Cash is King, Content is Queen: How Professionals Can Leverage Content to Showcase Their Knowledge and Deepen Customer Relationships
If you are in business, than I am sure you have experienced the overwhelming flow of content aimed at teaching business owners how to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently. Content such as podcasts, blogs, magazine, journals and webinars, all make up a laundry list of resources available to the entrepreneur as he or she pursues success. The truth is, running a business, big or small, can be difficult. Starting the business is often times more difficult because people tend to struggle nailing down an idea they are confident in. Keep reading.
Joe Pulizzi, author of Content, Inc. says that "By focusing on building an audience first and defining product and services second, an entrepreneur can change the rules of the game and significantly increase the odds of financial and personal success." Joe goes on to say that he believes the best way to launch a business is to first create a system of attracting customers (often times by producing free informative content on a subject of your own expertise or interest) so that when you launch your product / service - it sells itself. He calls his noble concept Content, Inc. The medium and content is yours to choose and reveal to your audience... the "opportunities" are for your audience to choose and reveal to you.
What about those of you targeting your local geographical market - those providing products and services to communities near you. What does this mean? The good news is, this strategy does not change on a local level - it's actually amplified.
Dan Antonelli, CEO of Graphic D-signs and contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine gives five reasons why small businesses should participate in content marketing. I believe that his second reason is most important for this discussion.
"Number 2: Builds an identity as a trusted expert. If there are 10 plumbers in a town but only one provides helpful information that educates the community about plumbing maintenance, problems, options and innovations, that brand will stand out as the expert. By doing this, a brand is demonstrating its expertise, so prospective customers need not question or research its know-how. Since this small business is helping consumers without getting paid for this advice, it will also earn a reputation of being trustworthy."
Participating in content marketing provides free value to your customers. That free value elicits trust which boosts word of mouth marketing. To remain consistent with our example above; imagine the plumber writes an article about fixing leaky faucets. Someone in their local market runs across the article and shares it with a friend who has a leaky faucet. The chances of that person calling THAT plumber for the repair are far better than if the article had never been delivered. Think about sales people you have purchased from in the past... did you trust them? Exactly.
The medium and content is yours to choose and reveal to your audience... the "opportunities" are for your audience to choose and reveal to you.
If you talk to sales managers, most will probably tell you that firing employees is one of their least favorite parts of the job. What is a little less obvious is the disdain for hiring salespeople. We often times fail to realize just how risky hiring a salesperson really is. In a recent study, 27% of U.S. companies indicated that each bad hire costs their organization over $50,000. In addition to hiring salespeople, failing to retain top-talent is even more costly. The data shows that retaining high-performing salespeople often comes down to three simple factors:
Let's discuss the second bullet a little more. Often times, hiring managers are confident that the job descriptions they are producing are adequately explaining the company's expectations to candidates; they are not. The fatal flaw here is the assumption that a hiring manager instinctively knows which person will best fit a sales role based on the limited amount of data available (resume and interview). Data suggest that customer's choose vendors based on four characteristics; however the weight in which each influences the decision is mind-boggling.
What hiring managers must try to do is figure out which competencies a salesperson must possess to be successful in the role that you are trying to fill. Then, assess the candidate to determine if he/she possesses such competencies. Going at this alone can be quite daunting, not to mention costly. So what can hiring mangers do?
The Sales Education Foundation has been around since the dawn of collegiate sales education. A few years ago, they developed a very effective tool for assessing a candidate's likelihood of 'fit' for the following sales roles:
The tool is called the GrowthPlay Assessment. This assessment is being used by some of the largest sales organizations in the world as a way of predicting a candidate's success in a given sales role which ultimately saves the organization time, energy and green. The assessment explains each role in terms of competencies required to successful in that role. After a candidate takes the assessment, they are matched to the sales role of 'best fit.' If they are a 'strong fit' for the desired role... you have a candidate that is statistically predicted to succeed; however, if they do not 'fit' - you just saved your company some heartache. We are a certified to administer the GrowthPlay Assessment and we are excited to help you along the hiring journey.
The buyer-seller relationship is somewhat of a mystery. In the context of B2B sales, there seems to be some confusion between the word 'relationship' and 'friendship'. To further explore this, I reached out to a successful salesperson in an industry which this confusion is quite obvious - the oilfield.
Just yesterday, I had a great conversation with Mr. Gerald Broussard, Director of Sales for National Oilwell Varco (NOV). NOV is an American multinational corporation in the oilfield services and equipment industry and resides in Houston, Texas. Gerald and I talked for nearly an hour, during which we discussed what buyer-seller relationships look like in the oilfield industry. Gerald or "Big G" explained that the common belief in oilfield sales is that closing deals is 'all about relationships.' Gerald said, "This is a very political industry - lots of times it boils down to what you know and who you know." This statement threw me a bit. Gerald's primary background is in collegiate football coaching... what or who did he know when he started working in oilfield sales? How did he climb to the top, even though he didn't follow the beaten path?
After asking Gerald a few more questions, it became obvious to me why he was so successful. Gerald truly understands the difference between a buyer-seller 'relationship' and a 'friendship.' In his business, Gerald's primary focuses is on building a business relationship with his customers by providing them with value, service and consultation. He knows that if those things are present and he remains persistent, a 'relationship' is bound to happen. "Lots of guys in my field think that if they spend time with their customers, the deals will come. So they take the customers to the game, to the hunting lodge, to the steakhouse, etc. Me, I focus on solving problems in my customer's business first. Do that a few times and the other things will naturally fall into place."
