I had the honor of speaking the West VA. F.E.W. conference this past weekend on building profitable businesses…a couple of points worth reviewing:
1. Brand – memorable is the key word here! I see companies depending on best pricing, certifications, status with vendor partners, and just thinking their people are great. The truth is, every company has people and certifications, and while customer service does vary, it’s hard to present your company as “Better” unless another company is failing while you are standing next in line. This does not grow business. Branding must be something unique and memorable. I have written and taught on using positioning questions. Download my free copy of the House & the Cloud (right hand side bar) to learn more about this.
2. Sell, then build. Most do this the other way around. Building an offering, and then looking to fit it into your client’s world is backwards. Identify the needs, selling the client on fixing them, then create the solution. This provides unique value and commands a higher fee.
3. Be the best. Specialize…there is no such thing as high-involvement sales people who sell everything. No one wants to pay big commissions to someone who takes orders. Your value depends on expertise. As a sales person, this expertise should be at the business level – learn your target prospects business, become an expert at solving certain problems that tend to exist in this type of business – using the tools your company provides.
4. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Specialization is important, but if you’re not careful, you might find yourself in a business that has no where to go. Business expertise tends to provide greater options in the future, where highly specialized technical expertise will eventually commoditize – if you focus on the latter, be sure to watch the trends and grow your career with the market. About every two years you should be looking to grow into a new technology area that seems to be growing.
5. Setting Fees. Sales people who continually discount are on the road to disaster. Work out the right pricing before you propose and make sure your value matches your pricing. When it comes time to negotiate, change the scope when a price change is needed. Honest pricing means you can’t change it without a scope change.
6. Great products die without great marketing…plan and execute marketing plans and messaging. Working hard to sell is a waste of time without it. Sales people should plan out there marketing each quarter – use social media, events, webinars, and email – be sure you have one core message you are representing. Build your brand by continually focusing everything on one central theme – perhaps you are the Retail Automation Expert. Your company may do it all, but you should be known for one thing! Make it memorable.
7. Learn how finances work. Understanding how businesses make money, where they lose, how debt, depreciation, ROI, TCO, op-ex vs. cap-ex, and budgets work will go a long way. Defining the terms is not enough, learn how they work. Read The Wall Street Journal and Google terms you don’t really understand.
© 2011, David Stelzl