Boost Your Sales Team’s Confidence With Internal Product Catalogs

29 11 2011

No salesperson likes to say “I don’t know” when answering a customer’s question. While an occasional question may stump you, an internal product catalog is a great way to train your team and teach them the ins and outs of the products and services you sell. A well-produced internal catalog will help reduce those “I don’t know” moments and ensure your salespeople are knowledgeable enough to represent your products and services effectively. Here are a few tips for creating just such a catalog:

  • There is no such thing as “too much information.” Gathering product information that covers anything and everything you can think of and having it readily available at your sales team’s fingertips will save a lot of time, hassle, and frustration should questions arise later.
  • In addition to detailed specs, pricing configurations, and other sales team info, be sure to insert copies of finalized marketing slicks that your customers may have in front of them, so your sales team can refer to those items as needed.
  • Consider using a three-ring binder, so pages can be easily organized, updated, and replaced.
  • Conveniently organize sections with labeled tab dividers for easy access.
  • Avoid page numbering if you plan to replace/update pages, since the removal/addition of pages can affect page numbering throughout your entire catalog.
  • If necessary, date the updated documents in the lower corner of the page, so you know their relevance.

Remember, the more knowledgeable your team is, the more satisfied your customers will be.

Nailing Down the Details

22 11 2011

I’d like to share a verse with you, written four centuries ago by a Welsh clergyman named George Herbert and published by Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanack.

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

It’s amazing to think how important small details can be in our own lives, as well. In the case of this poem, the fate of an entire nation rested on a single nail. While obviously farfetched, this story does illustrate the far-reaching effects a seemingly insignificant detail can have in shaping events in our lives… and in the lives of our businesses.

So, as you consider the activities and decisions facing your company in the days, weeks, and months ahead, be careful not to overlook any horseshoe nails.

3 Things Your Business Can Learn from a Chameleon

18 11 2011

Chameleons are amazing creatures. And not just because they appear in a hit ’80s song or humorous word-nerd send-up. No, chameleons are amazing for three distinct reasons. And each relates (in its own small way) to business.

1. Chameleons adapt to changes surrounding them.
While the common belief that chameleons change colors in order to blend in with their environment is not true, chameleons do change color based on temperature, light, and mood. As a chameleon grows warmer, for example, its colors become brighter and more distinct.

Business application: Like the chameleon, we, too, need to adapt to changes affecting us. As the competition turns up the heat, we need to let our true colors shine through, so we can stand out from the crowd.

2. Chameleons can focus on two things at once.
A chameleon’s eyes move independently of one another, allowing it the peculiar ability to watch two things simultaneously… without moving its head. What’s more, each eye has a horizontal radius of 180 degrees and vertical radius of 90 degrees, and can see in three dimensions.

Business application: While a singular focus can have its advantages in certain situations, being too focused on only one option (tunnel vision) can sometimes make us overlook opportunities or obstacles in our way.

3. Chameleons strike quickly and with pinpoint control.
A chameleon’s sticky tongue is a marvelous thing. Roughly the length of the creature’s body and tail combined, it can extend and retract in just a fraction of a second, with deadly accuracy and control.

Business application: Like a chameleon hunting its dinner, we need to remain nimble, too, so we can act quickly and with pinpoint control when opportunities arise.

Fostering Innovation, Embracing Mistakes

15 11 2011

Think mistakes are always bad? Think again. William L. McKnight, a former president and chairman of the board at 3M, has been credited by many with fostering the company’s emphasis on innovation. In 1948, while president of the company, McKnight had this to say about mistakes.

“Mistakes will be made. But if a person is essentially right, the mistakes he or she makes are not as serious in the long run as the mistakes management will make if it undertakes to tell those in authority exactly how they must do their jobs. Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative.”

Today, 3M holds patents on hundreds (if not thousands) of products, ranging from Scotch® brand tapes and Post-It® Notes to fiber optics, fuel cell components, security devices, and more. By accepting mistakes as an inevitable part of business, 3M has built and maintained a highly successful brand in a fiercely competitive market. Along the way, they’ve earned a reputation as a leader in fostering innovation and attracting top talent to their team.

So what can you learn from one of the world’s leading brands? Embracing initiative means accepting mistakes and learning to loosen the reins.

The Power of a Good Word

11 11 2011

Referrals are among the most effective and least expensive marketing tools available to small business owners. People don’t always trust an ad or sales call, but they do trust their friends.

