Position Yourself for 2018

November 14th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

November is a busy time-everyone is busy finalizing annuals for next year, getting business in for November and December, and creating their plans for 2018. But is everyone also working on closing first and second quarter 2018 right now?

The decision-makers you are calling on are also working on hitting their numbers for this year and creating a plan for next year. We all know that it is extremely easy to have a conversation about 2018 – all of our decision-makers are in the throes of getting their strategies in order as to how they are going to achieve their numbers for 2018. And hopefully all of you are working with both current and new clients to understand their objectives for both current and new products being developed.

But, annuals aside, how many of you have solid business booked for 2018? Budgets can be difficult to achieve but if you have dollars at least presented for first and second quarter now you have a much better chance of exceeding your numbers.

Over the past month I have been involved with 2018 conversations with decision-makers from banks, educational institutions, manufacturers of CPG products, automotive and health care companies. Every person was looking to make some changes and determine the most efficient way to engage with their target consumers and create a series of call-to-action opportunities. Each individual is tasked with challenging undertakings for 2018. If we do our homework ahead of time and have an intelligent conversation to determine their objectives, we will have dollars at least presented through second quarter to these decision-makers. Each of our conversations have ended with presentations and at this point either closed or pitched business for first and, with a couple of decision-makers, second quarter.

A great salesperson needs to be constantly monitoring how he or she is pacing to their goals – both monthly, quarterly and annually. This must be an honest number -”what is the reality that what I have presented is going to close?” So many times I hear people tell me heading into the last week of the month, “I still need $30,000 in digital for this month; how am I going to make this happen?” If a salesperson is actively monitoring their numbers and focusing on pacing to meet their numbers, this question never gets asked. But we have to have the activity in place to succeed and this involves multi-tasking.

Slot out a few hours each week to just focus on 2018 meetings with new decision-makers; get ideas in front of decision-makers to help them in putting together their plans and strategies. You will both be winners in the long run and you will create a long-term partnership with a new important client.

Narrow the Close

October 13th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

I have been traveling to markets each week over the past month and have been on some great sales calls that my clients have scheduled. In each of the needs analysis meetings, we have walked away with clear objectives and homework assignments and many times with big budgets disclosed. We have set up a follow up meeting to present the ideas and will create a proposal from that call.  But the question becomes “How do we narrow the close?”

First we have to make sure that we have truly listened to the client and not made assumptions that make sense for what we are trying to sell, whether it is an event, a mobile app, or promotion that the station has created.

I think it is always great if a manager is on an important call with a rep. And it’s great when we are in town to go on calls with our salespeople as well. Why? Because you have an additional set of ears to hear what the decision-maker is truly saying. So many times in a conversation there are small references that we may miss because we are “broadcasting when we should be listening”. With an additional set of ears, we tend to catch those subtle references. Once we recap the conversation and create ideas that are narrowed down in the next meeting, we create a proposal that is focused on the objective that was determined in our needs analysis conversation. The concept that is created and how we will make it happen through an integrated campaign as well as the net investment all must go back to the objective that we heard during the needs analysis.

It is critical that we ask for the close when we present the proposal to the decision-maker. Many times they will tell a sales rep that it looks great but “let me review and get back to you in a few weeks”. Too many times the rep walks out of the meeting proud as a peacock that the call was “awesome” yet they haven’t asked for the sale.

After reviewing the proposal, have the contract ready for the decision-maker to sign. If they can’t sign it, do you ask “why”? The most important question in narrowing the close is “on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 you signing where do you see this?” If the decision-maker says a “7″ you ask “what has to be done to this proposal to get it to a 10?” The more information you have, the better chance you have of closing.

Also make that follow up appointment – don’t leave it to “I’ll get back to you in a few weeks”. The more conversation and follow up calls, the better chance of narrowing the close. But it all starts with a great homework assignment from a great needs analysis meeting. Make the decision-maker a partner with you in reaching the desired objectives.

