Who’s the Real Decision Maker? Who Has the Most Influence?

By Jeff Beals

Sales professionals searching for insight into prospective clients would be wise to think of themselves as detectives.  The more research you do on a client the faster you speed up the sales cycle and the more likely you are to increase transaction size.

As you do your detective work, it eventually becomes clear who the real decision maker is and who the primary and secondary influencers are.

More than anything, it is important to determine the true decision maker, the person who has veto power and whose signature seals the deal. But almost important is determining who the key influencers are.

No matter how independent and self-confident a decision-maker may be, that person usually has valued and trusted advisers whispering in his or her ear.  We need to know who those influencers are and get to them as early in the process as possible.

Some sales detectives prefer the direct approach and ask questions such as:

“Who is the most influential person helping you make this decision?”

“Whose advice and counsel will be most valuable to you as you make your decision?”

Other sales pros are more subtle, but once you identify the key influencers, you need to build a trusting relationship with them too.

Sometimes a prospect will be vague and non-committal when asked to name influencers. A mid-level person might not want to give up control or admit that he or she lacks decision-making power. Such a person could also be protecting c-suite executives from interruptions.

Some prospects worry that disclosing influencer names will cause the sales process to grow deeper before they are ready.  When you’re having trouble drawing information out of a prospect, be patiently persistent.  Keep asking, digging and researching.  You can also look at precedent…What kind of influencers did similar prospects in the past have?

A word of warning: be careful of false influencers.  There are those people who get some sort of psychological payoff pretending to have influence over the buying process.  Do your homework. Don’t jump to conclusions until you have performed thorough due diligence on the prospective client.  A little extra work will increase your closing ratio!

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Digging Deeper into the Idea of Self Marketing Inside Your Office

By Jeff Beals

NOTE: This is a follow-up to my article “Self Marketing INSIDE Your Office” published June 23, 2014.

Last week, we talked about the value of personal branding/self marketing INSIDE your current company.  Remember that most of your personal branding time is focused on marketing yourself to the greater world, but the easiest place to start building your personal brand is right at home:

The Right Attitude

One of the best things you can do to market yourself inside your company is to adopt a positive attitude. Nobody likes being around negative people. Positive behavior means that you are assertive but never aggressive or passive.

Be a Solution Person

Professionals with creative ideas and answers to complicated questions are the ones who bring value to a workplace. The more value you bring, the better your reputation.

Give Credit to Others

Share the credit! This is especially important if you have people reporting to you. Smart leaders give credit to their subordinates and take responsibility when someone under their leadership screws up. This makes you look good over the long run and builds loyalty among your colleagues.

Strong Relationships

Building strong relationships inside your current company should not be limited to your boss or your direct reports. You need to interact with everyone. One way to build goodwill at work is to send periodic notes, complimenting colleagues on a job well done or congratulating them on some accomplishment. Simply remembering a co-worker’s birthday or the anniversary of their hiring can get you a lot of mileage.

Newcomers are also an opportunity. As you know, the first couple days on a new job can be intimidating and emotionally draining.  This is the opportune time for you to make a valuable connection.  Take a newcomer under your wing and you will build a strong relationship and gain an ally.

Indispensability

Smart professionals make themselves “indispensable” to their bosses. These employees learn everything they can and do important, mission-critical work with a positive attitude. Sometimes, you have to give subtle reminders about your indispensable status. This is fine as long as it is done tactfully and not too often. It is useful to have one of your colleagues reinforce your indispensability in front of the boss.

Team Player

From the company’s perspective, team players are good for the bottom line. From your personal perspective, it earns you respect and promotions. Team players are willing to try new things, and they support management’s decisions. They may disagree with an idea while it’s being debated, but they publicly support decisions once they are final.

Start an Organization

If you work for a larger company, you might consider starting an organization.  Some large companies have their own service clubs or networking groups comprised solely of company employees.

Volunteer for Task Forces

Every organization has problems and sometimes a task force is formed to fix such problems.  These ad hoc committees tend to include people from various parts of the organization.  By joining, you build ties with people you otherwise might not know.

