Archive for category Sales
Nothing happens by accident anymore, especially when it comes to sales.
It used to be so much simpler; you’d buy a good directory, circle those companies that would make good prospects, call them, set up a meeting, go see them and if you did a pretty good job in that meeting you’d get a quote and if you were in the ball park with the quote, you’d get an order and off you go.
Those were the good old days of selling. When companies wanted circuit boards; appreciated they were tough to build and thus a good circuit board fabricator was hard to find and customers were always open to trying out a new one.
Do you remember those days? Do you remember when people actually picked up their phones? Do you remember when they would be willing to see you for a cup of coffee and a meeting and if you offered lunch or especially dinner people were more than happy to give you an hour of their time to listen to you pitch them about your company and their services? Those were the days my friend.
But alas they are gone forever in this new world of voice-mail, e-mail, Microsoft Outlook, Go To Meeting and all of the other tools that were designed to “make our lives easier” but for the most part have made it much more difficult for us to have a good old face to face talk.
All of these new improvements have made our job as a sales manager so much more difficult as well. It used to be that you were more of a task master and a coach. We were the guys who made sure that our guys were making the right amount of calls to get the right amount of meetings so that we gained the right amount of customers to give us the right amount of business.
And every so often we even got to go to one of those lunches or dinners if the deal was big enough and our sales person wanted us to sweep in with our gold pen and close that deal. Other than that our job was to keep our sales people motivated, make sure they were not spending too much time on the golf course and that they did not drink too much. But then again just the right amount of customer golf and the right amount of drinking and dining with the customer was just part of the job.
But now we have to do so much more than that. We as sales managers have to make sure that our guys are not only motivated but that they are intelligently equipped for business in the twenty first century as well. We have to make sure that they are up to date on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all of the other social media tools they are going to need if they are going to survive to sell another day.
We have to make sure our web site is cool, crisp, fascinating and engaging and that most of all it provides valuable information to those visitors that we send there with our vitally fascinating and informative blogs and tweets.
In short as sales managers we need to me much more of a “hands on” coach and leader than ever. We have to be completely focused on our sales people. We have to make sure that we keep them engaged at all times we have to be there for them.
Oh yes and of course we have to do this from afar, remotely. Back in the day many of us got to see our sales people every day. For many of us all we had to do is step out of our office and there they were sitting at their desks. But no more no we have national sales teams all over the country and for some of us all over the world. We manage sales people that if we’re lucky we’ll see only three or four times a year. So we have the added challenge of managing them on the phone, through e-mails, maybe SYPE and the once or twice a year ride along making our jobs that much more challenging.
This means that we have to work that much harder to stay in touch and to find ways to manage and measure and motivate that sales force. Here are a few tools that I use to make sure that you not only manage your remote sales people but effectively be in touch with them at all times.
- Weekly Activity report: This is key to making sure that you know what your sales people are doing at all times. This report needs to include where they are year to date against forecast; where they are month to date on their forecast. Then a list and description of live sales calls, as all other customer contacts, these should also contain any challenges they are facing and then their plans for the next two weeks to come.
- Weekly one on one phone meeting: This is your time to work exclusive with the sales person. Make sure this is at a set time and make sure you never miss this call. And never say “well I talk to them all the time”. I’m sure you do, but this is the only call where you are truly going over what the person is doing based on her report. It is also the only time you can get a true sense of how she is doing.
- Weekly team phone calls: This gives the rest of the team a chance to see what is going on all over the country. You should also have key management people on this call as well. Make sure you have someone taking notes that will be published after the meeting. This is also the time to pass on company updates and information and a great time for Production Manager to talk about what he needs for business.
- Daily score sheet: Your guys need to know how they are doing against forecast this month and this will tell them every single night. It is a very effective tool. You can’t win the game if you don’t keep score.
- Regular ride alongs: Set these up long in advance ti give your sales guys plenty of time to set up great meetings while you’re with them. I would urge you to plan at least two of these a year with each sales person. You can plan it around a local trade show if that works for you. The important thing about these ride alongs is are not only to visit customers but to also be spending that all so valuable face time with your sales person. Don’t pass this up.
