This is going to be just a brief overview – LinkedIn 101 if you will.  If you aren’t yet sure about the whole “social networking thing” here are a some key ways you can build your business using LinkedIn.  If this doesn’t convince you, maybe you do belong under a bridge. 

  • Instant Credibility

Imagine being able to present a brag book of your accomplishments and accolades to your prospect along with every single proposal.  Imagine having an interactive resume to send along to a job interview.  Now realize that you already have that ability by simply utilizing the tools on LinkedIn.  Your LinkedIn profile is a snapshot of your career.  Between the recommendations that you (should) have, the professional picture that you (should) have, and the job history that you (should) have listed – you have the opportunity to demonstrate your unshakable credibility based on past performance. 

  • Network Expansion

Like the picture above, LinkedIn allows you to view your professional network, and even goes further to allow you access to your network’s professional network.   Want to meet someone but don’t have a direct connection?  Request an introduction from your common connection!  It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

  • Jobs Jobs Jobs!

If you are in the job market, don’t waste your time on Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com or any of those other waste-of-time “job” sites.  Get the job you want by using the “Jobs” section of LinkedIn.  Fortune 500 companies list executive level jobs on LikedIn.  The application process is streamlined – simply write a cover letter and send your profile along.  Recruiters love to be able to see what your comprehensive profile and I can tell you from personal experience – if done correctly you will get an interview every single time.

  • Prospecting

Ever want to find the name of the decision maker of a new account?  It can be very expensive or nearly impossible.  With LinkedIn you simply do a combination search of the company and the job title to get to the profile of your target.  Learn about their job history, school, and other pertinent information that will help you build rapport.  Furthermore, you can look to see how your network connects with their network and even orchestrate an introduction. 

  • Groups

I know I already mentioned Network Expansion above… but it gets even better.  LinkedIn has forums for people to connect called “Groups.”  You can connect based on your Alma Mater, Greek Affiliation, Industry, Hobbies… the list goes on.  Once in a Group, you can view the profiles of everyone else in the Group whether they are a direct connection in your network or not.  Again, sales people take note!  This is a wonderful tool for you to get in front of the right people at big organizations.  They may not take a call from Joe Salesrep, but they will read a message from fellow Group Member Joe Participates-a-Lot. 

 

So what are you waiting for?  Get going!  Follow the simple instructions at  www.linkedin.com and start to get all the benefits of this great online community.    Oh, and be sure to add me:  

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The Voicemail Vortex

9 08 2010

I was looking through the CRM tool at my new company today and picked up a prospect account – we’ll call it Bob’s Construction and Leasing.  While reviewing the notes for Bob’s, I realized that this account had been repeatedly called on by 4 different reps for the past year and a half – none of which had gotten a single call back.  There were no alternate forms of contact (email etc).  Right then and there I saw this for what it really was – a Voicemail Vortex. 

You may be familiar with the term, or you may not.  But you are certainly familiar with the little “delete” key on your own phone.  It’s the one you keep your finger on when entering into your voicemail box so you can listen to as little of the message as possible and get on with being productive.  Voicemails are like an intrusion on your day.  And guess what – the people you are cold calling feel the exact same way. 

So back to my situation.  After careful pondering, I decided to give it the old college try and dialed the number.  Of course – voicemail.  I left a brief, polite message and went back to the drawing boards.  If this guy won’t answer his voicemail, what can I do to get his attention? 

I decided a brief, cheeky email may be the solution to my problem: 

Hey Mike,

I hope your Monday is going great.  I wanted to shoot you a quick and candid email to follow-up on the voicemail that I just left you.  I know you have been left messages by Cogent reps before, and I also know that you have not had your interest piqued to the point that you would return those calls.  

Look, I know it is not your first priority to respond to cold calls.  They aren’t very fun on either end of the line to be honest.  But what I have to offer you could drastically improve the efficiency of your wide area network.  Cogent specializes in increasing our clients’ bandwidth while decreasing the overall cost of the network. 

Could we possibly schedule a call in the next week to determine how Cogent could be of value to Bob’s Construction and Leasing?

Take Care, 

Tara Wagner

Within 5 minutes I had his response in my inbox as well as 2 other contacts from his company that I should be talking to.   Moral of the story – don’t waste your time leaving voicemails when you know the client won’t listen to them.





Overcoming Objections With A Simple Jedi Mind Trick

7 06 2010

A while back I attended a Sales Boot Camp program hosted by the Sales Guru himself – Paul Castain.  I had a blast collaborating with my fellow sales junkies and learning all the “secrets to success” from our dear Uncle Paulie.  As with all sales meetings, I returned home with a fire in my belly, buzz words ringing in my ears and a phone in my hand determined to sell to anything in my path.   I’m sure you all know what that post-convention high is like.

