13 Free Sales Tools to Help Build Your Business

Having worked with these sales tools in my own business and helping my clients integrate these sales tools  into their own habits, I sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows about them.  These should not just be tribal knowledge and I hope these help you in your own selling efforts to the markets you are targeting.

Jigsaw is a user-generated database that is continually updated by its members.  It gives you the name, title, postal and email addresses and direct-dial phone numbers for individual contacts you can’t find directly.  This allows you to find the direct contact information for decisions makers you are targeting without going through the gatekeeper and wondering if you message is even being received.

InfoUSA is a sales tool available with just a library card through your library system.  Not only is this tool useful for finding information on your target customers, but it also give you a list of management names, their competitors, and their SIC and NAICS codes to be able to download searches for even more target customers that may not appear on other search tools.

MyBrainShark is a website that allows you create a voice-enriched multimedia presentation or podcast.  It also makes it easier for you to record your PowerPoint presentation for online display purposes.  This allows the market to view and hear your message and learn from your expertise 24/7.

FirefoxSuperSearch is like the the”Swiss Army Knife” of search engines. It allows users to perform web searches, people searches, reverse lookups, public records searches, due diligence and background research, using over 160 of the internet’s best search engines.  This allows you to learn a lot about your prospects and customers before you engage with them.

Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. It can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents or other downloads.   This will help you identify how your website is connecting with in your market and help you identify what content you need to change.

Xobni is a free add-on to Microsoft Outlook that turns it from an email system into a powerful sales tool. It creates another window in outlook that displays a profile of whoever sent you the currently highlighted email by grabbing that person’s photo and telephone number from LinkedIn, Facebook, or several other social networking sites. It also shows a string of communications that you’ve had with that person. If you use outlook, this is the easiest way to start “social selling” using all of the social media tools.

Hoovers is a database of companies and other organizations, which includes top level data on financials, strategies, competitors, key executives, market dynamics, and so forth. It’s built on a database of information on more than 30 million corporations and organizations, and more than 35 million people. This is a great place to learn about a customer or a competitor, without having to dig through the SEC reports.

Zoho CRM is a Customer Relationship Management tool that has all the features you’d expect in a world-class CRM product, including marketing campaigns, lead management, sales pipeline, forecasts, etc.  This will allow you to keep track of all of your opportunities and activities in one location and you can even have up to 3 people on the same system before you have to pay for it.  I have 3 clients using this currently as their first CRM tool and it works great for a sales management function.

Demandbase Stream is a nice little sales tool that works like a news ticker displaying information across the desktop about which businesses are visiting your Web site, along with their interests, and contact details for the most appropriate decision makers to contact for follow up. You can also flag existing customers, prospects, partners, and competitors, so that you’re aware when they’re doing something on your website.  This helps you act fast when someone is interested in what you have to offer.

Super Pages has proven useful for search for companies that are typically hard to find because they do not “fit” into a specific market segment.  You are able to search for companies in specific geographic areas using key words of the service they may offer.

LinkedIn continues to be a valuable sales tool for business development as more and more companies are joining and senior leadership begins to adopt it as a tool themselves.  Although they have removed some of the features since going public like Events and Answers, you can generate plenty of activity with a target audience by posting useful information to help your network or take part in discussions within the groups you belong to.  Make sure you join 50 groups that are relevant to your expertise, industry, and interests to get the most reach.  Chances are, if I do not know something, my network or fellow group members do and I get an answer very quickly.

Evernote is a great way to keep your projects and to-do list organized.  You can access it through both a desktop and your mobile device to add activities and make new notes when you think about them so you do not forget about them

Xmind is a mind mapping tool that helps you visualize strategic plans, build organizational charts, develop fish bone diagrams for processes, and even can be used to map a potential website site map.  This is a great tool for those of us who are more visual learners.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with these or just want my library card number.

10 Reasons your sales effort is complacent

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  1. You do not have regular sales meetings.
  2. A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
  3. You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
  4. 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
  5. You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
  6. Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
  7. Your customers are buying less.
  8. Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
  9. You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
  10. You do not subscribe to any sales blogs or read any books on new ways of doing things.

If more than 3 of these reflect your organization’s selling function, you may want to consider making some changes to your selling processes, changes to your structure, changes to your compensation plan, and investing in some training.

Why can’t I close sales faster?

With sales cycles getting longer, understanding the problems you are faced with will help you change the way you sell for faster sales.

1.  Your sales process is not aligned with your prospect’s buying process.   Most companies design their sales process on how they sell to the market without regard to how the market buys from them.  If you start to think as a buyer, you would be able to identify potential obstacles earlier in the sale and develop solutions around them.

