Targeting The Three Buying Phases

My previous post Diversify Your Materials for Sales Success focused on asking the question “Are you putting out materials and touching clients for each of the three buying phases?”

So, if you’ve sat and determined there is a gap, then what?

Strategy is key

First, I always recommend a strong sales and marketing plan – time and money spent on these strategic documents provide the road maps businesses need to plan for success and growth, not to mention make jobs like mine much easier. No ESP needed, simply follow the plan. It saves guessing, multiple revisions and in the end money.

For this post though, let’s assume you have one. Here is a breakdown of the three buying phases and some of the tools businesses can use.

My little disclaimer: Please keep in mind there are hundreds of different tools you can use, it would take many posts to cover them all. This is simply meant as an overview to get people thinking about possibilities.

Phase 1: Education

This phase is characterized by clients thinking of changing their status quo and committing to change. While you are always looking for new clients, many of your existing clients are ideal for these materials since they already trust you. Keep top of mind for when they are ready – Like sales blogger Anthony Iannorino says, Sell from in front.

Tools:  Networking, events and trade shows, websites with downloadable resources and information, soft touch online tools such as social media channels with online education like slideshows, idea/inspiration catalogs and epub/tablet publications, advertising and direct mail. Each industry is a little different, but the need to get your company and product in front of them before they want to buy is important to all of them.

Phase 2: Active Buying

Clients are generally exploring possibilities in this phase and finding solutions to meet their needs. Your materials need to be speaking to the right audience and answering their questions and needs in both print and accessible online digitally.

Tools: Data/tear sheets, presentations on computer or tablets, promotional flyers, catalogs, product demos, white papers, case studies and of course the sales kit with the company information are just a few options available, all of them should be available digitally. Potential clients will be interacting with your staff and possibly your environment, so well branded signage, literature, company stationary and product/service information are important to keep you top of mind.

The danger during this phase is advertising for the competition, so you want to make sure you don’t look like everyone else, that your materials project your company authentically and encourage them to keep coming back with valuable information that will help them make their decision.

Phase 3: Closing

Here clients are justifying a solution and making a decision. The key is to know who the decision maker is and provide what’s needed to them and the people influencing the sale in order to close it.

Tools: A consistent brand from internal documents such as stationary, cover sheets and such are important here for a professional and credible image. Proposals, quotes and presentations are usually at the management level. Client lists and testimonials help to reinforce credibility. Testing samples and supporting data/spec sheets are usually the base for the engineer decisions, the buying process and customer service touch points will affect the outcome during and after the delivery. So making sure that you are consistent throughout is critical for client retention and loyalty.

Moving forward

As mentioned above, these are just a few tools, the big heavy hitters. For real buy in from your sales team I often recommend that companies have a team brainstorming session. Your staff are in front of your clients and prospects daily, they often know parts of what is missing and needed. They likely have a number of these tools half done for proposals and pitches they’ve done before. Decide what’s usable and refine it, why reinvent the wheel?

With a strategic plan and direction from your sales team getting a set of sales tools designed to help move your sales forward in a measurable way through all three phases is achievable.

If you have tools that have worked for you are welcomed to share, please post them in the comment section. Needless to say, please refrain from selling products here.

Diversify Your Materials For Sales Success

When you think of sales materials, what comes to mind?

Most would answer a company folder or sales kit is the standard usually left after a sales call or sent as a follow-up to a trade show. Many argue that there isn’t much value in them these days – I am of the opinion that this kit has value, but instead of being a stand-alone it’s just one piece to a system.

The Buying Process is the Starting Point

SalesProcessThe buyer’s process is the root of all sales activity. A good sales person knows that to be truly successful you need to be in touch with clients when they are thinking about a change, actively looking to buy and then doing the right things to enable the close of business. The challenge with many company sales tools is they tend to target those in the active buying phase only, but like a strong investment portfolio – diversity is the key to success.

Sales Touch Points

In my industry of business communications, we use the term touch points. This term is used to describe any vehicle that is used to reach or communicate with a client. Anything like calls, emails, brochures, PDFs, web site, direct mail, advertising, packaging and so more are all taken into consideration.

When evaluating a company’s sales tool arsenal it’s best to start with sales 101 and first ask – Are you putting out materials and touching clients for each of the three buying phases?

