How to Get Referrals from Clients

Referrals from current clients are completely different from referrals from referral partners. Getting referrals from your current clients require a different conversation, because they already know you, your product, and the benefits. One of the best I know at having the conversation is a friend of mine named Amy. She has developed a system that allows her to receive 10+ referrals per week from her current clients.

I asked her how she was getting so many referrals, when most people are happy with one or two per week.  She told me not to be satisfied with just one or two referrals. “I used to get only one or two per week until I started expecting three or four from each person.  Unless you make it a point, they don’t know how many they are supposed to give you. After setting expectations clients usually just keep providing names of people that I can help, until I stop them.” (more…)

How to Convert Leads into Referrals

In “Lead vs Referrals” I talked about the difference between a lead and a referral and why referrals are superior to leads, but the question arises, “How do you get people to refer you instead of giving you leads?”  The answer is purposeful and tactful coaching.  The best people at getting referrals do not get them by accident.  They ask and coach.

The first step is networking.  You must have a business network that is actively looking for leads for you.  They must be the types of colleagues that are in the right place.  After all, sales is just two thingsBeing around the people who want or need to buy your product, or being around the people who are around the people who have the want or need to buy your product.  Many people try to do this at the networking event.  It usually goes something like this: “Hi, how are you?.  Will you please refer me because I do x,y, and z and it’s fantastic.”  This is technically selling which is one of the big no-nos of networking.  See point two in “Why Networking is important and Tips for Success.” (more…)

How much data do I need for Predictive Analytics

Leads vs. Referrals — Knowing the Difference.

If you can effectively develop relationships your sales efforts will go from good to great. However, it is important to understand the difference between leads vs. referrals. Most people who get leads from business relationships, think they are referrals and that they have succeeded. This is not true. There is a difference between a lead and a referral. Understanding this difference will change the way you call, email, or text leads, and a large difference in how you get the business from that person. Let’s look at the difference. (more…)

Why Networking is Important

In order to network effectively, it is important to be aware of why networking is important. Understanding why networking is important will keep you motivated and focused. As a networker, I know that it is difficult to stay motivated when you have to drive half way across town for another meeting, especially if you already know most the people in the room. Once you get there, it is even harder to stay focused on the work of networking instead of catching up with your friends. It has been my experience that salespeople either need to spend time finding people ready to buy, or spend time finding people who are around people who are ready to buy my product.  The second part is networking.  Unfortunately, most people do not use networking effectively.  My hope is that these 5 points in this post will remind you of the purpose of networking and help you stay motivated and focused on growing your sales through your network.
First, the purpose of networking is to form business relationships.   A mentor of mine once told me that for someone to buy something from you they have to 1) need it, 2) have the money to spend, and 3) like the salesperson.  The relationships you build during networking will do more to help with sales than anything else in your control.   Also, these new relationships that, even if they dont buy from you, will know what you sell, continue to help you hone how you tell people what you sell and help you run into the correct type of consumer.
Second, you will never sell anything at an event. The purpose of networking is to build relationships, not to make a sale during the event. If you sell at an event you will never form the relationship you need. This is the #1 mistake that good networkers see at every event. It essential that you understand this principal of networking, are okay with this, and are not discouraged. Building relationships takes time. Networking is not a short-term solutions to you having no sales. Networking is a long-term fix that will make sure you never have no sales again.
Third, networking is work. You are not there to play or catch up with friends, you are there to make connections that eventually lead to a sale. It’s tempting to let your network become your social circle. Everyone has this problem and it becomes bigger the better you are at networking. Now, that being said, some connections do become close friends. However, if you go into each meeting with the idea that you are working, you will leave with what you came for, and that is people to start a relationship with.  However, since relationships do not build overnight, the value of them can be the hardest thing for most managers to understand, especially if they have no sales experience. They want results, but results in sales often requires taking the time to build relationships.
Fourth, networking helps define your personal brand. Today’s sales environment is very competitive. Unless your company is truly unique, most people in the room know someone else in your industry and even then, they will most likely know someone else at your company. To be successful you must have people talking about you in regular conversation when you are not there. This requires an effective personal brand so that people remember you and how you are different.  Your brand should be associated with your company’s brand, but ultimately be your own. There are numerous ways to be memberable.  I know a business coach that only wears Hawaiian shirts, life insurance salespeople that have a separate but associated logos to their companies, and a plumber that only wears tuxedos. This is physical separation, and works very well.   I also found that an effective way to differentiate yourself is by who your know, and the strength of those relationships. I personally used this type of differentiation and built my own networking group, different from others, with my own namesake called “Nateworking”.  Nateworking has allowed me to reach out and talk with people about life, instead of the purpose of sales calls and to connect my network with themselves.  People now remember Nateworking as a place they made a good connection and now talk about, and look forward to events I am having in the future.  It’s a way for me to stay top of mind for what I do even if they currently don’t need what I do currently.
Fifth, networking saves you time. Most importantly, by developing and training your network to know what events indicate that someone is ready to buy, your network can intercept people when they are ready to buy and let you know who they are. This helps you save time by not having to spend time selling to people who are just shopping, or prospecting, and focus on using your network to find people ready to buy for you.
I hope you found my post refreshing and useful. Please share it with others, because we all need frequent reminders of why networking is important and what we need to do make the most of our investment. Until my next post on networking, pick an event, go to said event, find a group of people who are talking close to the food, swallow fear, stick out hand. It is not sneaky, it is not coy, but will work every time. Remember, everyone else is there to meet new people too. You are a new person, go meet them.

