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State of Sales

state of salesState of Sales: I was recently asked on an expert platform what selling techniques, tools or trends we'll be seeing.

State of Sales Trend Number One: Personal Selling Skills are King

Personal selling skills, that is: an individual's ability to sell 1-on-1 in person or over the phone, are going to become noted as one of the most valuable skills in the marketplace. They already are in fact, but have not yet been held up as such.

Automated marketing has worn out its welcome: banner blindness, single digit email open rates, bland copy by a flood of inexpert writers...all have contributed to the end of pushbutton marketing's effectiveness. This may be acceptable as a lead generation tool, but when it comes to qualifying and selling, the return to personal selling, rather than the panacea of automated marketing promising to keep topic matter expert business owners safely away from the scary necessity of actually talking to people, is what will succeed going forward.

State of Sales Trend Number Two: Consultative Selling Skills In Complex Sales

I think we can agree that consultative selling has pushed out traditional features-and-benefits-based selling in the complex sale situation. Many brands of consultative selling exist but the essential process is the same. The learning issue seems to come down to finding and choosing a trainer you are comfortable with. This coach must not be the salesperson's boss, because telling the full truth to your boss can be a career-limiting move. Employees must feel free to share complete details of what is actually happening with their coach without fear of repriasal--or they won't get the benefit of coaching.

State of Sales Trend Number Three: Video Training for Repetitive, Global Concepts

For training, video is an excellent resource. When it comes to repetitive, non-individual-specific concepts and technical information which can be conveyed by automated knowledge transfer, video training is effective.

Business owners and executives are also finally arriving at the understanding that there is no quick fix for sales training. A short technical sales training seminar will not do the trick: employees may get a short term "rush", but in a couple weeks will be back in their old comfort zone and performance limitations. Sales training must be understood as an ongoing investment and process. Many months of consistent effort, training and experience are required even before one can say a salesperson has been sufficiently prepared to deal with the big bad world.

For larger sales forces, one or more dedicated trainers are necessary. If a company tries to have a sales manager who also has a personal revenue quota, that individual will likely fail because they cannot split their effort between selling and coaching.

I may return to this topic of the State of Sales as there is much more depth to explore in the current State of Sales. However, in the meantime, here are many interviews with sales industry experts you can listen to which echo what I've said.

>> My Superpower: "I will find the hidden profits in delivering your product or service to the customer." ~Jason Kanigan | Like this? Subscribe for new posts! <<

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Sales for NPOs and Advocacy Groups

Sales for NPOs

Sales for NPOs and advocacy groups works the same way as in business. Many non-profit executives want to shrug this truth off; however, I will demonstrate selling is human interaction, and whether it's in a business or non-profit environment the principles are necessary and effective.

I have many years of high level experience with municipal committees of council. For six years I was appointed to the committee that handled all the grant money reviews and disbursement recommendations for my home town. And in that time I created more interaction, more bonding and more results from those NPOs. I was doing things at 30 people in their 50s are just starting to consider.

A Key Takeaway About Sales for NPOs

A major takeaway I have from that time is the NPOs were all fighting each other over what they thought was slices of the one pie. This was a mistake. In college we were given an assignment where the class was split up into two groups. Both groups were told they needed a limited supply of oranges. You may have experienced a similar exercise, or perhaps this will be a big eye-opener for you. At first the two groups debated on why their "organization" should get the oranges and the other group should not. But after DISCUSSION, a key but hitherto hidden pair of facts became visible:

Group One needed the MEAT of the oranges

Group Two needed the PEEL of the oranges.

Both sides could effectively take 100% of the pie.

But they had to *talk* to one another to figure this out. Now in my experience, and note how this is true even in supposedly cooperative mindset organizations like NPOs, the leaders simply do not communicate with each other effectively enough to learn that one NPO needs the meat and the other needs the peel--and that both can share the resources.

I am about to share an example from my history in 2004-5. At that time I had been appointed to the city's nine-member grant review committee and they made me vice-chair the moment I walked in the room. The following year, the current chair was retiring and plans were made for me to be his successor. Note this was not about some knowledge about parliamentary procedure; it was about demonstrating *leadership* and I was ready to lead. Even though I was the youngest member of the committee other than the short-lived youth rep who moved out of the city after a couple months, these 50, 60, and 70-year old, highly experienced executives--some of whom ran their own organizations--were happy to have me lead them. The first thing I did was meet with city social planning/community development staff to hear their ideas on what a good direction would be.

Two Principles of Sales for NPOs and Advocacy Groups

Note this. Having administrative staff on your side is important. Do you think it is easier to have them promote your program when they have a hand in it?

The second thing I did was forward a motion to council to approve a change in the committee's terms of reference. Until then, the committee had been a passive body: council would refer business items to it for opinion and we would answer. I had it changed so we could "wag the dog" and send items for consideration UP the chain to them.

The staff recommended something called a Social Development Strategy, which came out of Australia. The idea was to involve all the local organizations and stakeholders, and get a program of how municipal spending would be allocated on community development going forward. The City was going through huge changes in population, distribution and gateway areas.