Conflict of Interest

There’s an old saying: “You shouldn’t fish off the company wharf.” Typically, this is used to discourage people from dating fellow employees, but it can apply to any potential conflict of interest. The work world presents many tempting situations. It is wise to avoid anything that even remotely smells fishy. If you are ever tempted to get involved in a potential conflict of interest, walk away. No short-term gain is worth jeopardizing your reputation.

While personal branding implies a sort of selfishness, you have a moral duty to use your name and reputation to boost your current employer. All worthy professionals should market the company’s brand at every possible opportunity.  Even if you don’t work directly in sales, you have an obligation to promote the company.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Self Marketing INSIDE Your Own Office

By Jeff Beals

When starting any endeavor, it only makes sense to pick the low-hanging fruit first. In the self marketing game, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit in your current place of employment.

While most of your personal branding time is focused on marketing yourself to the greater world (i.e. prospective clients, future bosses), it is important to remember that the easiest and most logical place to start building your personal brand is right under your nose.

It doesn’t cost you much to focus your self marketing inside your current company. Many professionals work for huge organizations that are full of talented, motivated and highly successful people. In these situations, you have hundreds of personal target audience members right beside you, collecting paychecks from the same entity that gives you yours.

Companies are microcosms of the global economy. They are subcultures of the broader community. They are ideal places to hone your professional and self marketing skills before announcing yourself to a bigger marketplace. It is much easier to become a rock star inside one company than it is to become one in a whole city or the entire country.

You can adopt a number of behaviors to maximize your self-marketing opportunities at work. First and foremost, you simply need to be a good person. The old saying “nice guys finish last” is not true. To get ahead in today’s world you need to be nice and not just nice to your boss and the higher ups. If you are consistently nice to everyone in the company, you will build a stellar reputation.

Being nice does not mean that you become a pushover. On the contrary, having a reputation for treating people well will make others pay attention much more closely when you do have to make bold decisions that make some people unhappy.

You need to build relationships with your colleagues. You don’t necessarily want to be known as the company partier who gets blasted drunk with co-workers every night after work. You do want to have healthy professional relationships with people at work. In fact, research by the Gallup Organization has shown that people who have a “best friend” at work tend to be happier, more effective and stay with the company longer.

Solid work relationships enrich your career and make your job more fun. They are also useful when you need allies during one of those institutional political struggles that companies deal with periodically.

Suffice it to say, you have a personal brand INSIDE your company, so make a self marketing plan for internal as well as external audiences.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Eight Things to Consider before Communicating to Prospects

By Jeff Beals

Before you start communicating with prospective clients, make sure you have addressed the following eight things:

1.  Your communication plan should be designed only after you have established the core message that needs to be conveyed to prospective clients.

2.  Communication tactics should address eight key concerns buyers have about your product: saves money; makes money; reduces stress; saves time; is easy to use; provides security; boosts ego; makes them feel good about themselves .

3. If you want to make an impression, your marketing-message frequency may have to be higher than you ever imagined .

4. To stand out among a sea of marketing mailers, try using an odd shape or size or even pop a letter in a FedEx envelope .

5. Just because you have new communication technology doesn’t mean you can stray from proven, bed-rock principles of marketing .

6. During early sales calls, establish rapport . Focus on relationship building in later calls .

7. Because prospects return fewer than 10 percent of sales- oriented voicemails, make them interesting and never say you’re calling just to “touch base .”

8. Consider using a third party to dig up information in order to determine if your prospect is telling you the truth .

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Lifelong Learning Prepares You for Unanticipated Opportunities

By Jeff Beals

For seven years, I taught juniors and seniors in the business college at my local university.  I used to get a kick out of the things students would say in our after-class discussions especially as the spring semester waned.

“I can’t wait for graduation,” said one burned-out senior, “so I never have to study again.”

I chuckled a little to myself when I heard that comment.  Not wanting to burst her bubble, I said nothing, allowing her to enjoy the excitement of her approaching graduation.  It wasn’t the right time to tell her that her education was actually just beginning.

In order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, learning never ends.  You must be a lifelong learner.  High-achieving professionals are students until they die or are so incapacitated they are no longer capable of doing much of anything.

