Archive for the ‘Sales skills’ Category

Fear of the phone

Many people resist starting their own consulting business because they’ve got a fear of the phone. I’ve met more than one person who couldn’t stand the thought of having to make calls to clients. Well, after my post on fear of public speaking, I decided to look into other fears that might hinder the success of small business owners…and fear of the phone stood out.

Via Peter Benson, I discovered a simple exercise for overcoming phone fear. It’s really best targeting at people who fear cold calling. Benson suggests that you simply write a script and start calling. That’s it. Feel the fear and do it anyway, I guess — and you’ll soon lose your fear.

Have you ever had to deal with fear of the phone?

Do you need to like public speaking to sell?

After my post on public speaking, some of you naturally wondered if there was a connection to selling, especially since I linked to a post on sales skills. Well, yes and no.

Yes, it helps if you can speak in public. You can speak at tradeshows, conferences, seminars, meetings, teleseminars and so on. You can teach courses and get up in front of people all the time.

But, no, you don’t have to be great at public speaking. You can manage clients via direct mail, email, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, conversations and so on. Introverts have tons of great business qualities.

The key is to build on your strengths and to find ways to mitigate your weaknesses. Try doing a personal inventory to figure out your best qualities and where you need more practice. Focus on success and you’ll find a path.

How I overcame fear of public speaking

Does the thought of public speaking make you feel ill? Fear of public speaking is called glossophobia.

I’m not a shy person. Far from it. I’m a classic ENTJ. For many years, I thrived on speaking in public. But, one day, I was asked to give a presentation to a group of three people. When I got there, I realized that I’d run into two of the people before. I knew one of them had it in for me. That made it difficult to start talking. To make matters worse, at the end of the presentation, one of those two people accused me of breaking the law during my presentation. He accused me of copyright infringement. I was shattered. I take copyright very seriously. However, this individual worked in a field where copyright was discussed regularly. So I took him at his word. I apologized and left.

Later, I did a little more research and confirmed that, I did not infringe anyone’s copyright. My understanding of fair use and private business meetings was correct. It was the prospective client who was wrong.

But it didn’t matter. The event shook me up enough to keep me from speaking in public for a couple of years. I turned down opportunities. I didn’t want to take a risk again.

Still, I’m an ENTJ. I plan. And then I carry out that plan. I knew that, by taking small steps, I could conquer my glossophobia and start speaking in public again.

So I contacted a tiny organization. I asked if I could make a presentation to a small group. And I did it. And I survived.

Then I started going to professional association meetings. I started asking questions. That brought attention to me. I spoke well. After a while, I was sometimes asked to address the group. No problem. I was among friends.

Next, I applied for a job as an instructor. I’d be speaking in public (albeit to a group of about four people) once a week for a few months. I’d be teaching a subject I knew well. And I did it. And was hired again.

But the client wanted to know if I could teach another subject…one that I wasn’t sure I was good at. I’d have to study to get ahead of the students. I decided to try it. And I got better reviews for teaching that content than I did for teaching the stuff I knew by heart!

Pretty soon, I was teaching several classes. And then a major university asked me to teach a course. I did that, too. And was asked to teach more courses.

So, although I was never a shy person, I conquered a one-time fear of public speaking. Next week, I’ll give suggestions for conquering a fear of public speaking.

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Convincing clients to buy again

You may have heard of the Pareto principle, where 80% of your revenues will come from 20% of your clients. I’m not sure how true that holds for consultants, but it’s always seemed pretty likely to me. While it’s good to find new customers, it’s a lot easier to build strong relationships with current clients so they will buy again. Heck, they bought from you the first time. So how do you do it?

Speedy delivery makes a great impression. No one wants to wait forever for a project to arrive so it is critical to deliver on time, if not ahead of time. Depending on the kind of work you do, the quicker your clients receive their projects, the quicker they can hire you again.

Provide repeat customer discounts. Show your customers that you care by offering them special deals, discounts and coupons. (I particularly like the idea of offering a bigger discount for invoices paid within seven or 15 days, as it rewards loyal clients and puts money in your hands faster!)

Offer good customer service. Responding to email inquiries within a reasonable amount of time and properly addressing concerns makes a good impression and keeps clients willing to do business with you.

Streamline purchases. Do not make it difficult for customers to buy from you. I learned this the hard way, years ago, when a loyal client complained that my lengthy contract added to his workload. I started offering "change orders", so that he could order more services without needing to deal with a multi-page contract.

