Our business blogs will facilitate your business development by sharing useful sales practices, opinion pieces and industry insights to support your growth strategy.

The aim is to improve the productivity and performance of your sales function through provision of relevant and essential information to move your business forward.

  • Origin Story
    11/07/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Integrow Sales - The Reason I decided to set up in Business

    There are many reasons for starting in business and these are often very personal to the founder.


    It's for this reason I decided to put into words the journey that led me to undertake the rocky road to setting up my own business.

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  • 08/06/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How to support your technicians & engineers sell more effectively

    I don’t know about you but with less than 2 weeks until the next lot of the lockdown measures are lifted and we take a step towards pre pandemic normality it seems that businesses are ramping up efforts and the wheels of industry are certainly turning at a more accelerated pace.

    Sales conversations are flowing and business confidence is on the ascendancy which has been reflected in the upgrading of UKs growth forecast over the past few weeks.

    An effective sign of business confidence is when opportunities surface, the team moves around and people get promoted and we are certainly seeing signs of that!

    This is a great thing, right? Absolutely! However it does come with a caveat, just how well thought out are these moves? How much consideration is given to enable a successful transition? And how well supported is the recently promoted team member? No one can question the good intent behind the move and equally it is up to the incumbent to prove themselves and make a success of their new position. That said, there are also potential “unforeseen” traps that can lie ahead that would neither be the fault of the incumbent nor their employer.

    This happens a lot in my world whether that’s sales professionals becoming sales leaders or engineers and technical personnel moving into sales positions. In this post I’ll be covering the latter scenario. 

    In industry it’s very common for technical personnel to be moved into sales positions and rightly so owing to their deep understanding of the product or service they sell and the value they bring. Yet this can equally pose a problem and cause friction in the sales process.

    By nature they are typically detail oriented. However if they are engaging with buyers who are not then their tendency to go deep could potentially be baffling to the buyer and scare them off thus shutting down the conversation there and then.

    What is happening in this scenario is that the technical sales person is far too immersed in their world and their solution to consider what is going on in their prospects world and how their offer could solve their prospects problems. This requires a shift in thinking to avoid a potentially combative conversation which could result in a dead end and silence. What you’re looking to do is get the prospect to open up and lean into your solution, receptive to your ideas.

    Getting back to basics, selling is about changing the buyer's state - what you are asking them to do is change their status quo, move out of their comfort zone and step into your solution. You’re looking to create a transformation and that is an incredibly uncomfortable experience for anyone - so with that in mind it’s about creating the right environment for the sales conversation to take place.

    So what can be done? Create the right environment for the conversation to take place. Think about the buyer's journey and put the systems in place to support them through it. Develop customer centric processes to enhance their experience of working with you. After all, the sales process will define how they perceive working with you after the contract has been signed.

    Some simple steps to do this are:

    1. Learn what their challenges are then define what they are to verify you have understood

    2. To do this requires active listening to appreciate what's going on in their world

    3. Share readily based on what you have learned. Provide them with information that is relevant, timely and thoughtful. Anything that will bring value to the relationship and will support them in considering their buying options

    4. Deliver value. You will know what this is having taken the time to listen and learn as noted in the previous points

    5. Earn trust. You must earn the right to develop the relationship and make the sale

    6. Create a feedback loop where you're constantly looking to improve your offer based on how the conversation goes

    So let’s put this in context of the technical sales person. Although their in-depth knowledge and technical expertise is indeed an asset - and the reason they have been selected to represent your organisation - they don’t need to put it all out there at the earliest opportunity and potentially overwhelm the audience. Discuss the pertinent issues as they arise and mention anything that is relevant to the conversation at the time it becomes relevant. You may well need to delve into your knowledge bank at some stage and when this happens, ensure it makes the right impact rather than risk blowing their mind apart.

    Showing a little restraint could pay dividends and remember, less is more!

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic so feel free to comment however if you want to understand more about the revenue generation ability of your business then click here to take the FREE scorecard.


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  • Prospecting small talk
    17/03/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Quit the jibber jabber and get to the point! How NOT to start a sales call

    We all get them and for many of us starting in business we have to make them which can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience.

    What I’m talking about is picking up the phone and making a sales call.

    With this in mind it’s understandable that we try to make the task pleasant for ourselves by attempting to befriend the person on the other end. It’s here you get the typical pleasantries and small talk that is delivered under the guise of building rapport but it actually serves to deviate from what we’re trying to achieve which is to engage with the prospect and identify if there’s an opportunity to make a sale.

    It’s at this point I want to share that inane small talk is a pet peeve of mine. From my perspective as a recipient of these types of calls it’s incredibly annoying getting asked, “how are you?” from a stranger who is obviously trying to sell me something - it simply comes across as insincere. I know I’m not alone in my frustrations given the conversations I’ve had recently where this topic has come up.

    So what does it look like?

    It’s throwaway questions or statements that do not add value to the conversation. It typically manifests itself as; “how are you?” (as if that will elicit a genuine response). Any mentions of the weather or anything else equally innocuous - I’m sure you get the point and have examples of your own.

    And why do we do it?

    My reasoning is twofold:

    1. Like I’ve mentioned previously, many of us feel uncomfortable picking up the phone for the purpose of making the sale so in order to get through the ordeal we try to be as affable as possible. We look to get the call recipient on side so that we can seemingly raise the matter of what we sell and hope that the person we are speaking with is charmed into submission.

    Naturally many of us experience anxiety when it comes to rejection which is why we often deviate from the task. This is perfectly natural yet it is counterproductive as chances are you are likely to irritate the person you are speaking with who will be in a rush to get you off the phone. This could result in the prospect giving you into a false sense of security by agreeing to your request for them to ghost you from that point onwards or they could even hang up on you.

    2. Because we’ve subscribed to the outdated notion of rapport building.

    This stems from all those sales training sessions we’ve attended where emphasis has been placed on building rapport by deploying ice breaker questions. These are typically meaningless comments that bring nothing to the relationship. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t attempt to build rapport but do it in a meaningful way. Put it this way, the quality of your conversation openers could signal the quality of your product or service in the mind of your prospect. From experience I am far more receptive to an assured sales person than I am with someone trying to be my mate.

    So what’s a better way?

    That’s simple - just be frank, open and honest - which is always a good way to start a relationship. Remember that this is an unsolicited call, your prospect is busy and you are interrupting their daily flow so acknowledge it. Thank them for taking the call, state you will be brief in your introduction then be brief.

    If you have positioned your offer well and done some rudimentary research on your prospect and their business then they may well be open to continuing the conversation. That said, they may not and in which case you withdraw from the conversation politely and move on to the next call whereby this person may be more receptive to your offer.

    In essence business development is a matter of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time however this all starts with initiating the sales conversation.

    If you take the time to be thoughtful in terms of your approach rather than regurgitating meaningless phrases you might get further with your prospect but if not then at least you won’t be wasting your time on conversations that don’t go anywhere!

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic or if you have any pet peeves when it comes to sales.

    Thanks for reading!

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  • 18/02/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How understanding "Jobs to be Done" can drive revenue performance

    In spite of the challenging economic environment we are going through there are many businesses that have actually experienced strong(er) growth during these uncertain times.

    With certain routes to markets being closed off, albeit temporarily as a result of lockdown restrictions, many businesses have had to rethink their strategy to enable them to reach their customers more effectively.

    Great products that serve the customer well will always perform strongly and we can see that from scrolling our linkedin feeds. However great products backed up with great insights, a well thought out marketing plan and a comprehensive sales process that puts the customer at the centre of what the business does will really drive revenue performance to another level.

    So what contributes to rapid growth?

    One concept that really makes an impact on the desirability of your product and therefore your sales volume is jobs to be done theory yet for some reason it’s not often covered in the usual sales and marketing guides. Although some of the themes run through the resources you come across, as a practice it somehow does not get the recognition and prominence it deserves.

    So what is “jobs to be done theory”? Jobs to be done (frequently referred to as jobs theory) is a theory of consumer action - it’s built around the theory that people buy products and services to get jobs done. It helps you solve the right problem for your consumers by describing the mechanisms that cause a consumer to adopt an innovation. As people complete these jobs, they have certain measurable outcomes that they’re attempting to achieve.

    That is generally the essence but what you’re effectively doing is aligning the company's value creation activities (your offer) to customer-defined metrics (their intention to buy and physical purchase). As a rule revenue generation follows value creation, so it’s your job to find out how your target market values your product. What emotional triggers does your product create? What does purchasing your product mean to them?

    Too many times product businesses fail because they don’t focus on the right problem and building the right product. Jobs to be done theory helps you prioritise your product features by focusing on the job that people are hiring your product to do. The theory states that markets grow, evolve, and renew whenever customers have a Job to be Done, and then buy a product to complete it (get the Job Done).

    So what does this mean for your business and how can you apply the concept to grow your business?

    Only by getting answers to the question, “what job is your product being hired to do?” can you develop your messaging in a way that creates an emotional uplift with your customer and gets them to take the desired action.

    To explain this in a more succinct way I have attached a link to a 7 minute video to demonstrate how McDonalds adopted the theory which unearthed a surprising discovery and as a result they were able to apply the findings with great effect.

    Businesses often market too readily on product attributes and features which really limits their scope and may result in their offer becoming transactional and commoditised leading to desperate sales tactics to close a deal.

    However by looking at the bigger picture based on truly understanding the value your product brings you will be able to come up with the messaging that resonates with your audience and of course by developing these insights you will have a stronger platform to increase your sales volumes and smash your revenue goals. Much like some of these companies that have experienced rapid growth during a pandemic have done.

    There’s no escaping the fact that business development becomes a whole lot easier when selling an awesome product that completely addresses the requirements of your market and therefore out manoeuvres your competition.

    So do you know what job is your product being hired to do? I would love to know your thoughts on the subject.

    If you want to better understand the revenue generation ability of your business in context of how you perform in your market then take the FREE Revenue Gen-ability scorecard to get your results in an instant. https://revenuegenability.scoreapp.com
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  • Sales Productivity
    07/02/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Sales Productivity - How can you achieve more with less?

    In business we’re constantly being challenged to do more with less as economic constraints take effect across numerous commercial sectors. So with that in mind business leaders need to figure out how their business processes can be optimised to get the best out of the resources available to them.

    To enable this to happen it’s never been more important to find ways to improve our productivity within our respective industries. Whether the business is a start up or turning over billions - it’s essential to eliminate any activities that don’t contribute to the attainment of our business goals.

    One area frequently overlooked in terms of productivity is within the sales function yet that is where typically a lot of time and energy is wasted. The impact of this can be incredibly significant given the department is chiefly accountable for generating revenue for the business.

    These issues become apparent when observing businesses going to market with their products. There are a lot of conversations to get through to make a sale so with that being the case the salesperson doesn't want to spend the majority of their time in admin mode - drafting emails, writing up notes, digging out relevant information and so on.

    The stats speak for themselves…

    Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects so where does the rest of the time go?

    • 21% of their day is taken up with writing emails
    • 17% of the time is spent on entering data
    • 12% is taken up with going to internal meetings, and 
    • 12% on scheduling calls.

    So with that in mind wouldn’t you want your sales team to spend their time actually doing what you pay them for - selling?

