By Susan Thomas, CEO, Trainer Communications
For many, 2011 was a year of getting on more solid financial footing. That said, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese calendar—and Jan. 23 was the Chinese New Year Day.
So what lies ahead for your business in the Year of the Dragon?
According to a recent article by financial planner Katy Song, 2012 will be a year of unpredictability and intensity in financial matters. It will also be a great year for innovative businesses and ideas, she says.
But you don’t need various interpretations of what the Year of the Dragon may or may not mean to know that you can make this year a success—if you sign more clients and bring in more new business than you did last year. Regardless of whether you’re a PR, advertising, marketing firm—or an entrepreneurial business in ANY sector—these no-nonsense tips will help you sell your way to more success in 2012:
- A network works. Ask your friends, colleagues and best clients for referrals and prepare to offer them an equal number of referrals (or at least a very generous thank you gift) for every referral they provide. Remember, people tend to have friends that are like themselves – so a great client has the potential to create more great clients for you.
- Pitch what you know. No one wants to be first. Have examples of similar sized companies, companies in similar industries, and demonstrate the results you were able to achieve with those companies.
- One size does not fit all. Be prepared to customize products and services to your clients unique business needs. After all, no one really looks great in a moumou.
- Be prepared and don’t walk into a conversation cold. Know the competitors, how they size up against the competitors and identify some potential gaps.
- Good questions are the key to being great at sales. Unlike popular folklore, the best sales people are the best listeners, not talkers. It’s not a matter of talking someone into something they don’t want, it’s a matter of listening to what the person needs, and determining if and how you can deliver it. The better attention you pay to their needs, the better suited your proposal will be and the more likely you’ll get the sale.
- Sales are a process of elimination. “No thank you” can be the best answer you can hear from a prospect that is not interested in what you have to offer. I too often see desperate sales people try to hold on to a prospect because they can’t bear to hear no. If you listened attentively and presented what you believed the prospect asked for, and you still got a no – move on! A match is a two way street and you don’t want to try and work with someone that isn’t interested in working with you. Sales is a numbers game, make sure you have plenty of opportunity, so desperation isn’t part of your sales process.
- Be specific. When you ask for a referral, be specific about what you want. Think about the size and type of company and what the perfect prospect would need from you. The more specificity, the closer the match.
- Defining next steps in the sales process with your prospect is one of the best ways to ensure you understand how the prospect will make their decision. You can help the prospect outline their buying process and ensure you stay current with what they are looking for to make their decision.
- Establish rapport with your prospect. Sometimes a sales person can dive right into business too quickly. There’s a fine line between becoming too much of a schmooze and too “hardcore” sales. Find a nice balance with your prospect by doing things like mirroring their communications style and pace, remembering personal facts that they mention and subsequently inquiring about them, but most importantly making sure that every meeting you conduct with them, you meet their needs.
- Know when to walk. Honestly, in this economy very few sales people have felt like they have the opportunity to walk away from an opportunity. However, in some cases that is exactly what you should do. Are they trying to price you out of any profit on the deal? Are they asking for contract concessions that leave you vulnerable? Do their demands for service seem unreasonable? Usually people are on their best behavior when they begin a new relationship with a vendor. If the prospect starts out badly in the sales process, they will be a nightmare when they become a client. In fact, don’t just walk, run!
Susan Thomas established Trainer Communications in 1995 to support technology companies with integrated marketing and public relations services. Since that time, the agency has gained acclaim as the 7th largest privately held communications agency in the Bay Area and one of the Top 10 agencies to work for in the U.S. and in 2010 was named the best small agency in the United States.