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I realise it is rather a cliché to write about love as we are approaching Valentine’s Day – but bear with me.  Those that don’t believe in and don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day will be sure to make the comment that one should spread the love every day of the year and not just save it up for the one recognised day of the year.   Now I, along with millions of others, do love to receive a Valentine’s card with a loving message however, I do tend to agree that being appreciated and loved should be a year round occupation and not a one-day hazard!

So why all these thoughts on showing love and appreciation?  Over the past couple of months Leapfrog has been running a Customer Relationship Management Workshop for Conversis a Translation Services company.  This company already receive excellent feedback on their customer surveys.  However, the company’s view was that if they invest in a series of workshops, for their Project Managers, that will help their staff to develop and improve the Customer Experience which result in their clients feeling appreciated, listened to and understood these clients will then continue to stay even more loyal to the company.

The key themes that developed throughout the workshop are not rocket science but as we discussed during the sessions it is amazing how often companies don’t treat their customers very well and often let them down.   Therefore, to show that you care, and yes love your customers, think about making sure you follow a few simple ground rules:

“Treat others the way you would want to be treated”

Understand how you like to be treated and what constitutes as good and poor customer care and then make sure you are treating your clients in an exemplary fashion by:

Steve Jobs said that “sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

Mistakes happen and projects don’t always run smoothly especially if these client jobs are time sensitive and complicated.  However, putting yourself in the client’s shoes understanding how the problem impacts them, empathising with them, then apologising about the situation and taking them through a plan as to how you are going to resolve it will help to ensure the client feels like you are doing all you can to improve the situation.

George Bernard Shaw eloquently quotes that “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Poor communication can easily cause a personal relationship to break down and this can also be true when dealing with clients in business. So ask yourself whether you have both listened to your customer and asked them enough questions to fully understand what they are looking for or whether you have made assumptions about what they want.  Be honest about whether you can provide the service or product they want.  If you can’t – be brave and talk to them about what is possible.  If they go ahead and decide to buy from you then it is vital that you provide regular status updates and keep them up to date as to what is happening with their project / order.

Showing your clients that you care about them should be easy but it is amazing how often it can all go horribly wrong.  I am sure we are all aware from our personal relationships that we can all forget to do the simple things – communicating with your partner, acknowledging that we have made a mistake and are in wrong and most importantly showing and telling them how much we appreciate them.  So this Valentine’s Day make the promise that you will spread the love to your loved ones and your clients every day and not just once a year!

It finally feels like there are signs of Spring in the air –  seeing the daffodils and crocuses starting to bloom, blue skies and the sun shining all bring joy to my heart.  It got me thinking that finding a new business lead and getting the conversation to flow takes time, but when there are signs of interest from a new lead this can also blossom into the start of something new and exciting!

The question is though, how do you get your prospective client to blossom and open up to you when you make that first contact call?

Planning and research:  Before you call the client the old adage “fail to plan, plan to fail” comes to mind!  It is vital that you have thought about:

So do your homework.  Many moons ago when I started selling, I did not have the luxury of Google at my fingertips.  Now that we have this unbelievable source of information at our disposal there is no excuse not to use it to find out about your prospective client’s business.  Make sure you know, for example:

The reason for doing this research is to Attune yourself with your prospective client.  Daniel Pink writes in his book How to Sell is Human –  it is vital that you “bring yourself into harmony with individuals, groups and contexts.”  What he means is, put yourself in the client’s shoes – think about their business and why they might need you and how your product or service could be of benefit to them.

The Hook:  Now armed with all this wonderful information you need to get that flower to bloom and make it bask in the sunshine of your charming personality.  This means not only trying to build rapport quickly but also by finding and thinking of a hook so that you get their interest right at the outset and you can do this by following these steps:

Good luck – remember flowers like warmth and attention as does a prospective client so make sure the attention is focused on them and not on you and with some planning, persistence and a good opening hook you will also start to see your prospective client relationship bloom!

William Shakespeare wrote in the opening phrase of a soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene of Hamlet, “to be or not to be, that is the question.”  In this speech a despondent Prince Hamlet contemplates death and suicide while waiting for the love of his life Ophelia.

With the 400th Anniversary celebrations upon us of, many would argue, England’s finest playwright and poet, I felt that “it is high time” (Comedy of Errors) to focus on, what I would say, is the key ingredient of the sales process – that of asking questions in order to establish what a client needs and so how you the seller might be able to help your client.

