• Want to Win More Sales? Start with a Plan

    By Michelle Davidson

    PlanI'm a planner. It's what I do.

    While I'm eating dinner, I'm usually thinking about what I want for breakfast the next day (or dinner the next night). When I travel to see my boyfriend, before my visit is over I'm thinking about my next trip to visit him. I go shopping—even grocery shopping—with a plan. All of my work at RainToday starts with a plan.

    I could go on, but you get the point. Plans work for me; winging it does not.

    Some people (the non-planners) might say I'm a little extreme. But my plans make sure everything gets done and gets done on time. They provide needed structure, similar to what business plans do for companies. They include goals, what's required to reach those goals, who will help me reach those goals, and sometimes deadlines.

    My plans are also personal. For example, my RainToday plans are a subset of RAIN Group's overall business plan. That is something all business plans should do, writes John Doehring in his article A Business Plan in Your Back Pocket?

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  • Will Work for 'Exposure' Is Not a Good Business Plan

    By Michelle Davidson

    Taking a job to get "exposure," not actual money. How many of you have done that?

    How about agreeing to do a job for a low price just to get the work? Have you done that?

    I have, and many of my solopreneur friends have. Consultants, graphic designers, editors, photographers, musicians—we've all done it. We get scared and think we have to take any job. Or we're afraid to charge what we're really worth.

    Here's the thing, though, working under those circumstances doesn't pay the bills. Not only that, but low-pricing can even cause people to think less of your work—that it isn't as valuable as others who charge high fees.

    Buyers might say a lower price is what caused them to select one provider over another, but as Charles H. Green points out in his article And the Winner Is Low Price. Wait—No... that's a justification for why they made a decision. The real reason for selecting one provider over another goes deeper.

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  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Telling Stories that Sell

    By Michelle Davidson

    Halley's CometDid you know Halley is more than just a name on a comet?

    Yes, Edmond Halley discovered and predicted the returns of the comet to Earth's vicinity, which is an amazing accomplishment. But he also catalogued all of the stars in the southern hemisphere, he created the first meteorological chart (which meteorologists still use today), and he published the first magnetic charts of the Atlantic Ocean and some of the Pacific Ocean.

    He also contributed greatly to Isaac's Newton's notoriety. Without Halley, Newton's proof that planetary orbit is an ellipse might never have come to light.

    I did not know those things until I watched a recent episode of Cosmos. Either my teachers never told those stories or they simply gave us facts in a way that had little meaning for me.

    It was the stories Neil deGrasse Tyson told during that episode that captured my attention and made me want to know more about science and math. That’s quite an achievement when my natural tendency is to shy away from those topics.

    You can do the same thing with your business. You might work in an industry that sounds incredibly boring or worse is one people dread but have to endure, but you can use stories to capture buyers attention and make them want to work with you and buy from you.

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  • 3 Steps for Using Inbound Marketing to Generate Leads

    By Michelle Davidson

    Lead Generation GaugeIf you're like me, every day you see people and businesses who could use your services. You might read an article about them, see examples of their work, or see an ebook they published and think, "I can definitely help them."

    You could cold call them and try to work your way in that way. Or you can create an inbound marketing strategy that establishes you as an expert in your field and attracts prospective buyers to you.

    The word strategy sounds daunting, but if you break it down into its basic parts, it can be done in three steps.

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  • Having Trouble Differentiating from Competitors?

    By Michelle Davidson

    Whether you have many competitors, are in a small niche industry, or are one of two finalists for a project, you need to differentiate. You need to demonstrate you are different, as well as better.

    Not only that, but you must appeal the to the buyer's emotional side, as people buy based on emotion and justify the decision with logic. That means you need to present the facts in a way that makes buyers feel good about you, your company, and your work. It calls for some creative thinking.

    Creative Sales Habits

    Everyone adopts best sales practices. Everyone develops patterns for doing things. The problem is if everyone follows those same practices, repeating what they and others have done, everyone starts to look the same.

    "There tends to be this pattern of replication," says Mark Donnolo, author of The Innovative Sale. "What we tend to do is we find how others are doing it, or maybe we think about how somebody did it before at a prior company, and we tend to replicate—we tend to repeat. So, there's a big space, a big opportunity to think about how to do something differently."