September 8th, 2017

Opportunities Abound for Now and 2018

by Susan Novicki

I have been on many sales calls over the last few weeks and it is interesting to see the opportunities for business both this year and next. Many companies have a fiscal that matches the calendar year, and many of those companies are now starting their budget process or are in the midst of it.

As you all know, it is critical that we are talking to decision-makers now about their plans for 2018 while they are in the process of evaluating and writing recommendations for next year. I often find when I am making calls that my Valid Business Reason for making the call is that I have found out some information about the company and I want to talk to them about their plans on activating it moving into 2018. This tends to open the door for conversation and many times gets us homework assignments for fourth quarter as well as first and second quarter of 2018.

A few quick examples can point this out and two are in the Consumer Packaged Goods / Grocery category.

1) With one CPG company, I was talking to a Regional Sales Manager in the Midwest. We were discussing new products and his focus moving into fourth quarte

r and the New Year. While initially he told us his budget was spent for the remainder of the year as we discussed opportunities to focus on two major initiatives for the company he gave us an assignment to put some ideas together for the holiday time frame. He told us that he had some funding for one specific retailer for this year and that he could also get some dollars from the Shopper Marketing team if there was opportunity for more shelf space with the program.

2) On the other end of the spectrum we had an assignment from the Communications Manager for an association that wanted to drive traffic to retail. We were asked to create ideas for second and third quarter 2018 and in a further meeting we were told that they liked two of the ideas and presented them to the board for review. Our timing was perfect because they were meeting with the board the following week to map out their advertising and promotional calendar and what they wanted to do.

As you all know it is much easier to get larger dollars when we are in front of the dollars.

We have had great meetings over the last few weeks in automotive, home improvement, telecom, and health care to name a few categories. With each one we are talking about 2018 and we are also finding some additional smaller opportunities for fourth quarter.

If we called to say we wanted to talk to them about doing something in October, the doors would be slammed shut.

By focusing on the information we found during research and opening up communication about 2018, not only are we getting the decision-maker’s attention just as they are working on budgets, but we become part of the solution and have an opportunity to get some dollars for fourth quarter.

Opportunities abound if you are smart about how you are working your prospects.

Tips to Become a Better Listener

August 4th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

“When people talk,” Ernest Hemingway said, “listen completely. Most people never listen.”

The definition of listening is as follows: The active process of receiving and responding to spoken (and sometimes unspoken) messages.

We have grown up being told to listen. In elementary school we were told to “listen in class” and “don’t interrupt” or “ask for permission to speak” or “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason”. This is an important lifelong skill that during our education was consistently drilled into us. But as we grew older and joined the work force somehow these sound principles were lost.

As salespeople and managers, how often are we truly listening to what the other person is saying?   Also, often many successful salespeople and managers have a “Type A” personality and one of the biggest characteristics of this personality, and I put myself in this category, is that we are terrible listeners. Yet, as a consultative seller, we must be listening to what the client needs. Listening is a tool that we use to capture information and information is the key to success.

Too often we focus our conversations on selling, versus listening. Everyone is under pressure to perform and hit certain numbers and goals and this causes us to multi-task and many times talk over the person that we are conversing with- how can we listen to what the person is saying to us in either of these circumstances? As a manager, when you meet individually with your staff, are you truly listening to what they are saying or are you thinking about the report you have to send in to corporate and what numbers you need to get from this person? In sales, are you truly listening to what the decision-maker is saying or are you thinking about the product you want to sell them and how you are going to present it to them?

To help me focus on listening I do a few things prior and during the conversation.

First I prepare for the call – I am not just grabbing a lead, finding the decision-maker and calling cold. I do a little bit of research on the company and the person I am calling. Can I make a connection to warm the cold call? Can I pull some information about something the company is currently doing that I could help them activate locally? Can I create that Valid Business Reason for making the call? I prepare a few questions that I want to ask that are going to delve into their needs and in turn will help me create a solution for them with my products. I focus on the five key things that I need to know to understand the objective – product, customer, partner, timing and budget. Preparation helps me to listen to the information that will come from a successful call.

