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Archive for July, 2011

The Lead Generation Three-Legged Stool

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

The lead generation process will typically have direct impact on the success of for most businesses.  While there is not an exact formula what we can do generate results, there is a model that we can use position us for consistent results and this is a concept of a lead gen three-legged stool.

1. Cold Calling

For most businesses, there is a place for making outbound cold calls to generate leads.  Some will say that cold calling is a thing of the past.  But even with that being factored in, there is still tremendous power in live conversations that take place over the phone and when done right, cold calling can still be an effective piece of a larger lead generation strategy.

If a strategy is built that focuses on the right target market, that effectively communicates the value offered, and if there is script and approach that is respectful and does not trigger the prospect’s guard, then time and resources can be invested in cold calling with the realistic expectation of results.

2. Search Engine Optimization

In addition to outbound lead gen activity, we can also want to have inbound activity to create a bidirectional lead generation process.  Search engine optimization, or SEO for short is one of the best ways to create an inbound flow of leads where prospects are calling you.  SEO is the method of performing certain actions that make your website favorable in the eyes of the search engines so that they send targeted web traffic to you.

3. Networking

The third leg of the lead generation three-legged stool is networking from a professional standpoint.  This refers to personally connecting with prospects and potential referral partners for the purpose of building out your network.  When done right, this is actually one of the more powerful and immediate ways to generate leads.

There are two different ways to network professionally thanks to advancements in technology.  We can network in person by doing things like going to events and getting involved in different groups and associations.  Although, now we can also do a tremendous amount of networking virtually through social media.  To make this third leg of lead gen strong, it would be best to invest time in both forms of professional networking.

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Launch Pad Solutions provides sales consulting helping businesses to generate leads.

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Six Tips for Producing Good SEO Website Content

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

One effective way to improve search engine optimization rankings is to regularly produce good SEO website content. Whether it is hectic schedules or common cases of writers’ block, we can often find challenges with getting content on our websites. That being said, below are six tips that one can easily adopt to improve execution in this area.

1. Schedule Time

One of the keys to consistently producing SEO content is to schedule time with yourself during the week to work on producing content. If we don’t allocate time to work on writing content, we can likely always find ourselves too busy to get around to it. A good habit can be to pick the same day and time during the week to focus on this.

2. Pick Relevant Topic

The content produced should revolve around a topic that is relevant or related to the products and services that you sell. One way to arrive at a relevant topic is to reflect on recent weeks and think about something specific that happened with regard to the selling, delivery, or use of your products or services. Ideally this would be some way that business value was delivered and this can be the core topic that the SEO website content is built around.

3. Identify a Keyword Phrase

When working on SEO content, you will want to identify a keyword phrase that you want to get your website to rank on. In most cases, this will be different or a slight variation of the topic that you start out with. The two things you want to look at when selecting the right phrase is how often the phrase is searched and how many other businesses are trying to rank on it.

4. Breakdown the Topic

One thing that can help with the actual production of the content is to start by breaking down the topic right away by outlining subsections that you can write about that support the main topic. It will be much quick and easier to write SEO website content when you work on five related sections of 100 words each compared to one main section of 500 words.

5. Manage the Keyword Density Ratio

Effectively monitor and manage the keyword density ratio. This is the ratio of times that the keyword phrase appears in the website content compared to the total number words. The search engines scan the document and use this ratio to try to figure out what the article is about and it can help to try to use a ratio that will make them link the page to the keyword phrase.

6. Content Management System

It can be very helpful to have some sort of formal system to publish and manage that content that you produce and publish. There are content management systems (CMS) that websites can be built on top of and trying to produce content without this would create more work and slow down your progress.

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Launch Pad Solutions provides SEO consulting helping businesses to create a bidirectional lead generation process.

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Using Name Dropping to Improve Cold Calling

Friday, July 29th, 2011

There is good news and bad news for trying to improve cold calling.  The bad news is that if we try harder and increase our level of effort, we are not guaranteed to get better results.  This is because if we are not executing well, more effort might not produce anything.  Although, the good news is that there are clear and practical tactics that we can adopt to improve results.  One of those tactics is to name drop and this blog post outlines a little more on that.

