Sell more & Work LessIn Sell More & Work Less, we talk about asking the “hard questions” during the sales process.  These are questions that many business people are reluctant to ask because they can be uncomfortable and seen as aggressive.  They include questions like:

  • Is there budget allocated for this project?
  • How does your purchasing process work?
  • Do you have a target date to implement this solution?

Those do not look like difficult questions to pose to a prospect.  In fact, if you have established even a modest level of rapport, you should be able to inquire about these topics without apprehension, and you are likely to receive honest answers.

Understanding if (budget), how (process) and when (target date) a prospect is going to purchase will allow you to focus on those who can buy.  Allocating your time and resources effectively, based on the answers to these “hard questions”, will result in more business.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on January 26, 2012

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sell-more-work-lessIn our new book Sell More & Work Less, we talk about calling and emailing high and wide.  By calling high we mean calling the top level executives.  By calling wide we mean reaching out to several contacts, including some who may not have titles you think directly apply to your opportunity.  When you combine this method with an integrated marketing campaign, the results are often compelling.  In fact, our business has achieved record growth over the past two years using this exact formula.  Here is an example:

I emailed the C-level executives of an organization I thought would be a great fit for our solutions.  The CEO opened my email several times, so I called and left him a voice mail.  A week or so later, a member of his marketing staff filled out the form on our website and asked for a meeting.  We met with the team the following week, and during the meeting they mentioned receiving my emails and reading a book our CEO had published.  We reach them with a multi-dimensional integrated campaign, and I called high and emailed wide.  They became a client shortly thereafter.

Integrated Marketing + Calling and Emailing High and Wide = More Business.

Originally Posted January 19, 2012 by John Scranton

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What a Contractor is Teaching me About Great Customer Service

  • Posted on April 4, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Picture1Whenever I have a commercial interaction, I try to glean a few insights into why it was enjoyable or why it was annoying.  My most recent endeavor has been the engagement of a contractor to make some home improvements.  As my wife and I researched vendors we heard many horror stories of dishonest contractors delivering a shoddy product or poor customer service.  So far the product appears to speak for itself, and I have noticed a few things that make the service superior:

  1. They Never Bother Me – Working virtually, I am in the same building, so it would be easy for the contractors to interrupt me to ask questions or review specifications.  They never do.  The only interactions I have with them are on my terms.  Imagine if this was the case on a car lot?  How can you avoid bothering your clients?
  2. They Deliver a Little Extra – One of the contractors noticed the felt pads on the feet of some of my kitchen chairs had worn off.  Replacing them will require a $5 purchase and 10 minutes of labor.  This is an infinitesimal task relative to the project scope, but it makes my life just a little easier at no additional charge.  What extra value can you deliver to your clients?
  3. They Simplify Billing – We only meet once per week to talk about money.  On Fridays I pay for what has been completed and they tell me what will be completed the following week and what the cost will be.  There are no surprises.  This relieves any anxiety I might have about the financial plan for the project.  What are your clients prospects worried about?

Originally Posted November 30th, 2011 by John Scranton

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Speedometer90 days ago I purchased a new vehicle. This was the first car I acquired since I transitioned to a virtual business model, which made me wonder how this vehicle’s first few months as a member of my household compared to my last new car purchase, when I still followed the traditional sales model. Lets take a look at the numbers.

In the first 90 days that I owned my last vehicle, the mileage increased from 33 to 12,430. That is 4,100+ miles per month on the road a traveling salesman. My new vehicle has aged from 6 to 1,624 during the first 90 days of ownership. That represents a nearly 90% drop in miles driven per month.

Now let us explore how that translates to fuel costs. The traditional sales miles were covered in an economical sedan which averaged 27 MPG. 12,430 / 27 X $3.50 per gallon = $1,611 in fuel costs. Meanwhile, my virtual miles are driven in an SUV which averages 18 MPG. 1,624 / 18 X $3.50 per gallon = $316. This equates to $1,300 in my pocket, while making no mention of maintenance costs, even while driving a much less efficient vehicle.

This simple example illustrates just one of the many challenges created by a traditional sales model that puts people on the road. By leveraging a virtual model, people have more time to work and their businesses are significantly more profitable.

Originally Posted on October 10, 2011 by John Scranton

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The Perils of Jargon & The Power of Clear Communication

  • Posted on March 7, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency MarketingYesterday I had some repairs made to my ankle. I won’t share all the details, but to summarize, the procedure repaired old sports injuries and was invasive enough to require general anesthesia.

I spoke with two nurses, a physician’s assistant, anesthesiologist and surgeon prior to the operation.  Each of these people attempted to explain important information to me, however they spoke a foreign language: medicine.