Tablets will change how businesses sell

Opportunity Knocks

With a tablet, a sales guy can walk into a new prospect business with a tablet and: show a presentation, have a client interact with product features, show product images and price sheets email them on the spot.

If the sales system is set up for mobility a sales person could calculate costs, make estimates and have clients sign contracts for orders right in that office.

If I’m a company with a sales force, I’m thinking “Gold Mine.”

Tablets will change how companies do sales, no question.

We’ve been in a paper based sales system since…well since Egyptians tracked bought and sold inventory on it. We’ve seen a move towards paperless, but the technology that made it possible was still clunky and impractical for mobile sales. I mean what business owner wants to wait for a sales guy’s laptop to boot up just to see some product shots or a video? No, it was better to send him a link online that he could view later.

Now a sales person doesn’t have to miss the opportunity to watch it with him. It’s all readily available without all waiting and you can interact with it!

Hands-on swiping through interactive catalogs, image libraries and videos make products are making it more engaging and when planned properly it’s a dead ringer for a sales team.

Why aren’t we seeing them being used more?

Sure there are some companies and industries who’ve seen the potential and are using tablets for business. But with the forecast of 1/3 people having tablets by 2015 I find it interesting that I’m not seeing more examples of companies getting a jump on this for a head start on the competition.

Looking for examples

It isn’t just about a cool design or the newest tablet you are using. It’s how the tablet is used to support the sales activities and process that sets a company apart.

I’d like to go with some examples of what’s being done on the sales front with tablets in businesses.

I welcome any stories of businesses who are using tablets for sales well. Do you have any?

Up Coming Presentation: Your sales materials on a tablet

COMe learn how you can use your company materials on tablets to increase your sales.

TIME: 3:45 pm
EVENT: BNI Showcase
LOCATION: Glen Abbey Golf Club,
Dorval Dr. North of the QEW in Oakville

This Christmas it seemed that every other commercial showcased a tablet in some way. Tablets are now reaching the tipping point – they are highly visible and advertised as attainable for the average household.

But what are businesses doing with tablets?

I attended the Adobe Max conference in October to learn just that and while it was clear that not many companies have adopted it to its full potential yet, the number is quickly growing – specifically in companies looking to differentiate themselves and their company from the competition.

Come hear me speak about the emerging trend of digital publication for portfolios, catalogs, white papers, advertising and event materials.

Click and change pictures, embedded videos and audio clips, 360 degree product rotations and more are now available to companies looking to move their sales ahead of their competitors with this new and affordable media.

I’ll be showing samples and current projects we are currently working on to apply this new technology to engage your audience and support business sales efforts using tablets.

Stop by my booth and my presentation at 3:45 to learn more.

Outsourcing Your Design Headache

“I hate doing flyers. I’d like to have an idea for a product flyer and a few days later have a sample for me to approve.
That would be great…Is that possible?”

Yes it is.
For many companies the answer is outsourcing.

I got into this business because I love what I do. Many entrepreneurs do the same, the trouble is we can’t be good at everything and the things we aren’t strong at drain our time and energy.

Creatives like me hire book-keepers because they can do the books three times faster, it’s right the first time and we are free to work on billable work. Outsourcing work to a graphic designer is no different.

You know your business

You know your market and likely have a sales manager or business development person who comes up with great ideas to go after those sales. The gap in growing sales with materials is often design.

Here’s some benefits of outsourcing design:

1. Saving time and money

A good designer creates templates that are used and evolve as your business grows. Templates allow for consistency and quality while keeping your costs predicable and manageable. Turn arounds are faster and with a schedule done in advance, approval schedules are more predicable. All of this without the commitment of hiring a full time designer.

2. Building your brand

With time and repetition your audience gets to know you and your look. They spend less time trying to figure out who is sending them information and more time paying attention to the product sale you want to tell them about. With each new edition they recognize you more. Quality and consistency builds trust and loyalty, a foundation to growing a business and sales.

3. Expand sales initiative

You and your team have the ideas, a graphic designer creates the materials to support it and get it done. Your team works on developing outlines for things like product sheets and catalogs while the design work is done. Your staff now have the time to get the sales you’ve hired them to get.

Outsourcing Communications

There’s so much more to business communications: Marketing, web site design, writing, media relations and photography are just a few categories. There is an abundance of independents out there hungry for your business and wanting to help companies grow.

If you are considering hiring a communications professional I highly recommend checking out the Halton Peel Communications Association, I’m privileged to regularly meet with this group of professionals. Check out the membership directory or post your request.