Name dropping when cold calling refers to the act of mentioning names at different points to trigger some sort of result or action.  There are actually two different times or ways to name drop when cold calling.

Name Dropping with a Gatekeeper

When cold calling, it is likely that we will spend time talking to gatekeepers.  These gatekeepers will likely try to shut us down as sometimes they have been assigned the objective of keeping solicitors and cold callers out.  With that being the case, they will have their guard up at a medium level when they answer your call.  As soon as they detect you are a sales person, their guard will increase and they will begin to try to shut you down.

This is where name dropping can help as it is one way to decrease the gatekeeper’s guard.  Do this by name dropping other people in the organization that you have either met with or are planning to meet with.  When you do this, you will be present yourself more as an insider than an outsider and this can help to improve cold calling results.

Name Dropping with a Target Contact

Once we are able to connect with a target person that we are trying to reach, we can name drop again to improve cold calling, and there are multiple ways to do that.

Name Drop Internal Contacts: Regardless of who we are talking to, we can name drop other people in the organization to improve the cold call.  Below are examples of this:

“We met with Simon and he shared that this is one of the priorities.”

“I spoke with Ann from accounting and she said that you were the right person to speak with.”

Although, a possibility exists that you do not have any relationships or communications to share.  When that is the case, you could say some thing like below:

“We are planning on meeting with Mario Gonzales and since you report to him, we would like speak with you first to prepare for that discuss.”

We can state this even if we have never spoken with the mentioned contact and not be misleading anybody.  We could simply know that the person that we name drop is the ultimate decision maker and we have 100% intentions of meeting with them at some point.  With that being the case, we have not been dishonest in any way when we say we are planning on meeting with the person in a few weeks or at some point in the future.

Name Dropping other Businesses:
At some point on a cold call or in a cold call script, it can be good to name drop other businesses that you work with to build interest and establish credibility and improve cold calling.  This could involve mentioning the names of some other clients when you describe what you do.

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Launch Pad Solutions provides cold call training helping to improve cold calling results.

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Keys to Maintaining Sales Effectiveness While Working from Home

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Sales people are working virtually from a home office more now than ever.  And there is a lot of upside to that arrangement, there is also a lot of solitude and requirements for self-management.  With self-management being important when working virtually, there are some key things that we can do to improve our ability to stay focused to drive results.

1. Establishing a schedule

When working from home, the more you are able to establish a routine, the more successful you will be.  One key to building consistency in terms of a schedule or routine is to start your day at same time in terms of the time you wake up and the time that you start working. By establishing this routine, it can create more focus and discipline, which can help as you try to self-manage yourself driving additional sales effectiveness.

2. Add structure to the week

Taking establishing a schedule one step further, it can help to add structure to the week and day.  You can break down and organize some of your tasks into categories like: prospecting, administrative, training, research, etc.  You can then assign part of your week to those activities and this can help to drive sales effectiveness.

3. Improving your mindset

It can sometimes be tempting to work in your pajamas all day when you work from a home office as that is always an option.  Even though it is very possible to do this and still have a productive day, it can be very helpful to wake up and get ready for the day as though you were leaving your home office to go somewhere in terms of your dress and appearance.

By getting up at the same time and then getting ready with activities like taking a shower and getting dressed, we can create a much more focused and motivated mindset.  The job of self-management never ends when we work from home and this will be easier when we are dressed and ready to start the day and this will help to drive sales effectiveness.

4. Repurposing the saved commute time

One of the key benefits to working from home is the elimination of a daily commute.  This equals a tremendous amount of time and expense savings.  One thing that will drive sales effectiveness is to wisely using the time that is saved due to the home office arrangement.

Without the commute, we can either sleep a little later in the morning and we can start our relaxation time in the evening a little earlier.  Or, we can repurpose the time saved and refocus it back toward using as productive work time.  For example, if the commute is 45 minutes each way on average, we can have a mindset that assumes we have an advantage by being able to work an extra hour and a half per day that we normally would have to spend in transit.