Effective Sales Process: Be a Billboard in a Crowd, a Therapist 1 on 1

This post is part of a series of interviews with experts in business intelligence, sales management, marketing, customer retention, management and strategic planning.  Everyday, the CAN team interacts with clients, mentors, and friends who are leaders in their fields, and we started this series to share their expertise.

One of my mentors and friends in sales, Vanessa Shoemaker, recently reminded me that salespeople need to be a billboard in a crowd, and a therapist 1 on 1. She reminded me of how easy it is for salespeople to get focused on being either a billboard or a therapist, instead of both.  Billboards piqué people’s interest to learn more. Being a billboard is essential to stand out in a crowd and to get meetings with new prospects. Therapists learn about people and their needs and wants, then prescribe the right solution. Being a therapist is essential to understanding your prospects enough to build trust and recommend solutions that are going to provide them the most value. (Related Post on Qualifying) A billboard says the right things, a therapists asks the right questions. (more…)

Contemporary Analysis: Focusing New Salespeople

New salespeople often struggle to focus on the right opportunities, and this often keeps them from meeting their quotas or closing unprofitable deals. However, new salespeople should not be faulted for their lack of focus, because generating an ever increasing number of opportunities is an essential responsibility of a salesperson. It is up to sales managers to focus their teams on the right deals. At CAN we use the following techniques to focus our inexperienced salespeople so they start closing the right deals as quickly as possible.

Focus on a Lead Product

Most companies have multiple products, and effective salespeople always lead with one product. They know that when meeting new people that they do not have time or the customer’s focus to explain each product. Without a lead product it is easy for inexperienced salespeople to come across as confused or under trained. We recommend having each new recruit select a lead product that they are most interested in or most experienced with. This will reduce training time, simplify introductions and increase confidence.

Client Profiles

Once salespeople have a lead product that they can use when meeting new prospects, the next step is to develop a profile that they can use to qualify prospective clients. For your profile to be effective it needs to reflect reality and then used to approve only deals that fit the profile. The simplest way to make sure that you client profile reflects reality is to describe your last 5 closed deals that were profitable, loyal and active.

Justify Opportunities

It is important to force salespeople to be realistic about the quality of the opportunities in their pipeline. Each sales person at CAN has to explain a prospects need, willingness and resources before an opportunity is added to the sales pipeline. Also, every 2 weeks the CAN sales team gets together to review current, lost and closed opportunities.  Our discussion focuses primarily on what actions each person needs to take to make sure they meet their quota, what sources and tools people are using to find opportunities, and how opportunities are changing based on changes in season or economics. At the conclusion of each meeting, the goal is to make sure that each salesperson has a plan for the next 2 weeks that will help them make sure they meet their quota.

Align Incentives

Your incentive structure is essential to focusing your team because salespeople respond well to incentives. The best method I have found to design a sales incentive plan has been to describe my desired client experience from first encounter to close, and design my incentive structure accordingly. For example I would increase base salary if I wanted a more consultative sale instead of a commodity style sale.

Utilize Milestones

It is important to review relationships with your people, and one of the most interesting tools that I have used is to setup specific terms with milestones. Each term at CAN is 1 month, but that should vary depending on the natural metronome of your organization. The purpose of the terms is to have evaluate whether or not the relationship should continue. It is important that this be a two way process. You want to judge whether your salesperson is worth the continued investment, and also whether your salesperson could produce more value somewhere else in or outside the organization.

Why I Blog for Customers Instead of Fans

I stopped blogging in November 2010 after almost a year of daily updates because I realized that, while people were reading my materials, my clients weren’t.  I realized then that I needed to change the focus of my writing.  Previously I had been writing about what I found interesting and focused on the number of people reading my blog.  As a result, this actually had a negative impact on my brand because I was spending my time blogging instead of helping my clients achieve their goals.  While I still think blogging is important, my focus has shifted to helping clients meet their Sales, Marketing, Retention, Management and Planning goals rather than on the number of visits per day.
My change in focus has changed how I select content for my blog, how I promote it, and what metrics I use to measure success. I now focus on blogging about conversations that I have with customers, because if one customers values a specific conversation it is likely that other customers will find the post valuable.  (This post is actually the result of a conversation with a customer.) Instead of promoting my posts for mass consumption, I now recommend posts to specific people that will find them valuable and encourage them to engage in the conversation.  My metric for success is no longer the number of visits to my site or read times, but instead how many people tell me that the content on my blog has helped them with their business.
In the spirit of blogging for customers instead of fans, what specifically would you like me to research and write on?