These are the basic tools that you are going to need to effectively manage that remote sales force. I’ll say it one more time. Do not wing this; do not feel that your random touch base phone calls are enough. Today more than ever you need to provide leadership and structure to your sales team in order to make them successful. It’s only common sense.
Whether you are in the business of board fabrication or board assembly, the fact is that you are not building your own products. You are building your customers’ products which means that you are in the business of helping your customers be successful. The better your services are, the better their products will be, and the better their products are, the more successful they are, and the more successful we are.
In order to build their products well we have to know everything we can about our customers. We have to understand their processes, their end products, the environment their products see, the market they are in, and what it takes for them to be successful in their market.
There are a number of ways to find out about your customers’ needs. The first, and most obvious of course, is through your sales people. It is their job to get in front of the customers and find out everything they can about them. A great sales person will be able to learn a great deal about her customers, and what they need from your company. The second way is through company to company meetings. When the customer comes to your company to do a survey, take a tour, or meet with their counterparts in your company, they want to learn everything they can about your company. We in turn. try to do the same in return, but not often enough.
But there’s another way, a better way, and that is the customer survey. Now, I’m not talking about those little five simple question surveys that we have to send out to meet our ISO requirements – not that there is anything wrong with those, they serve a purpose. But that is not the kind of survey I am talking about.
No, I am talking about a well-thought out, personally delivered, customer survey. A survey filled with pertinent questions, that properly asked and answered, will give you a complete picture of what your customer is like. What follows is an example of a good survey that I have used in the past. Check it out and use it on your customers.
One bit of key advice I will give you. Make sure this survey is done in real time on the phone. This is not something to send in and expect your customers to fill it in like a test…ain’t gonna happen. Actually, the very fact, that you are taking the time to make a date with your customer, to talk to him, so that you can figure out how to do a better job for them is part of the appeal of a survey like this one. Your customers will be impressed.
Here are some of the guidelines to follow to do it right:
- Have your sales people chose the customers to survey
- Have a non-sales person perform the survey. Make sure this person is friendly and easy to talk to. The more this person is able to get the customer to talk, the better it will be.
- Make sure the person is polite and not invasive. This survey should be done on the customers’ time.
- Choose only seven or eight customers and make sure they represent a cross-section of your customers
Here is the survey:
Part One: In the first part of the survey we are attempting to find out how your company is doing in terms of servicing your customers.
1. How would you rate our company as a supplier?
2. Do you find our company an easy customer friendly board shop to do business with?
3. Do you feel that we adequately handle all of your needs? Technical? Quick Turn? __ Quality? Price? Other?
4. Do you feel that you can rely on our sales force to act as your customer advocate?
5. Are you happy with our products and services?
6. Do you like doing business with our company?
7. Do you plan to use us in the future?
8. What type of specific requirements do you use our company for?
9. What is the single most important factor is in your decision to place your business with our company?
Part Two: Getting your customers’ perception of your company
We are trying to get a better understanding of how we are perceived in the marketplace. With this in mind, I want to ask you these questions:
11. In terms of annual revenue, what size in dollars do you think our company is?
12. How do you categorize us when it comes to technology level?
13. Is it your perception that our company is a Prototype shop? Production shop? High Technology shop? Do you know that we do (what our company niche is)?
14. How long do you think we have been in business?
15. Is ISO important in your selection of a vendor?
16. Would you recommend us to other customers who use our products?
Part three of the survey has to do with how you can become a better supplier to the customer.
(Thank the customer for being so patient then tell him you only have a few of questions left)
We only have a few more questions. These basically have to do with making us a better supplier.
17. If there were one single thing you would like to see us improve upon, what would that be?
18. Is there a particular technology that our company is currently not doing that you would like to see us get into?
19. Please describe what you would consider a great supplier?
20. Do you like to order production quantities from the same company that built the prototypes and preproduction orders?
21. When ordering, is it important that your supplier be located relatively near your facility?
22. Now it’s your turn, are there any questions or comments you would like to express?
Then complete the survey by saying:
Thank you again for your time and for the business you have given our company. Again my name is _____________, the next time you are visiting our facility please make sure to stop by and say hello.