    It really doesn’t have to be this way and by no means should we accept these practices as the status quo as there’s so much technology available, including free technology, to address these issues. You just have to think about it in the context of what you need for your business.

    So why is addressing sales productivity so important?

    Put simply, it's critical to the success of a business. It helps those in charge make better decisions. If you know the optimum rate at which your organisation should be performing at then you will have a better understanding of the resources required to achieve your business goals.

    Within the sales department, it’s unrealistic to expect the team to be spending 100% of their time on business development activities as there will always be downtime that has to be accounted for. For instance a salesperson will have to invest some of their time in training or being coached. Plus they will inevitably be involved in occasional business meetings, not to mention other absences including holidays and potential sick days.

    Therefore a good productivity benchmark in terms of time spent selling is 65% - this is double the amount mentioned in the statistic cited earlier. Think about what can be achieved with double the capacity available to you.

    Furthermore unproductive salespeople are not happy salespeople. Convoluted systems and processes affect the sales team’s performance which impacts their morale and therefore their ability to do their jobs.

    Being in business is challenging enough without having a demotivated sales team. Therefore it’s in the business’s interest to support them with sales enablement systems not only to improve return on investment but also to improve staff retention and reduce costly impacts of high staff turnover.

    What mistakes do business leaders typically make in terms of their sales productivity?

    1. Assigning the sales team to ad hoc / non sales related tasks

    Using the sales team to carry out ad hoc business tasks like answering all incoming calls regardless which department it is for. In smaller organisations without the luxury of a reception desk or switchboard there is a temptation to request that the sales team pick up these calls.

    The problem with this is that it devalues their roles which is far from ideal given they’re accountable for generating revenue for your business.

    Handling all calls coming into the business takes them away from what they’re meant to be doing and can be particularly demotivating when they have challenging quotas to achieve. Especially when they’re spending significant time transferring calls to operations or the finance department.

    Nowadays with so many low cost options that can help with this it’s really worth considering using one of the many call answering services available on the market to address this issue.

    2. Increasing the sales team too fast

    Another all too frequent error is to take on new hires as a knee jerk reaction to achieving sales quotas rather than thinking how you can better utilise your existing sales team.

    It happens when you see your sales team working at capacity and instead of understanding what they’re doing to determine if they can work more efficiently you opt to make a new hire.

    The consequence this has on cash flow is significant. There are many businesses that have expanded their team too fast and have consequently imploded because their revenue does not cover their overheads. By evaluating this ahead of time you would have been able to predict the situation in advance and therefore avoided this unfortunate outcome.

    3. Introducing too many tools and applications into the sales process

    The abundance of apps and productivity tools on the market has made the task of deciding which ones to adopt increasingly difficult. One consequence of this is that many businesses have incorporated way too many tools into their sales process and they’re therefore getting in the way of what they were designed to achieve.

    It’s at this point you need to evaluate your technology stack in the context of your business and look for ways to simplify your processes to enable your sales team to get on with the job at hand.

    4. Analysis Paralysis

    Conversely the proliferation of the technology available has resulted in analysis paralysis meaning that many other business leaders have resorted to doing nothing, taking no action and are simply standing still.

    As the maxim goes in business, if you’re not going forwards you’re going backwards and once momentum moves away from you it’s difficult to get it back.

    The truth is there is no perfect solution when it comes to selecting the right system, it’s simply about finding the best fit for your business and then committing to it.

    You could always do an audit at a later stage and make a change when the time is right but the trick is to take action that will get you to the next step in your business growth journey.

    What can you do to improve your sales productivity and effectiveness?

    So you’ve come to realise that this is something you need to address but how do you go about it.

    First of all, evaluate your business and business goals.

    What is the current situation within your sales department?

    The simplest way to start is to measure your productivity, track the activity of the sales team and understand what they are spending their time doing? If it’s disproportionately being spent on admin or other non value added activities then you need to take action.

    Document your findings to assess the areas you need to address and once you have done this you should have a better idea of what you need to do going forward.

    But it all starts with having a good understanding of where your business is at and then mapping out where you want to be so that you can determine what steps will help you get there.

    Simply undertaking this activity will give you greater clarity and with that greater confidence to move forward with your growth plans.

    If you want to a better understanding of your company’s sales effectiveness and productivity position then take this FREE quick fire test which will give you immediate feedback on your current situation https://revenuegenability.scoreapp.com

    Alternatively feel free to get in touch to discuss and issues you may be having around your sales productivity https://meetings.hubspot.com/sianthomas/initial-co...
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  • 27/01/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How do you prepare for a sales call?

    Ever since I first attended my local brownies group all those years ago the mantra “Be Prepared” has always stuck with me and carried me throughout my life so far.

    By no means am I virtue signalling as I have not always executed with the best effect but find that when I go back to the basics and apply these principles I tend to get on better with the task at hand.

    This has been further impressed on me by the saying, “Fail to prepare then prepare to fail.”

    If this is conventional wisdom it’s always surprising to see many business development professionals overlook the preparation stage of their interactions. This is not necessarily the case when it comes to business meetings but I see it many times when salespeople prospect which is a problem given this is the first impression they give to a potential buyer.

    With the tools readily available and a lot of information within relatively easy reach then why is it that many sales people skip this step?

    For instance, we all get fed up with those phone calls from canvassers who call your business and ask to speak to the owner. For me that is a red flag because you should know who the business owner is, had you taken the time to research. Not only does it demonstrate your keenness to work with me it also makes the relationship less commoditised and more valued.

    This does not mean you have to labour over the process but simply spending 5 to 10 minutes researching online will provide enough information to earn you the right for a more detailed discussion with your prospect.

    I am not saying the information you may get is correct but at least it shows good intent rather than laziness. Even if it is not quite right - for instance if the contact has moved on, then this is at least a better position to start a conversation from rather than having done no research at all.

    And where such information is not available is not available (some sectors / organisations aren’t as open or transparent as others) then at least you know that and can allude to that in how you approach your conversation.

    In terms of how I approach a conversation, I have a preparation checklist which covers:

    What type of lead is it?

    Is it a referral lead, inbound lead, target account lead, closed / lost lead? This is important to know as it will determine your approach.

    Their Linkedin presence:
    • Company page.

    What industry are they in? How many years have they been in business? How many employees do they have? Are they social media savvy? Do they use video?

    • Personal page
    What is his or her background? What interests does he or she have? What does he or she stand for, what causes is he or she passionate about? And so on

    This provides you with clues as to what drives the business and the individual. It will help you determine the tone of the conversation., the language to use and provides other information to help you tailor your approach.

    Their website

    What do they offer? What’s their messaging? What clues are there as to whether they would be a good fit for your offer?

    Social Media

    Where do they communicate most? Who are their customers? What does their audience look like? Check out their feeds for news, recruitment etc.

    This really should not take longer than 10 minutes as there are no guarantees that you will get hold of the right contact so you don’t want to spend too much time on this. That said, if you do connect then the impact you will create is worth it as it demonstrates your interest in them and who doesn’t like working with those who show an interest?

    So how do you prepare for your calls? Is there anything you think I may have missed. I would love to know your comments.

    If you would like to understand more about your effectiveness when it comes to preparing and starting sales conversations then please take the FREE Revenue Gen-ability scorecard.


    Alternatively delve deeper into a sales topic by attending one of my pending business development events.


    If you just want to have a conversation around your sales challenge then by all means book a meeting with me by clicking the following link.


    Thank you for reading.
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  • 11/01/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How do you know what to believe?

    It’s difficult to know what to believe these days.

    As we enter the first day of lockdown 3 it is beyond belief that there are many out there who still think covid-19 is a conspiracy.

    Added to that there are those who believe that by accepting a vaccine we are putting ourselves in danger.

    As someone eager to get back to some resemblance of normality I’m chomping at the bit to get vaccinated as in my view this is our way out of the pandemic so I really can’t fathom where those other opinions have come from. However this year instead of getting embroiled in a social media stand off I have resolved to understand the situation from another perspective. 

    So with that in mind the purpose of this post is not to thwart any argument that contradicts my own but rather examine the idea of where beliefs derive.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in rolling my eyes when hearing the term fake news. Somewhat jaded by its overuse as over the last few years it's something we hear with frequent abandon in modern day parlance exacerbated by the omnipresence of social media. That said, the abundance of fake news is a genuine problem, impacting every facet of our lives and therefore something we need to pay real attention to. 

    Having recently geeked out on the excellent Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True History and British History’s Biggest Fibs series with Lucy Worsley we know that this is by no means a new phenomena yet I was astonished to observe that historical inaccuracies are still shaping our modern day thinking. 

    The manifestation of these events are still being experienced in our lives to this very day and it’s specifically pertinent given the UK is embarking on it’s journey outside the EU this week.

    Again I’m not here to pass judgement on anyone as to how they voted in the referendum. The purpose of this post is to challenge ourselves to question our world view as the polarisation of opinion over the past few years, whether on the topic of brexit or the pandemic, is a reflection of how we see the world which is shaped by the information we digest.

    Simply put, our beliefs shape our thoughts which leads to our actions or inactions and therefore our ability to move forward.

    The thing that surprised me most when watching Ian Hislop’s programme is that in many instances the misinformation we are fed mostly on our social media channels is not meant to make us believe a certain way but rather make us cynical about everything we read. Effectively encouraging us to not believe in much at all and reject anything we come across, in other words become cynical. 

    A cynical world is a very dangerous place to be as we get blindsided with distractions and take our eyes off the ball to opportunists, so the main takeaway I got was to be skeptical instead. 

    You can do this by asking yourself the following questions when consuming information online:

    • Who is telling me this?
    • Why are they telling me this?
    • Do they actually know anything about this?
    • Can they be trusted?

    As we navigate our way through the most challenging times many of us will experience in our lives we have never been in more need of help to make good decisions. Misleading information and interpretations will hinder our ability to do this and move forward both personally and professionally.

    It would be great to get your thoughts on the topic and share how you undertake your due diligence on processing information. 

    Musing over this topic I entered the rabbit hole of the internet and came across the following article discussing the differences between cynics & skeptics and the impact it can have on your business especially if you are looking to grow your team.


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  • 11/01/2021 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Not all leads are created equal

    New year and a new set of goals come into play as we forge our way forward intending for this year to be better than the last.

    Irrespective of when your financial year ends, January is still the month where businesses are most likely to focus on the activities that will support their growth for the months to come. This means once the plans have been drafted attention will turn to sales and revenue generation.

    Whether you have internal sales teams or have opted to outsource the function, one of the key activities in business development will be lead generation to ensure you keep the sales pipeline flowing giving you confidence that sales will result at the end.

    Now here is the rub, a sales lead is a catch all term that can have different interpretations depending on what your expectations are and there lies the problem.

    Let me explain, technically a contact name with an email address could be considered a lead but it is nowhere near as desirable as having a prospect that is primed for a conversation with a sales rep - yet the two fall under the lead category.

    It’s for this purpose I wanted to share the different types of leads there are which will help you determine your lead generation goals and will enable you to set your expectations with those assigned to develop leads for you.