Whilst we are not going to dwell on the life changing questions of death and suicide, that Hamlet is musing upon in his soliloquy, you would be committing sales suicide by not working to understand your client and their needs and so being able to provide them with a tailored solution.

So for a more literary sales blog this time here is your tour of a few of Shakespeare’s famous quotes as well as my Top Tips for uncovering client needs by asking relevant questions:

This is your first step before making a call or meeting with a client, researching the client’s website, thinking about the market they operate in and working out therefore what their needs might be and so what kind of questions to ask.  If you do nothing, with regards to research, you will get nothing –  including the results you will be aiming for.

The world will be your oyster if you concentrate on asking open questions, all of which will enable you to find out information, challenges and issues your client might be facing.  These start with Who, What, Where, When, Why, Which and How.  In the training courses that we run at Leapfrog improving your skills in how to ask open questions is a key component to improving your sales performance.

In general, it is easier for customers to answer questions about events and issues that happened in the past rather than be able to predict what is going to happen in the future, so focus on asking questions that will give you insight into what has happened previously and then move to asking them what they would like to see change based on what happened in the past.

Asking just one question on a particular issue may not give you all the information you need so make sure you keep going down that particular branch or theme of questions in order to really unearth the information you need and get to the nub of the issue.  Rushing the questioning process and trying to move on too fast will cause you to stumble and so have nothing of substance to hang your sales story onto when in the pitch part of the sales framework.

To be genuinely interested in the client’s business and what they are saying is vital so that you are not just mechanically asking questions.  Make sure you are really listening to their answers and not just focusing on what your next question is going to be.  Listening is as much a part of asking questions as the asking!

So as Shakespeare said in The Merry Wives of Windsor “as good luck would have it” using these questioning tips will definitely help ensure you don’t commit sales suicide and you will “bear a charmed life” (Macbeth). I hope you enjoyed the cultural references in this month’s blog.  Good luck and let me know how you get along!

Exam season is upon us and certainly looming large in my household with GCSE’s only having just started, with 4 weeks still to go until all the exams are over!  Clearly, we won’t know the outcome of these exams until late August, but there are certainly some key criteria required to at least making a stab at getting good results.  It feels like as a parent, the best form of help and support I can offer, for my angst ridden teens, is to keep a well-stocked fridge and biscuit cupboard and then to make emergency trips to M&S for Percy Pigs when stress levels get very high!

On one of these emergency trips for Percy Pigs I was reflecting on what it takes to be successful in exams and then how these skills are also useful when you are about to make a sales pitch to a client!

5 Top Tips for Sales Pitch & Exam Success:

There are a lot of facts to learn when it comes to exams and this is the same when you are in the sales pitch process.  You have to know all there is to know about your product or service and your company.  You need to be the expert in what you can offer and how you can help your client.  However, as I said in last month’s blog, To be or not to be – that is the question, you must also understand as much as you can about your client, any previous history they have with you and to think about their needs and challenges.  This is all before you even get to telling your story!

I certainly remember, when I was a teenager taking my exams, that one piece of advice that my mum screamed out as I was leaving the house “Don’t forget to read the question!”  Reading and assessing the situation you are about to place yourself in as a sales person is also key to success.  So before you go to your meeting think about:

The key to a successful sales pitch is relevance to the needs of your client and how your product or service can be of benefit to them.  The client doesn’t need a list of facts about your service and your business they need to know how your solution can help them!  As I said to my daughter during her Geography revision it is all very well repeating the facts but what is the implication behind the fact.   So keep asking yourself SO WHAT!

As random post it notes appear around the house with “Of Mice and Men” quotes on them, my daughter claims that the examiners “love a good quote!”  This also mirrors what you should be doing in your sales pitch – that is providing your client with relevant case studies and testimonials.   It is imperative that your sales story is personal for your client by using examples that ensure they see the value in what are you are selling and how you have helped other clients that are in the same situation as they are.

Nerves can get the better of you when you take exams and definitely when you have to stand up and present to a client.  So when the time comes to perform – take a few deep breaths, know that you have done your best and then just try to enjoy the process!

Taking time to prepare for an important sales pitch is not always easy but working hard and ensuring you think about how you can make it personal for your client will certainly lead to a better chance of success!  Similarly, I hope the hard work and preparation for the exams in our house also lead to the right results in August – with or without those emergency Percy Pig trips.

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