They key is to summarize this information and use it as effectively as possible. List all of the questions and their answers together. This should give you good insight into what your customers as whole think about your company. From these answers you create your action plan. For example if you are in the prototype business and half of your customers do not know it, you can focus on getting that message out. If all or most of your customers say they need an ISO vendor or vendor that has a certain qualification like AS 9100, and you’re not, you’ve got a problem to fix.
The important thing is to use this information wisely. In one form or another, your customers should be surveyed at least once a year. Its only common sense.
Managing a sales team is just like managing a sports team. You strive to put the best team on the field and then manage them to greatness. It means just like a sports team you must deal with all the team members as individuals figuring out how to handle each of them from the prima donnas to the underachievers to the rookies and then you must bring them together as one cohesive unit that will work together towards one common goal of winning the game or in our case making forecast.
It means finding and signing the veteran proven superstars and the rookies with great promise and the so-so middling players and coaching and motivating them to greatness.
It means being able to evaluate the synergy among the players so they can all function as one effective team.
But, as I said earlier the most important thing is put the best team on the field or in the case of sales in the field.
But you must be careful because this not as easy as it sounds because nasty little details like lives and families and personal details are involved…or are they?
Yes, they are but you must overcome them. You as a sales manager must have a clear and concise direction towards a defined goal. You must know where you are going. You should know exactly what success looks like. And then you must communicate that to your team so that you will all be rowing in the same direction. In short you have to keep your eye on the prize.
And a big part of achieving that goal is knowing what tactics it will take to achieve it. It will also mean knowing what you can expect from each member of your sales team. This is why fundamentals like target accounts and account plans and account by account monthly forecasts are so important. If you are going to meet a lofty goal you must develop a tactical plan that will can be broken down into a step by step process; a day by day, week by week, month by month, quarter by quarter process that will eventually lead to you and your team making your goal for the year.
By doing this and by also measuring your progress with such diligent you will know always exactly where you are on this journey of making your goal.
But let’s get back to the most important part of the team and that is the individual players or in our case sales people and how we manage them. Here are five things you have to look at when managing a sales person”
- Does this person have a passion for sales? Remember you hire passion you teach product. This is critical. Passion cannot be taught.
- Is this person a team player? Is she willing to sacrifice for the team?
- Does this person treat his job as a career? Does he treat it as something like a craft so that he is always honing his skills and learning how to be better?
- Is this person teachable? Does she “know everything” or is she willing to learn new things?
- And finally, is this person willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Is this person to work day and night to make that forecast? Is this person willing to work weekends if that is what it takes? Is this person ready to help his teammates make their goals knowing that if they win the entire team wins?
And there is one more…always under-promise and over deliver.
6. Will this person go that proverbial extra mile to take one for the team?
Think about these six characteristics and think about your team. Are they ready to go to the world series? Are they ready to make that forecast and bring in enough new customers and sales to drive your company to have a successful year? You as the manager had better be sure that they are, because that my friend is your job…Its only common sense.
Most people will tune out when you tell them how great your company is. The will even turn you off if you spend too much time talking about all of the great things your company can do for them. And they will practically throw you out of their office when you start to pull the dreaded Power Point presentation out of your bag! They expect you to tell them how great your company is, you are after all there to sell them on your company and its’ services they would be shocked if you did anything but that and that’s the problem. They don’t really care what you say when it comes to talking about your company to the point where it only becomes a bunch of blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada to them sort of like the parent talk in Peanuts.
So what are you supposed to do about it? How do you get your message across to them if they tune you out when you even come near talking about your company? Simple you get other people to talk about your company. You get your best customers to tell potential customers about your products and services. There is nothing more powerful that a customer’s testimonial or a customer’s service story.
Look, it’s pretty simple people like to hear what other people have to say about a product they are thinking of buying. We all do it right?
When you’re looking towards buying a new car you are going to talk to people who have the same brand and model of that car. Hell you’ll even stop a person in a super market parking lot and ask her about her new Lexus if you are thinking of buying one for yourself. And most importantly you could actually base your buying decision on what that person says to you in the three-minute conversation. You will take that person’s opinion much more seriously than all of the millions of dollars of advertising that Lexus has spent promoting their new model.