    In the main they are:
    1. The Unwitting Lead
    2. The Marketing Qualified Lead
    3. The Sales Qualified Lead

    1. The Unwitting Lead

    The unwitting lead is not an industry term but one I’ve adopted for this example. This exists at the very basic end of the lead spectrum and is effectively a contact that has been merely identified as a lead. Here you will only have rudimentary information such as a name, email address and perhaps a mobile number. Typically you will acquire this information from a company specialising in selling data unless you assign someone to research this for you specifically.

    Although the lead will be known to you, you will not be known to the lead so your only marketing option is to email them. The problem with this is that it’s a complete stab in the dark and chances are, even if the email gets through to their inbox having by passed their spam filters, they are more likely to blanket delete it along with all their other unsolicited emails.

    I'm not saying it doesn’t work but the chances are slim and may require intensive nurturing to get them to a stage where they are ready to engage with you and that is without even starting a debate on GDPR implications.

    2. The Marketing Qualified Lead

    A step up from that is a Marketing Qualified Lead, often abbreviated to MQL.

    This is defined as a lead who has indicated interest in what a brand has to offer based on marketing efforts or is otherwise more likely to become a customer than other leads. An MQL has taken the first steps to becoming a customer and is primed to receive additional contact.

    Now this is where things are getting interesting and you can begin engaging with the prospect. However just because interest has been expressed doesn’t mean it will go anywhere as there could be numerous factors involved in the decision making - much of which you will not be aware of and will certainly have no control over.

    Although categorised as more likely to convert into a customer there may still be a lot more nurturing required so at this stage you can label them as lukewarm.

    3. The Sales Qualified Lead

    Finally we have Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs. This is a prospective customer who has been qualified and deemed ready for the sales team to contact and close a sale. Your sales team can answer specific questions and provide one-on-one time.

    Assessing the three different types I’m confident in betting that I know which one businesses would prefer to work with therefore concluding that in fact not all leads are created equal.

    So why does this matter and what does it mean?

    As mentioned earlier it’s all about being clear in terms of your expectations with those you’ve assigned the task of lead generation.

    Whether you have internal capability or have decided to outsource the role we all have to be conscious of budgets and ensure we assign the right value to the right activity - especially during these challenging economic times.

    It’s with this in mind whoever you engage to do this for you need to be clear on the quality of the lead you require for the resource you have available. Therefore due diligence is required to assess lead generation performance.

    Maybe even consider what hand off criteria you require to progress the lead into a sales conversation or appointment.

    This will take some effort to develop initially but you will reap the rewards in the long term in terms of the time and money you will save on appointment no shows and other disappointments resulting from your lead qualification process.

    If you would like to have a conversation to discuss your lead generation or business development strategy then simply complete the contact form here. Alternatively take the FREE Sales Effectiveness Scorecard which will report on your lead generation performance https://saleseffectiveness.scoreapp.com.
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  • 8 Ways to Get Better at Sales Prospecting
    17/12/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    8 Ways to Get Better at Sales Prospecting

    How much time do you spend on sales prospecting in your business?

    Given that more than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process it is little wonder that the average amount of time a salesperson would spend on prospecting is 10%

    So what exactly is Prospecting?

    According to Shopify, “Prospecting is the first step in the sales process, which consists of identifying potential customers, aka prospects. The goal of prospecting is to develop a database of likely customers and then systematically communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential customer to current customer."

    The original use of the term “prospector” refers to the efforts of individuals to find gold by visually scanning creek beds and rock formations. When flecks of gold were spotted, the prospectors would spend time sifting through dirt to find the valuable nuggets and flecks that were left behind when dirt was washed away.

    It’s this historical reference which could explain why so many in business are reluctant to do it, as to be fair prospecting can be considered painstaking, boring and repetitive. It’s about graft rather than glamour.

    Yet it is an essential part of the sales process as HubSpot Research found that 72% of companies with less than 50 new opportunities per month didn't achieve their revenue goals, compared to 15% with 51 to 100 new opportunities and just 4% for companies with 101 to 200 new opportunities.

    However if some digital “experts” are to believed then there’s hardly any need to undertake prospecting at all as by implementing a few SEO or Inbound hacks here and there - all your lead generation prayers are answered.

    BUT as any savvy business owner will know, that’s not the case and it is indeed a mistake not to allocate sufficient time to this activity. Especially if the business is young, limited on resources and has ambitions to grow beyond being a micro business.

    The uncomfortable truth about sales prospecting is that the majority of the time is spent being rejected as unlike most other jobs, rejection is a significant part of the process. Therefore it’s crucial to develop the right mindset when prospecting.

    The good news is that there are steps you can take to improve your results in this area which can make the job of prospecting more interesting and rewarding. So it’s with this in mind I wanted to share the following tips.

    1. Be clear on your objective

    What are your prospecting goals?

    For the most part it’s to establish whether a prospect is a right fit for your offer so you can either qualify or disqualify them. If it’s the former then be clear when to move them to the next stage of your sales process and have a plan for that outcome.

    2. Be clear on your audience

    This is a theme that runs through the majority of my articles and the reason is that it’s always at the centre of everything you do in business.

    It affects your approach, your tone and your message. The more aligned you and your offer are with the audience you are targeting, the more likely you are to proceed to the next stage.

    Not everyone you speak to will be a good fit for your business but that’s ok. This is as much about knowing who you cannot do business with as much as it’s about who you can do business with.

    3. Develop your messaging

    Again another common thread in my posts is to be clear on your messaging.

    Keep it simple and concise, develop a positioning statement that aligns with your target audience. The aim is not to show up and throw up over your prospect or pitch “at” them but rather position your offer to establish an expression of interest. Then undertake active listening to determine whether there is scope for further discussion.

    4. Build a prospecting mindset

    I know it's easier said than done, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s something that has to be done if you want to succeed in business.

    Yet with most things it’s about knowing thyself. What time of the working day do you have the most energy? Block out this time for prospecting as you will need the energy and motivation to get through the work and engage with those you want to speak with.

    Shift the focus away from being tasked to sell to the fact that you’re looking to solve a genuine problem your prospects are experiencing and this is the first part of that process.

    Your only job is to determine whether to progress them to the next stage so take the pressure off yourself in terms of having to close a sale in one conversation. Breaking the activity into bite size chunks makes the task of prospecting more palatable.

    5. Practice!

    Practice makes perfect so practice your call opening until you're confident to proceed. This can either be done alone or with a nominated practice partner.

    6. Be persistent

    Persistence does indeed pay as the likelihood of getting a response is pretty low so make sure you have a system for following up the opportunities you’ve identified.

    So many opportunities go wasted because salespeople give up too early, make sure you don’t fall into that trap.

    7. It’s all about activity and measurement

    Prospecting is a numbers game after all and sales follow actions so to ensure you have confidence in the cash register ringing you need to build a healthy sales pipeline and that starts with prospecting.

    Once you have a baseline of the number of contacts you need to make to build your pipeline you can then refine your approach to optimise your process resulting in you accelerating your desired outcomes.

    If your numbers don’t show it then you don’t know it and a business cannot be built from ignorance.

    8. Dare to experiment

    Businesses are always evolving and therefore the way they do business will change too. This means that approaches that were once successful may no longer have the same impact so don’t be afraid to try new things out.

    For instance the recent pandemic has affected the ability to make phone calls as more people are working remotely. Unless you have a mobile number then the likelihood of connecting is reduced as switchboards are less likely to be able to transfer calls. This means emails and other forms of communication have had to work harder.

    Technology is also a disruptor so introducing some new methods into the prospecting mix can work wonders on your results.

    In summary, there is no escaping the fact that prospecting is crucial to the success of a business and can be the difference between those that thrive and those that make do or even fail.

    Given its significance it’s understandably a huge topic which can be covered more comprehensively.

    With some considered actions it’s very possible to reduce the fear and reluctance of sales prospecting and you never know, it could even become a rewarding task.

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic so if you have any questions or comments then feel free to comment in the box below. Additionally if you would like help with your prospecting then fill out the contact form here.

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  • long and winding road to business growth
    16/11/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    5 reasons businesses owners take longer to grow their businesses then they would like

    Business owners does this sound familiar?

    • You’ve built your business and as you’ve established your presence in the market you’re now in a position to outsource your business development / lead generation allowing you to focus on what you’re good at however you’re not getting the results you’re expecting from your sales campaign.
    • You’re having a lot of conversations with “interested” and “engaged” prospects but you’re not quite getting them over the line and converting into customers.
    • You’re putting so much effort into winning new business that you’re dropping the ball when it comes to your existing customers and wonder why they’re not coming back and placing more orders with you.
    If you can relate to this, let me shed some light on what might be happening in this situation as listed below are common oversights business owners make in terms of their business development.

    1. Not being clear in what they do and who they do it for

    You’ve done very well in growing your business this far getting customers on board and taking the business to a level where you can work with external agents yet this can be as much down to luck rather than judgement.

    As you’re now in a position to scale and rely on others to communicate the value of your products, have you really taken the time to explore the benefits from your audiences’ perspective? Are you able to paint a picture of the type of customer who stands to benefit most from your solution?

    I’ve worked with many business owners who say, “well anyone really” but the problem with that is unless you have an idea of who you are talking to then understanding how to approach them and what to say becomes challenging. You’re likely to misfire in terms of communicating your true value and therefore your messaging won’t resonate resulting in missed opportunities. This is bad enough when it's you making the approaches, but further amplified when someone else is doing it on your behalf.

    2. Not setting expectations with their sales team

    Speaking with many business owners, I’m not surprised that many are often disappointed with the results they get from working with sales agents, whether that’s direct hires or outsourced business development agencies.

    For example when working with appointment setters, many business owners are too vague in terms of what they qualify as a lead. There is a vast difference between a lead that is considered marketing qualified and one that is sales qualified. This is a crucial distinction because they’re two very different things.

    The main difference between a Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead is the lead's perceived willingness to make a purchase. Marketing Qualified Leads are very curious, while Sales Qualified Leads are leads handed off to Sales because they are considering a purchase and typically agencies are more likely to provide the former.

    If you want conversations with those considering a purchase then you need to communicate that to your sales agent to ensure you move towards your sales goals.

    3. Not having a process for converting their prospects into customers

    So now you have got your prospects interested, what can you do to take them over the line and convert into a paying customer?

    The ability to convert customers consistently and sustainably is more involved than simply talking your way into a deal. You need to consider your “what now? strategy”. This involves going through every step of the customer journey and thinking about what is required to take them to the next stage. Do you have any gaps in the process they could fall through? If so then what are they and what can you do to fill them? This will vary depending on what it is you sell as well as the emotional and financial considerations involved in making the decision.

    Take time to review the system you currently have in place to enable customer conversions. Also reflect on what supporting materials you can provide to facilitate your buyer's decision. Even the simplest system for progressing a lead is still a system, whether that is using a simple spreadsheet to fully adopting a complex CRM. So what’s your process and is it fit for purpose?

    4. Not analysing their performance

    You’ve heard the phrase, “you cannot improve what you don’t measure” or “if your numbers don’t show it then you don’t know if’ well that’s so true!

    Performance analysis comes in two types, qualitative and quantitative. Simply put, are you doing enough to warrant the results you require? There’s no escaping the fact that success in business comes from developing the right habits and routines. Are you doing enough activity to grow your business? Sales success and business revenue are in fact lag factors that follow a series of events like prospecting and sales presentations. So are you doing enough prospecting? And is that resulting in enough sales conversations?