Of course, should you ever need a consultation for graphic design work, I’d be happy to talk to you :-)

 

Surviving with pre-planning, help and a little luck

Sometimes it’s like the stars align and it all works out. It rarely happens without pre-planning on my part, but I have to acknowledge that there is an element of good fortune that must come along for it to work out without a hitch.

Exhibiting at the 2011 BNI Corporate Showcase last week was fraught with last minute clients, supplier snags and topped off with a fried motherboard on my beloved MacBook Pro… but enter the cosmos to give a hand and somehow I came out on top thanks to some help and pre-planning. Here’s how I did it.

I blocked time in advance

Back in November I knew this show would likely bring last minute clients, I booked only the bare minimum of work for the 2 weeks prior to the event in anticipation for the rush and when it hit I was ready. I ended up having 8 print deadlines within 5 days, only 2 had been booked the month before. All jobs were sent out on time.

Factor for Snags

I’m slightly crazy with this one. I always factor cushion time into every print deadline to offset potential snags – when display mounts were shipped regular instead of over night the problem was addressed and the delivery made in time for the show with just an hour to spare.

I had a Goal:
It kept me focused when mayhem hit

With only 5 minutes of final changes to make on my own trade show handouts, my computer died. With just 16 hours before the show, my own materials yet to send to the digital printer – I simply had to suck it up and reassess what had to be done. My goal helped ground me, prioritize my tasks and get focused.

I went out that night and picked up the show items and back up handouts I’d planned to get the following day and with that taken care of I was able to  put my computer 1st on my priority list the next morning.

I had a Wing Man  :-)

I would have been sunk if it hadn’t been for my sales guy. Stuck at the Apple Store waiting for my computer to be fixed a mere 2 hours before the show, I was able to call him and arrange for him to pick up the late mounts and boards. He arrived to the show in time to deliver them to the clients and help me unload my own car and exhibit with time to spare.

I tell clients to always have a second person to help them man their booth, this week I learned they are also invaluable when trouble hits and you need help.

Lessons Learned

#1 Back up your computer. I kept putting this off – I’ll do it next week, tomorrow, etc.. I was VERY lucky my files were okay – needless to say as I sit here now – my computer is backing up.

#2 Do the best you can and learn to breath. Somethings are just out of your control, you do the best you can and learn to live with the outcome.

Special Thanks:
To the Square One Apple Store: They are absolutely fantastic. They honored my just barely expired Apple Care warranty and saved me $1500.00! They were fast helpful and very sympathetic. I am very glad I am a MAC owner.

C.I.M Solutions, Sean Jennings: For trouble shooting my computer way to early in the morning and getting me set up with my new Back-up system!

What do you want to get out of a trade show? Being Specific.

A trade show floor can be busy, crowded and create a sense of overload. How do you decipher what exhibits are important and who you need to talk to? Before exhibiting or attending a trade show, it’s important to ask yourself what your goals are. Your goals may change from season to season, but the core reason is always the same – business development.

To get real return on your time spent here are a few common goals and objectives companies use when exhibiting and attending shows.

Exhibitors

When designing exhibits for clients I always start with the question, “what are your trade show goals?” It’s important to know what you want and design to attract the results you are looking for. Some sample goals may be:

  • Promote or launch a new brand or product
  • Selling Inventory
  • Establishing a defined number of prospects
  • Booking a certain amount of meetings
  • Doing market research
  • Building a database of contacts
  • Finding investors
  • Building visibility with industry leaders
  • Conducting market research

Once you know what your goals are, you can make sure that whatever you say, show or handout is geared to achieving your objectives. It also makes measuring the success of a show that much easier.

Attendees

Walking a show can be a strategic way to build your business. Having a clear outline of goals can help you prioritize what shows are must to attend and can be a great way to stay focused on the trade show floor. Attendees can in a very short amount of time find a great deal of information and contacts that would other wise take a great deal of legwork. Some common goals are:

  • Booking  meetings with suppliers/distributors/companies
  • Speaking with a  predefined list of industry leaders
  • Signing up for specific mailing lists and industry information
  • Keeping current: seeing new technologies and innovations in your industry
  • Researching recruiting prospects
  • Social networking: connecting and building your social profile/visibility withing your existing industry network.

What kind of goals do you have when attending trade shows? How do you measure the return and success? Feel free to share.