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Know Your Best Alternative for Effective Negotiations

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Whether we realize it or not, we find ourselves in negotiations everyday.  And there are certain tactics that we can do to improve our ability to drive effective negotiations.  One of these tactics is outlined in the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury, and is a concept called identifying the best alternative to a negotiated agreement (referred to as BATNA for short).

When we are involved in a negotiation, we always have options outside of reaching an agreement with the other party that we are negotiating with.  We could reach an agreement with a party outside of the current negotiation.  For example, if we were negotiating the purchase of a vehicle, we have the alternative to take our business to another auto dealership.  In this case, your best alternative to a negotiated agreement is to purchase a different vehicle from a different dealership.

One alternative that we can often overlook is that in most cases we have the option to do nothing.  And in some cases, this could be the best alternative if we don’t reach an agreement.  Walking away from a negotiation and doing nothing is always an option and part of effective negotiations.

Identifying your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement can help establish effective negotiations in two different ways.

Knowing your BATNA

Having this information will immediately improve our clarity and position in the negotiation.  For example, if we go back to the purchase of a vehicle example, when we do not fully identify and become aware of our alternatives outside of the agreement we are negotiating, we can get sucked in and get wrapped up in incentives and become vulnerable to the other party’s negotiation tactics.

By having our BATNA at the top of our mind, not only will we stand to make better decisions during the negotiation, but we will also likely give off a stronger presence and impression to the other party.

Knowing the Other Party’s BATNA

By knowing what the other party’s BATNA is, you will be able to have a better read on the strength of their position in the negotiation.  If the other party’s BATNA is very good, then their position is strong.  And on the flip side of that, if the other party does not have a good BATNA, then their position is weak.  By having this information, you will have more clarity and a better understanding for how to handle the negotiation in terms of how hard to push and what to ask for.  Without this, it is like driving a car without a speedometer.

*Source: Getting to Yes, Roger Fisher and William Ury
*Source: Essentials of Negotiation, Roy Lewicki, Bruce Barry, David Suanders

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Six Components of Effective Sales Coaching

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

It is common to think of sales coaching as a very experienced sales person as a coach telling a less experienced sales person what and what not to do.  There is definitely great knowledge that we have to gain when listening to more experienced sales resources but there are also some key components to effective sales coaching.

1.    Powerful Questions

Our natural instinct when providing sales coaching is to provide guidance and direction to the person we are coaching.  We want to lead off by sharing our observations and our suggestions for what needs to be done and there is a place for that, but it is good to lead off by gathering information from the client.

To effectively understand the client, we need to ask powerful questions that help us to gather information.  These should be open-ended questions that the client cannot answer with a “yes” or “no” so that we get them talking and sharing.  The questions should probe the client to collect key information in terms of where they are at, what direction they want to go, challenges being experienced, etc.

2.    Listening

There is a saying that we have two ears and one month so we should do twice as much listening as talking.  And while that fits well with effective selling, it also fits well with effective sales coaching.

3.    Encouragement

The profession of selling can be tough as we can’t win every deal often face some sort of rejection.  When this occurs, we can easily question ourselves in terms of who we are and what we are doing.

While we will always have room for improvement in execution, most of us do work hard and can benefit tremendously from hearing some form of encouragement from time to time.  Positively reinforcing what the client is doing well and encouraging them to continue forward is a key component of effective sales coaching.

4.    Brainstorming

During sales coaching, instead of being directive in terms of directly telling the client what they should do, we work with the client to brainstorm to find solutions and direction.

This is powerful as the client may come up with the answer of what to do on their own.  And if they don’t, the coach can contribute ideas to the brainstorming to lead them to the answer instead of directly giving them direction.

5.    Action Planning

A key step in effective sales coaching is to work with the client to do long and short-term goal setting and planning.  This should lead to identification of what should be done next in terms of action the client will own and be responsible for after the coaching session.

6.    Tracking Progress

A key way to add value when coaching is helping to track progress.  This can help build the level of accountability and help fuel motivation by showing the client what they have achieved so far and is critical to helping keep the ship on course.

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Understanding the Gatekeeper When Making Cold Calls

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

When making cold calls, it is likely that we are going to run up against a gatekeeper or two.  And while some of these gatekeepers will be very helpful and share information to help us get where we want to go, many will do everything they can do to shut us down.   By improving our understanding of gatekeepers, we can improve our results while making cold calls.