    Once you’re confident you’re hitting the numbers and you then find you’re not converting enough you can then review the quantitative information and explore what is getting in the way of customer conversions. By doing this you could establish whether there is a need for sales training or coaching. Maybe even there is some friction in your sales process that needs to be removed.

    Unless you take time to review sales performance then you will never know what is getting in the way of you growing your customer base.

    5. Not developing a customer success strategy

    Finally something that is all too common in business. So much time and energy is focused on winning new business we sometimes forget to value the customers we have already got. Therefore any new customers that sign up are only serving to replace the ones that have been lost so the ability to grow the business takes a lot longer than hoped.

    So what programmes are in place to support your customers once they’ve signed up with you? How are you helping them get the most from working with you? What needs to be done so that you become more than a vendor to being a trusted supply partner?

    If you can crack this then you are well on your way to growing your business as loyal customers are cheaper to service, less likely to screw you down on price and more likely to facilitate your business development by providing referrals and spreading good word of mouth.

    So if there’s all those benefits to looking after your customers then why do many businesses not invest in delivering customer success programmes?

    Does any of this resonate with you? If you would like to discuss any of this in the context of your business then feel free to get in touch with me to discuss how you can overcome some of these challenges.

    Or feel free to take a sales effectiveness test to asses the sales effectiveness of your business.

    Thanks for reading.

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  • Buying Email List
    31/10/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Before Buying an Email List, Read This!

    Perhaps you're a new company and don't have a customer base. Maybe you have a service you're sure that people will love... if only they heard about you. Whatever the reason, buying an email list seems like an easy, low cost way to grow your business but there are some serious consequences to purchasing one. Even better, try using an opt in list as there are real benefits to using one!

    What Is An Opt-In List?

    You'll often see terms like opt-in, permission based, signups and subscribed. When used properly, they all mean that the email list is comprised of people who:
    • Are recent customers of yours, or
    • Agreed to receive email updates directly from you, or
    • Subscribed or signed up through an online sign-up form on your business' website, landing page, or social profile.

    What Is A Purchased Email List?

    There are many vendors out there who sell lists or rent them (though renting means that the list seller maintains ownership and control of the email list). These are collections of email addresses that the vendors sell to any business or individual who can pay the fees. Your email list is considered to be a purchased or shared list if it’s provided to you by a third party, like an email list vendor or affiliate. There's a few ways that vendors build these non opt-in email lists.

    One common method is something you've likely come across. Think about those flashing banner ads you see across the web. They say things like "Congratulations, you've won a free iPad". Or "You're our 1 millionth visitor, click to claim your prize!"

    If you were to click on that banner, you'd wade through survey questions where they ask about age, income and collect other info relevant to placing you into categories that they can then offer as "targeted" options for marketers. They also collect your email address.

    Another collection method happens when list vendors buy emails lists from industry trade shows (or other events) where people give their info during the registration process. This is not the same thing as folks who signed up with you, directly, at your trade show booth! This is where list vendors purchase the entire registration list from the trade show itself.

    Online consumer surveys can often be a source of email addresses. The web surfer may be asked to fill out a survey and enter their email address to receive deals that they'll find interesting.

    If you sign up for something and the terms include words like "Sign up to receive updates from us and our partners that we think you'll like," your email address is likely being collected for a shared or sold list. A subset of this method is called co-registration. This is where you sign up at a website, but that website also automatically, or nearly automatically, signs you up for other sites. They try to legitimise this by informing you of the additional subscriptions, or providing boxes to uncheck. This is a situation where it's not the subscriber’s intention to sign up for the material they will be receiving.

    The least salubrious method of creating these lists is email harvesting. This is when the vendors use bots to crawl the web and collect email addresses from websites, forums and comment sections. Sometimes, low wage and long suffering people are paid to manually grab email addresses off websites. Not very nice!

    Can I Buy An Opt-In List?

    The claim:
    Opt-in email lists for sale are lists of contacts that have agreed to receive emails from third party senders.

    The truth:

    No. There's no such thing as an opt-in list for sale! The fact is, email clients like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail don't consider purchased lists or lists given to you by a third party to be opt-in, at all. They call it unsolicited bulk/commercial email. If the people you're emailing did not directly sign up with you (and only you) then it's considered unsolicited.

    What's The Worst Than Can Happen?

    Well, that's easy enough to answer. There's a big downside to purchasing an email list rather than growing it yourself. Here are 5 reasons it's not a good idea to buy an email list:

    1. Purchased lists harm your delivery to inboxes

    Using a purchased list means you're not adhering to the ISP and email client guidelines. Furthermore, purchased lists often generate really high bounces, get flagged as spam by recipients and have low read rates.

    All this means that you'll soon be noticed by ISP filters and instead of reaching potential customers, you'll be hanging out in the readers' spam folder.

    But wait, there's more!

    There are organizations called blacklists like Spamhaus as well as other filtering organisations like Cloudmark and Brightmail. Email clients like Yahoo and Gmail and Hotmail rely on them to help block spam. These blacklists leave spam traps or honeypots for shady list sellers to collect. Then, if one of those email addresses ends up in your purchased list, you're in big trouble! It's like having bad credit - it can take a long time and a lot of hard work to rebuild trust with blacklists and until you do, you'll have poor delivery results even if you've stopped using the purchased email list.

    2. Reputable email marketing services won’t let you use purchased lists

    Reputable email newsletter apps don't allow purchased email lists. This means that in order to send to those lists you bought, you'll need to use a “disreputable” service which is likely already on ISP and blacklist block lists.

    You're known by the company you keep and sharing IP's with senders known for unsolicited mailings will get you bad results and a bad reputation.

    3. Low response rates because your recipients don't know you

    When a company you've never heard of sends you a marketing email you probably flag them as spam or simply delete the email. Sending to a purchased email list won't engender trust nor will it won't create a relationship with the potential customer.

    When you buy an email list you're not taking steps to create positive engagement with customers. Instead, you're hoping that the few results you may get will somehow outweigh the overall negative responses that unsolicited emails usually receive.

    Low response rates are down to the email addresses being poor quality. Many people use throwaway email addresses when pressured into giving their info. This is especially true for the methods that list sellers use to collect email addresses.When you buy an email list, you're really buying a large amount of defunct and unused email addresses.

    4. List fatigue is also a concern. If you're buying a list from a trade show, keep in mind that the other vendors at the trade show, and even businesses elsewhere who bought the list, are also emailing these recipients. By the time you reach the recipients’ inboxes, those readers are going to be exhausted by the barrage of unsolicited commercial email they've been receiving.

    5. Lousy ROI (return on investment)

    As a business you should maximize any investments you make, including the investment in email marketing. Purchasing a list is a waste of money, damages your sender reputation and lowers the value of any legitimate email sending you may do. Seriously, it's not worth it!

    So How to Build a Healthy, Effective Email List?

    There's a few things you can do to grow your email list in a positive way without resorting to buying a list.

    One of the most effective ways of growing your list is to use the signup forms on your website. Adding the Facebook signup form to your business page and also sharing the signup form link on other social networks like Twitter yield great results.

    Tap into your existing customer base to grow your email list and offer special deals exclusively in your email newsletters. Ask customers to sign up each time they purchase something and offer incentives if they spread the word.

    Stay active on social channels and make sure to share your newsletters wherever you can. This expands the reach of your newsletters and encourages sign-ups.

    Don't give up! Growing a healthy email list takes time but the rewards are worth it!

    I hope you this has given you some food for thought and by all means feel free to share yours.

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  • Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally?
    08/09/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Tips for Handling Gatekeepers

    Why fight the gatekeeper when they can be your ally? Tips for handling gatekeepers

    You’re gearing up to make the phone call and you go through the scenario in your head. 

    You visualise the dream conversation that will take place with the very person that will sign the deal to edge you closer to reaching your sales quota. You can almost taste the commission payment and BOOM....denied! Someone gets in the way and tells you this is not going to happen, grrr!

    Those darn gatekeepers are ruining it!!! Sound familiar?

    So what’s your plan when it comes to dealing with gatekeepers?

    Do you even have a plan for handling gatekeepers?

    And what do you think about those people tasked to guard your prized decision maker against your advances?

    The fact that they’re referred to as gatekeepers implies the natural trepidation salespeople feel towards them.

    Since my sales career began some time ago I can still recall the amount of time and energy sales teams would invest in developing unscrupulous tactics to side step the gatekeeper and land the goal of reaching the buyer.

    Such tactics can range from mild intimidation or the use of power play to simple distortion of truths or using nuances of the english language to mislead. To cite an example I’ve come across in the recruitment industry is, “this is a personal call” for the gatekeeper, which changes to, “this is a personnel call” for the decision maker.

    By no means am I suggesting that these don’t work as I have seen them achieve their aim but it does come at a cost and that is the integrity of the business executing them. Especially as the glaringly obvious question is why would you start the relationship with a lie?

    If you’re in the luxurious position of being able to burn through leads and don’t rely on repeat business then by all means carry on but if you truly value your reputation and want to invest in a sustainable business relationship then there is a better way.

    Whatever the business one of the greatest attributes you can possess is to understand what the person you are dealing with wants. If you understand the motivation of the person you are speaking with, it will facilitate the interaction you have with them and therefore will put you in a better position to achieve your aims.

    This may require some guesswork on your part and some calculated assumptions but it is safe to say you won’t be far off the mark. That said, if in doubt then feel free to ask them questions.

    Simply put when applied to the gatekeeper it’s worth remembering they have a job to do and will act to serve the best interest of their colleague and organisation.

    Think about it, while navigating your way through Linkedin have you ever come across anyone with “Gatekeeper” as their job title? The answer will almost certainly be no and that’s because the position does not exist. So here's some tips I want to share with you when dealing with the gatekeeper.

    Be Human

    So first things first, remember that you are dealing with a person and not an obstacle so take this into consideration and apply a human approach to the interaction. Make them complicit in your request and ask for their help in taking you a step closer to that elusive conversation with your desired contact. “How do you do that?” I hear you ask, well read on...

    Develop Rapport

    If they answer the phone by mentioning their name, repeat it back to them and if you didn’t hear what they said ask them to repeat it. By doing this you can quickly gauge their tone and make that snap decision on how to best engage with them. Do they come across as matter of fact? If so then keep to the point. Or are they chattier in nature, in which case you have the opportunity to develop rapport and maybe elicit some invaluable company information or insight.

    Be careful with assumptions

    Make no assumptions about the gatekeepers role. In modern organisations it’s not unusual for senior colleagues and decision makers to take calls so how you approach the conversation can determine whether you succeed or fail in your sales interaction so try not to fall at the first hurdle. Furthermore advances in technology means your targeted organisation can block future calls and emails from you and your organisation.

    Be Prepared

    Always enter the conversation prepared to speak with a potential gatekeeper. Have your positioning statement ready in condensed form and ensure you cover the following 3 bases:

    1. The purpose of the call in brief.
    2. Outline why it’s worth your desired contact taking the call - what’s in it for them? And finally...
    3. Set expectations. Respect your contact’s time and say that you wish to be granted a couple of minutes to state your piece and if there is no perceived value in continuing the conversation then you will respectfully end the call.