2.  You do not follow your process.  When you do not follow all of the steps when building a model or replacing your brake pads?  What if pilots and surgeons ignored their processes and checklists?  Experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master your profession, so until then you should probably follow the steps.

3.  You have not created a sense of urgency by discussing “risk” with the buyer.  The best question you can ask if you feel an objection to your solution: “What is the cost of not doing this?”  If you can you’re your prospect that the rewards outweigh the risks, you will help them say “yes” faster.

What steps should you take to correct these problems?

1.  Define how your customer buys.  If you ask “What would you like to see from me to help you make your decision”, you will save a lot of time trying to figure out what they want.

2.  Have a goal for each and every sales call.   When you understand all of the stages a prospect goes through in their buying process, you can identify milestones that need to be met for the prospect to reach the next stage.  What needs to happen in your next call or meeting to make that happen to keep the sale moving?

3.  Talk about rewards with your prospects. Companies are always concerned with committing funds to something that is not necessarily tangible.  Help your prospect understand the opportunity costs of not saying “yes”.

By aligning the way you sell to the way your prospects buy, following a repeatable process, and helping the prospect see the rewards of saying yes, you will close sales faster.

6 Questions to Help Move the Chains

In how many sales meetings this week is the owner looking at the sales funnel and scratching their head about the lack of movement of opportunities from one stage to the next?  There seem to be plenty of opportunities and potential clients out there so what is the problem?

I guarantee it is a lack of proper qualification of the opportunity to begin with.  The sales funnel needs to be cleaned up and by asking some basic sales leadership questions, you can help coach your team to identify the true opportunities to potentially “move the chains” and take them to the next level.

  • Who is the potential client?
  • What do they actually need and want?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What other options does the potential client have?
  • What is a clear next step that we need to do now to move this forward?

Many sales people can’t say “no” to potential opportunities and clients even though they are not ideal prospects.  This causes their sales funnel becomes full of opportunities that get stuck at the proposal phase because they have no clue what to actually offer to them.

If you are looking at the sales funnel and can’t understand why the actually sales are not happening, try drilling down deeper into each opportunity with these questions to coach your team to move their chains.

If you need help integrating some of the best practices to help coach your sales team, please contact us to schedule a SWOT analysis of your sales structure, sales process, and sales skills

How leading indicators can help keep your eyes on the prize

During my spare time while traveling for a project with a major Midwest manufacturer, I decided to summarize a take away I had from reading “The Four Disciplines of Execution”.1 The book is very relevant for any of us who have started major initiatives in our organizations only to watch them be stifled by competing priorities or as I call it, “the tyranny of the urgent”. These are daily need-to-do activities and organizational fire fighting that makes us wonder what we actually accomplished and did all day.

After an organization determines a relevant business goal they want to achieve and target date for completion, they traditionally measure their progress through what the book calls “Lagging Indicators”.  These lagging Indicators are reflective of the goals that we traditionally set quarterly or annually such as:

  • Increase sales from $500K to $625K by 2015.
  • Increase the number of dealers from 10 to 15 by 2013.
  • Reduce cost of sales by 10% by Q3.
  • Increase average selling price per transaction by 5% by March
  • Increase our market share by 10% by 2014.

Sound familiar?  If achieved, any of these are all good indicators of success, but when does and organization traditionally look at the results? Most of them only look at their progress a few days before the target completion date.  This can produce only one of two possible results: a sense of jubilation and desire to celebrate, or a instantaneous increase in your pucker factor that now has you worrying about your year, your career, and the future of your organization.  Using these lagging indicators to measure success at the end of a target date is about as useful as looking in your vehicles rear view mirror to navigate in a forward direction.

What if you could measure your progress along the entire way toward your target date?
What if you were able to change your game plan at half time instead of the two-minute warning?  What if everyone in the company knew could measure results on a weekly basis?
What do you have to start measuring to be able to do that?

The book introduces the development and use of “Leading Indicators”.  Leading indicators measure the achievement of specific activities and activity levels that are necessary for you to achieve your goal.  These can be as simple as:

  • Meet with 10 new qualified targets per week.
  • Present to 4 qualified prospects per week.
  • Up sell 10 clients per week.
  • Mail 100 new information packets to targets per month..
  • Complete 3 field assessments per month.
  • Participate in 2 trade shows per quarter

All of these leading indicators can be reverse engineered from looking at your past successes and determining what activities helped you get there.  For example, if your goal (lag indicator) is to sell $100K of materials in 10 months to new clients, your average client is worth $10K, 50% of the prospects let you send them a quote, and you closing ratio is 10%, then you will have to talk to 200 prospects and propose to 100 of them to reach your goals.  Breaking down these activities into leading indicators determines that you need to talk to 20 new prospects and propose to 10 of them every month or even talk to five prospects a week and propose to 2.5 of them on average. Your goal of $100K in new revenue in 10 months does not seem all that hard to achieve know what you have to do each week in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent.

