Tag Archives: Sales

Can Overhead Mean Profit?

I was chatting with a friend the other day and he told me about some layoffs that were going on at his place. Many of the people being cut were what we euphemistically used to call the “non-revenue generating portion of our staff.” You might term them overhead. You know – sales assistants, secretaries, accountants – the people to whom direct revenue isn’t attributed. I told my friend that I think it was an incredibly short-sighted move and in an effort to help your business not make the same sort of error, here’s why I feel that way.

First and foremost, there is a decent amount of research that tells is that salespeople – the people who bring in the fuel that drives your business’ engine – spend only about a third of their time (36%) actually selling. You know – meeting or connecting with clients either in person or virtually. 64% of their time is spent on non-sales activity, and a good chunk of that is with administrative tasks (25%) and service tasks (16%). A great sales assistant can take over much of those tasks, freeing the salesperson up to do what only they can do. Is it cost-effective? If a salesperson is making $200,000 a year and you can boost their output, making them worth $50,000 more, then you’ve paid for the assistant, right?

The same can be said of other support people. A smart accountant or lawyer can help boost profits, even if they do nothing more than find a way to say “yes” in making deals happen. That’s not always the case – I’ve worked with internal lawyers who were a bigger impediment to business than a crappy marketplace. If there is an internal awareness of revenue goals and a commitment by everyone to making deals happen, there is no such thing as “overhead.”

Selling has changed, no matter your business. Focusing on customers’ needs, not trying to sell them products they don’t want or need, and being a trusted advisor are the key ingredients in sales (and revenue) success. The more people your company can put to that task on behalf of your clients, the better. Make sense?

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Letting Customers Win

I know we talk a lot in this space about being customer centric and how that paradigm shift can result in great sales.  It’s always nice when I can find evidence to back up that assertion, and I have some for you today.  Adweek ran the following as part of their eye-opening digital marketing stats a few days back:

English: Nissan car dealership

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Port City Nissan, Portsmouth, N.H., recently ran a campaign in which it claimed a 49 percent closing rate on the automotive leads it generated online using Dealertrack‘s system. The key to such success is pretty simple, Dealertrack told Adweek: Create as much digital transparency as possible when it comes to every car and give consumers a ton of control over the shopping experience.

I don’t care what you’re selling, online or off:  a 49% conversion rate is off the charts.  You can see the difference as soon as you bring up their website.  There are three very clear paths put in front of you – I know what I want (you search by make, model, and year), I know my budget (search by price), and I just want to browse (which is subdivided into price ranges).  But as it turns out, it’s not the website per se.  My local Nissan dealer is using the same template.  The key seems to be the Dealertrack system, which is basically an integrator of all of the dealerships activities.  They start with marketing and include CRM, inventory management, and all related functions.  They key is the system’s emphasis on this statement:

Customer transactions have always been the lifeblood of your business, and in today’s more transparent retailing landscape, they’re where reputations and long-lasting relationships begin.

Exactly.  They are trying to build increased customer trust, an area in which car dealerships have historically not been leaders.  Tying all the systems together to maintain that focus has been a critical component in delivering great results. Creating transparency and control for the consumer is key. The statement above is true no matter what your business, along with the willingness to make the consumer your partner.  After all, they’re paying the bills, so when they win, so do you, right?

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A Sales Lesson From Hunter And Garcia

Every once in a while I like to make business points based on something I pull out of music. As you might be able to tell from a few of my previous posts, often those lessons come from the music of The Grateful Dead. Today is no exception.

Robert Hunter

The song “High Times” was written by Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia and was in and out of their concert rotation beginning in 1969. It has nothing to do with drugs despite the title but as you’ll see it has quite a lot to do with sales.  This is the first verse:

You told me goodbye
How was I to know
You didn’t mean goodbye
You meant please don’t let me go

While the song is about loss and is a plea for a significant other to come back, there’s also a message for anyone who is selling something.  That message is about listening for the meaning behind the words.  In this case “goodbye” meant “hold me tighter, convince me to stay.”   How often do we hear “no” and not understand, as marketers or salespeople  that “no” means “not yet”?  It’s not an invitation to walk away.  “Too expensive” doesn’t mean cut your price.  I take it to mean “show me more value.”

The ability to listen and to read the meaning behind the actual words is a critical skill we probably don’t teach or practice often enough.  Someone who asks a slew of questions is demonstrating a keen interest to buy.  We need to probe to find out what is keeping them from satisfying that need.  We need to hear meaning and not just what was said.

“How was I to know” is a pretty easy question to answer but getting the meaning isn’t in many cases.  Does that make sense?

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Both Sides – Now!

Today’s screed isn’t about Joni Mitchell or her song from the late ’60’s. It’s about being an effective businessperson. I was going to write “negotiator” but as I’m thinking about it, this is really applicable to all areas of business – sales, relationships with other members of the team, – pretty much everything. As an aside, I think it’s one of the factors behind the gridlock in our political system but we don’t do that stuff in this space so just file that away. Quite simply, if you want to get to agreements on things, there’s one ability you must have and that’s our topic. Continue reading

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Believing In Your Product

One of the first things you learn in sales is to believe in your own product.  Some folks call it eating your own dog food but the basic idea is two-fold.  First, if you’re going to foist something on a customer you should be willing to be that customer yourself.  Second, it’s a great way to do usability testing and in sales, it helps you discover selling points that may not even have been designed into the product plan.

I’m a big fan of the process and was really impressed when I read about what I consider to be the ultimate instance of belief in a product:  one that literally puts your life on the line. Continue reading

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You vs. You

One of the big mistakes I have seen over and over during my business career has been executives negotiating against themselves.  I’m not talking about simple role-playing to sort out how best to attack a problem.  What I mean is a group of businesspeople sitting together to plan strategy or review a contract and talking themselves out of a deal point because they believe that the other side won’t go for it even though they’ve heard nothing from the other side.   Dummies!  Here’s what I think is a better approach. Continue reading

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No One Cares

Self-portrait of Joseph Ducreux

You might think I’m feeling unloved this morning from the title of this post.  Far from it, but thanks for reacting that way.  Instead of a statement of depression, futility, or anger, the title is actually something that we all need to remember as businesspeople.  It’s more about humility.  Pretty Zen for a Monday, huh? Continue reading

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