    By following the steps above you are getting the gatekeeper onside by demonstrating your value and professionalism so that they are seen as credible internal referrers by their colleagues.

    If these steps don’t result in a sales conversation then and there then graciously accept the next option the gatekeeper offers.

    In these challenging economic times it’s not unusual to be offered an email address, whether that’s to a personal or group inbox as more than ever people are working remotely which limits the ability for calls to be transferred.

    And in these situations it’s increasingly important for emails to work harder to get the attention you require but let’s leave that for another time.

    Suffice to say that with due consideration and respect to the process you can indeed turn an old sales adversary that is a gatekeeper into a friendly business ally. Furthermore wouldn’t it make your working day more enjoyable having delightful, less combative conversations that ultimately put you in a better position to achieve your goals. Who wouldn’t want that?

    I would love to hear your stories on handling gatekeepers and let me know if there is anything you think I have missed.

    Whether you have any comments, observations or questions around the topic then feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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  • Humanise the sales experience for better results
    01/09/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Humanise the sales experience for better results

    Fundamental to success in any business is the ability to make sales so with this in mind just how is your business geared towards making sales?

    Fear not, thinking about this very question does not mean you have to break out into sweat. 

    It will come as no surprise how many people have justifiably negative feelings towards sales people and this often translates to the feelings of dread from business owners when it comes to undertaking sales activity, but it doesn't have to be this way.

    Having spent my entire 20+ year career in numerous sales roles it’s crazy to consider just how far we have come in terms of what it takes to become successful. We all have many stories of when selling has gone badly for us, but how about when it has gone well? As a consumer I'm always impressed by a seamless sales process whereby I've felt good about a purchase I've made and more often than not the whole sales interaction has always started way sooner than I've expected. It's with this in mind I wanted to explore the act of selling a little further and consider how the process can be made to feel more engaging, connected and above all human to ensure the best results for everyone involved. All for the purpose of reducing the feelings of anxiety that is commonly felt around the topic.

    The internet is flooded with sales statistics to illustrate this point. For instance you may have heard that as a result of the internet explosion in recent years, anywhere between 70% and 90% of the purchase decision is made before a buyer engages with a sales representative (this number varies according to the source of the information).

    This means that the whole process has been disrupted and never has it been more important to align the sales and marketing functions in accordance with the buyer's journey. Every touch point you make with your audience must be designed to create a positive experience so that customer conversions follow naturally rather than having to employ pressure tactics that cause many to baulk when they think of selling and sales people.

    The downside is that it now takes a lot more work, effort and investment to deliver these positive touch points but on the plus side, once they've been developed and embedded the business development process becomes scalable so that you can train your team to achieve better outcomes and therefore the resulting revenue opportunities are sustainable. Furthermore, by taking a longer and more strategic approach the less likely your offer is to become commoditised whereby you have to discount to get the deal. So now instead of breaking a sweat when picking up the phone you will have confidence in the process and speaking with the buyer feels more like an enjoyable conversation rather than a combative call.

    One organisation that has really indoctrinated these trends with great effect is Hubspot. On reaching the eureka state and noticing how sales interactions have evolved since I was a fledgling sales rep, I identified the need to partner with an organisation that would help me achieve my goals. My wish list was to find a partner who could help me create a sustainable business development model that would enable me to better serve my clients going forward.

    And it's never been so critical to better serve your clients. If you run the clock back several months you couldn't have ever anticipated that we'd be enduring the ground swell that is the covid-19 pandemic meaning that our priorities have shifted since the year began. Simply surviving the commercial impact and keeping our heads above water means we are doing something well. It has never been more important to reach out and make the buying experience more human and that is why I jumped at the chance to participate in Hubspot's “Lions” Pipeline Generation Programme.

    Core to the programme is how we reach out and connect with those businesses we can help. As mentioned previously our priorities have changed and the ability to get our prospects attention is becoming increasingly challenging so during the programme we were challenged to do exactly that and consider how we can cut through the noise.

    If I was to consider my key takeaways they are:

    1. Understanding the lizard brain. The one thing sales people fear is making the first call, how do you get the buyer’s attention and gain permission to proceed with the conversation? Well the first consideration is the opener and this is a key element that gets drilled into us. If you learn to do this well then you earn the right to continue the conversation with your prospect.

    2. Not giving up too early. To cite some industry statistics:
    • 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up.
    • The average sales person only makes 2 attempts to reach a prospect.
    • 80% of sales require 5 follow-up phone calls after the meeting.
    As we know this stuff, why are we still not adhering to these insights? Success only comes from execution - it’s not enough to simply know this stuff. This could be the difference between getting the deal or not.

    3. Leveraging advances in technology. We know that the evolution of technology has served to increase barriers between human interaction but this does not have to be the case.

    Thanks to the opportunity to participate in the programme I now have a full kit of cool tools that will increase my levels of insight and improve productivity going forward. What’s more, I can share them with my clients and business networks to support their growth.

    It’s not only that I believe that by signing up to the programme I have put myself in a great position to succeed in my business ventures going forward (which of course is my main priority). It’s also the knowledge that I am supporting my business ecosystem which is some way I can make a contribution during these challenging times therfore supporting my mission to improve the prosperity of my wider community.

    After all if we create a society where everyone benefits then surely we all win! Who does not want that?

    So what steps have you put in place to enhance the sales experience? How is this helping you to get better results?

    Thanks for reading and feel free to share your experience in the comments section below.

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  • Ditch the Sales Tricks
    17/08/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Ditch the tricks and become a trusted sales advisor

    We’re in business for the long haul right? If that’s the case then why are so many sales people still employing sleazy sales tactics that prizes closing the deal over serving the customer well? It’s as if they’re competing objectives which of course they’re not, if anything these objectives should be aligned to create the longevity of success we desire. After all you’ve heard the phrase once bitten, twice shy? If you are looking to continue working with those customers then why would you start the relationship on the wrong foot?

    I’m sure you have fallen prey to some of these tactics as have I and it never feels good, the result? To effectively blacklist these organisations forever. No wonder people generally feel antipathy towards sales people and when professionals from other disciplines have to rely on selling to grow their businesses their deep rooted anxieties surface and they do everything to avoid it.

    So let’s explore these main culprits:

    1. The scarcity sell

    This is based on the principle that when a product or service is limited in availability (or perceived as being limited), it therefore becomes more attractive.

    Yes, this is a very powerful technique when it’s actually true and what you’re selling has some meaningful value to its intended audience however it has been ruthlessly hijacked by organisations when it’s not actually the case. This tactic is easy to spot, especially when promoted aggressively. The consequence of employing this tactic is that when you’ve been caught out your integrity is immediately brought into question.

    2. The pressure sell

    This is a selling approach where the salesperson attempts to control the sales interaction and pressure the customer into making a purchase.

    In addition to the standard direct approach, this comes under many other guises including time limited offers and back of the room sales. Relying on manipulative techniques this approach rarely ends well as it often uses NLP to rouse the prospects' emotions and pressures them into buying on the spot. All without consideration and the ability to conduct due diligence which opens the door to buyers’ remorse where it is unlikely you will ever see them again.

    3. The assumptive sell

    This is defined as the practice of trying to sell something by acting as though the person that you are trying to sell it to has already decided to buy it.

    This is a close relative of the alternative close, “do you want it in green or red?” Because you’ve assumed the sale you’ve fast tracked the process of building a relationship and truly understanding the customers’ situation which could result in missing out on other opportunities with them or indeed their network. Just imagine this in a dating scenario, you’d run for the hills!

    Although a non-exhaustive list (I’m sure there are many more tactics you could add which would make for interesting conversation) I want to conclude on a positive note and reassure you that there are some excellent sales practitioners out there. Simply what puts them heads and shoulders above their peers in terms of both closing business and retaining it is that they take the time to understand those that stand the best chance of benefiting from their solution.

    Selling effectively is very much a skill that can be learned but it begins with the customer so taking the time to develop the relationship and become a trusted advisor will pay you dividends which vastly outweigh the impact any outdated shady tactics will provide.

    I would love to hear your stories, experiences and insights on the topic so feel free to share your comments below.

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  • Coming out of Lockdown - Will Shifts in Consumer Buying Behaviour be cause for Optimism for UK Manufacturers?
    17/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Coming out of Lockdown - Will Shifts in Consumer Buying Behaviour be cause for Optimism for UK Manufacturers?

    It’s fair to say the game has changed beyond any recognition since February where the biggest challenge to the UK economy was coming out of the EU and many of us were coming to terms with the damaging impacts of Storm Dennis.

    With a mix of good old fashioned British stoicism and denial, who could have ever imagined a health crisis taking place on the other side of the world would ever hit our shores and confine us to our homes?

    And confined to our homes a great many of us were so how were we going to navigate our way through the lockdown in what has so frequently been defined as the “new normal”?

    Three months on and we now know the answer to that with a great many heroes stepping up to the challenge whether employed within the public sector or business, of course we mustn’t forget members of the local community who rose to the challenge the pandemic thrust upon us. Indeed we should also acknowledge the fiscal support many (not all) have benefitted from so that now as we come out of lockdown our attention is turning to the state of the nation going forward.

    Manufacturing is often cited as an indicator of the health of a nation economically meaning much has been made of their response to the covid-19 challenge and as always there will be those who have fared better than others.

    Referencing the Make UK & BDO Manufacturing Outlook 2020 Q2 Report the key findings are:

    • Output plunges to lowest level in 30 year survey history
    • UK and export orders at lows comparable to financial crisis
    • Employment and investment suffer significant cutbacks
    • Just over 10% of companies operating at full capacity
    • Industry forecast to contract by almost 10% in 2020

    As bleak as these figures are there are some sectors that have at least performed well considering these conditions which include (but are not limited to):

    • Pharmaceuticals
    • Medical Equipment Manufacturers and Supplies
    • Logistics & Delivery
    • Streaming Services
    • Supermarkets
    • Food & Drink

    On the flip side industries such as automotive, petrochemicals and those relying on the hospitality sector have seen a serious decline in performance which may affect their ability to come out of the lockdown on the other side.

    Although this is not uniquely a British problem it will acutely be felt here due to our disproportionate reliance on global supply chains in terms of both imported components and finished products as well as exported goods.

    So what now?

    As always there are two schools of thought in terms of the UK’s recovery from lockdown with the optimistic camp predicting a “V-shaped” recovery at best or a perceptively pragmatic “U-shaped” recovery meaning we should exit the situation at a similar pace to how we entered it. Conversely the pessimistic camp foresees many bumps in the road with us only getting back to something resonating normal deep into 2021, therefore an elongated “U-shaped” recovery.

    This should not come as a surprise but the real telling factors come from how this has impacted consumer behaviours and whether there will be any lasting impacts as a result.

    A recent survey commissioned by the Manufacturer on the attitudes of UK adults show that:
    • 75% now believe more strongly in the importance of UK manufacturing
    • 71% believe that manufacturing has risen to the challenge of Covid-19
    • 76% are concerned about the UK's reliance on cheap imported goods
    • 74% now believe that a strategic long-term plan to support the sector to become more productive and competitive will help insulate the UK economy from future shocks

    Therefore this presents a real opportunity for UK producers to promote the benefits of localised production across the supply chain and review their internal structures to optimise ways of working with key business partners.