The last words of advice from the book are to develop and maintain a public score card that helps everyone in the organization understand how they are meeting their leading indicators and progressing towards their goals on a weekly/monthly basis.  Read here to understand the benefits of keeping score properly to drive accountability in your organization or contact SalesTechnik  should you like help developing relevant leading indicators to help you achieve your goals.

1. The Four Disciplines of Execution: McChesney, Covey, and Huling, Free Press 2012
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How to Get a Faster ROI from Your New Sales Person

You just started a new sales person after your last sales person walked out the door only after 6 months.  You ordered new business cards, set up an email address, put together some sales figures, printed a customer list, and gave them a stack of brochures.  They should be set to go, right?  This is the most common scenario for any company that has a high turnover in their sales teams.  In fact, it was the way I was on-boarded as several companies earlier in my career.

Most companies do not have the proper systems and processes in place for on-boarding new sales people and without them, the sales person is set up for failure from the beginning. What does it take to set the new sales person up for success?  I call it the 4-P’s and it is everything that should be given to a new sales person to hit the streets faster and produce an ROI for your company.

Position: How thorough is the job description?  Have all of the expectations been communicated? Are their support people in place? Have goals been set?  Does the sales person understand what their role is in the achievement of those goals?  Without a clear understanding of the sales position, the opportunity for misunderstanding of role and expectations can lead to frustration and lack of results.

Products: Has the new sales person been trained on your product or service and fully understand the value it can deliver to your customers?  Do they know the pricing?  Do they know your entire portfolio? Do you have technical expertise that can support the sales person? Are your marketing materials current?  The failure to properly train and even cross train your new sales person will destroy your credibility with customers.

People:  Who are the people that you want to deliver your product and service to? Do you know what an ideal customer looks like? Do your marketing materials speak to your target market?  Do you know your competition?  Do you know your differentiators?  Do you know how your customers buy?  The failure to understand your market will not develop a clear marketing and selling plan to follow.

Processes: What metrics do you have in place to measure success?  Is your CRM in place and the use of it mandated?  Can you document your customer buying process and what roles are responsible for the various stages and touch points?  Do you have support people for order entry, shipping, billing, and servicing so your sales person can stay in front of customers and new opportunities?  The failure to have proper support in place for customers will make your sales person get involved with non-selling activities and you will only get 20% of the selling effort you need.

To get a faster ROI out of your sales person, you need to take away any potential for misunderstanding, not knowing expectations, ruining you credibility, and not being able to measure success.  For help developing your 4-P’s, please contact us at SalesTechnik

Do you measure activities or do you measure what can make a difference?

How many times have you wanted your sales teams to just make more calls thinking that is the best way to increasing sales?  Organizations that fail to deliver real-time intelligence to their sales team fail to maximize their efforts and hence get hung up on “making more calls” as the solution.

While most sales managers and owners love reports that measure their sales team’s activities in order to forecast sales, they may be missing opportunities by not focusing on reports that provide necessary information that would allow them to create a better strategy to begin with. Their current strategies and tactics are based upon dated information that could be months old and hence are often useless to make a difference quickly.

So if what gets measured gets managed, what information should you be measuring and delivering real-time to your sales team to be more agile in the field to increase sales?

  • Sales of customers by demographic segments
  • Profitability of customers by demographic segments
  • Sources of new leads by demographic segments
  • Dollars in each stage of the funnel
  • Conversion rates for each stage of the funnel
  • Average value of each opportunity in each stage of the funnel
  • Achievement % to budgeted sales and profitability
  • Market share % and industry trends
  • Distribution by product line and products by demographic segments
  • Customer attrition rates
  • Customer satisfaction rates
  • Production forecasts
  • Delivery and project completion progress

Now more than ever, sales managers need to provide their teams with more timely insight and detailed sales analytics that can deliver a competitive advantage to their sales team, allow better forecasting by the sales manager, and increase sales for the company much faster than they would be able to if they were only tracking activities.

Grow Your Business by Targeting Ideal Opportunities

Many organizations are unable to grow fast enough because their sales teams spend too much time with opportunities that are wrong for your business.

Have you ever:

  • Thought your weekly sales funnel reviews are the same week after week with no progress?
  • Been tired of hearing phrases such as “They asked me to stay in touch” or “They are still deciding”?
  • Believed your sales efforts are focusing on prospects that you do not want to do business with?