Working on a computer

A Simple 6 Step B2B Sales Process

The following is an introduction to the basic sales process we teach new sales reps at CAN.  Our 6 step sales process guides them from selecting the right prospects, making first contact, selecting your sales approach, your first face-to-face meeting, determining next steps, and getting the deal closed. I hope that it will help you build a reliable sales strategy you can use to close more deals. (Learn how we predicted who was most likely to enroll at a Top 10 Online University) 

Sales Process Step 1: Select the Right Prospects

Investing the time to carefully select your prospects is essential because you want to make sure that you are investing your time and energy on developing the right opportunities. I recommend looking for people that have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell. Focusing your efforts will help ensure that you invest in providing your prospects with a great client experience. At CAN, in addition using predictive analytics for lead generation, our salespeople spend a lot of time looking through business cards and LinkedIn connections from trade shows and networking events.

Sales Process Step 2: Make First Contact

Once you have selected your targets the next step is to make first contact. Your goal at first contact is to simply get a meeting. This is especially true if you prospect is not familiar with who you are. We have found using a combination of email and LinkedIn messages work the best. One of CAN’s sales reps studied the linguistic patterns behind  our most successful emails and developed the following formula to produce good results when sending requests for the first meeting to prospects:
Greeting + Lead in {positive emotion} + profit/growth hook + Who We Are + the product and results + Outcome for Client + Meeting Request with 2 possible options + Close = Meeting
The following is example of a meeting request email from one of the CAN salespeople;

Good morning. We spoke briefly at the alumni center after your presentation on CompanyX and building a start-up within a company. Based on your experience and position at CompanyX, I think you might be interested in my company, Contemporary Analysis.

Contemporary Analysis uses mathematics and big data to predict and influence human behavior. One of our products, Pulse, applies predictive analytics to analyze the profitability, loyalty and activity of individuals in your client portfolio. This allows you to focus your marketing and customer service efforts, anticipate trends in your portfolio, and engineer greater retention and profitability by contacting the right people at the right time. I would like to explore how you could use Pulse and perhaps some of CAN’s other solutions to increase sales for the CompanyX family. Are you available to meet this week or next at our office at 1209 Harney #200, online via Skype or over the phone? I am available on Monday after noon and Tuesday at 10am and 1:30pm.

Thank you,


As a tip, I recommend scheduling your meeting request emails to be sent at 7:00 am on a Monday or Tuesday. This is optimal because most people check their emails when they first get into the office, and on a Monday or Tuesday their schedules are the most open to explore new opportunities. Also, it makes people feel like they were your first priority of the day. If someone does not respond to your email, I recommend connecting with them using LinkedIn or another social network.

Sales Process Step 3: Select your Sales Approach

Once your prospect has agreed to meet with you it is important to prepare for your face-to-face meeting. One of the most important steps in preparing is to select your sales approach. Different people require different approaches, and while it take a little bit of research selecting the right approach will help you make the best first impression possible. The following are 5 typical sales approaches. The key to success is imitation of the person. You don’t want to mock the person, but you want the person to be able to see a little bit of himself or herself in you. If you can successfully do this, the people that you talk to will be more trusting and will connect with you quicker.
1. The Ego: This person wants to feel important, and they will most likely respond to you and possibly purchase your product to satisfy an egotistical need.
2. The Expert: The person considers themselves to be an expert in their field, and will expect you to have a minimum knowledge of their field, or to be an expert if you are approaching them about something in their field.
3. The Good Samaritan: These people are very open to being contacted, but they don’t want to be sold. They want to help out and listen to someone.
4. The Skeptic: With skeptical people you want to lead with facts and figures. They won’t agree to a meeting with you unless you have Case Studies, Testimonials, and or an impressive client list.
5. The Explorer: These people are very open to being contacted, because they love learning about new things. When you approach them about an opportunity, it has to be unique and also be exciting. If it is these to things you will most likely get a meeting.

Sales Process Step 4: The Face-to-Face Meeting

Typically in business-to-business sales your prospects are only able to meet with you once or twice before they decide whether or not they are going to purchase. Because of this, it is essential to make the most of your face-to-face and then move the sale forward using emails and voicemail.
During the first meeting you want to make sure you understand what your prospect the person wants to achieve, what their budget is, and who the key decision makers are. Your goal is to ask as many questions as possible, because this establishes rapport with the prospects and it becomes harder to get answers to the tough questions once you are on longer face-to-face or over the phone.