You’ll do the same thing with just about any other major purchase you are currently considering. We put much more weight on what the person who has used the product says that anything the manufacturer of that product has to say.
The same applies in our business today. We can tell our customers until we are blue in the face what a great product we have but it is not going to amount to a proverbial hill of beans when compared with what our current customers say about us.
Now I hope we all have some happy and satisfied customers…some “best customers.” If you don’t, or if you feel that none of your customers will want to say nice things about you then you have much more serious problems and you should go take care of those problems before you try to sell anything to anyone. The old “we’re no worse than anyone else” justification has no place in business and no place in the referral business.
Okay not that this is out of the way let’s get back to asking your good and satisfied customers for referrals. In his new book High Profit Prospecting, Mark Hunter gives is a four step plan for getting referrals from customers:
- Ask for referrals. Every time the customer sees value in what you’re selling is a time when you should ask for a referral.
- Connect with the referral. Ideally the person who gives you the name will connect the two of you through an email or phone call. Even if that is not the case, following up as soon as possible is showing respect to the person who referred you.
- Keep the person who gave you the referral in the loop. Don’t keep the person who gave you the referral in the dark. By keeping them in the loop you will encourage them to provide you with more referrals.
- Be appreciative each step along the way. Nothing you do will create more referrals along the way than showing appreciation to each person in the process.
Once again there is no better way to get new business than to have your current satisfied customers tell other customers about your products and services.
One final thing to remember and that is that good referrals are based on good service, actually outstanding service. You have to be good enough that your customers will be proud and happy to be giving out your contact information to others. You have to be good enough so that you’re customer actually feel so smart for using you products and services that they want to tell everyone about you and your company. Its only common sense.
Everyone is struggling to fill their factories these days, as the fight for more business heats up. It used to be that contract manufacturers had a good solid base of good customers, they could depend on year after year. Many of them were satisfied to pick up a couple of customers a year as their base remained stable, But, all of that has changed for a couple of reasons. The first being that attrition has set in, stuff happens, companies go out of business, or change direction, or have their products built overseas or they are acquired and somebody new and more powerful is making their contract manufacturing decisions.
So now my contract manufacturing friends have to find new and innovative way to capture more business. And, as we have been talking about, the last few week, finding new contract manufacturing opportunities is a much more intense process than selling bare boards, for example. Winning new EMS customers is a much longer and more arduous process, one that takes more planning, persistence, and yes, patience. This means that if you want to increase your business you have to start early, in most cases so early, that you won’t even feel you need new customers when you start in. Or, I have a better idea, never stop the first place.
Working with CM’s over the years, it has always surprised me that many of them managed to keep their companies full with little or even no real sales and marketing effort. When I’d asked them how they got their business they would tell me that it was word of mouth, or just a good reputation, or a good base of a few solid customers.
But now things have changed, and many CM’s are out there looking for new business, if you are one of them, here are five things you can do to kick start your sales and marketing effort going forward:
- Get your name out to the marketplace. No one is going to buy from you if they have never heard of you. Develop a good marketing and branding plan that includes social media, and implement it immediately. Tell your company’s story. What are you good at? Why do your customers like you? Why should potential customers work with you? Make sure you get some of your good, longstanding customers to vouch for you. Get their testimonials, these will be the most effective and powerful part of your marketing plan. Remember, you have over one thousand competitors out there and you have to be the one that is outstanding.
- Offer quick turn to new product introduction companies. Quick turn assembly services are in demand right now. You customers want to be able to get their initial products very quickly, and they are willing to pay for this service. Many times, they will provide you with the complete kit and you just have to assemble it ,I know that many of you don’t like to this because of lost revenue on the parts, but be patient, offering this service will pay off in the very near future. Your chances of getting the production business go up ten-fold if you have built the prototypes.
