Category Archives: Sales Tips

Etiquette Is A Simple Balance Of ‘Give’ And ‘Take’…"First Converse, Then Commerce"

When was the last time you attended a networking event and you were approached by someone who was more interested in pitching his services and closing a piece of business with little regard of who you were or what you did?   Most likely the last networking event you attended.

Dictionary defines etiquette as conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority in social or official life. With this definition as a guiding principle, etiquette is even more important in a networking situation than in others because most who are in the “taking” end do not even realize that their behaviors and even attitudes are making it hard for those at the “giving” end to be gracious about being considerate.

Why?

Etiquette is the lubrication that makes things move smoothly. Ignoring it can create unnecessary friction and hurt. Practicing the right etiquette will not only get what you want, it will also help you position yourself in a differentiated way in the eyes of those who are at the “giving” end!

Your thoughts?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter or contact him by email.


It's About Product Positioning And Not All About Price!

I talk to Sales Managers at hotels on a regular basis and one of their most commonly asked questions is “What will it take for us to win this piece of business?”

“Well you can lower the rate to $99, give me a 1 per 20 comp, waive the attrition, and throw in the Presidential Suite for me and the family for the week!”

OK, let’s get serious and break down the question to its simplest form.

“What will it take” are four words that should send a chill up the spine of every customer who is posed the question.  Why?  Because it’s “old school inside the box sales 101”.  It’s “let’s go down the price path” which gives you and the customer nothing more to discuss than price point.

Now close your eyes…take a deep breath…exhale…and repeat this sentence…“What do I need to know that will allow us to provide you with the best deal possible?”  Now open your eyes.  See, you feel much better now don’t you?

“What do I need to know” are words that say “I need to find out what you’re really looking for so I can best position and offer that’s a win-win”.

You see it’s about product positioning and not all about price.  Here are some thoughts that will help you to position your product and close more deals.

Find attributes about your hotel that your customer can hang his hat on.  You need to find deliverables that inspire, motivate, and encourage the customer to seriously consider you as a candidate for the short list or a contract.  Remember that price is only one part of the equation.  If your hotel can’t stand up and deliver after the contract is signed, price means nothing.

Here is how Boca Raton Resort positions their resort…”Designed by legendary architect Addison Mizner (I don’t have a clue who this guy is), Boca Raton Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection (that’s selling sizzle) has reigned as an icon of elegance for more than 80 years (that’s staying power, reliability and consistency).  Today, the resort remains faithful to its glamorous past (here’s the hook), but radiates a vibrant new energy (not a musty 80-year old resort on the beach) and offers infinite amenities to provide each guest with the perfect getaway” (there’s something here for everyone).

If you’re the ABC Airport Hotel, you still have attributes that are particular to your market niche IF you take the time to look for them with a new attitude.

Let’s examine an analytic model of competitive market equilibrium in the presence of switching costs?  But seriously you need to understand your competitive set and the perceived “switching cost” for a customer.  Switching costs or switching barriers are terms used in microeconomics, strategic management, and marketing to describe any impediment to a customer’s changing of suppliers.  This is essentially what you are dealing with every time you sell against your competitive set.

Reinvent the customer experience.  There are so many things that have changed in this world over the past 12 months and those changes have directly or indirectly impacted both you and your prospective customer.  What’s important to your customer today may not be the same thing that was important to him 12 months ago.  Look for those signs, rethink the customer experience, and take advantage of it.

Position your product relative to the market leader in your competitive set.  Publicly or to prospective customers, always put your hotel on the same level as the market leader in your competitive set.  It elevates your hotel in terms of customer perception and allows you to sell without the need to “look over your shoulder”.

Find support for your hotel in and outside of your four walls.  Right now there is a customer checking out at your front desk who can attest to the great experience that he had while attending a meeting at your hotel.  Are you in your office pushing paper or out polling a potential army of supporters?  It’s actually kind of a fun exercise especially if you can find someone who is not rushing out the door to catch his next flight.

Share your success story about how you are positioning your product or services?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

Social Media As A Sales Tool

Many companies are starting to experiment with social media and how it can be integrated into their overall marketing strategy to support company goals and objectives.

In addition to creating and promoting a corporate presence on various social media Web sites, it also makes sense for sales professionals to become familiar with social media, and to use it for the benefit of their business. 

Getting involved in social media can offer value to sales professionals, without requiring hours of time.  In fact, there are a number of benefits to be gained by spending only minutes a week on popular social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.  

