Entries from August 2008 ↓

I’m in sales, now what?

Customer ServiceI’m often asked “What is the first thing I should do when I move from Engineering to Sales?”

My answer is typically insultingly simple: “Talk to your customer service department.”

These guys (and gals) have heard every complaint and compliment in the book. They know who uses your product and in what capacity they use it. Take them all out to lunch and befriend them.

Here are a few questions to ask your customer service department to help you make the jump to sales from engineering:

  1. What are the 3 most common complaints you get about our product?
  2. How do you handle those complaints?
  3. What are the 3 most common compliments you get about our product?
  4. What complimentary products go with what I’m selling – do you think that there is an opportunity for an up-sell here?
  5. Do customers ever complain about our sales force? What do they say?
  6. How do you think I should approach sales? Any advice?
  7. What can I do on the front end so that you get less grief on your end?
  8. Do you think that there are any markets that we should enter?
  9. Do you think there are any uses for our product that we don’t exploit?
  10. Can we have lunch like this once a month, my treat?

Take their advice and insight to heart and begin to get a clear picture of just who your customer is. When you go on a sales call you can now say things like, “a lot of our customers were pleasantly surprised to find out that they could do [something] with our widget after they bought it” or “I have to ask if you intend to try to do [something] with our product, because some who have tried didn’t like the result because [reason].”

You’ll get a sense for what your customer’s needs and wants are and will be well prepared for many of the questions that you’ll get asked in the field.

Sales quotation sample; Part I

Sales quote exampleI’ve gotten so much feedback from a previous post on a sales quotation example (in fact it is the most popular post so far in the sales funnel) that I think it warrants going into this in a bit more detail. I thought it might be appropriate to have a series of posts detailing the various parts of a good sales quote. And the quote is often at the beginning of the sales funnel, so it is terribly important to your sales health.

All sales quotes should have the following components:

  • Your contact information
  • Your customer’s contact information
  • Date you sent the quote out
  • Your internal quote number
  • Quote body
  • Leadtime
  • Payment terms
  • Shipping terms
  • Price
  • Your signature and title
  • Reference to your Terms and Conditions

For this post, let’s talk about the “internal quote number” – other quotation items to be found in future posts.

You should have a system in place for numbering all of your quotations. I’ve seen many different ways of doing this, the most popular follow:

  • Base it on your customer’s name. For example if you are quoting XYZ Forming, Inc. for the third time, you might call your quote number “XYZ003”. The benefit of this numbering scheme is that you know at an instance who the company is and how many times you’ve quoted them in the past. The problem is that you need to remember if you called the quote XYZ or XYZFORM. Sure you can set up rules to maybe limit it to three characters, but that causes problems with companies that have the same first three letters – it ends up being a mess and I don’t recommend this.
  • Base it on sequential numbering. So on day one your first quote is 001 and three years from now you’re on quote 434. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this scheme, I like to build a little intelligence in my quote numbering layout.
  • Base it on logical sequential numbering. Here is where I like to live. If a company has very discreet products, say iron and copper sheet quote could be numbered Fe001 and Cu001, respectively. I personally like to number based on the current fiscal year I’m in without regard to product class. So my first quote of 2008 was 8001 and right now I’m on 8178. That way I know at an instant approximately when a quote was released. I have a simple Excel file that I use to keep track of what quote number I’m on.

Please CLICK HERE to download a sample sales quotation for you to use as a template in your sales efforts.

What system do you use?

UPDATE: This is by far one of our most popular post, if you want to learn more, visit our products page and read “Sales Layer 8 – How to accept a purchase order.”

Topgrading for Sales – Book Review

Topgrading for SalesI recently read “Topgrading for Sales” by Bradford Smart and Greg Alexander. It is a Bible of sorts for hiring and growing a top shelf sales staff.

Now I’m the first to admit that I’m not the best Sales Manager. I prefer working in and with smaller companies and typically have less than five people working for me and on the surface the book seems to be targeted toward large organizations. But as I dug into it and all the forms and formulas presented, I started realizing that the book was applicable to salespeople as well as sales managers. And for managers with a small team, it is even more important to hire the right people from the start, a single poor performer can cripple the organization.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the list called “A Player Sales Reps – Let’s Count the Joys”

The joys of having high performing sales reps are many, because A players:

  1. “get” the strategy the Chief Sales Officers create and make it a reality;
  2. assure that your monthly, quarterly, and annual forecasts are met;
  3. assure high R&D yield;
  4. innovate;
  5. provide you bench strength for promotability to Sales Manager;
  6. sell at higher prices than other reps can sell;
  7. are talent magnets;
  8. extend customer life;
  9. lessen the need for managerial overhead;
  10. enable organizational harmony.

Since the book points out many ways that salespeople should be judged – it makes sense that you should read it to see how you’re being judged. Take the tests and honestly grade yourself. Learn what you need to work on and get training to make yourself better. Let us know how you do!

To see a video and/or purchase the book, visit: http://www.salesbenchmarkindex.com

Sales leads – press release sources

Press releaseFollowing up the general comments in “Where do sales leads come from?“, here is a bit more detail on the idea of prospecting press release sources to keep the top end of your sales funnel full. I’m assuming here that you track your prospect’s news releases – if not, you should be. Whenever something new hits the wire where you product or service can be used, shamelessly contact the release source. An opening phone statement can be something as simple as:

Hi Jane, I saw your press release announcing your expansion plans in Houston and was hoping to talk with you for three minutes about your networking needs. [don’t leave time for a response here] I promise that this won’t be a hard sales pitch and at any time during the discussion you are free to tell me that it doesn’t sound like a good fit and I won’t bother you again. Our widgets have been used in similar plants to increase network speed by 60% and I just want to see if we can offer you that same type of value.

This should buy you that three minutes – keep to that time and ask for permission to talk longer if you need to.