Now, almost a year later I started thinking about what has really benefited me in my day-to-day sales.  I have written a lot about the creative impact this training had on my cold-calling approach (See: Creative Cold Calling Experiments #1 and #2) , but I want to tell you about a simple yet genius method of overcoming objections that I use almost daily.

The magical phrase is simple, yet powerful and goes a little something like this:

  • Me:  So I’d love to get together to discuss your needs further, does next week work for you?
  • Them: No.  I am very happy with my current provider and can’t see any reason why I would be interested in speaking with you further.
  • Me: Okay, I hear that.  Let’s meet anyways.

Typically, this phrase strikes confusion into the heart of your prospect, soliciting the “I don’t know how to deflect that – she still wants to meet me?!” response that ultimately turns into an appointment.  Now for you over-zealous hunters out there, the goal is NOT to turn your phone call into a battle of wills.  People still only buy from people they LIKE.  This handy little trick will help you overcome absolutely any objection and get the face time that you need to demonstrate why working with you will make their projects, jobs, and very existence happier, healthier, and easier to navigate.

One small note, the conversation doesn’t always end right there with the magic line, you may need to do a little further convincing with reasons like:

  • We aren’t trying to toss out your provider, our services truly complement what you already have
  • This way you will feel comfortable calling me if you ever DO have a need and I will know what you are asking about
  • Your organization could benefit from knowing what other services are out ther!

Now go out there and give it a try!  Happy selling!





Best “Out Of Office” Response EVER

12 04 2010

We have all seen the generic “I am out of the office until May 12th and will get back with you at my earliest convenience”  out of the office replies.  Yesterday I received an automatic response that made me stop and read it twice thinking Wow – here is a rep who is leveraging her abundant personality with her value proposition even when she is out of town!  I promptly replied to her email telling her that I loved it and that I was going to steal it.  Please read below:  

“I am glad that you contacted me and look forward to speaking with you, but please note that I am currently out of the office and will return April 7th. You are important to me and I DO believe that Western is the best company to assist you, so in my absence… 

For NEW quotes, contact my colleague Vince Navarro at (713) 407.5213 or vnavarro@westernlithograph.com. He has been in the industry for 25+ years, so he can get your project going smoothly until I return. 

For PROJECTS IN PROGRESS, contact my CSR Scott Hill at (713) 407.5267 or shill@westernlithograph.com. He is my “right hand,” so be assured that you are definitely in good company! 

Thank you. 

Stephanie R. Hood” 

Now if that doesn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.  





Creative Pre-Call Experiment #2 – Be a Pill

4 12 2009

For those of you who saw my very first Creative Pre-Call Experiment from a few weeks back, you know that I am a firm believer in a small element of “cheese” when trying to charm your way in front of a new client.   Everyone is busy and everyone is bombarded by sales people on a daily basis.  That is why YOU need to set yourself apart from the first moment the potential client (aka Target) comes across your name.

You can use these pill bottles to creatively position yourself as the “prescription” to relive the PAIN that your buyers feel.

This Experiment takes a bit more prep then the first one, but is definitely impressive at the end.

Be a Pill

Materials:

  • Actual Pharmacy prescription Pill Bottles
  • Large Bag M&Ms
  • Avery Label Paper (I used Template 5163 2″x4″)
  • Envelopes – your company colors preferred
  • Clear plastic bags (about lunch-bag sized)

Tools:

  • Stapler
  • Gloves

Assembly Instructions:

  1. Obtain prescription Pill Bottles.  After scouring local stores and realizing they aren’t sold anywhere, I begged the Wal-Mart Pharmacist to sell me a few bottles.  I was able to purchase each one for exactly. $0.15 each.
  2. Next, put on a pair of gloves and scoop the M&Ms out of the bag into the bottles.  Be careful to not get your gross germs on your future client’s treat.
  3. Open Microsoft Word.  File>New>Search Template: Avery 5163.  This is the trickiest and most time-consuming part of the process.  You will not find an exact blank label pattern, so you will need to modify one with a plant decal or random ugly font.  I am not the most computer savvy so I am sure there is a faster way, but I had to manually delete and then re-insert the font and spacing that I wanted into each individual label.  Be sure to paste your company’s logo at the top as if the prescription is coming from the “Fittje Brothers Printing Company” Pharmacy. 
  4. Figure out a creative label that revolves around how you will relieve the Target’s pain.  You can see what I wrote below in the photo or here.  Then print 2 sheets so you have 2 copies of each label (you’ll see why in a sec).  Take one sheet and apply all the labels to the already candy-filled bottles.
  5. Next, write a creative introductory letter to the Target to the tune of “I know you are busy so I’m not going to waste your time.  I will call you on X day at X time.” Insert letter into a company-colored envelope with one of your business cards.
  6. Put labeled bottle and envelope into a clear plastic bag – be sure there is enough room left over for you to fold and seal it closed.
  7. Grab your extra label sheet.  The labels are difficult to read when wrapped around the pill bottle so this is how you will ensure that the target appreciates the full extent of your cleverness;
  8. Fold the top of the clear bottle over and hold closed with the extra label you have on your spare sheet.  Ta-Daaa!  You’re done!
  9. Now you just have to run around and drop these babies off.  Be sure that you actually call on the day and time that you indicated in your letter!