    Over the past few years there has been a shift in mind-set whereby consumers are buying into the concept of localisation and provenance evidenced by the championing of product quality that we have come to expect from buying goods made in the UK. Furthermore a particular driver in terms of consumer behaviour has been triggered by our increasing concerns for the environment as well as employee and animal welfare.

    This is now ramping up to another level by us demanding that we protect the industries that contribute significantly to the economic health of the nation. We’ve been overwhelmingly impressed by how these businesses have responded to the crisis and transformed their operations to accommodate changing demands. This ranges from hearing stories about how one company shifted focus (albeit temporarily) from gin production to producing sanitisers and how a luxury handbag manufacturer supplied much needed PPE to the health service. This is all just as well given recent events show that in times of crisis our reliance on getting hold of much needed equipment from overseas has not served us well and understandably many countries put their own needs first, leaving the UK exposed.

    It is this realisation that may well drive consumer tastes away from cheaper foreign imports and take a more responsible approach to consumerism, adopting the less is more philosophy or rather substitute quantity for quality, buying the best the budget allows.

    Over the past few years we have demanded convenience from our retailers, developing a want it cheap - want it now culture from where behemoths like Amazon have risen to shape consumer habits and why we see our high street shops on their knees. Yet as our lives have been massively disrupted we are taking stock to reevaluate our priorities, reviewing our relationships manifesting in how we interact within our environment going forward. This is why although globalisation may never be over, our over reliance on it may well be.

    Just a thought....a feel free to leave yours in the comments section below.

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  • Sales Strategy, Sales Process & Building Sales Teams
    08/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    3 Key Problems Business Owners Must Overcome to Scale their Businesses to the Next Level

    Whatever industry you’re in there are some very common threads as to why some businesses have not got into their stride and developed any momentum in their growth journey and this is indeed a huge source of frustration which can lead to some questioning the wisdom on their venture.

    This is acutely felt when we hear so many stories of businesses seemingly coming out of nowhere and are well on their way along the growth trajectory which begs the question - “why is this not happening to us?”

    Don’t be disheartened, many business owners share similar doubts and it’s easy to benchmark ourselves based on what we read without truly scratching the surface. Put it this way, you will mostly hear about the success stories and positive outcomes rather than the ugly truths behind the outcomes which can only distort the reality.

    The overriding myth we fall prey to is the narrative of overnight success. The truth is that 99.9% of these businesses will have undergone a long process of development to fine tune their offer before getting on the radar and public consciousness.

    Anyway once in the public domain, just what should we be doing to optimise our chance of success? Or to put it another way, what major problems do we need to overcome that get in the way of our growth?

    They are generally covered in the following three areas:
    1. Having little or no sales strategy
    2. Having too much, too little or no sales process 
    3. Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles

    1. Little or No Sales Strategy

    You have invested a lot of time and money in setting up your business and having validated your offer which is generating some revenue so now what? How are you going to ramp up your efforts to increase your customer base and market reach?

    What sales and marketing strategies have you put in place to enable? What stage of the business lifecycle do you currently occupy?

    One of the biggest obstacles to growth is that many business owners don’t factor their business lifecycle stage into their planning and often adopt strategies that don’t work given their current context. Whether you are a start-up, going through a growth phase, mature and so on, the strategies you adopt will have to reflect the stage you’ve identified as occupying as by opting for the wrong ones can lead to costly mistakes that are completely ineffective and offer little value in terms of insights.

    Other key considerations of an effective sales strategy include:
    • The Business Vision
    • The Business Mission
    • The Key Stakeholders including Target Audience
    • The Business Purpose
    • The Conversion Plan
    • The Sales Playbook
    • The Customer Success Roadmap
    • The Available Resources
    This is a useful framework to focus your efforts on to provide direction and track your progress against. Without it the foundations will not be strong enough to support your growth aspirations going forward as it’s very easy to get distracted with other initiatives that delay your progress.

    2. Too Much, Too Little or No Sales Structure

    Once you’ve worked on your sales strategy how will you execute it? It is surprising the amount of businesses that do not even have a rudimentary system in place to organise their activities let alone track what is working or not working.

    The central question here is to identify your objectives and design a process around delivering them. Clearly your requirements will evolve but the key here is to have something in place that you can build on.

    The advantages to developing a sales process is that they:
    • Provide a scalable structure to grow your business by ensuring consistency of approach
    • Are a great way to identify how your route to market channels engage with you so you can map out a process that is designed around them as after all having a process that puts your customer at the centre is the best way to succeed in an ever increasing competitive environment
    • Enable tracking of progress so that you can figure out what is working and what is not working. In the case of the latter you can work out what:
      • can be modified and implemented with success
      • cannot be modified and therefore consign to history
    • Empower your sales operations to work efficiently as you implement your learnings and become better at engaging with your customers therefore potentially shortening deal cycles
    • Can encourage the development of the right sales habits. You will be able to identify what activities your team are undertaking and use this to strip out the activities that don’t deliver value to your sales conversations. Did you know that most sales professionals are only spending a third of their time actually selling?
    The purpose of the sales process is to support the growth of the business and not detract from it as the flipside of not having a process is to become enslaved by it.

    All too often over zealous business owners driven by data implement tools to measure KPIs (key performance indicators) and other metrics that can often misfire and can lead to the wrong types of behaviours.

    This is where you have to come back to your objective and understand what activities can add to and detract from the sales conversation and then develop the process around what will promote the desired outcomes.

    3. Misdirected Assignment of Sales Roles

    Finally and all too often an overlooked problem faced by business owners is how to get the best from the resources you have available.

    This relates to the resource you allocate to your sales efforts whether that is the systems you adopt, the team you employ, the functions they perform and the structure they fit into.

    Again this depends on where you fit in your business lifecycle as the options available will differ.

    All too often when starting out you have to be a generalist in terms of the sales roles you undertake as you will not only be responsible for generating leads and converting them, you will also have to ensure that you keep your new customers happy so they keep on coming back.

    These roles actually require different skill sets which when you don’t have the luxury of a sales team you have to ensure that whoever is accountable for sales wears each hat with reasonable competence. If you’re at the stage where you can outsource your sales, it is crucial to have an understanding of what and who you are looking for. You only have to go on any freelance sites to understand how many business owners have given this little thought and post three sentence job ads with the expectation of finding a sales superstar that will provide a silver bullet on a shoestring.

    Even larger, more established businesses have not always got this figured out, often promoting top sales performers into sales managers with little support or training to help them become effective sales leaders. That’s on the assumption that sales management is a progressive route for them in the first place.

    Aside from the specific skills required to meet the demands of the differing sales functions, there’s always the question of how you can leverage technology to support your sales team and business to operate successfully and efficiently.

    While technology serves a purpose and can be a great tool in facilitating sales conversations there are many examples where their overzealous adoption can be sussed out in sales platforms and potentially risks the integrity of those conversations. I am sure many of us have examples of this like receiving a message on Linkedin which is clearly a sales “bot” which is no way to begin a relationship with a prospective client. This along with other cynical tactics contribute to why sales people in general are perceived in negative terms.

    As with all things in business these key problems do not exist in isolation so any successful enterprise will have to factor in the development of a sales strategy, what process will support it and who will be involved in its implementation in order to take the business to the next level.

    Indeed it would be fair to say that many of the businesses that suddenly come on our radar as performing strongly have been working on these very areas long before we knew they existed.

    And I want to leave this on the point that it’s not beyond anyone's imagination that this can’t be what you achieve for your business too!

    Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.

    Thank you for reading.

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  • ​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners
    01/06/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    ​5 common mistakes manufacturing businesses make with developing channel partners

    With the continual lifting of lockdown restrictions many businesses are initiating a return to work for those who were unable carry out their responsibilities at home meaning they are having to pick up from where they left off when they do eventually make it back.

    Whether there were any elements of business continuity in terms of setting up remote working or not one thing is clear, there is no getting away from the stark reality that this situation has hit many of us hard and will continue to do so for some time to come.

    As reported in the Guardian, “A survey by the manufacturers’ lobby group, Make UK, found that 25% of companies are already drawing up plans to cut jobs in the next six months. A further 45% say they are considering redundancies. Only 30% said they expect to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with all their staff on the payroll.”

    It will come as no surprise that the industries hit hardest are hospitality, retail and leisure but the impacts felt will not stop there. Although there are a great many factors we cannot control there are some we can influence to limit the extent of the damage endured.

    Below I’ve listed the predominant mistakes being made by many manufacturing businesses. Not all will apply but by addressing them we can take action to turn our businesses around.

    1. No customer persona

    • Why it’s a mistake
    You know the saying? “If you try to be all things to everyone then you end up being nothing to no one.”

    By not fully understanding the customer you serve you will fail to communicate why your product will either remove a pain they are experiencing or enhance their lives in some way so your messaging will be lost. This means whatever you invest in your sales or marketing efforts will at worst be wasted and at best not reach its full potential.
    • What to do about it?
    Do some soul searching and develop insights about your customers. At least engage in conversation with those representing your market and / or conduct some observational research.

    Look beyond the obvious and focus on the “job” your product performs. The answers may surprise you and therefore you may well find ways to open your market up. You could potentially find multiple personas your product serves which will inform your outreach strategy going forward. This nicely leads us on to the following mistake which is...

    2. A uniform business development approach

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Now that we have developed some customer insights or at least a best guess we can now go out and start having conversations. The problem is that many businesses seem to think that one size fits all.

    With an ever more competitive commercial environment we are now all competing for a limited amount of attention that’s available so when we actually get it we may not prize it highly enough. If the framing does not align with the buyers’ situation the outreach misfires and therefore the opportunity is wasted.
    • What to do about it?
    There is no silver bullet to this so testing different approaches may be required to find a winning formula.

    To enable this, implementing some form of business development process will help. There are many great free and inexpensive CRM tools to support you so you can cluster your buyers into groups based on common behaviours. From there you can design a campaign around each.

    Analyse performance and measure what works and more importantly what does not. This is a great way to build a scalable sales engine for your business.

    3. Deal Structure - No transparency or consistency

    • Why it’s a mistake
    We’ve all been there, made a purchase and felt great about it to then discover a friend or neighbour got a much better deal. We’re not feeling so great about it now!

    Buyers remorse is commonly felt post purchase and it increases significantly the more expensive the purchase is. The manner the vendor behaves post sale will impact on the level of buyer remorse experienced. At best this could block any potential of repeat purchases being made and at worst could damage the reputation of the vendor from the resulting negative word of mouth. 

    Put this in a B2B context, the problems are amplified with there typically being a narrower customer base (depending on industry). Make no mistake, businesses talk and contacts move around so if someone feels unfairly treated then it is unlikely you will ever do business with them again.
    • What to do about it?
    Put a pricing structure in place that is consistent according to the size and market your business operates in. Of course there will always be elements of negotiation but as long as there is a framework in place then it can be defended.

    This can factor in the different channels you support but avoid scenarios where you compete with your customers for a similar market. Believe it or not, I have heard many stories where that has happened and it does not end well for either business or their channel partners.

    Finally be in a position to advise on RRPs (recommended retail price) to ensure that consistency and transparency applies throughout the whole supply chain.