Day in the Life of a Gatekeeper

The first step in understanding the mind of a gatekeeper is to understand what they go through in on a daily basis.  Whether the gatekeeper is a receptionist for an entire office or an executive assistant for a few individuals, their day is typically very hectic.  And while everybody has a hectic day in some way or another, a gatekeeper’s hectic activity will include a barrage of incoming calls all day, everyday.  When a gatekeeper answers your cold call, it is important to realize that your call is likely part of this barrage and just one of many calls that they will answer during the day.  And not only are you one of many calls that the gatekeeper will have to field while performing other duties, you will likely be one of many sales people that are cold calling and trying to get passed them.

By being empathic to what is going on on the other end of the phone, you can begin to improve your skills at dealing with gatekeepers when making cold calls.

The Gatekeeper’s Main Objective

Once we understand how chaotic life is for the gatekeeper, we need to stop to think about what the gatekeeper has been assigned in terms of one of their main objectives.  Unfortunately for us sales people, many of the people we want to call do not want to receive cold calls and in an attempt to eliminate those, they have put the gatekeeper in charge of keeping those pesky interruptions out.

You can usually tell when a gatekeeper has been assigned the objective of keeping out sales people that are making cold calls, as they will typically ask screening questions and not give out much information.  In many cases, just as sales people use sales training to learn tactics to get into accounts, gatekeepers will be trained on using certain methodologies and tactics to keep cold callers out.

One of the main takeaways is that some gatekeepers are simply trying to do their job when they are being difficult.  When this is the case, the harder you try to get in, the harder they are going to try to keep you out.  And if you want the difficult gatekeeper to let you in, you are essentially trying to get them to take a break from working on one of their main objectives.

Sharing Your Understanding

Once we have a full understanding of what the gatekeeper is all about, there are many different tactics that we can use when dealing with them.  We can share with them that we understand them by letting them know that we understand that they get a lot of sales people making cold calls and that we understand that it is their job to keep them out.  This can help to build rapport and could motivate them to lower their guard so that they are more open to working together to help us.

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Ten Useful Cold Calling Tips (Part II)

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

When cold calling for sales, working hard and making a high volume of calls does not always lead to success. One of the reasons for that is that there are clear things that we can do to improve results and those are outlined below in the following cold call tips.

6. Prepare for Objections

It is guaranteed that the prospects we call will throw some sort of objections at us. This is an attempt on their part to either slow the call down or try to bring it to an end. Examples of this are when they say they are not interested, they are not available, they are not looking to make a change, etc. By being prepared for objections in terms of having the best way to respond ready, we can greatly increase our odds of successful cold calling.

7. Focus on Improving Your Voice

When making cold calls, the words we say and the voice you use are the only ways that we have to communicate. With that being the case, our voice is very important. And based on the saying, “It’s not what you say but how you say it”, the voice and tonality that we use could actually be the most important factor.

One of the cold call tips is to focus on improving your voice while making cold calls. It can help to sound friendly, yet confident, with a decent level of energy.

8. Research Prior to the Call

Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have and can demonstrate on a cold call, the more you will stand to have a successful conversation. The knowledge to display is knowledge about the sales prospect, knowledge about their business, and knowledge about their industry. Performing any necessary research before the cold call to gain this knowledge is one of the cold call tips that can improve results.

9. Qualify the Prospect

Time is one of the only non-renewable resources that we have as a sales person. We can usually access more money if we need to, we can purchase more supplies, we can hire more employees, but we can never get back time that has been wasted or add more time to the week. With that being the case, we must make sure that we are spending our valuable time with the right prospects and opportunities.

By improving our ability to qualify the prospects and sales opportunities that we work on, we can ensure that we minimize the time that could be potentially wasted on low probability deals. Focusing on regularly asking qualifying questions is one of the cold call tips that will help to improve results.

10. Focus on Getting to a First Conversation

When making cold calls, we can easily jump straight to trying to accomplish our ultimate goal of selling something. But the fact is that the cold call is not the place to try to close a deal. The real goal of a cold call should be to get to the first conversation and that is what we should focus on.

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