• Sales Is a Relationship Business

    By Michelle Davidson

    Sales RelationshipsYou could think of sales as a series of transactions, and if you are good at sales, then you are good at making transactions happen. That approach works in certain circumstances.

    But if you sell intangible services or complex solutions, your best option is to focus on the relationship with the customer, says Charles H. Green.

    "You succeed by focusing on the qualitative—by improving relationships, by nurturing the conditions that lead to repeat business, loyalty, deep customer knowledge and intimacy," he says in his article In Complex Sales, Time Is on Your Side. "In the not-very-long run, that focus actually produces better results than focusing on the transactional."

    In that situation, you would talk about the quality of the relationship with the customer, and individual sales transactions would be seen as indicators of a relationship's success, not as the driving purpose, Green says.

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  • Buyers to Sellers: What Can You Do for Me?

    By Michelle Davidson

    Buyer-Seller CommunicationEvery time you call, email, or meet with a prospect or customer, you can almost guarantee the person is thinking, "Why are you contacting me? What can you do for me?"

    Their guard immediately goes up, and as you talk (or they read your email), they make split-second decisions whether to continue the conversation or end it and hope to never hear from you again.

    That means before you speak or put fingers to keyboard, you must put yourself in your buyer's shoes and consider what is important to them and why they should listen to you. Even if the person is already a happy customer, if you call on them, you need to provide value. They don't have time to waste.

    Here are a few suggestions to help you do that:

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  • Factors that Contribute to a Salesperson's Success

    By Michelle Davidson

    Winning SalespersonThink about the first day at your job. Do you remember any details? Did your new employer do anything in particular that stands out?

    Like most people in my generation, I've had quite a few "first days." (We Gen X-ers are not afraid to change jobs when the need or desire arises.) Of all of those job starts, only one stands out—my first day as editor of RainToday.

    After the initial meet and greet with everyone, I was led to my desk to begin settling in. There I faced what I thought was a stack of mail—perhaps article submissions—to go through. To my happy surprise, those letters turned out to be hand-written notes by every person on staff, welcoming me to the team. Never had an employer done that for me. Never had I felt so welcomed at a company.

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  • Who in Your Firm Should Be a Visible Expert?

    By Michelle Davidson

    Lee FrederiksenThe benefits of having a Visible Expert in your firm are obvious: it helps you attract new leads, creates new partnering opportunities, allows your firm to charge higher fees, and makes it easier to close new business.

    The challenge is determining who in your firm should be a Visible Expert. It can't be just anyone, says Lee Frederiksen, who spoke with me recently for a podcast (Why Firms Need Visible Experts on Staff). The must have certain qualities.

    "Of course, they have to have the capacity to develop the expertise. That's a given. If someone doesn't know what they're doing, you're not going to make them into a Visible Expert," he says. "But the other things going beyond that are the ability to explain complicated subjects simply."

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  • 3 Ways to Ensure a Successful Sales Year

    By Michelle Davidson

    SuccessIt's a new year, and if you're like most people you have the greatest intentions to improve your life personally and professionally. We can't help you with your personal goals, but we can help you with your sales and business development goals.

    Start implementing these suggestions now, and you should be as positive at the end of the year as you are right now at the start.

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  • What Sales Professionals Can Expect in 2015

    By Michelle Davidson

    Sales Predictions for 2015In 2015, companies will be buying. But their caution about change, fear of risk, and extra care about costs are going to affect the buying process. Sales cycles will get longer or buyers will lose interest and disappear.

    It's going to take a knowledgeable salesperson who provides value and insight during each interaction with the prospect to keep them moving through the process—to the eventual sale. And it's going to take a company willing to invest in their sales teams and create a sales culture to develop those critical sale skills.

    What specifically can sales professionals expect? A few sales experts share their predictions here.

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  • Top RainToday Content of 2014

    By Michelle Davidson

    When it comes to selling, salespeople walk a fine line between saying too much about themselves (their solutions and their business) and not saying enough. A misstep in either direction, and the prospect will say, "Thank you—bye."

    The key is providing just enough information to hold their interest and demonstrate value without sounding self-centered—or without giving away so much that the buyer thinks he can do the work himself.

    Looking at the top RainToday content from 2014, its clear readers wanted help achieving that. They wanted to know how to stay on the line to sales success—from initial conversations to negotiation talks and beyond. Specifically, they were drawn to these articles and podcast:

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  • 3 Things You Must Do when Giving Sales Presentations

    By Michelle Davidson

    Patricia FrippIt's been weeks of back and forth with the prospect—telephone calls, emails, perhaps even text messages. And you finally got the meeting. It's time to present.

    What should you do to make sure the meeting is a success? Below are a few ideas from speech coach Patricia Fripp, who presented a webinar Dec. 16 titled How to Give Your Sales Presentation a Competitive Edge.

    They might sound like no-brainers, but you'd be surprised at how many people don't do them. And as a result, they don't make the sale.

    1. Prepare: Do your pre-work and practice. The worst offenders in this area are actually experienced sales professionals, Fripp says. They really know their products, their services, and the companies. But they wing their presentation, and the result is a disaster.

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  • Take a Step Back and Look at the Big Picture

    By Michelle Davidson

    Look at the big pictureSometimes we get bogged down in the minutia. We focus on every metric, we see only what's happening right in front of us, and we don't notice buyer behavior.

    A laser-sharp focus is great for accomplishing a task. But if you can't see the forest for the trees, you could miss opportunities, spend energy on unimportant things, or unwittingly damage a sale. Sometimes you need to step back and look at the big picture. Here are some examples of when doing that is beneficial:

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  • Making the Best Use of Your Time

    By Michelle Davidson

    Time ManagementAs the end of the year quickly approaches, there's no doubt you feel overwhelmed by all that you need to do before it arrives. Not only do you have deadlines at work, but you also have your kid's holiday concert, parties you agreed to attend, gifts you need to buy, and everything else that goes with the holidays. And that's in addition to the many other things you do regularly.

    The "most wonderful time of the year" might not feel so wonderful.

    If ever there were a time to prioritize, it is now. I can't help you with your holiday obligations, but I can offer some advice to help you make the best use of your work time.

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