Think about the places you’ve done business with in the past week, month, or year. What first led you to those establishments? Was it an ad on TV, on the radio, or in the newspaper? Perhaps a piece of direct mail? Maybe a billboard or website? Or a particularly persuasive sales call? All of these are effective means of marketing to the public. But none is as effective as a referral from a colleague or friend.

A referral from a friend will carry far more weight in most people’s minds than the cleverest ad or most well-articulated sales call. So how can you generate more referrals for your company?

  • Model it. If you want your customers to start referring people to you, refer your friends and colleagues to your customers’ companies, too. Reciprocity is a powerful thing. If you refer business to others, they will be far more likely to refer business to you.
  • Ask. When you meet with established customers to follow up on a sale or just to check in, ask if they know anyone else who might need your services. Even if they can’t think of anyone on the spot, your question will plant a seed and remind them to think of you when they do come across a friend who might benefit from what you sell.
  • Offer an incentive. Provide a discount or special thank-you gift for those who do provide referrals. Make it something fun and worthwhile that will make your customers realize how seriously you take their business. In some cases, that might mean a month of free service, a free upgrade or enhanced service plan, or some other unique perk available only to them. Tailor your incentive to your own specific business and customer base. You may also want to offer a discount to the prospect who was referred.
  • Keep doing what you’re doing. If you’re providing outstanding service and support, along with exceptional products and services, referrals will come. If someone enjoys doing business with you and feels like you’re providing good value for their money, it’s almost certain that eventually they will start telling others about you and talking you up with their friends and colleagues. Of course, the opposite is true, as well, so make sure you’re providing the kind of service worthy of a positive referral.
  • Say thanks. Whether you have a formal referral program or not, when someone tells you they were referred by a friend, make a point of thanking that friend. Even something as simple as a hand-written note in the mail will let your customer know how much you appreciate their kindness.

What’s Your Mission?

8 11 2011

Gandhi once said, “A small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission, can alter the course of history.” Gandhi and his followers certainly did just that, as have many others who took a mission to heart.

In the 1980 movie, The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood Blues are men on a mission. They experience a revelation and decide they must get their old band back together in order to earn enough money to save the Catholic boarding school where they were raised. Not quite as grand a mission as Gandhi’s, no doubt, but a mission just the same.

Chances are, your company has a mission, too, with an accompanying mission statement, carefully crafted and culled to provide optimal guidance in the decisions you make as an organization.

But what about you personally? What’s your mission? What drives your own personal decisions? Your career, aspirations, and dreams? What prism do you use to focus your thoughts and cast light on the choices you face at work, at home, and in the world?

Experts like Dr. Stephen Covey advocate the need for a personal mission statement to guide the decisions that affect your own life and career. Just as successful companies use mission statements to clarify and filter their organizational decisions, many successful individuals do the same on a personal level, as well.

FranklinCovey has put together an online Mission Statement Builder to help you create a personal mission statement for yourself, your family, and your team. I recommend checking it out and giving it a try.

As you begin filtering your day-to-day decisions through a personal mission statement, you may be surprised to find that reaching your goals becomes easier.

The Power of Words

4 11 2011

Here’s a little story about how the power of words can evoke emotion, especially in the world of marketing.

An elderly blind man was sitting on a busy street corner with a cardboard sign next to an empty tin cup. The sign read, “Blind — Please help.” People would glance at the sign, but nobody gave the man any money.

Then a young copywriter saw the man with his sign and empty cup. He felt disappointed as he watched all the people walk past without an ounce of empathy, so he took a marker, flipped the sign over, and rewrote the blind man’s message.

Suddenly, people started putting money in his cup until it was overflowing. Surprised, the blind man asked a stranger to tell him what the sign said. He replied, “It’s a beautiful day. You can see it. I cannot.”

Who’s Who?

1 11 2011

Depending on the nature of your business, your customers may spend a lot of time on the phone talking to sales reps, customer service, customer support, etc. If you’re looking for a great way to add a personal touch to these interactions, consider posting photos of your sales or support staff on your website, business cards, and other marketing materials.

Employee photos are a compelling way to capture your visitors’ attention on your website. More importantly, though, conversion rates increase when people can connect emotionally. Photos are a great way to foster this kind of connection between your customers and staff.

Because people buy from people, they are often curious about who they are speaking with. Photos increase interest in day-to-day interactions and help customers and prospects recognize and remember the members of your team, making them more likely to approach your staff at trade shows or other social events.

In addition to posting individual photos, group photos and candid shots of employees at work are great ways to show off your facility, the various skills you can offer in-house, and the potential bulk of your workforce.