Your continual learning is both formal and informal.  If you have a deficiency in your formal education, now is the time to correct it.  If you are no longer interested in pursuing degrees, you should still find yourself in a classroom periodically just to keep up with the fast-moving, über competitive economy in which you work.

Lifelong learning prepares you for unanticipated happenings.  We never know what business or career opportunity might come our way.  By learning all you possibly can now, you set yourself up for unforeseen opportunities and increase the likelihood that you will respond appropriately to those opportunities.

If you are an entrepreneur, lifelong learning allows you to continually hone your craft.  You will become better at operationalizing new innovations.  You will be a better manager, more innovative and more likely to be on the cutting edge.  You will learn more effective ways to sell your products and services.

Lifelong learning allows you to prepare for a polarized reality of today’s workplace.  On one hand, you need to have a specialty – something that you do very well that few others can.  On the other hand, you need to be a generalist – someone with a diversity of professional skills and experiences.  Shape your educational and intellectual pursuits in such a way as to pursue both of these seemingly dichotomous realities.

Regardless of your line of work, it is healthy to assume that all your competitors are vigorously trying to improve themselves.  You need to continue educating yourself just to keep up, let alone to get ahead.  Carve out time for your own self development.

Continuing education is like investing.  Just as you should set aside investment money before you pay bills and spend on entertainment, you need to set aside time “off the top” for learning.  No matter how successful you are or may someday become, you can always go further if you make a commitment to never stop learning.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Sales Leaders: Look at Frequent Past Behavior

By Jeff Beals

The stakes are high when recruiting and hiring sales professionals for your company.  Your reps will make or break you.  Hiring the right ones will make you look like a hero.  Hire the wrong ones and you’ll find yourself sitting in a conference room answering unpleasant questions.

Given the pressure on sales leaders to hire quality salespersons, many resort to complicated selection criteria which include tests, assessments and other tools.  Many hiring tools are useful and can help a manager make a good decision, but there is one simple hiring criterion that might be more important than any other:

Frequent past behavior.

Nothing better predicts future behavior than frequent past behavior.  Examine a sales rep’s background carefully.  Ask pointed and investigative questions that uncover what kind of sales work he or she truly did in past positions.  Find out how they overcame adversity and still closed deals.  In previous jobs, did the rep have a tendency to be creative and come up with clever ways to save deals that were close to falling apart?

Ultimately, you must determine if the sales rep a “winner.”  The sales profession is a competitive field, and success in that field requires many of the same attributes athletes must possess in order to become champions.

The deeper you examine a prospective salesperson’s frequent past behavior the more likely you are to make a good decision.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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Networking Advice: Always Have a Valuable Leave-Behind

By Jeff Beals

“Well, okay.  It was great to meet you!” your discussion partner says as he drifts away from you and onto the next person holding a drink with a little square napkin underneath it.

And so ends another one of those superficial discussions at the after-work mixer, the quintessential networking cocktail party.

You know you need to network.  You’ve been hearing about the value of networking ever since you started your career.

You’ve heard that the best clients are found only through relationship building, meeting people face-to-face and striking up a conversation.  You’ve heard that three-quarters of all jobs are never advertised and found only by tapping into the professional grapevine.

You’ve heard stories about brilliant ideas and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities other people have found because they met the right person at a networking event.

Perhaps you have enjoyed some success networking, or maybe your networking efforts may have left you unfulfilled and underwhelmed.  Whichever the case, networking should be as enjoyable as possible while being efficient and effective.

Networking serves multiple purposes and provides many professional benefits, but among the most important are name recognition and personal-brand familiarity.  In other words, you want the people you meet at networking events to remember you and then think of your name and face when an opportunity comes up for which you would be perfect.

While that makes sense, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

I estimate that 75 percent or more of the people you meet at a cocktail mixer will forget your name within three minutes of your conversation ending.

But there is a way you can make yourself more memorable and thus make your networking more beneficial to your career:  Give every person you meet a valuable leave-behind.

Now, I’m not talking about a tangible item. I’m talking about an intangible item of value.  It should be an interesting fact, piece of trivia, joke, humorous story, rumor, a behind-the-scenes piece of did-you-know insight.