The simple fact is that sales people hate saying “no” because they believe they can every opportunity they find and hence every opportunity they find becomes a prospect of some sort.  This leads to waste of time and efforts on opportunities that will never close, your opportunity funnel becomes clogged with bad prospects, and your business does not grow.  I guarantee these opportunities were never a good opportunities to begin with because you have not identified the characteristics of your good clients and what a good opportunity looks like to your organization for the sales team to call on.

What was done by the salesperson to identify the opportunity as ideal? What questions were asked to qualify the opportunity? Can your organization even identify what an ideal client is and what an ideal opportunity looks like to help your sales team target better opportunities?

If a company is able to define what an ideal client looks like, then the marketing and sales efforts are able to work more efficiently because selling time is only spent on qualified opportunities that match the characteristics of your ideal clients. Additionally, your operations should perform better because you are only doing business with ideal clients that you are meant to be serving.

Should your ideal clients be of a certain size?  Should they have certain annual revenue?  Should they be able to purchase one or more of your products or services?  Should they have a certain structure?  Should they have a certain credit rating? Should they be able to lead you to more business?

By identifying your ideal client characteristics, you will be able to identify what an ideal opportunity looks like and hence your sales team will be able to identify where their time should be spent and become more efficient with closing more ideal clients to grow your business faster.

How Your Parents Set You Up For Failure in Sales

Many business owners that have to sell their products and services and the people that are tasked with selling for them have never considered themselves as sales people.  I have heard it many times, “I am not a sales person and I am not comfortable with selling”.  It’s not your fault and you can blame it on your parents.

What did your parents tell you while you were growing up?

  • Don’t talk to strangers
  • Don’t bother that important person
  • That person doesn’t care about what we do
  • It’s not polite to talk about money

What do you have to do in sales?

  • Talk to strangers
  • Bother the important people
  • Talk to people that should care about what you do
  • Talk about money

It is time to get over the notion that you are not a salesperson.  Sales is nothing more than having a passion for what you represent and being able to transfer that enthusiasm to others, like potential customers.  If you believe in what you represent, just talk to people about it and make sure they are the right people or are people that know others that can benefit from what you represent.

Be sure the people you talk to are strangers, be sure they are important, be sure they are the person that you can provide value to and the person that can make sure you get paid.

Why Great Sales People Should Act Like CEO’s

“You are the CEO of your territory so you should act like one.”  I was told this all the time during my years of selling and leading sales teams in various industries. I have since passed this advice on to every sales person and sales team that I have worked with since I started my practice.

More than any other position in the company, sales has a tremendous amount of autonomy and like a CEO, this freedom gives the sales people an infinite amount of latitude in how they are going to achieve their goals.  Sales performance is based on success like that of a CEO and therefore the best sales people should approach sales like they are a CEO.

What should sales people and CEO’s have in common?

They leverage others to help – they don’t try to do it all themselves.  Great sales people know how to leverage the entire organization. Good and average sales people try to do it all themselves.

They show leadership – without leadership it’s impossible to gain the support of the organization, to build support teams, to rally the client, and get those teams you need behind you.

They have problem solving skills – problem solving is one of the greatest, unmeasured skills today. Great CEO’s solve problems. Great sales people solve problems for their company and their clients.  They have an uncanny knack for understanding how to get around hurdles, address challenges and accomplish what others can not.

They have Business Acumen- It goes without saying that CEO’s have great business acumen and unfortunately, most sales people do not. Sales people should embrace business knowledge and grow their understanding of complex and simple business concepts.

They take Risks – by definition, CEO’s take measured, calculated risks.  They understand that nothing is guaranteed and growth comes from expansion. Selling is no different and the best sales people take risks.  They understand the next big sale does not come from doing what everyone else is doing.

They have a Vision – Like CEO’s the best sales people have a vision and they see the forest through the trees.  They can see where the industry is going and see where their clients “need” to go. They know when a product is going to loose its edge 12 months in advance and use that to their advantage.

They are committed to personal development – CEO’s become CEO’s because they are constantly striving to get better, embrace personal development, and are always growing their skills.  The best sales people are constantly evaluating their skills and should always strive to get better. They know what they are great at and what they need to get better at.  They leverage their strengths and surround themselves with those who are great at what they are not.

I am a huge fan sales people and during my 25 plus years of sales leadership, I have watched sales people that have these traits succeed farther than myself and I have watched sales people fail because they were unable to change the way they conducted themselves in business and embrace these ideas.  If you can embrace and integrate the characteristics of a CEO, then you can be great in sales.