- Be willing to collaborate with other companies. There is always strength in partnerships. Instead of being limited by your own brick and mortar capabilities, be willing to extend a hand of partnership to other CMs who cannot do what you do and also CMs who can do what you cannot, because together you will be much stronger, and create a much stronger offering to your customers. There are many large CMs both domestic and offshore who are looking for smaller and more flexible CM’s to collaborate with to use as their new product introduction partners. Seek one of those and partner with them. It will be good for both companies.
- Find some good independent sales reps. And I mean good ones. Make sure they have business at hand that they can bring you. Let’s be get real, a good rep can bring you introductions. She can bring you RFPs but she cannot bring you the business. You are going to have to win the business yourself. But a good rep can bring you the opportunities and that is what he is paid to do. Find two or three very good reps and then treat them like part of the company, part of the family and they will deliver for you.
- And finally, pay attention to your customers. Go out of your way to always give them spectacular customer service and they will love you for it. They say I most businesses it costs about ten thousand dollars to acquire a new customer, but I would suspect that it takes even more of an investment to win a contract manufacturing customer so protect your investment at all cost. When you finally win that customer, do everything you can to keep him.
And finally, one more, always under promise and over deliver, right? Never stop, never ever stop your sales and marketing effort once you have started it. Keep it going, week after week month after month year after year and always be improving, getting better at it all the time and in the end, it will pay off. It’s only common sense.
Contract manufacturing is a service not a product. As CEMs, we are actually building someone else’s product, someone else’s baby. Our customers are putting the fate of their companies in our hands. If we build the product incorrectly our customers will be the ones to pay. In the end they are the ones who have their name on the product. They are responsible for designing, engineering, and marketing the products, we are responsible for the manufacturing of that product.
Think about that for a moment. Consider how much trust comes into play when our customers decide to turn over the manufacturing of their products to our contract manufacturing services. They are putting their company’s reputation in our hands, they are putting the entire future of their company in our hands.
This is a huge decision on their part. They must make sure that we are able to handle all their needs. They should be certain that we have all the processes in place to deliver a product that is as good, if not better than the one they themselves could produce, and at a better, more competitive price. So, these companies have two very difficult decisions to make. The first being if they should use a contract manufacturer in the first place; and the second, which contract manufacturer will they select in the end? And this is where, we as professional sales people come into the picture. It is our responsibility to convince our customers that they will be in good hands if they decided to trust out company with the fabrication of their product.
When you consider all these factors that go into a decision like this, it become evident that ours is not a simple sales process. It’s not merely holding up a product and giving a sales pitch for why the customer should buy our product. No, not at all. This sales process is very personal and some would even say emotional. In a way is almost like turning over your child to be raised by others.
When selling contract manufacturing services, as great sales people, we should focus on making our customers feel completely comfortable and yes, safe, and secure, enough in our company to choose us to build their products. This means that when selling to these customers we must focus on the following key factors:
- Reliability: They need to understand, nay believe, that we are completely reliable. The best way to do this is through references and testimonials. They should be able to see a track-record fully based on happy and satisfied customers. Customers who are happy enough with our performance that they are willing to talk about it to other customers. If our target accounts see that we have customers who are willing to stand up and vouch for our reliability they will feel safe a secure in making their decision to engage with us.
- Consistency: When potential customers come to our company we must prove to them that our process is in control and that are production lines are putting out the same great consistently high-quality products from the first assembly, to the last. We must demonstrate that we have all the right systems like ISO in place, assuring them that we have a fool-proof quality assurance system.
- Credibility: This is key. They need to know that we are completely truthful in all our business transactions. This is the time for open-kimono discussions. Our company must be on an open-book basis to our customers. We should concentrate on showing them that we are a real, viable, and yes financially sound company, that will not only be there for them today but in the future as well.
- Flexible and easy to work with: This is so very important. As a CEM, you are literally their business partner in a relationship that is much more intense than the typical vendor/customer relationship. As a great CEM partner, you must always have the customers’ welfare at heart, realizing that you are playing an integral part in their success as well as yours. You have to always be prepared to walk that extra mile to assure that your customers are selling the best products money can buy, products that your company is producing for them.