Over the next year, starting from just two stakeholders, I and my committee, lead by a former Chamber of Commerce chair I appointed to lead the subcommittee because I didn't want a conflict of interest as I was running in the next election, created this spending plan and an enormous level of involvement. You can see the results in this document:

CNV Social Development Strategy

Sales for NPOs: Another Example

An organization (the Lower Lonsdale Network) was created for ongoing discussion between all those stakeholders and outlasted my term, which I think is pretty awesome. And during those discussions, we found opportunities for NPOs to share 100% of the pie like this:

The Salvation Army was training homeless people to become cooks, so they could have basic skills to get a job. The local college had their chef volunteer to lead the training. But they topped out on capacity as they only had the one kitchen. Well guess what: from the discussions THEY HAD NEVER HAD BEFORE, resulting from the Social Development Strategy meetings, the Kiwanis retirement tower revealed they had a spare kitchen! The Salvation Army and the chef could use the Kiwanis kitchen to double their flow-through of trainees, and it didn't cost anyone a dime!

Affordable Food News Article 2004

This is an example of the orange being divided into meat and peel, and serving two different groups well.

So if you're a non-profit executive, understand that sales for NPOs and advocacy groups works just like it does in B2B and B2C settings...and will get you results like this. Human interaction is How You Get Things Done. Whether it's in a business or non-profit environment, the same principles are at work.

>> If you want to discuss how your NPO can get broader and more effective results through ethical selling principles, get ahold of Jason. And if you want more information like this in your inbox, Subscribe or follow us on Twitter using the widgets below. <<

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Why You’re Afraid to Raise Prices

Afraid to raise pricesAfraid to raise prices? You're not alone. Especially if you are a consultant, you will encounter several symptoms indicating you should increase your rates such as:

  • overwork and exhaustion
  • disinterest in current projects
  • concern that the future will simply be more of the present
  • experts at a higher level telling you to raise them
  • desire for more money and dissatisfaction with current revenue.

I have been there. And I have done what I'm about to share with you several times in the past few years--and am about to do it again.

When you develop any sort of competency at fulfilling a product or service, you need to raise your rates. If you don't, you won't be able to leverage that competency into more money. And you deserve more money!

Afraid To Raise Prices? Here's Why

This is typically the first barrier to increasing your prices. You do not truly believe you're worth it. It's head trash: one or more limiting beliefs you have that are blocking you from growth. These beliefs are hidden. When you bring them out into the sunlight, they vanish; but their power comes from operating in the darkness of your subconscious. So explore these recesses: Why do you feel you're not worth more? Who told you that? Roll it around until you have the answer--and it will melt away.

Having to serve many clients is exhausting. You split your energies among too many projects, and don't accomplish any of them spectacularly. Let me tell you from personal experience: when money is off the table and you are relaxed, your performance is much higher. So if you keep your prices low, the kind of customer you attract will remain one who needs a ton of hand-holding and will split your effort in so many directions you won't do much good for anybody.

By increasing your prices, you reduce the number of customers you need to meet your revenue target. You can laser focus your energy and effort. And that is what gets you and your client transformational results.

But you're afraid to raise prices.

Even though you intellectually see the sense and value of doing so, your mind and gut scream, "NO! Get me out of here!" Even if your belief system allows you to feel you deserve the increase. So what the heck is going on?

It's all about your comfort zone.

Afraid To Raise Prices: How Your Comfort Zone And RAS Combine To Stop You

Bleah. Comfort zone. Probably one of the most poorly understood and least favorite of business and self-help phrases.

This is the problem, though: you have to shift your comfort zone. Right now, as a competent fulfiller of products or services in a certain niche, you are comfortable. You know the people in your marketplace. You know their features. You know the indicators that say, "Yes! I am a candidate for help from you!" You know their jargon. You are familiar with solving problems at their level.

Frustration quickly sets in when you do realize the price increase is necessary, but in your quick glance around for better customers you don't see any.

Of course you don't!

You still have your blinders on.

Yup, blinders. We all have them. Me, too. We unintentionally get caught up in a comfort zone, and our blinders come on so we don't see anything else other than the kind of thing we're looking for. This is our Reticular Activating System (RAS) in action. You can use Google to find out more about the RAS and business. The RAS is constantly filtering zillions of bits of data about the world around us down to a handful we have told it, consciously or more likely unconsciously, are important to us.

This means your brain is filtering out everything that doesn't match the ideal customer profile you've been building up this whole time! You literally do not see anything else.

So OF COURSE you feel fear! You look around for better customers--but your RAS does what it's been trained to do, and filters out 100% of everything that doesn't fit your current client profile--and that pit of doom opens in your stomach because your handy dandy brain feeds you back a platter of Zero Results!

Once in awhile the blinders slip for a moment. You have a conversation with an expert and get a glimpse of something else. Another market. Somewhere else you could use your skills for better results. A book you read gives you an idea. You see another service provider doing what you do--but for a different group of people, and making a lot more money.

That's one way of stepping up.

Another way is to consciously engineer it.

RAS filters millions of bits of information every second down to two thousand. Think you're seeing "everything"?

