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6 Ways to Improve your Sales IQ

In today’s small business world, the art of selling is changing rapidly.  In order to adapt and succeed, your business may need to overhaul its sales skills and adapt new methods to meet the changing trends. Here’s how you can respond to trends that are transforming the sales landscape, and improve your own sales IQ:

  1. Know what Customers (Really) Care About: First, know what they don’t care about, like how “great” your service is; how “low” your prices are, and whether they might have been your customer in the past. Loyalty runs thin these days, and old sales platitudes fall flat. What customers do care about is how smart you are about their business; how you can lower their risk; and how strong of a reputation you’ve built with people they might know.
  2. Become a Research Racehorse: Given the multitude of information available online, you must come to the table equipped with a depth of information and knowledge about you target customers that proves your interest and attracts the prospect’s attention.
  3. Create Contagious Content: Increase your credibility and build awareness of your products or services by publishing content relevant to your customers. This is easier than ever to do online.  Start a blog, or contribute to community sites in your industry or profession. Regularly post comments and participate in web communities and forums where your customers also participate.
  4. Sync up your Messages: Email, voicemail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other messaging methods must work in tandem. In fact, prospects expect it.
  5. Find the Real Buyers: Especially in the business-to-business world, more people today are involved in the decision-making process — but fewer of those individuals actually have the power to make a purchase decision. Learn to recognize the decision makers and bypass others without making them mad. One trick is to avoid leaving “tracks” such as emails and voice messages that can be forwarded back to the non-decision makers. Once you contact a decision maker, always mention the name of the non-decision maker and compliment their efforts, but say why you are working around them.
  6. Become an Expert at Online Presentations: Web conferencing tools have replaced in-person meetings, but holding audiences captive through a Death-by-PowerPoint presentation almost guarantees a lost sale. Taking the time to organize, design and build strong online presentations will quickly convert prospects into buyers.

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7 Sales Slump Survival Tactics

As a tough economy lingers, many small business owners find themselves stuck in a sales slump that just doesn’t seem to get any better. Under those conditions, it’s easy for a business to find itself floundering for solutions that seem perpetually out of reach.

“Many businesses are paralyzed in today’s difficult and increasingly competitive economy,” says David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training, who helps businesses with just such problems. “They don’t have a system for success or forget what they actually know, and are merely reactive.”

But sales slumps can actually be a time for renewing and refocusing a sales effort if you can avoid key mistakes and knee jerk reactions that will keep your company in a rut. Here are seven sales slump survival tactics that can make your business stronger for the year ahead:

1. Stick with your sales process. When sales slow, many small business owners panic.  They suddenly forget what they know and start throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks.  They jump from activity to activity, neglecting their sales process. Stop there. A sales process tells you exactly what needs to happen in order to complete a sale. “Imagine an emergency room,” says Mattson. “When a patient comes into triage the hospital doesn’t try multiple check-in procedures and leave their process to chance, or things would be chaos.  There are procedures and orderly steps that need to happen every single time in order to correctly treat a patient.  The same is true in sales.”

2. Don’t focus on revenue only. Focusing only on top line numbers can frustrate a sales team. What you really need to consider is behaviors as well as revenue.  To achieve your sales goals, your business needs to know which behaviors need to take place in order to provide favorable sales results down the road.

3. Keep prospecting. If you only pay attention to current customers you will sacrifice long-term sales.  When a business gets to a certain size, employees feel like they can relax and that they are past needing to prospect all the time.  Don’t fall for this trap. Very few people like to prospect.  You don’t have to like it; you just have to do it. While it is important not to neglect existing customers, you always need to be on the lookout for new customers in anticipation of the peaks and valleys throughout the year.

4. Maintain marketing and advertising. When businesses see a decrease in sales, the first costs they tend to cut are marketing and advertising. That’s a mistake. Now more than ever small companies must create mindshare with customers and prospects.  But it doesn’t have to cost money. An often missed opportunity is simply following up on all leads you receive. For instance, research shows that only two percent of leads at trade shows are followed up on.  Just by pursuing existing leads you could come out of the slump stronger than your competitors.

5. Ban “Loser Talk.” If you really want to kill sales, create an atmosphere of learned helplessness.  In fact, many business owners do this and don’t even realize what they’ve done.  Stop blaming the economy or other things out of your control, and set a positive tone going forward. Empower sales people to close deals within parameters, and be responsible and accountable for their own progress.

6. Remember your roots. If you want to drive a business into the ground, forget what you did that made the business successful in the first place. Remember what made clients and prospects fall in love with your company; then go back to that.

7. Plan for seasonal slowdowns. Planning ahead for seasonal slowdowns can help pull you out of future ruts.  Leaders should anticipate specific months or times of year when sales trend down and feed the sales funnel before these occur.

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