Second, I take notes – this will force me to listen to what the person is saying instead of just thinking about what I am going to say next or what I want to sell them. We are all much more comfortable with what we have to sell – we need to be comfortable with their business.

Finally I recap what I have heard from the decision-maker to make sure that I did listen as intently as I wanted to and set up the follow up meeting to present ideas, taking the information I heard as the key to success.

Try some of these things – become a better listener!

Are You Happy With Your Closing Ratio?

July 7th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

It may not seem possible but we are at the end of second quarter.  And developmentally we should have enough in the pipeline to be pacing to hit our annual number.  Are you closing what you thought you would be at this point in the year?

I was on a call recently with a client and we were talking about how everyone was pacing. Stop and think for a minute, how are you pacing? Are you happy with your closing ratio? Do you know your closing ratio? It’s hard to track your pacing without it.

As salespeople the best adrenaline rush we get is when we close a big sale – that is the “high” that makes us love what we do although sometimes the anticipation leading up to it can be brutal. And many times salespeople have a difficult time actually asking for the sale.

If you have done a great job researching the company and industry, landscaped the decision-makers and conducted a great needs analysis to understand the true objectives of the client, the close will happen – but you DO have to ask for it.

At the end of the presentation do you ask “When do you want to start?” So many times people stumble around the close, similar to asking for the budget, because they are afraid that they will hear “no”. But you need to get a clear indication of the next step. So look at your closing ratio. Are you making plenty of calls and presentations but they are not closing?

If you are unhappy with your closing ratio ask yourself these questions:

Was this a good prospect in the first place? How much research did you do on the company, their industry and the economic outlook for them? How much money are they spending in the market? How are they faring in relation to their competitors?

Were you clear on what they really wanted to accomplish? Many times we fail to uncover a need and hear what the client is saying because we are too busy talking about how great our stations and websites are – the most efficient media schedules in the world will not necessarily accomplish our client’s objectives. Remember the process to uncover a great homework assignment. Learning to ask the right questions and listening to the answers will result in an opportunity to present a concept to the client that will meet their objectives. And it will save you time and make you money! One of my favorite questions when it comes to asking for the close and they are not willing to sign off immediately is “on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being that you are signing off on the proposal, where do you see this? What are your thoughts on getting this to a 10?” You may think this sounds brash, or even cheesy, but it works and it can give you great insight into why you are not closing this immediately. Again, ask for the sale! If the answer is a 7, ask what you need to do to get it to a 10. They are forced to tell you why they are not closing and what you need to do – believe me, this works.

Did you know everyone that was involved with the decision-making process? There are times the person we are talking to tells us that they are the decision-maker but when the time comes to close you hear “this looks great, let me run it by my boss.” UGH – to avoid this, earlier in the process ask “is there anyone else that would need to approve a program like this?” or “walk me through the process of how your company would make the decision to run a program like this.”

Did you use all of your resources to close? Are you asking your managers for help with closing if needed? Are you using Morrison and Abraham? If you need help, then ask! Another perspective is always helpful.

Make sure you are not letting the fear of asking the tough questions get in your way of closing more business. Know when to walk away if you are wasting time on clients that will never close. Listen and create integrated programs to answer the objectives of the client. And have fun – a big close is the best “high”!

Are You Digging Deep Enough?

June 5th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

“Are you going broad enough and deep enough when you landscape?”

This is a question I find that I ask fairly frequently.  Even though everyone knows that there are multiple people with discretionary budgets at most companies, very often we tend to just target the marketing manager.  Many times sellers will research and as soon as they find a marketing person they assume this is “the one” and target just this person.

As we all know, we rarely get a decision-maker on the phone with an initial call or with one email.  As a result, many weeks can be wasted leaving messages and emailing just one individual as that person may not have a budget to fund programs.

It is important to find many people who could possibly have responsibility for some kind of funding within a company.  Many times I will find people who I know will not be my decision-makers but who could ultimately get me to the decision-maker.  These are the influencers and they can be just as important as those that sign the contracts.  If we can get someone within a company to have interest in the solutions that we can bring to the table to help them with their initiatives or with issues they might be having, we have a chance of closing business.