Gerald went on to say that the only thing a salesperson can guarantee a customer, is his / her attention and time. Gerald is extremely generous with his time. "I'd rather see someone face-to-face and give them my full attention instead of talking over the phone, even if that means driving to Houston for a 15 minute visit." Simply put, Gerald believes in becoming a business partner, not a 'business podna' (podna is Cajun slang meaning friend or pal).
So what are some things customers look for in a sales rep? What attributes of a sales rep expedite the building of a solid buyer-seller relationship?
Seven attributes that have the highest positive impact on customer loyalty:
What's important when customers choose their vendors?
Hierarchy of customer wants:
1. Substantiated value
2. Solutions, not products and services
3. Outsourcing everything except core competencies
Factors predicting world-class sales status (from customers' perspective):
1. Rep personally manages my satisfaction
2. Rep understands our business
3. Rep is a customer advocate (be on our side)
4. Rep is knowledgeable of applications (bring us applications)
5. Rep is easily accessible
6. Rep solves our problems
7. Rep is innovative in response to our needs
(Achieving Sales Excellence by Stevens and Kini, 2007)
Accelerate Acadiana: A Louisiana-based Grant is Dumping $700,000 Into Funding the Expansion of Local and National Businesses!
In sales, as well as most business professions, it's always advised to keep your finger on the pulse of the opportunities available around you. Well, this opportunity extends unto businesses throughout the Acadiana region and even to businesses nation-wide! Through a $700,000 federal grant initiative, UL Lafayette, the community Foundation of Acadiana’s INNOV8, and LEDA's Opportunity Machine (OM) are launching a business accelerator program, this fall.
What's a business accelerator program?
There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the differences between a business incubator and a business accelerator. Think of it this way, if a business were a baby then an incubator would nurture and support that baby until it reached adolescence. Once the business reaches this stage in its life; a different type of support is needed. This is when an accelerator program comes into play. An accelerator provides adolescent businesses with funding opportunities, educational resources and the like to help a walking business... run! For more on the difference between these two types of programs, check out Fernando Sepulveda's article in Inc. Magazine.
OK... so how do I know if my business (or a friend's) is right for this accelerator?
The initial application is wide open to businesses throughout nation. Basically, if you are "in business" then you may really benefit from the Accelerate Acadiana program. For those businesses accepted into the program, it is required that the entrepreneurial team temporarily relocates to Lafayette; therefore you Acadiana-based businesses have an edge!
And where do I sign up?
Click Here to find out a little more about the opportunity. Applications are due by July 23rd so sign up, today! Below is an info-graphic outlining the various steps of the Accelerate Acadiana accelerator program.
There is little doubt. You cannot be a successful salesperson without also being an effective negotiator. So why is there such little talk of this correlation? Well, I suspect that it has a lot to do with the nature of salespeople. Salespeople like closing deals, not passing them by. Salespeople win a lot of business by being pleasant to work with. Just the word, 'negotiation' sounds like a bomb... ticking... about to explode.
In some cases, salespeople may never find themselves walking through the forest of a daunting negotiation. Some salespeople sell certain products and services that are simply non-negotiable. Other salespeople are not empowered with the authority to negotiate with their customers / prospects. In any event, if you do find yourself at the negotiation table... there are some rules of thumb that we suggest you follow to be more effective.
First, it is important that you understand the value in negotiating. My clients know how near and dear The Challenger Sale by Brent Adamson and Matthew Dixon is to me. In their breakthrough study, Adamson and Dixon noted that one of the fundamental characteristics of top performing sales professionals is their ability to "take control of the sale." This my friends, comes down to the rep's ability to negotiate.
In our usual fashion, we try to our best to provide simple solutions that help salespeople become more effective and ultimately... more successful. Below you will find a wallet-sized card filled with negotiation tips. The PREPBAR model is especially helpful as we try to remember the steps of negotiating. Many of these techniques were taken from David Oliver's How to Negotiate Effectively.
Click the image below to download a PDF version of the card. Take a screenshot and save it to your phone. It's yours for the taking!
"Fear plays a part in friendliness; if we extend a friendly hand, but no one returns the gesture we feel neglected, ashamed and rejected. Do not be friendly for others, be friendly to others for yourself; be friendly because you want to live in a friendly world."
In 1936, Dale Carnegie authored what is arguably his best work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. This self-help book has more than 30 million copies in circulation and is a must read for any professional. Throughout this book you will find several 'principles' that Carnegie suggests will make you more effective in dealing with others. Still to this day, Carnegie's work is so popular that courses are still being taught in his namesake.
Grant Alexander, a Carnegie instructor of The Winner Institute invited me onto his podcast to reflect on Carnegie's thirteenth principle: begin in a friendly way. This principle can be best summarized when Carnegie writes, "A drop of honey can catch more flies than a gallon of gall." Click here for a full recording of the podcast.
Reece Theriot, MBA
“We were put on this Earth to love; by loving, we serve others; by serving others, we create value; by creating value, we form successful ventures; by forming successful ventures we contribute to the advancement of Creation which pleases the Creator.”