AccountHUNTER

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Archive for November, 2006

Surprising Customer Service

Posted by Shane Murphy on Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dateline: Day before Thanksgiving, 4:45pm

The cellphone rings… on the other end, a regional manager of Cinnabon — you know, the wildly-addicting cinnamon rolls?  He was calling to discuss a letter that  my girlfriend had Emailed to them the day prior.  On Saturday, we had a less-than-acceptable situation at one of their locations.

She stewed on it for a few days, then sent the email.  Less than 24 hours later, the Regional Manager is on the phone to investigate the problem and offer a solution.

How’s your customer service?  Do you make the one-off sale and then move on to the next hit, or do you practice this sort of proactive customer management?

Think about it as you wolf down that turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted in Planning | Leave a Comment »

Preparing Your Pitch – 5 Simple Steps

Posted by Shane Murphy on Tuesday, November 21, 2006

five.jpgAs I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, I have a hard time just sitting through any sort of sales presentation and listening to the pitch. I find myself constantly taking notes about the presentation itself, rather than focusing on the product or service at hand. Today was no different. I was fortunate enough today to witness two different sales pitches, each for completely different services.

Without going into details on exactly what I was pitched on today, I saw this as a great chance to put forth some of my thoughts on building a solid pitch.

1. Be prepared. It should go without saying, but it’s all too common for a presentation to fall flat… not because the presenter didn’t know their product, but because they didn’t take the time to prepare to present it to their target audience. An unprepared, templated pitch is not unlike an annoying cold call. When it’s done, you know who called and you know what they were selling. You’re just not sure what any of it has to do with you.

2. Customize the pitch. To some of us, customizing is as much a no-brainer as putting on our shoes. For others, it seems to be well beyond their understanding. These are no longer the days of “cookie-cutter presenting,” where my service is a one-size-fits-all variety. Every customer who I pitch is unique. They have unique needs, unique conceptual understandings, and unique budgetary requirements.

Late this afternoon, I was talking with a colleague who was telling me how frustrated she was with a certain architect — an architect who told her that when they moved to their new offices, all projectors would be mounted on the ceiling in a specific way. After asking some questions, it was apparent that the architect was telling her that the format was how “all the other buildings are,” and nobody would use it any other way anyhow.

Why? Because ‘customization’ would be much harder than doing what the client wanted. And she told me that she planned to bring in a different architect. What a shocker.

3. Have examples. Not one-size-fits-all examples, but real examples that resonate with the client. This, of course, goes back to being prepared. Ask questions, do research *before* you step into that room to do your pitch. Make your presentation match their needs and you’ll see an immediate impact.

4. Ask questions and take notes. Ask more questions of your audience than they ask of you. Write down what happens while you pitch. If you can’t write while you’re talking, you better kick your memory into overdrive when you’re done. This really didn’t happen in either of the pitches that I was exposed to today. Both were bland, and in neither did my suitors ask me questions about what I need.

I’ve always followed a simple rule with questions — Ask two questions for every one they ask you. Now that takes effort!

5. Follow up. I can’t stress this one enough. The actual time spent in your presentation pales to your prep work and your followup. Fail to followup, and you can pretty much plan to fail.

BOTTOM LINE
: Delivering a sales pitch is about a lot more than just showing up and spewing everything you know about your product or service. Preparing, customizing, showing examples, asking questions, and following up are the five critical links to success. Miss one of them, and you’ll be chasing the game forever.

Posted in Pitching, Planning | Leave a Comment »

Get Organized… or Stay Confused

Posted by Shane Murphy on Monday, November 20, 2006

hoarding2.jpgIt’s a subject which I rarely write about here at AccountHUNTER, but it’s also one that’s near and dear to my heart: the importance of being organized.

Yes, it’s critical to be as organized as possible if you intend to succeed long-term, regardless of what you’re aiming for. I know, I know… I’ve got more than a few acquaintances who insist that their ‘mess’ is perfectly normal, and that they know where everything is and can get to it at any moment.

To that, I say “Sure you can… sure you can.”

So when I saw this short blog over at LandingTheDeal, I had to smile. Now, there are lots of ‘systems’ out there to help you de-clutter your life… that can help you to simplify. I don’t claim to own a system, but here’s a 4-point list of what I do, every day.

1. Centralize your email and calendar. Blackberry’s, multiple computers, wireless cards… it’s harder and harder today to maintain one single place to receive and track information. I realize that for many people, with enterprise servers and all that, it becomes more cumbersome to maintain one of anything. But for me as a small business owner, my entire life is now on Google. From mail to my calendar, it’s all there. I’m not saying that Google is the only way, but it’s a great solution that works well for me.

2. Minimize paper clutter. Open your mail when it comes, sort it, and trash the rest. It drives me nuts when I go to somebody’s office and I see piles — literally *piles* of catalogs, envelopes, and inserts laying in a heap on the desk. Make filing a habit, and stick to it like nobody’s business.

3. Take advantage of available technologies. The simple concept of a scanner and/or a fax machine can eliminate 75-80% of your paper clutter. I’m in the habit of faxing all of my business-related receipts to an Efax number, which simply puts them in an electronic format for filing. No paper required. When I started doing that a few years back, it seemed silly. But now, with every receipt I’ve ever needed conveniently filed on my portable hard drive… I just don’t worry about it anymore. (Yes, I also file them all in a folder system, but it’s not nearly as tedious as it once was, knowing that I have my backups.)

4. Organize your workspace. Small business owners… the kitchen table is not your friend. Neither is that awesome recliner in front of your plasma TV. Get your office space organized, and stay on top of it.

Four simple things. It’s not as hard as it may sound, but it’s also not as easy as you might think.

BOTTOM LINE: when it comes to the importance of organization – you’ve got to have a plan, or you’re just planning to fail.