If we continue to call just one person in the hopes that we can connect and that when we do connect that they have money for a solutions-based program, we are livi

So as you start to work a prospect, or as you look at your current list of prospects, ask yourself “who else in this company could have money to spend?”  “Who else in this company could be an influencer to help me get to the appropriate people and close business?”

Start researching broader and deeper in every company you are working – how much more successful can you be with this strategy?  Also, look at your current business; are there opportunities to garner more dollars by finding other divisions to call on?

Always think about working broader and deeper within every company that you make contact with and you will ultimately be much more successful.

Persistency Pays

May 10th, 2017

by Ginny Speaks

I caught the sales bug when I was 17.  I took a job selling books door to door to put myself through college and realized at a young age that being in sales one did not have an income ceiling.  How cool is that, right?  Until you hit the proverbial sales slump.  As with everything in life, one cannot have or experience good without having experienced bad.   A beautiful rose is adorned with thorns.  Light becomes darkness and the cycle continues. Ying comes with Yang.  The ocean ebbs and flows. You get the picture.  So, what to do when you find yourself in a sales slump and you feel defeated?  Stay the course.

I have found myself using this phrase a lot lately conducting pep talks, not only with sales executives that I coach, but with friends in the sales space as well.  We all know deep down as professional sales executives that this is part of the sales experience and that these so called sales slumps soon shall pass.  All successful business people share a common trait … they are persistent and never give up.  They stay the course and soon discover that around the bend the valleys turn into mountain highs.  To inspire us to stay the course and remind us that the journey to success does include failures and usually many, take a look at these stories of persistence.

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford.  He was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him, he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney Empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up; he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognized as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mom on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft dropped out of Harvard and set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes whey they created the Microsoft Empire.

Are you feeling inspired now to stay the course?  Greatness is waiting on you!

Are We Managing Excuses?

April 6th, 2017

by Susan Novicki

Excuses can be an easy way for people to walk away from tremendous opportunities.  If something looks too difficult, or a challenge looks too daunting, it is easy to use an excuse for not taking on the task.  We all use excuses at some point in time and we hear excuses all the time from people we work with and from clients and potential prospects.  But the excuse is really a reason for not stepping up to get something done.

“99% of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.”

George Washington Carver

Just last week I was working with a client and we were on the phone with a Regional Marketing Manager who told us he “didn’t have any money”.  Do you think we left it at that and said “well ok thank you for your time” or do we challenge his statement in a professional and direct way by asking questions and trying to understand what he is trying to accomplish? Forget about the money at this point – what are his responsibilities and initiatives and how is he trying to accomplish them?   And remember, it’s not just about increasing sales.  What else is he trying to do to engage his customers and create a call to action?  Many times we have not established enough credibility with the person we are talking to and instead we jump into a conversation trying to sell them something.  Something that we don’t even know is the answer to his objectives.  We are pushing products instead of asking thoughtful and provocative questions and listening to what the decision-maker is saying to understand their needs right now.  And the excuses flow, “the regional doesn’t have any money so I could not get them to move forward”.  Many times the money miraculously appears when we have drilled down and unearthed a true need.

Alternately, salespeople that I work with will often tell me that they “ran out of time to make calls this week” or they “had no time to work a lead” and have “had no time to landscape and find decision-makers”.  These comments are the biggest excuses of all – and many times this is because the person does not find a lead credible,  are afraid to make the call, don’t know how to initiate the call, or are not prepared to make the call.  When a salesperson has taken a lead, researched it, found decision-makers to call, and created a valid business reason for making the call, he or she is excited and confident in their ability to help the client.  Somehow the time is made to initiate the call.  Preparation creates confidence and confidence creates success.  Excuses fly out the window.

We can help people we manage by working with sellers to break down the lead – looking at why it is a prospect, what we can do to help them, who are we going to call as a key decision-maker, what we are going to say to establish credibility and initiate a conversation to get a homework assignment and close business and generate revenue.  Excuses are gone.