    4. Little post sale customer support

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Ok, you got the deal and are very excited which is understandable but that is not the end point...in fact it’s just the beginning.

    The work is not complete once the order has been shipped and invoice paid. The reality is that you’ve actually created a new problem for your channel partner. How are they supported in reselling your product?

    This ties in with another commonly made mistake which is to focus too much on new business at the detriment of existing clients. We have all heard countless times that retaining customers is less expensive than finding new ones yet many businesses are not addressing this in any meaningful way.

    You want your hard won customers to come back so what are you doing about it?
    • What to do about it?
    So what does your sales infrastructure look like? Actually what does your business infrastructure look like? Everyone within an organisation has a role to play here so what systems are in place to ensure the whole business is pulling in the same direction?

    Have you appointed any customer success specialists to hand over new clients to? Even in small businesses where resources are limited there are measures that can be taken to deliver a programme of customer onboarding and development to get the relationship on the right foot from the very start.

    Is there a marketing pack in place to support your channel partners in selling your product? What merchandising support can you implement? The levels of sophistication will vary according to the resources available but every business should at least have some rudimentary process in place.

    5. Disregard of industry standards

    • Why it’s a mistake
    Ignore innovations to your industry at your peril.

    History is a wash with examples of businesses that have closed their doors permanently due to failure in identifying trends, remember Blockbuster Videos? Kodak? The culmination of not understanding the customer along with developments in technology has effectively sealed their fate.

    Ensure this does not happen to you.
    • What to do about it?
    Keep innovating! This does not have to be in terms of huge game changing developments but rather looking for opportunities to better serve your customer.

    A great rule of thumb is to be easy to do business with. Can any points of friction in terms of trading be removed?

    What is your competition doing? If everyone else is doing same day delivery then can you? Think about how you can disrupt disruption from your business. Engage with your community and especially your team who speak to your customers regularly to develop initiatives that not only reverse the negative impacts of the current situation but can put you in the driving seat going forward. Consider what will not only put you on the road to recovery but more importantly will increase your chance of future prosperity in business.

    I hope this gives you some food for thought and a level of optimism to keep you going through the challenging times ahead.

    If there is anything I have missed, you would like to add or other general observations then please share them.

    Should you wish to discuss any of the above in relation to your business then please get in touch by clicking here to schedule a conversation.

    Thank you for reading.

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  • Adapt, innovate or reframe your way through the pandemic
    11/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    Adapt, innovate or reframe your way through the pandemic

    It’s fair to say that this year has been like no other experienced in the lifetime of the vast majority of us (barring some centenarians of course) and it is clear to see that the impact of the pandemic has completely blind sided everyone to differing degrees. After all, who could have seen this coming?

    We have been told by our elected administration that we have passed through the worst of the pandemic and are now on the other side of the proverbial mountain but must still tread carefully as, to continue the analogy, the descent can be more dangerous than the climb.

    So it is surely to be expected that we would now be receiving guidance from the government as to how we will navigate our way out of the situation and at the weekend we were given the framework of a plan as to how this would unfold but suffice to say there has been a lot of criticism to the government's response about lack of clarity.

    It’s not my aim to scrutinise those plans here but rather try and draw some conclusions as to how this will impact my business community going forward.

    As a deviation from the themes I would normally cover I want to explore the roadmap from an innovation point of view inspired not only by the constant advice we are seeing on social media as to how we pivot our businesses to turnaround the economic impact of Covid-19 but also following an excellent Enterprise Nation webinar I attended earlier today covering the topic of innovation based on the needs of your customers.

    As with most good practical advice for seasoned business professionals nothing really should come as a surprise and no ideas will be completely new or revolutionary here as the real value of sharing comes from serving as reminders and to vindicate your actions or decision making going forward.

    So let’s start with the situation that’s right in front of us. From this week construction companies and manufacturers have been told that they can return to their commercial activities however to quote James Durie from Business West, the Bristol Chambers of Commerce, what about those businesses that have experienced a complete drop in demand? Many businesses have lost their customer base so what do they do?

    It’s very easy to promote the idea of innovation but just how easy is it to implement?

    So getting back to the webinar, what is clear is that we need to find ways to meet the needs of your customers which given how things have shifted could mean how do we find new customers and fast.

    To address this challenge, I will outline three possible options which can reassuringly run alongside each other or alternatively can be your central focus depending on your situation and the resources you have available. Please note that this is on the assumption that your current customers have pressed the pause button.

    They are:

    1. Repositioning or reframing the application of your current offer

    Are you able to fulfil the evolving requirements of your existing customer base? Are you able to fulfil the current requirements of a new customer base? Are there any conversations you can revisit to position your offer as the best viable option given your potential buyer's evolving situation?Are you able to fast track conversations with those prospects in new markets?

    This is the best possible case scenario as to your current situation and something that can be acted upon instantly to yield quicker results in the short term with the right strategies in place.

    2. Complete product innovation

    This is your opportunity to revolutionise your offer and get your new ideas to market. Do you dare trade off your current customers that are potentially on hold or look for new ones to serve with vastly different requirements?

    Clearly this is a high risk, high reward strategy. It could be the most radical thing you do to completely turn around your fortunes however it is an extremely time consuming tact to implement. It would also require a completely new levels of research to develop true insights to provide any information of value. So just how ready and able are you to follow in the footsteps of notable industrialists and business disruptors namechecked in daily parlance?

    And finally the halfway house option which sits between the previous two.

    3. Adaptation of an idea

    This is not as powerful as option 2, as it’s considerably easier and quicker to implement with less associated risks.

    Simply take time to pause and reflect on what is happening in the market. Can you adapt ideas from other industries and apply them to your market? Can you collaborate with other businesses to develop a more complete solution to address a wider problem?

    Look at the bigger picture as to what is happening within your business community and develop an ecosystem to solve it. Most seasoned business professionals will already have the infrastructure in place to enable so it’s just a case of leveraging it to reach your lightbulb moment.

    Ok, I accept the answer is not as easy to achieve as the previous options suggest as there may well be pitfalls in terms of the execution. That said unless the first move is made then the most inevitable scenario is to remain stuck and put it this way that is a challenge in itself as momentum is with us, after all, we are in the process of climbing down the mountain.

    I would love to know your thoughts on the topic so feel free to share your comments below and if you would like to chat about your business in the context of the current situation then click on this link to initiate a conversation.

    Thanks for reading.

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  • Selling to Resellers
    06/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    ​What to Consider when Selling to Resellers

    A mantra you will hear time and again in business is that without sales there is no business and that's so true. However it's understandable for business owners and entrepeneurs to get exacerbated by this stating if only it was that simple. Well, it’s certainly not my purpose to over complicate matters and blindside professionals into working with me, that said it's not as straightforward as some suggest either as due consideration needs to be made to ensure your approach is fit for purpose.

    Yes there are simple tools and techniques that can yield quick wins and inspire the salesperson into replicating them with the intent of repeating this success thus generating more sales, however to leave it there could quite easily lead you to a false dawn in the longer term as you may well not understand what you are getting right and why that is. Like many in business will agree, you learn more through making mistakes and “validated learning” rather than hitting the right mark in the first instance. Take this for example, ever tried a new sport or leisure activity to discover that you get a great result initially and then on further attempts your ability wanes and you struggle to understand what made you successful in the first place? That can pretty much apply to sales and indeed sales is about confidence but you must develop the right mindset to build that confidence, note that there are some great books out there which can delve deeper into this topic for you. I also want to add that during this blog I will be referencing some great sales resources which I will flag up to you to enable you to read further should you wish.

    At this point I am going to make a confession, I've not always been the best sales person in my previous roles and unlike some of my sales peers in other published material I will declare that I have on occasion struggled in some sales environments. You know those ones you see parodied in the media, “hit those phones” “have you made your 100 dials for the day?” “smile while you dial.” It’s no wonder why many hard-selling companies have high staff churn and us sales professionals get a bad name.

    Suffice to say, having been inspired by Frank Bettger’s awesomely titled, “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling” I wanted to share that it’s really ok to admit that this might not be your strength - yet, but with the determination to succeed and a willingness to learn it may well become the greatest tool you possess in your entrepeneurial arsenal. Like those who do come to master their art, it takes discipline and commitment to get you there.

    So let's cut to the chase, what I will outline going forward is how to get resellers on board. Addressing questions like, how can you get your product on the shelves of those companies supplying your market? What you need to consider and how do you get buy in from those who decide what they put in front of your target customer?

    To answer those questions, I will share tips and insights gained from my career in sales going way back from when I was selling automotive lubricants (or engine oil in laymen terms) to automotive dealerships (the people servicing your cars) whilst at Shell UK to a more recent campaign of selling pollution masks into distributors from around the world.

    For simplicity I am going to break this down into 3 main areas:
    1. The Sales Plan: You need a strategy to get started if you really want to create a sustainable business development model. This is crucial no matter what size the company is or lifecycle stage they operate in.
    2. The Sales Process you will adopt to deliver the sales plan you wish to follow.
    3. The Sales Campaign and its execution. By giving careful consideration to steps 1 and 2 this is where the activity comes into play to achieve your revenue results and growth goals. Some authors will take it a step further by detailing how to engage with personality types according to various tools like DISC profiling, although worth consideration there are others better positioned to explain this then me.

    The Sales Plan

    So looking at the strategy part, we have all heard the saying, “Fail to prepare then prepare to fail.” As true as this is, it is amazing to consider how many organisations do not do this.

    Here is where you start creating your sales playbook. Yes, this is the bones of a document you will use as your bible for business growth. This business manual will be refined over time as you develop your processes, tools and templates for success and the way to do that is to get started.

    Important components of a sales plan are:
    • Your Ideal Customer Profile. Take the time to develop your customer profiles, understand the people who will benefit most from your product or service. 
    • When selling to distributors and resellers there is an additional complexity involved. You have another layer to consider and that is not only the prospective end user of your product but also those in the buying team. This would require some research as to the composition of the roles involved in purchasing your classification of product and the challenges faced within those individual roles. To learn more about this I would recommend the following post: https://blog.hubspot.com/customers/ideal-customer-...
    • Your Offer in context of the customer profiles you have just identified.
    • Your Selected Sales Channels. This is where you decide whether to follow a direct or indirect sales channel. If you have opted for a distributor or reseller channel then you are following an indirect business development model and it is from here your process may vary which will influence…
    • Your Key Messages to the customer (both the indirect channel partner and their customers as identified in the profile analysis above)
    • Your Sales Team. Who will you assign to each channel? This can either be internal if you have the infrastructure to support it or external / outsourced, if not.
    • Your Sales Process. This covers the whole spectrum of the systems you select to enable your business development to take place to the tools and techniques required to guide your sales team to deliver it.
    For further reading on the topic I recommend the chapter on Building Out Your Sales Capability in Automate & Grow by Michael Devellano.