Take advantage of these six guidelines for engaging in social media as a sales tool:

1.  Connect with and make better use of your professional network. Sales is a relationship business, and professional social media sites (such as LinkedIn) provide an additional way for account executives to enhance their relationships with clients and prospects alike. 

Social media offers you another platform – beyond more traditional email and telephone conversations – for connecting with key contacts that you wish to reach out to and engage with further.  Not only will you learn more about them, but they can gain a better understanding of your expertise, your thought leadership and the value you have to offer.  Social media is also a useful way to obtain referrals and recommendations from your contacts, helping you grow your network.  

2.  Learn more about your prospects and clients. Social media also offers an excellent way to gather intelligence from your contacts.  Pay close attention to the professional profiles of your clients and prospects, looking for anything that can make you more successful in conversations with them. 

The intelligence that can be gleaned from a prospect’s or client’s profile can help to identify common ground and enhance the sales conversation.  For example, examine their previous experience – maybe they have worked at another company in the past that is a client of yours.  Or read more about their education, as you may find something you can use as a way to begin a conversation or make a connection.

Also, be mindful of the fact that your professional contacts – prospects, clients, other colleagues – are likely using social media sites to learn more about you and your company as well.  Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you are displaying a complete and professional profile.

3.  Identify decision-makers and other appropriate contacts within a company. Professional social media sites provide a wealth of information on organizations.  First, many people are connected to their colleagues.  By taking a closer look at the profiles of your clients and prospects, you may be able to fill in some of the blanks regarding decision makers within a company.

Company profiles also offer intelligence on key individuals within organizations.  These can help you identify the appropriate contact within a company, especially if your initial contact has left and you are having trouble getting in touch with anyone beyond the receptionist. 

4.  Gain new work-related insight. Groups, message boards and other social media sites are an excellent way to discuss relevant industry topics with likeminded professionals in group settings.  At its core, social media is a conversation, so identify groups that are relevant to your industry and expertise and participating in the discussion.

By joining a group or getting involved in other social media sites, you have the opportunity to learn from other professionals within your industry, contribute to discussions on topics that fit well within your area of expertise, and differentiate yourself and your company as a consultant and a thought leader. 

Consider focusing your efforts on making thoughtful contributions to the most relevant topics – you do not need to respond to every discussion within a group.  Ensure that your comments are adding value and presenting your company in a positive manner.

5.  Remember the basics of social media. While participating in social media can be beneficial to sales professionals, it is important to respect it as a communications platform.  Don’t abuse it as a way to push a sales pitch.   Remember that social media is a two-way conversation, and ensure that your actions are providing value.

6.  Offer guidelines for effective use. Sales and marketing management should consider holding training sessions or developing guidelines on how to effectively use social media as a sales tool.  In addition to providing guidelines on how to create accounts on relevant social media sites, you can offer examples of demonstrated best practices for utilizing social media resources for professional use.  It would also be valuable to emphasize the importance of spending the right balance of time on it, and demonstrating how it can be a powerful tool in the sales process. 

For businesses, social media offers an unprecedented opportunity to engage in conversations with their audiences – both customers and prospects.   Take advantage of social media tools to foster positive relationships with your clients and prospects, and to support your overall business goals.

Article by Angela Hribar

It’s About Product Positioning And Not All About Price!

I talk to Sales Managers at hotels on almost a daily basis and one of their most commonly asked questions is “What will it take for us to win this piece of business?”

“Well you can lower the rate to $99, give me a 1 per 20 comp, waive the attrition, and throw in the Presidential Suite for me and the family for the week!”

OK, let’s get serious and break down the question to its simplest form.

“What will it take” are four words that should send a chill up the spine of every customer who is posed the question.  Why?  Because it’s “old school inside the box sales 101”.  It’s “let’s go down the price path” which gives you and the customer nothing more to discuss than price point.

Now close your eyes…take a deep breath…exhale…and repeat this sentence…“What do I need to know that will allow us to provide you with the best deal possible?”  Now open your eyes.  See, you feel much better now don’t you?

“What do I need to know” are words that say “I need to find out what you’re really looking for so I can best position and offer that’s a win-win”. 

You see it’s about product positioning and not all about price.  Here are some thoughts that will help you to position your product and close more deals.

Find attributes about your hotel that your customer can hang his hat on.  You need to find deliverables that inspire, motivate, and encourage the customer to seriously consider you as a candidate for the short list or a contract.  Remember that “price” is only one part of the equation.  If your hotel can’t stand up and deliver after the contract is signed, price means nothing.