 

I'll bet your current ideal customer profile was developed in a haphazard, reactive, "take it as it comes" kind of way. You probably fell into the comfort zone you're in, without a whole lot of thought about it. WHO would you work for...WHAT would you do...HOW would you provide value? These questions were answered unconsciously.

What if you went about it consciously?

At this point you've realized you are going to have to find a new kind of customer--and you have no idea where to look.

Your RAS has let you down (but it's not the RAS' fault...you programmed it!).

Don't stop here.

While this realization causes even more fear and panic, this is the signal you have arrived on the leading edge.

You are right on the forefront of development for your business.

Don't stop now.

Yes. You are going to have to find:

  • new people to talk to--a new ideal client profile
  • a new language to speak with them
  • new problems and symptoms to understand.

This is all outside your current comfort zone, and that's why it feels so uncomfortable to contemplate. But it's exactly what you did in the first place as you grew your business.

There's nothing crazy or truly scary here--beyond the giving up of what you already have.

My Own Experience In Being Afraid To Raise Prices

Again from personal experience, what you have now is a pale shadow of what you deserve. If you have any true competency at all, business owners who are flush with money and used to handing over larger sums than you can contemplate at this time are desperate for your help. Just ONE of these customers will reward you more than TEN of your current crowd. Imagine what that would do for your business...your peace of mind...and your results.

I developed competency in a discount marketplace. I got good at playing that game. This was stupid! I was earning half of what I made at a corporate salary. That game topped out at a few thousand dollars a month for me, but I knew how to produce money from it and it worked for me. Even though after awhile I experienced all of those symptoms listed at the top of this post, I grimly held on. I could get that money. And I couldn't see other kinds of customers. Every time I tried to look around--every few months or so--I'd see a big open sea of nothing. Scary! Yes! Scary! And so I was angry, but I held on to what I had.

This was a huge mistake. I could be a year ahead of where I am now, if I had known and done what I know and do now in 2013. Instead, I spent that year shuffling back and forth between struggling in the discount marketplace and vainly looking for a better class of customer. I asked people for help. If there was any provided, my RAS filtered it out.

Finally, I made what felt like a brutal choice.

I stopped talking to my original marketplace.

I quit communicating with those people. I used my realizations about Pricing to come up with a four-figure minimum acceptable as a revenue target. And then I went looking full time for that new marketplace.

It was like grinding gears. I was tempted to run back to the old marketplace, because I understood it. Fear stalked me every step of the way for weeks.

But then the blinders started to slip. Since I was consciously trying to reprogram my RAS, it began feeding me new data. Things I hadn't seen before. Opportunities that had been out there the whole time...but because of my RAS and my limiting beliefs to that point, I had filtered out and literally not seen.

I got a few clients at my new number--and each one took the place of FIVE past customers.

Over the space of four months, I went from being reliant upon a desperate, low money marketplace to a much more relaxed, moderately cash rich client profile whose needs and situation I began to understand.

I learned that language.

I learned those problems and symptoms.

I learned what to look for to spot the profile of someone who was in this better position to make use of my services.

And it really didn't take very long.

Suddenly I was offered the chance--on the back of a smaller initial project--to run a launch. From that one client I made more than I would have from FIFTY customers in my original marketplace. And I got transformational results.

Since that time, I have raised my minimum price again and again. The second jump was not as dramatic as the first, but was prompted by this thought: "Hmm...this number doesn't excite me anymore. ...What number does excite me?" And the most recent increase, a doubling of the previous number well into the mid-four figures, is starting to feel like "Not enough" now.

And each time I have gone and found that new customer profile.

I'm about to go do it again. And this time, the market is completely different from any I've been working with in the past five years.

The good news: it's easier to do than your fear is telling you right now.

That first jump is the hardest.

After that, the process gets faster and easier...because you have a process! And most importantly, you believe you can accomplish it.

Your Plan To Overcome Being Afraid To Raise Prices

So here's the plan.

Note that you are in a comfort zone, likely unconsciously and haphazardly arrived at, concerning your current marketplace.

You have your RAS blinders on. You literally cannot see better opportunities yet. But you can consciously reprogram your brain to see them.

You must stop talking to your current market to make room--this is just like throwing the clothes out from your closet you never wear so there's room for new garments. You do not have to cut them off utterly like I did...a phased reduction would work. But you must deliberately pursue identifying this new ideal customer: a considerable percentage of your time must be invested in doing so.

Remember the payoff for learning this new marketplace and commanding these higher prices is a huge one.

Constantly keep in mind that it gets easier as you go. You cannot unlearn what you learn. Once you figure out what these new people look like, where they are at, and how you can work with them, you can never lose that knowledge.

The sense of power, relaxation and ability built through this process destroys timidity and makes you realize you are far more effective than you thought back in the old market.

The new projects will be a heck of a lot more exciting, I promise you.

Do you get the point here? BE DELIBERATE.

Once you begin down this path, the only direction is Up. Be brave for just a little while, and join me on it.

>> Jason Kanigan is a business development expert with two decades of experience helping leaders at organizations from startups through the Inc. Top 1000. If you want help with Pricing, book a call with Jason here. Was this information helpful? Please Like or Share so others can benefit from it! And if you have a question, kindly Comment below. <<

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