Posted in Organizing | Leave a Comment »

The Trouble with Selling Services?

Posted by Shane Murphy on Wednesday, November 15, 2006

winner2.JPGSticking with issues of selling in the service industry, I link you today to a wonderful piece from RainToday.com that gets into this issue a bit deeper than I did on Monday.

It’s pretty simple to see that one of the biggest problems in solid lead generation — when you don’t have a tangible product to sell — is that of getting the prospect to visualize exactly what it is that you’re selling. From the RainToday piece…

How do you make the intangible tangible? Take a cue from your local ice cream shop… let your clients and prospects have a taste. Professional services businesses can do this by creating and leveraging offers and experiences that allow potential buyers to see, touch, and taste a bit of what you will provide for them as a client.”

For my business, that means getting out there everyday and doing the things that most people aren’t willing to do. For example, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time over the past month in building relationships with establishments, then working out trade agreements with them for me to do some work in exchange for the ability to use their offices to hold free seminars.

Of course, that means that I’ve also spent a good deal of time in actually developing those seminars. Not to mention the time taken to deliver them. What has it netted me so far? Little in the way of revenue, but it has made me recognizable in my area and gotten me a solid prospects list.

And it’s made my services more tangible to those prospects.

Another exercise that I’ve been actively pursuing is pitching a weekly column to some newspapers (tip of the hat to Jeffrey Gitomer on that idea). My pitch is simple: I’ll gladly commit to writing the column at no charge — all I’m asking for is a guaranteed news hole in the paper on the same day each week. This is proving to be more difficult than I would have hoped, but that doesn’t deter me from working it. But once it happens (and it will), the rewards of it will come ten-fold.

As Gitomer says… “Next time someone tells you ‘never,’ that means ‘not for at least an hour’.”

Success in selling anything is about doing the things that very few others are willing to do. It means being creative… doing the unexpected… and never giving up.

The trouble with selling services is that most people are unwilling to do just that.

Posted in Organizing, Planning, Prospecting | Leave a Comment »

Lead Generation Mistakes: Are You Making Them?

Posted by Shane Murphy on Monday, November 13, 2006

mistake.jpgAs I continue to work on my small business marketing efforts, I’m always on the lookout for interesting insights that may help me to see different ways of ‘getting the word out’ about what I do.  As anyone who sells anything knows, it’s not always a black-and-white effort to attract serious leads.

Over the weekend, I came across a great piece at EyesOnSales that covered the “Top 10 Lead Generation Mistakes.”  Now, consider that the article has a focus solely on selling professional services as you read it, but the concept of the writing can easily be applied to any sales genre.

There’s nothing earth-shattering in this piece, but it’s a good read for getting your mind right on a Monday morning.

Posted in Organizing, Prospecting | Leave a Comment »

Creating Selling Conversations

Posted by Shane Murphy on Tuesday, November 7, 2006

conversation.JPGThis is one of my hot-button issues… coming on too strong in the sales process. I imagine that we’ve ALL done it at some point in our careers. Hopefully, most of us have figured out that this is not the right way to approach selling.

Reading through this wonderful piece from Duct Tape Marketing, Jill Konrath gets right to the point. Consider this outstanding advice that she wraps the whole piece around:

Questions are the key! They have to be provocative, insightful questions that:

  • Invite prospects to think about key challenges they’re facing relevant to your offering.
  • Explore how staying with the status quo will impact their ability to achieve their ever-escalating goals & objectives.
  • Clarify criteria and other considerations involved in making a decision to change.
  • Spark ideas about taking their business to the next level.

Make sure to read this first thing today – it’ll set you up for a great week!

Posted in Closing | Leave a Comment »

The Discount Trap

Posted by Shane Murphy on Thursday, November 2, 2006

scared.jpgLast night, I had coffee with a friend who is working to start up a business here in Central Ohio.  He’s a good guy with a great personality, and he’s selling widgets.  A lot of what he’s going to have to do is network his butt off and get some word-of-mouth marketing going.

And, like so many of us, it’s going to be a long road, but one he can navigate pretty well if he exercises some patience.

But midway through our conversation, the red flags started flying.  Before he’s even started — before he’s ever made his first sale — he’s already talking about discounting his products to “get things off the ground.”

He’s PLANNING to discount!

After choking on my coffee, it was time to get serious with him.

What signal does a discount send to a prospect?  That you overpriced your widgets from the start, planning to drop the price?  That your widget isn’t worth what you’re asking, and only the unsavvy are stupid enough to pay that price?

Or is it that you just don’t have the guts to sell it?  After all, it’s easier to just drop the price, isn’t it?

Have a look at this short article over at Solo Business Marketing, where they pulled three critical tips from “Sales and Marketing Magazine” that will help any salesperson — no matter what you’re selling — to avoid the discount trap.

Posted in Closing, Pitching, Planning | Leave a Comment »

Want To Make Your Customers Angry?

Posted by Shane Murphy on Wednesday, November 1, 2006

annoyed.jpgI was doing my daily RSS round-up earlier, and came across a short post from Dan over at LandingTheDeal — an entry that I missed the other day. Is was regarding TicketMaster and their “TicketAlerts.” Like it’s not bad enough that they charge outrageous “service fees” for ordering concert tickets, they’ve gotta keep clogging our inbox as well?!?

(Case in point with the fees… I bought two tickets for my daughter and I to see a show in Columbus last week. Face value of the tickets? $20. Total cost after fees? $60. Absurd.)

Anyway, Church of the Customer is following this situation with unsubscribing and continuing to get unsolicited emails. It’s a good discussion worthy of your time.

Keep this in mind, all of you who build Email lists of clients. It’s a great way to connect, but it can burn you.

Posted in Organizing, Planning | Leave a Comment »