Remember, the secret to success is turning customers into repeat customers. So, always make that first purchasing experience a positive one. Scratch that. Make ALL purchasing experiences positive!

Friday 5: top 5 sales pitch tips

Via Shaun Brown comes this week’s Friday 5: a list of the top 5 sales pitch tips. He emphasizes the importance of audience participation:

The more rapport you have with an individual or a group, the more receptive they will be to your message.

Many consultants launch right into a sales pitch, instead of taking time to connect with their audiences. It makes sense to build rapport, especially in a business like consulting. You’re really selling yourself — your skills, expertise, approach and personality. If you can’t build a connection with the people evaluating your services, you’ll never win.

Friday 5: writing winning proposals

Here’s this week’s Friday Five, a hand-selected top 5 list. This week, learn 5 ways to start writing winning proposals.* Chris notes:

Provide references: Buyers may not take the time to contact your references, but providing them up front speaks leaps and bounds about how you believe in and back up your work.

Make sure you have permission before you start handing out names. A surprised or angry reference won’t make much of a reference. And rotate your contacts. If your references get tired of fielding calls, they’ll be less enthusiastic and may ask to be removed from your list. It’s better to change things up. Besides, you probably need to handpick a list of references for every proposal.

*rapidly decaying link

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Friday 5: new top 5 series

Welcome to the Friday 5. I’ve decided to introduce a weekly top 5 list, as a way of lightening up Consultant Journal and introducing readers to other blogs. For the next few weeks, I’ll be running a Friday 5 — a top 5 list that I’ve discovered. I invite readers to submit their own top 5 lists or to share their own thoughts in the comments (as always).

Let’s kick off the Friday 5 with the top 5 mistakes in selling to small business owners, via Small Business Trends. If you’re practicing your basic selling skills, pay attention to this tip:

Recognize that when you’re selling to small business, you’re on a series of dates with an owner. And since it’s so personal — because it’s their money, it’s their company, and it’s their problems….

Aint that the truth. Owners of the newest, smallest businesses fret over every cent they spend. Some of them worry so much that they’ll nickel and dime you. I once had a guy ask if he could hire me in 15-minute increments. Um, no. It takes me that long to send out the quote and invoice for the work.

Writing a sales proposal – structure

Writing a sales proposal to win the hearts and minds of those evaluating it can be tricky. A key part of writing a winning sales proposal involves following the structure set out in the request for proposals (RFP).

Pay careful attention to the details required for your proposal. Many RFPs specify the structure of your proposal. You’ll want to be sure to follow those guidelines to a T.

Typical proposals include:

  • Title page
  • Letter of introduction
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • Background – your understanding of the client, their problems and their objectives
  • Project Overview
  • Scope
  • Methodology
  • TImeline
  • Materials and Facilities Required
  • Budget
  • About Your Company (why you’re best for the job)
  • Terms and Conditions

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Free selling skill course | Selling skills

Free selling skill course — that’s what the ads say. But just how good can a free selling skill course be? In most cases, if you sign up for a free selling skill course, you’re just going to be taking in a sales pitch for something else. Sure, the speakers or writers may talk about selling skills, but it’s more likely that they’re just warming you up for their own spiel.

In most cases, you’ll need to pay for a decent selling skills course. You may be able to find valuable basic selling skills articles on the web and in trade journals — many excellent consultants put together articles as a way of promoting themselves. But few would go to the trouble of creating and delivering a full course for free. Course development takes time — often a minimum of three hours of preparation for every hour spent teaching the class. If you really want a selling skills course that includes valuable information, you’ll need to pay for it.

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Writing proposals – it’s in the details

Writing a good proposal can help you win new business. But, if you’re going to have a fighting chance, you need to meet the requirements of the request for proposals (RFP).

How to meet the details of an RFP

  1. Read the request for proposals (RFP) document carefully.
  2. Note the intent, goals, organization,decision-makers and other background information.
  3. Scan carefully for requirements and needs.
  4. Format – check the page size, font, colour, number of copies, and other details required. Do you need to use a binder or any other sort of materials?
  5. Content – are you required to structure your proposal in a certain way? Are section titles given? What information must you include?
  6. Timeline – create a timeline for all dates mentioned and use it as the basis for managing both the proposal and the project
  7. Submission — how must the proposal be submitted? By fax, email, mail, courier or in person? Do you need to provide extra copies?
  8. Create a checklist for requirements. List all the requirements, right down to the letter. Note the status of each. Refer to page numbers. Some consultants incude such a checklist for the client when they submit the proposal, but it’s also a good way to manage your own work.

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