As a salesperson, it is your responsibility to convey all of these points to your customers, to assure them that your company will indeed treat them as true partners. But you cannot do it alone. The most important thing to remember about selling contract manufacturing services is that the entire team should be involved in the sale. From the owner/president of the company, to the program managers, to the Quality managers, to the department leads, to the all-important purchasing manager, everyone should take part in convincing your customers that your company is unquestionably the most qualified, reliable, consistent, credible, flexible, and capable company in the industry to build that their products, it’s only common sense.
Get out there and do it now!
I know you hate to prospect and you hate to make cold calls, so this is what we have to talk about today. Whether you like it or not. To help us, there is a great book by Mark Hunter called High-Profit Prospecting a trade paperback published by Amacom. This book is a first rate guide to making sure that you squeeze everything you can out of your prospecting. If you are in sales I am not going to ask you to read this book; I am not going to urge you to read this book. No I am going to order you to read this book. This is the best book on prospecting since well since I read Hunter’s buddy Jeb Blount’s book called Fanatical Prospecting. Yeah sorry but I order you to read that one as well.
Look, there are no two ways about it, prospecting is one of the key elements if not the key element of doing a great sales job. You have to find new customers and to do that you have to prospect. Now don’t bother to start listing the excuses and myths about prospecting and why you cannot do it and why it doesn’t work in today’s market, because I have heard them all as has Mark Hunter. Actually to save time he has listed them for us to kick off from his book and here they are, with a few of my own for good measure.
Myth 1: One and Done: A cold call is not leaving a voice mail. You have to keep at it until you actually talk to someone. And by the way a ton of e-mails won’t do it either, they are useful to warm up an upcoming cold call but they are not a real cold call. You have to actually talk to someone to start the sales process.
Myth 2: I’ll prospect when I’m done taking care of my customers: I you believe this you will never call on new customers. No, let the shop take care of your customers and you go find some new ones.
Myth 3: It’s impossible to have dedicated time to prospect: Yeah right. Make the time to prospect, it is after all the most important thing you’ll do all day.
Myth 4: We’ve made it this long without prospecting: As Mark Hunter says in his book, “This myth will sink your company.” This myth has already sunk many other companies in the past. Look you need new customers even if your company is doing a great job and you have many long term customers…stuff happens, companies are bought, companies go out of business or decide to go in a different direction. If you are not always out there getting new customers, you will run out of business and it will be sooner than you think.
Myth 5: If we provide great customer service to our existing customers, we won’t have to prospect: Of course customer service especially great customer service is essential to be successful but you still need to always be prospecting for new customers. Check myth 4 for the reason.
Myth 6: Only “born salespeople” can prospect: No, with a set of skills and a lot of heart, courage and hard work, not to mention patience anyone can be a successful prospector and that’s a fact.
Now I am going to add a few myths of my own.
Myth 7: Ah, my personal favorite, if we build a great product they will come: No, they will not, unless your product is a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield they will not come. You have to tell someone about your products and services for them to know enough to want to talk to you and as a sales person this is your number one responsibility.
Myth 8: No one wants to see me anymore: They are all too busy to see me so it’s much too hard to make appointments. Actually, this is more of an excuse than a myth. Yes, it is true that it is much harder to see people than it has ever been but that’s just too bad. Your job as a sales person is to find a way to make it happen. Look if it’s hard for you to see a buyer it is as hard for your competitor as well so you’re on a level playing field. You have to figure out how to see people and how to get your point across on a phone call or even through the voice mail you leave to intrigue the potential customer enough to make her want to see you.
I think by now you’re getting the point. We as sales people have to prospect, we have to get out there and get in front of new customers. We have to get more involved in lead generation, prospecting, cold calling, first sales calls and getting that first quote and winning that first order. This is want we do. For the next couple of week, I am going to dedicate this column working with you on successful prospecting techniques and I am going to use Mark Hunter’s excellent book as a guide so I’d recommend that you’d do something to help yourself and get out there and get a copy of your own and follow along because there is no way that in 900 words a week I am going to cover everything that is in this important book. Next time we’ll talk about successful factors in lead generation you are not going to want to miss it. Meanwhile stop coming up with your own set of myths of why prospecting doesn’t work and get to work on some prospecting…try it you’ll like it. It’s only common sense.