    The Sales Process

    This is when you get into the nitty gritty and add further detail to the sales playbook. It's such a huge area that it has become a sales specialism in its own right. You may have heard about Sales Enablement but not truly understood what it meant or maybe recognise it under another name such as the newly in vogue portmanteau “Smarketing.” Put simply, it is the infrastructure, tools and techniques used to generate Sales Revenue. That is the process of creating alignment between sales and marketing for the purpose of achieving your revenue aspirations with the goal of producing predictable and sustainable revenue being paramount.The sales process can vary in complexity depending on the requirements of your business with many starting out on spreadsheets. Although sufficient when starting out, please consider that there are some great software and CRM (customer relationship management) tools available that support a rudimentary sales process enabling you to scale as your proposition develops. Starting from free versions they at least can map out a basic process that monitors progress from generating leads and starting conversations to closing deals and retaining custom. Once in place you can begin refining and adding tools and materials to improve momentum and sales performance.

    In addition to your process further consideration must be given to the sales team infrastructure, whether internal or external, basically those adopting these processes. The best visual reference comes in the form of Aaron Ross’s infographic below articulated in his book, “Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com” whereby he is an advocate of splitting out sales functions into 4 core roles which is achievable no matter what size the business is.

    So having completed a lot of work to get this far, now for the fun part (depending on your point of view, of course).

    Sales Implementation and Campaign Execution

    Without taking time to go through the steps outlined above then the implementation and actual business development part becomes tricky. That said, this is a process in itself which will be refined, developed and improved the more iterations you undertake. The aim at this stage is not to make it perfect but rather have a framework that develops and scales along with your business.

    Once you have organised your sales resource as per the previous sections you will find yourself in a good position to reach out to those qualified prospects you have identified as a good fit for your business. This structure can best be illustrated by referencing Hubspot’s inbound methodology highlighted below:

    Hubspot’s Inbound Sales Methodology

    Once you have identified which prospects are a good fit for your offer and having then connected with them via your sales development team resulting in a meeting, you now have an opportunity to develop a relationship with them. You will be in a position to really get to know your prospects to further confirm if a good fit exists between your businesses.

    To better position yourself as a credible supply partner it is always worth adopting a framework that enables the conversation to take place that adds value to the interaction going forward. The best example of this I have seen again borrows from Hubspot in the form of their CGP, TCI, BA exploratory call framework. Simply put it covers the following elements which is key to aligning your offer to your prospects buying situation.

    C = The CHALLENGE your prospect is trying to overcome

    G = The GOAL your prospect is trying to achieve

    P = The prospect’s PLAN for overcoming their challenge

    T = The prospect’s TIMELINE for achieving their goal

    C = The negative CONSEQUENCE of failure

    I = The positive IMPLICATIONS of success

    B = The prospect’s BUDGET

    A = The AUTHORITY required to move forward with your solution

    Taking time to go through this process better equips the sales person to advise on a solution (their solution) going forward. Whether that’s via a demo or an on / offline presentation and it is here where sales people normally come unstuck. How else would you know if they are going to be a good customer if you don’t take the time to learn more about them?

    Furthermore, by taking the time to go through this step better equips the sales person to handle objections as they can reference their prospects previous comments and demonstrate alignment so therefore the value of their proposition which makes the process of closing far simpler.

    You may think this is pretty generic stuff and what has it got to do with resellers specifically. The truth is resellers share the CGP, TCI, BA characteristics outlined above but the answers they provide may differ.

    The main point of difference I can share in my experience of selling to resellers is in terms of how to retain them as customers. This is where it is worth assigning a customer success or “account manager” to champion them within your business. Providing them with the support required for them to succeed. That can be done by developing marketing collateral to share with their customers, providing them with staff training (on or offsite, maybe even via a webinar) or simply using crib sheets.

    Put it this way by being strategic in your approach to this specific market and thinking through each individual step into delivering success for them is the best way to ensure a great commercial relationship that is sustainable going forward.

    So to reiterate my earlier comments, as someone who cannot profess to being a naturally talented sales person who never really had “the gift of the gab” it was always my intention to develop a business development framework or approach to support me in becoming effective in sales which it has done. Moreover, it has supported my mission to enable others in similar positions to become successful in sales too. I hope this has provided some useful insights that can be applied to deliver success in sales for your venture going forward too!

    So what do you think? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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  • 5 Key Considerations to Power up Your Sales Engine during Lockdown
    04/05/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    5 Key Considerations to Power up Your Sales Engine during Lockdown

    So we are into week seven of the lockdown and it looks like some of the restrictions we’ve become accustomed to may be lifted in the coming days which surely is welcome news to many businesses whilst at the same time presenting logistical and operational challenges.

    Suffice to say there are going to be more questions than answers with the most significant being how are we going to come out of this with our business intact?

    It’s been widely reported that many manufacturers have been successful in reframing their offer and finding new channels to reach new consumers but at the same time a survey carried out by Make UK, the body that represents manufacturers, show that a many of its members have experienced dramatic fall in sales and question whether they can recover to pre-pandemic levels. Its survey showed:

    • Over three-quarters of companies said sales have decreased.
    • Four-fifths of companies have reported a decrease in orders.
    • One in five companies said their orders have fallen by more than half.
    • One in five companies have furloughed up to a quarter of staff, 15% by up to half.
    • One-third of companies will wait for an increase in orders before taking staff off furlough
    Unfortunately I cannot predict what will happen to these businesses post lockdown but having been actively involved in sales during the pandemic one thing is clear and that is there are still opportunities for those businesses supplying great products.

    I want to share with you some of what I have learnt firsthand and as a result of conversations with industry peers over the past few weeks. Please note that none of the suggestions should be anything new to seasoned sales and marketing professionals but sometimes we need to go back to basics and reflect on these especially during unprecedented times.

    1. Take Action

    The one thing that’s certain is that nothing is certain. Uncertainty usually brings about two kinds of behaviours: A complete standstill or some knee jerk response that can lead you down a rabbit hole.

    The businesses I have seen that are faring better are the ones that are taking stock with view to finding a path through this. I cannot recall the number of times I have heard business owners concerned about engaging with prospects and clients alike through fear of coming across as opportunistic but this thinking could be doing yourself and your market a massive disservice.

    The real opportunity here is to recalibrate and find a better way to engage with your audience, you never know you could come out the other end with a better offer that really addresses what your market wants and is fit for purpose going forward. So take the opportunity to:

    2. Understand your customer

    There is much being said about pivoting your business so by taking the time to observe what is happening in the economy and engaging with your market you may find that your offer serves alternative applications which you never previously considered. This could then appeal to a new audience or your existing audience in a different way. For example, customer A may have not placed an order recently as it is not a priority for them but could think differently if it serves another purpose that they consider is more critical to them at this moment in time.

    3. Review your outreach strategy

    The past few weeks have affected people in vastly different ways so factor this into how you approach conversations with your clients and prospects alike. Think about the tone you are setting during these conversations. Like I said, there is still an active market for great products but give thought as to how you communicate as you want to invite the opportunity for dialogue rather than diminish it.

    4. Refine your conversion process

    We are all working differently so the way you convert opportunities into clients need to reflect that. How easy is it to do business with you in the current climate? This is a great time to review your conversion process to determine whether it is still fit for purpose given the many restrictions we are currently under. Does your process present any obstacles or friction points which could impede progress? Adversity brings about creativity and there is an abundance of technology solutions which could make doing business with you far easier and therefore increasing your chances of bringing on new business.

    5. Implement a programme for delivering customer success

    Of all the suggestions provided in this article this one should surely be the most obvious but for some reason it’s the one that is most frequently overlooked. It’s simply a case of looking after your customer, offering the best service and experience you can and thinking about how you can support them make a success of doing business with you.

    After all (as it is proclaimed with frequent abandon) we are all in this together so how can you work together to come out of this at worst, still operational but at best in better shape than you were in before?

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the article so feel free to comment below however if you want to discuss any of the strategies above in context of your business then message me here.

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  • Outsourced Sales Teams
    23/01/2020 - Sian Thomas 0 Comments
    How to Engage with Outsourced Sales Teams

    Never has it been a better time to set up in business.

    With the combination of low cost technology platforms, the numerous communication channels giving you direct access to your market and increasing deployment of remote teams whether direct or indirect means that any business that addresses the needs of the market and delivers it well stands every chance of success.

    Well okay, I acknowledge that in reality it’s not that simple. Choosing the best systems that scale can be daunting, the ever increasing number of communication channels available make the task of deciding where to focus your time overwhelming and selecting who will help you achieve your mission...well, it can really question whether all these considerations are worth it.

    Business is not for the faint hearted but for those who want to venture out and at least start realising a dream then note, it is a path well trodden and can be extremely rewarding.

    Having spoken with many business owners and entrepeneurs it’s surprising how much oversight has been made in terms of their infrastructure going forward. Here I have outlined 4 considerations to make note of in terms of working with an outsourced sales agency.

    Good outsourced sales businesses really want to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you but they need your help so:

    1. Know Your Business (and Your Market)

    This may seem dumb but it’s surpring how many businesses are unable to articulate this. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about the problem you solve. So to adopt a well used mantra, you are not selling the drill but rather the hole. This effectively comes under jobs theory, think about the job your solution is being employed to do.

    If this is challenging to do then ask around, send a survey to your customers to find out how they get the best from what you do for them.

    As regards your market, it can’t be everyone. Look at your data to understand who gets the best from what you supply. And if you don’t have data then create a hypothesis and test. Effectively there will be trial and error but until you get started and test it out you will never be any the wiser.

    2. Decide on Your Goals

    Unless you have thought about what you want to achieve then how will you know if a campaign has been successful? Again, when working with a client I have often asked what they are looking to achieve and have been met with “some sales.” This is not going to get you anywhere.
    It is best to be as clear as possible here to stand a chance of achieving your goal whether that is number of appointments made, demos completed, attendees on a training course or simply revenue created.

    Also be clear on the qualification requirements to ensure the numbers reflect a good fit between what you sell and what they need to not only stand a better chance of conversion but retention too! And if you miss the mark then you are more likely to get genuine insights when conducting the campaign post mortem.

    The main objection external sales teams get from prospects is whether they will get a decent ROI. Well, by giving due consideration to the above points you should be halfway there.

    3. When Engaging with an External Agency...

    ...whether you have searched them on Google, Linkedin, a freelance site or asked for a referral my top tip is to observe how they interact with you as a prospective client. Do they look after you and offer you reassurance in a way that you want to translate to your prospects?

    How prepared have they come to the conversation? Are they asking you questions that are enabling them to learn enough about your business that fulfils the brief whether that’s at the lead generation / prospecting end of the conversation to closing the deal?

    Are they presenting themselves in a way that you can see yourself or your team working with them? To be successful this must be an effective working relationship.

    Are they setting expectations in line with the brief? Are there SLAs in place?

    If all looks good here then at least you’re starting out on the front foot.

    4. Ensure You Follow up

    You have invested a lot of time and money in the process so don’t fall down here. Ensure there is a system and process in place to continue from what your outsourced service provider has achieved. Whether that is to keep the appointment made, call as promised or ensuring they are properly taken care of once they have made their purchase as that is really when they do become valuable and should be valued in turn.

    So how have you got on with these musings? I am conscious I’ve skirted over a few details but only intended to give you enough food for thought while keeping it relatively light.

    I would love you to share your thoughts on this or let me know if you have other similar topics you would like me to cover. Equally if you want to find out more or arrange a call to see whether I can offer help to your business then click on the following link. https://www.integrowsalesbristol.co.uk/contact-bri...

    Thank you for reading.

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