Here is how Boca Raton Resort positions their resort…”Designed by legendary architect Addison Mizner (I don’t have a clue who this guy is), Boca Raton Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection (that’s selling sizzle) has reigned as an icon of elegance for more than 80 years (that’s staying power, reliability and consistency).  Today, the resort remains faithful to its glamorous past (here’s the hook), but radiates a vibrant new energy (not a musty 80-year old resort on the beach) and offers infinite amenities to provide each guest with the perfect getaway” (there’s something here for everyone). 

If you’re the ABC Airport Hotel, you still have attributes that are particular to your market niche IF you take the time to look for them with a new attitude.

Let us examine an analytic model of competitive market equilibrium in the presence of switching costs?  But seriously you need to understand your competitive set and the perceived “switching cost” for a customer.  Switching costs or switching barriers are terms used in microeconomics, strategic management, and marketing to describe any impediment to a customer’s changing of suppliers.  This is essentially what you are dealing with every time you sell against your competitive set.

Reinvent the customer experience.  There are so many things that have changed in this world over the past 12 months and those changes have directly or indirectly impacted both you and your prospective customer.  What’s important to your customer today may not be the same thing that was important to him 12 months ago.  Look for those signs, rethink the customer experience, and take advantage of it.

Position your product relative to the market leader in your competitive set.  Publicly or to prospective customers, always put your hotel on the same level as the market leader in your competitive set.  It elevates your hotel in terms of customer perception and allows you to sell without the need to “look over your shoulder”.

Find support for your hotel in and outside of your four walls.  Right now there is a customer checking out at your front desk who can attest to the great experience that he had while attending a meeting at your hotel.  Are you in your office pushing paper or out polling a potential army of supporters?  It’s actually kind of a fun exercise especially if you can find someone who is not rushing out the door to catch his next flight.

Ways To Win New Clients

Many small businesses ring in the new year by taking a fresh approach to winning new clients. Whether you plan to reinvent your company or just attract an untapped demographic, there are a few ways to achieve your goals.

First, you must identify your ideal customer.  Do you know your target?  What do they do? What do they value?

After pinpointing your audience, reposition your message to gain those customers. Work your connections, but keep in mind, it’s tougher than ever to land deals.  These days, your potential clients might be hurting or short of funding, says Mike Silverman, managing partner of engineering-services firm Ops A La Carte LLC in Santa Clara, Calif. “If you’re fairly new at this, you really have to not be afraid of rejection,” Mr. Silverman says. “You can’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Here are three best ways to win new clients.

1. Go where the growth is. Silverman says he attended trade shows for a few core industries that were doing well (medical, oil and gas, green technology, defense and space), and concentrated on specific geographic regions including the San Francisco Bay area and southern California. This helped the firm not be spread too thin, Mr. Silverman said. More than half of 2009’s revenue came from these specific industries, he says.

At Homestead Resort, in Midway, Utah, general manager Britt Mathwich says the hotel made a quick shift away from the corporate and training market to families, after seeing a slump in business travel. The resort picked up more business by attending home-decorating and bridal shows, he says.

Walt Maclay, president of engineering-consulting firm Voler Systems, a division of Strawberry Tree Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., says he attended a medical trade show in 2009 for the first time in several years, because the medical device industry is stable. “People still get sick, even in a recession,” Mr. Maclay says.

2. Ally with other businesses. Maclay also is partnering with companies that provide similar or complementary services to pick up new clients. For instance, he’s now working on two projects that combine Voler’s electrical-engineering expertise with the other firm’s mechanical-engineering specialty. Other businesses are temporarily re-assigning employees. Law firm Schiff Hardin LLP, has taken the strategy of secondment, or “lending” lawyers to companies for positions such as general counsel, says Ronald Safer, managing partner in Chicago. The partnership can help a business that may be a potential future client, and allow Schiff Hardin’s lawyers to learn that business intimately.

3. Use online tools. Reach out to others by maintaining a blog or a Facebook page with useful, educational content. Social-networking tools are also places to post promotions. Mr. Maclay says he gained new clients by posting the company’s resume on Craigslist. Marie Danielle Vil-Young, owner of event-planning company À Votre Service Events LLC, says she is redesigning her Web site to attract a specific audience—young, professional brides—by changing the site’s colors to black, hot pink and white. Ms. Vil-Young said social-networking is important; her intern’s sole responsibility is to research and write for the company’s blog.