Experimental Conclusions:

Mixed.  Of the 12 bottles I put out, 4 were to current clients, 4 were to people I had been trying to call but hadn’t gotten through to, and 4 were to brand new names.  Clients LOVED these little treats and thought I was incredibly clever.  Almost immediately I won a bid with a client that I had lost almost all other bids with.

People I had tried to contact previously didn’t really respond.  I have put in regular calls prior to and after giving them pill bottles, and either way they are less than interested in what I have to offer.

For the new clients, my call was taken 3 of the 4 times.  Of those 3, all said that they were very satisfied with their current printer but left the door open for me to contact them in the intermediary.

Sooo all in all… I think this COULD be a very successful if targeting the right market such as a health care facility or hospital.  I think it was successful in that my creativity made me stand out and EVERY person I spoke to remembered me once I mentioned the pill bottles.  It was a failure in that I didn’t make any new clients, though I did further a relationship with an existing client.  It may be too early to tell… It has only been one month since I dropped these off and I’d like to believe that I planted the seeds for future business.





All About Color

1 12 2009

All kids knows that some colors are better than others.  No one wants the ucky-brown-green crayon that looks like a swamp creature’s backside when they are trying to color a rainbow.

As marketers, what does color mean to us and to the brands we strive to build and maintain?





Making Sure the “Margin of Error” Happens to Someone Else

24 11 2009

Last week a fellow sales rep was complaining about another job of hers had been screwed up in production and wouldn’t deliver on time.  She may lose this client because this is not the first time there have been errors with their account.  I listened and expressed the appropriate amount of concern.  All sales people understand that quality control is one of the most frustrating parts of our job – we literally have no control over the quality of the product that is produced.  Or do we?  

I am not knocking my production staff.  I would NEVER do that.  The guys that I work with are AMAZINGLY meticulous, thoughtful, and detail oriented.  But no matter what industry you are in or how talented your team is, there is a margin of error.  This article will tell you how to make as sure that those errors happen with OTHER people’s jobs, not yours.

So how do you effectively  implement a quality-control program when you actually have nothing to do with the production process?  You become a part of the production process.  Duh.

Now before you get all “but it’s not my job” on me, you need to stop your whining.  If you want to get results you need to change your perspective.

So here is my 5-Step “Oops!” Factor Reduction Process:

  • Never Eat Alone:  Nothing helps you develop a strong relationship with your production team like regularly breaking bread with them.  I recommend spending at least 2 lunches per month with them if not more.  This will help you learn more about them as well as make you available if they have questions about a job of yours they are working on.
  • The “Good Morning” Factor: This one is super simple but I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they appreciate it.  Say “good morning” to people and mean it.
  • Roll Up Dem Sleeves: It’s common sense to walk around the production area to check in on your jobs at least once a day.  But it is NOT common sense to ask if you can help.  Instead of nagging and rolling your eyes about a missed deadline, ask if there is anything you can do.  If they ask you to do something, DO IT and SMILE.  Remember that they wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.  Be available to pick up, deliver, and in general be of service for your jobs.  If your support team sees that you are engaged on the same level they are, they will care more about your jobs and you will be one of the first to know if there is an issue.
  • Over-Appreciate Overtime: If you know the production guys are working over a weekend or is being burdened with a lot of overtime- you know they are stressed.  Do something to show you care.  Show up unexpectedly (when you are supposed to be off) bearing beer or some baked goodness.  Walk around with the case/plate and tell them how much you appreciate their hard work.  Even if they came in to complete someone elses’ job – you are showing them you notice the extra effor they are putting in to make the whole shop thrive. 
  • Ask For Input: These individuals are most-often experts in their fields.  Our Bindery Manager has been in the industry for 37 years.  That is longer than I have been alive!  When you ask for their opinion on the best way to produce something, you are simultaneously showing them how valuable their endless knowledge is and giving your client the benefit of the years of experience these people have.  I know that my production team has saved my booty MANY times with issues I never even knew existed simply because I asked a question.

Look – I know you can’t get involved in every step of the production process or it will inhibit your sales.  So don’t get involved in every step.  Just get a little bit involved.  A lot of the stuff I have done has been on my free time – deliveries after hours, taking cards home and collating them while I watch TV, and coming in on Saturday to bring my favorite guys a few ice-cold beers as they are finishing up an arduous extra shift.

Maybe this process won’t help you at all, but I will tell you from experience that the jobs I sell are consistently delivered ahead of time and with the highest quality.  I genuinely care about the people who help make me look good to my clients, and in turn they care about the jobs that they produce on my behalf.

THANKS GUYS!!