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  • Just Press Pause

    By Michelle Davidson

    Press PauseWe have so many things to do. We're under pressure to meet goals and quotas. We are anxious to win new deals. Under those circumstances, it is tempting to push full steam ahead and just do with the hope that simply doing something works.

    Don't do it. In many cases, it's best if you press pause and consider all the factors before taking action.

    Consider how it feels when a prospect requests a proposal or a price quote. It's pretty exciting. "They like me," you think. "This is the final step. I've got this." Maybe, maybe not.

    While you might be eager to agree and submit the proposal right away, you need to pause for a moment, says Andrew Rudin, in his article Improve the Odds of Getting Your Proposal Accepted. You need to think quid pro quo. What can the prospect do for you in exchange for the proposal?

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  • The Art of Developing Relationships with C-Level Executives

    By Michelle Davidson

    Andrew Sobel, Building C-Suite RelationshipsYou had a great meeting with the CEO, and you'd like to develop the relationship further. What should you do?

    According to client relationship authority Andrew Sobel, staying in touch with busy senior-level executives and developing the relationship is "a bit of an art." You want to stay on their radar, but you don't want to appear self-serving or become a nuisance.

    "Very often they're not your work-with client. They're not your direct client. Often they are one or two levels above the particular project or program, but maybe they have an interest in it. Maybe they're the executive sponsor. So, the trick is how do you stay in touch in a way that adds value," Sobel said in a recent interview.

    One option: if the executive is close to the project or the service you sell, you could say something like this:

    "I'd like to come back to you in three or four months and give you an update and share with you a perspective we're developing on x."

    The goal is to turn the meeting into a more regular occurrence, Sobel says.

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  • Marketing Your Services Doesn't Have to Be Hard or Time-Consuming

    By Michelle Davidson

    Busy officeThese days I feel like I have a lot of things to do and not enough time to do them all. I have three separate to-do lists for various parts of my life, and some days it's a struggle to get one item crossed off.

    I suspect many of you are in the same situation. And when you're pressed for time, client work and company issues get your attention while marketing gets pushed to the back burner. The blog you've been meaning to get up and running remains a concept. The blog post ideas remain scribbled notes. Corrections to the ebook you've written sit staring at you. Emails to prospects are left unwritten.

    Marketing takes time, and sometimes the thing you want to do is complicated. But if you stop marketing, you will find you have an empty sales pipeline when the projects are completed.

    The good news is RainToday Contributing Editor Michael W. McLaughlin says there are some easy but effective things you can do to market your service.

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  • To Get, You Must Give

    By Michelle Davidson

    Give to ReceiveWe're told we must go after what we believe in. Don't sit and wait for things to be handed to you. Do all that you can to achieve your goal.

    That's true in some sense. You can't wait for success to come to you. If you do, chances are you'll wait a long time. But it can't be a ruthless "I want it and I want it now" pursuit in which you don't care who you step on as you press forward. In fact, it's more of a "give and you will get" way of thinking.

    You gain advantage when you give, says Dan Waldschmidt in his podcast interview Want to Be a Better Salesperson? Start By Being a Better Person.

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  • How Salespeople Can Build Trust-Filled Client Relationships

    By Michelle Davidson

    Adrian Davis, Human to Human SellingIf you are a lawyer, accountant, graphic artist, or any other professional who is also responsible for bringing in new business, you know it is possible to develop partnerships with your clients. You are the seller/doers who are with a project from beginning to end. Having a strong relationship with a client is almost inevitable.

    What isn't always apparent, but is absolutely possible, is that salespeople can also develop partnerships with clients. Not only that, but in many cases their client relationships are stronger than those between seller/doers and clients, says Adrian Davis in a recent interview.

    "This assumption that only seller/doers can be trusted advisors and only seller/doers can build trust is a wrong assumption," he says. "They do have an advantage—a natural advantage—but that advantage actually has limits. And the seller/overseer can blow past those limits and really build high-level strategic trust-filled relationships."

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