When learning about your prospects goals make sure to remember that people buy things and companies pay for them. So you don’t want to focus just on the company’s goals, but also the aspirations your prospect has and what pressures they are under. While your solution still needs to produce results for your client the company, helping your client the person will help you win the contract and future contracts.

Sales Process Step 5: Determine Next Steps

During your face-to-face meeting you want to move the call as far as possible towards a decision as possible. However, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a decision either for a sale or no sale during your first meeting. The following are definitions that the CAN sales team uses to evaluate the outcome of every client interaction, and this helps us determine where opportunities are in the sales cycle. Having clear definitions of where opportunities are in the sales cycle allows our sales team to determine what next steps to take and which opportunities to prioritize to make sure we meet our sales quotas for the next 15, 30 and 60 days.
Advances (Successful): An advance is when an event takes place either during the call or after the call that moves the sale toward a decision. The events need to represent an agreement with the customer that moves the sale forward toward the ultimate decision. Advancements take many forms, but invariably they involve an action that moves the sale forward. Typical advances might include:

  • A customer’s agreement to attend an off-site demonstration.
  • A clearance that will get you in front of a higher level decision maker.
  • An agreement to run a trial or test of your product.
  • Access to parts of the account that were previously inaccessible to you.

Continuations (Unsuccessful): Where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward. Continuations are often a way to politely get rid of a seller. These calls do not result in an agreed action, yet neither do they involve a “No” from the customer. Typical examples would be calls that end with a customer saying:

  • “Thank you for coming. Why don’t you visit us again the next time you’re in the area.”
  • “Fantastic presentation, we’re very impressed. Let’s meet again some time.”
  • “We liked what we saw and we’ll be in touch if we need to take things further.”

Orders (Successful): This is when the lead closes the deal by signing a contract or paying. This is not a “I am 99.9% likely to close,” event. Orders have to be contractual or monetary.
No-Sale (Unsuccessful): This is when a customer actively refuses your principal call objective. Good examples of this are when a client tells you that they aren’t interested, won’t agree to a future meeting or denies your request to see a more senior person in the account.
Your goal is to choose next steps that continue to move the sale forward until you either receive an order or a no sale.

Sales Process Step 6: When and How to Close the Deal

Once you have led your prospect to the realization that they have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell, the simplest close is to simply ask for the business and then wait until your prospect breaks the silence. Even if it takes 10 minutes, they will eventually break the silence, and if they are confident that you have the solution necessary to achieve their goals they will most likely respond by agreeing to purchase what you sell.

Learn more about the right sales leads for your business:

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Reverse Your Sales Cycle: Research 1st, Present 2nd

The CAN sales team has been able improve customer satisfaction, close more deals and spend our time more effectively by adopting a 2 part sales process. Our process consists of qualifying our clients during the first sales call, and then returning to make a sales presentation if we think that the client will be able to benefit from one of our systems.
This changes the dynamics of our sales calls, because we are not there to win the approval of our prospects or simply drown them with information on our products. Instead we are meeting with them to research whether or not our products are a good fit for their needs. Our prospective clients appreciate that we strive to only provide our solutions to people that have the need, willingness and resources to purchase our solutions.
We start the first meeting by explaining that we aren’t there to impress them or get them to like us, but to research whether or not we can help their business. We will only make a second presentation if they can demonstrate a clear need, willingness and set of resources. If they meet the requirements and are able to get all of the key decision makers to the second meeting we will present our understanding of their business and problem, and how what impact our solution could have on their business. We don’t focus on the feature of our solution or how it works, but instead on what their business would be like with our solution.  (Read a Related Post)

A Better Way to Calculate Return on Investment (ROI)

Estimating return on investment (ROI) can be a very effective sales tool, however it is difficult to calculate and if a prospect perceives it as a guarantee it can hurt your brand.  The problems with ROI stem from trying to reduce, without much investment in time or money, the impact of a product on a business, a complex human organization in constant flux, to a dollar amount that is unique to each prospective client.
The solution is to expand people’s thinking of ROI beyond money to include stress, customer service, employee engagement, communication, quality and happiness in your definition.  To make a purchase decision using ROI, you do not need to estimate the exact profit that it will generate, but instead determine if it will improve your business more than other available investments.
One of the best ways that I have discovered to expand people’s thinking about ROI is to use a mental case study where you ask your prospective client to image that they have two identical clones of their business, and one of the clones uses my product and the other does not.  I then ask them what differences their are between the two clones as the develop over time.  As I guide them through the simulation most of my prospects start to visualize how my products help impact their companies, sales cycle, marketing, customer service, management and strategic planning.  If a client is not able to visualize themselves having significant benefits from my product I know not to sell my product to them because either they don’t have a need or they are not willing to invest the time to generate a significant return on their investment.

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