Luckily they were each highly experienced professionals who had honed their communication skills. For example, the anesthesiologist reviewed his recommended strategy called “a block.” He elucidated the details of this jargon by analogizing the process to receiving novacane at the dentist. Jargon before, now clearly understood, and readily accepted (bought) by me as the best course of action.

During your sales process, consistently confirm that your prospect understands your communication and concepts  clearly.  Alliteration aside, ask yourself these questions. If you aren’t sure, ask your prospect.

  • Did you define industry jargon and technical terms in clear and simple language?
  • Did you use examples and stories that a common business person would understand?
  • Did you clearly elucidate how your solution would improve your prospects business?
  • Would your mother understand your value proposition and pitch?

A prospect will not buy a product, service or solution they do not understand.  The clarity of your communication can determine the success or failure of your deal.

Originally Posted by John Scranton on September 13, 2011

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Is Your Sales Process Too Complex?

  • Posted on March 1, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency SalesDuring my daily conversations with producers and managers, I am often reminded of the typical agency sales process. It can be cumbersome and often complex, leaving many opportunities for incremental progress to break down. Some agencies have found creative and intelligent ways to streamline the prospecting/quoting/presenting/closing flow. Others have not. Here is a scenario that is more typical than most organizations would like to admit:

  1. Producer prospects an account. Lets say it is a garage named Joe’s Auto Repair. He or she starts the conversation during a lunchtime oil change. They are open to a quote and a meeting is set for next week.
  2. During the car ride back to the office, the producer calls an account manager to see who is competitive for garages these days. He also calls his go-to company marketing rep who says he would love a garage risk.
  3. The producer then meets with the prospect and completes 98% of the applications, gathers the information needed to satisfy the required supplementals, and even obtains current loss runs. He drops off all the paperwork to his account manager and asks her to call the prospect in the morning for the remaining 2% of the information and then pass it off to marketing.
  4. The following week he returns from a CIC course and sees someone from marketing in the coffee room. He asks how the quotes for Joe’s Auto Repair are coming along and receives a quizzical look. Concerned, Mr. Producer heads over to see his account manager who says Joe has not returned two calls and she still does not have the information.
  5. Now time is running out. The producer drives over to Joe’s and learns that although he received the messages, he had not had a chance to calculate the percent of revenues generated at his primary location versus his uptown location. And since so much time has passed he was nervous and paid his renewal bill, in full. However, he would be happy to talk next year.

Whose fault is this?  The producer thought he covered his bases when he left for his CIC course. The account manager was simply following instructions. The marketing department could have still provided a quote but never saw the apps. Nobody was wrong, but every loses.

The problem is the complexity of the process. Simplify, remove barriers, share duties, allow all parties to interact and continually keep communication open. You will never win every sale, but it is better to lose to a worthy competitor than to beat yourself.

Originally Posted by John Scranton August 11, 2011

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All-Inclusive Resorts and All-Inclusive Marketing Agencies

  • Posted on February 27, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Picture1This week I returned from vacation in Mexico.  My wife and I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort on the Caribbean in Mexico.  We had a wonderful trip.  Perfect conditions for relaxing on the beach and recovering from a busy summer and recharging for the coming fall.  During the flight home, I was thinking about why we chose an all-inclusive for our vacation.  This was not the first time, and likely will not be the last, so why do we find them so special?

The key is that we have whatever we want, whenever we want, with no additional fees.  We prefer to have relaxing days on the beach and nice dinner dates in the evening.  But if one day while we are relaxing in the beach cabana we decide to sail or surf, its no problem.  And if we decide we would like to start our dinner with champagne and strawberries and have cheeseburgers for dessert, its no problem.  And if we decide the day calls for margaritas at the pool, or a round of golf or a massage or dinner on the balcony – its no problem.  I only call one person – the same person – and as long as my request is reasonable, they make it happen.  Worst case an unusual request simply takes a little longer to fill.

Why can’t more businesses be like this?

I think they can.  The cost for an all-inclusive is similar to what I would typically spend for a resort-style trip where I make my own food and entertainment arrangements, and I often find it to be a much greater value.  There are many professional services firms that can offer clients a retainer based program in which all of their needs are met.  Again, they must be within scope and within reason – but every challenge is overcome by the professionals which they have retained.

At StartUpSelling we offer monthly retainer programs custom made to meet our clients needs.  We also provide an all-inclusive option.  Clients who invest a certain amount are rewarded by an active and effective response to their every need.  And as long as the request is reasonable, we make it happen.  Worst case an unusual request simply takes a little longer to fill.