Help to manage excuses.  Alleviate the need for an excuse by working together to create success.

Direct the Conversation

March 8th, 2017

by Ginny Speaks

To capture new business and break through the clutter, direct the conversation. Capturing new business begins with effective communication and establishing a plan.  Paint the big picture of who you are and what you do.  Then educate. Explain how you help businesses and brands get the consumer engaged, to act. Direct the conversation to a consumer behavior discussion and focus on marketing.  Connect in conversations about the prospect’s strategic marketing goals, consumer touch points, and delivery platforms. Ask questions and do your research so that you can conduct quality/ knowledgeable conversations.  Shift your strategy to understanding client objectives and strategies instead of persuading them to buy.   Find out how the company connects and engages with consumers to drive sales.
Begin the conversation with these questions:
  • What is the most important objective you would like to accomplish with your marketing?
  • What is the strategy?  Getting the consumer in the door, trial products in consumer’s hands, driving sales, brand awareness?  If not one of these, then what?
  • Currently how do your consumers interact and engage with your product, service or company?  What has been the most effective means of reaching them? Discuss delivery platforms and touch points, screens currently being used. Identify target platforms and those that have funded priorities.
  • Tell me about your current core customer?  New target market? Is there a new customer you would like to see more of?  Include psychographics in this discussion, so that you can establish a consumer profile and lifestyle to reach.
  • When evaluating your current marketing strategies would you say you are more focused on awareness or call to action?  Combination of both?
Now that you have flushed out a specific consumer objective, direct the conversation to the assignment. Implement these 5 simple steps next to move the call forward and capture a project
  1. Define consumer/brand/company objectives
  2. Establish marketing channels and platforms used
  3. Explore ideas and direction of strategy
  4. Recap discussion and capture budget
  5. Agree on next steps
Directing conversation is a learned skill set, it takes practice and discipline. Once it is in motion, not only will your assignments increase but your closing ratio will too!

Warm Calls are the Way to Go

February 9th, 2017

by Ginny Speaks

Now is a great time to ramp up your cold calling and put it into overdrive. Take time here in first quarter to really put a focused effort on opening as many new doors as possible so you can stack your year with lots of new prospects out of the gate.  I am doing this now with my coaching schedule with many of our clients, yet making the cold calls warm. In today’s world, we as sellers have the ability to learn a lot before we ever dial a number. Selling is about asking questions and listening. It is shifting our mindset from persuading prospects to buy to fully understanding our prospects needs. To shift from being product focused to buyer focused.

To that end, ask yourself these questions: Over the past few weeks, when I made cold calls to new prospects what did I do? Did I try to persuade and sell or did I ask questions and listen? Did I do pertinent research to establish a valid business reason or did I just decide to wing it? How much did I know about the client before I dialed?

Whether you have been in sales a long time or a short time, we all should be making warm calls – calling with valid business reasons and solid information to conduct strong conversations — to new prospects weekly. The answer to the posed questions above should give you some insight into how you approach your business. Are you calling cold or warm?

Let’s review what information we can gather easily to turn all our prospecting calls into warm ones.

-  Clarify the role and responsibility of the key decision makers you will be calling
- Work the account broad by calling on key people in sales, marketing and communications

-  Locate these key decision makers via website, articles and LinkedIn

-  Gather information about the companies’ marketing initiatives and their challenges

-  Discern what the top priority is for the marketing and sales decision makers based on website content and current promotions

-  Explore their social media strategy and posts to see what is actively happening

-  Understand how budgets are spent and know their fiscal year

-  Draft three probing questions to elicit solid conversations

-  Gather success stories in the category you are calling to build credibility

This is the short list, but you should get the point. The first call, when prepared for, is about having a conversation to discover the lay of land and to determine who the key decision makers are that can make a yes or no decision on a program. It is like being a detective. When you look at the initial call this way, it should take the pressure off not only you but your prospect. Cold calling is an essential part of our business, yet we can turn them into warm calls when we practice this approach. So put on your detective hat and get those fingers dialing. Your next big close is just around the corner.