Originally Posted by John Scranton August 11, 2011

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3 Easy Ways to Kill a Sale

  • Posted on February 2, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency MarketingWe recently approached a vendor partner to discuss the expansion of our contract. We presume they were pleased to receive our inquiry, as we reached out to them asking if we could provide them with additional revenue. However, the salesperson’s series of responses included three serious flaws which now have us questioning the investment. To help us all learn from their mistakes, here are reminders of three easy ways to kill a sale:

1. Do not answer your prospect’s questions

Our vendor inquiry included a handful of basic questions. After answering the first couple, the representative immediately skipped ahead to pricing and a premature close. Be certain all of your prospect’s questions are answered thoroughly before you move ahead in the sales process. A good waiter or waitress would never ask “Do you want fries with that?” while taking your drink order.

2. Do not research your prospect’s current or past pricing structure

Long-term and mutually beneficial client relationships often include unique or discounted pricing. We enjoy a special pricing structure with the aforementioned vendor and reciprocate by rarely requesting any technical support and periodically providing strategic level expertise to their team. Our new account rep did not investigate the relationship and quoted the rack rate the service mix we were investigating. Our waitress friend would be wise to warn the table that only the first bottle of wine is half price, rather than dropping the check on the table and hoping for the best.

3. Respond to questions in a terse or frustrated manner

If you commit either of the above errors, your prospect may become annoyed. If you respond in a terse or frustrated manner, the sale is as good as dead.

Originally Posted on March 26, 2014 by John Scranton

 

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An Embarrassment of Riches

  • Posted on January 31, 2017
  • by John Scranton

FC BarcelonaI am a big fan of the soccer team FC Barcelona.  I have always respected their approach to developing talent, and love to watch their style of play.  I make an attempt to watch as many of their matches as my schedule allows.  Last night, I watched a replay of their Champion’s League massacre of Shakhtar Donetsk.  While preparing for a free kick from just beyond the penalty area, three star players gathered to discuss who would be taking the kick.  The announcer proclaimed this to be “an embarrassment of riches.”

I thought to myself “an embarrassment of riches? That’s it! That’s the key to marketing success!”  So I immediately went out and hired three of the worlds best marketers, signed them to eight-figure salaries and began shopping for a new yacht.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  Kidding about the eight-figure marketing assassins and the yacht, but not kidding about the embarrassment of riches being the key to success.  Let me explain.

Barcelona had three players with unique and distinctly different styles circling this free kick.  Dani Alves who delivers powerful strikes, Lionel Messi who often curls a ball into the upper corner, and Xavi who might lob the ball over the wall onto the head of a teammate.  All different, all effective, all with certain potential to score a goal.

When attacking your marketplace, it is extremely unlikely that only one marketing initiative will be the key to success.  But fully developing three (or more) unique and distinct campaigns will provide a much greater likelihood of market penetration.  In my case, this consists of 1) eMarketing & Webinars 2) Blogging & Social Media and 3) Referrals and Cross-Selling.  Three groups, each consisting of multiple elements.  This creates a multi-dimension approach that touches prospects in a variety of ways, giving them many opportunities to respond to my messaging.

A properly executed integrated marketing campaign generates sales activity in many different ways with a variety of prospects – and hopefully leads to an embarrassment of riches for your business.

Originally Posted on April 8th, 2011 by John Scranton

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Marketing for Exponential Growth – Referrals for Incremental Growth

  • Posted on January 27, 2017
  • by John Scranton

Insurance Agency SalesEarlier this week I speaking with our CEO about the status of our referral pipeline.  We briefly discussed who we thought our best referral opportunities are and how we could best approach them.  I spent a couple of hours planning, calling and emailing clients – then I went back to work on our primary marketing channels.

For reference, those primary marketing initiatives are: 1.) eMarketing and web seminars, 2.) blogging and social media.  I invest approximately 80-90% of my marketing efforts cultivating those channels.  Referral are the third component to our strategy and occupy only 10% or so of my marketing time.  Athough important, they are third for a reason.

I believe that focusing on referrals as your primary source of new business will create limited opportunity.  Prospecting your clients sphere of infulence will deliver incremental growth.  Those of you interested in exponential growth  will need to find your most effective and efficient lead generation solutions and focus on them.

For more detailed information about this theory and its specific application to the insurance business, please view this blog entry:

Focusing on Referral Selling puts a Governor on your Agency Growth

Referrals have traditionally been a premier source of new business for insurance agencies.  When I was an agent, I loved referrals.  It was an opportunity to build my business without actually selling.  Just visiting with somebody who would likely buy.  A great tool that all salespeople need to take advantage of and cultivate consistently…

Originally Posted on March 3rd, 2011 by John Scranton

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