The valuable leave-behind acts as a stinger, a climax, and exclamation point to our discussion.  It makes you memorable.  The person leaves the conversation with a positive feeling and a much greater likelihood that he or she will remember your name and what you do.

Whatever you choose as a valuable leave-behind, the key is for it to be fascinating, and just as important, related to who you are professionally and what you do for a living.

Think about your business and career.  What things are fascinating about it to people who don’t do what you do?  Once you determine this, think of some imagination-captivating stuff the average person wouldn’t know and memorize it.  Go to your next networking event armed with this highly effective discussion tool.  Have at least a handful of valuable leave-behinds, so you can choose the one that’s right for a given person and conversation.

Make yourself memorable in a desirable way.  If you fail to do this, your networking efforts are essentially all for naught.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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How to Exploit Your Area of Self Marketing Expertise

By Jeff Beals

What’s your area of self marketing expertise?

Not sure what that means? Well, you have one, but it’s possible you haven’t isolated and cultivated it yet.

Before defining “area of self marketing expertise,” allow me share how I unwittingly stumbled into one years ago at a cocktail party.

“You’re in real estate; you’ll know,” my friend said with an inquisitive look on his face. “What company is moving into that big office building under construction along the freeway?”

This was a problematic question for me, because I hadn’t even noticed the office building under construction along the freeway.

It was 2001, and I had just left a position in college administration for a brand-new career in commercial real estate. After two weeks on the job, I went to a party where three separate people asked me questions about office buildings, retailers and condominium construction. I must have sounded pretty stupid, because I had trouble answering all of them.

I had spent my first two weeks on the job diligently learning about the legal, technical and even mathematical aspects of real estate. But at the party, nobody wanted to know the boring stuff. They wanted to talk about the sexy, glamorous side of the industry.

Something suddenly became quite clear: It wasn’t enough to become technically proficient in my new trade. I had to become an expert on those things related to commercial real estate that were most fascinating to people outside the profession.

I made a commitment to become an expert on the most interesting aspects. I studied the local marketplace. I read every magazine, newspaper and website I could find that related to construction, real estate, business expansion and economic development. I became a walking “Rainman,” the “Cliff Clavin” of growth and development in my local market.

Armed with a collection of eyebrow-raising stats and trivia, I had something to talk about at social gatherings. Better yet, I had material to pitch to the local media, allowing me to become a go-to source. Community groups booked me as a luncheon speaker, and I even started an economic development radio talk show. All of this public exposure was good for business.

I did not realize it at the time, but I accidentally discovered an “area of self marketing expertise.” Everyone is hopefully an expert in his or her profession, but an area of self marketing expertise is quite different. It consists of the most fascinating aspects of your job, company or industry.

So, what’s your area of self marketing expertise?

No matter how boring or complicated you might think your work is, something about it is fascinating to outsiders.

If you’re not sure, sit down with a few friends and explain what you do. Ask them what they find most interesting. Take notes.

Once you have decided on your area of self marketing expertise, think about how you will communicate it in an intriguing way. When that’s mastered, it’s time to put your area of self marketing expertise to work for you. Use it at networking events, in your organization’s communication efforts, when dealing with media outlets and in your social media postings.

Professionals who have well defined and carefully crafted areas of self marketing expertise will ultimately be more successful, because they never run out of interesting things to talk about. An area of self marketing expertise becomes a magnet, attracting people to you.

When people are dazzled by what you have to say, they’ll be more than happy to hire you when they need help with the more technical and “boring” aspects of your profession (the things that actually make money for you)!

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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You are welcome to forward this article (with author citation) to anyone else who might benefit from it.       

To Call First or Email First…That Is the Question

By Jeff Beals

Many salespeople struggle daily with a quandary common to their profession:

What is better – to call a prospect on the phone first or send an email first?

Some sales pros say you should always email first to warm up a prospect.  Others claim that emailing first is a waste of time, and even worse, might make you look like a “typical salesman,” blindly following a step-by-step selling template.

A similar quandary happens when you substitute “marketing” for “email.”  In other words, which is better – call first or wait for the marketing team to “soften the target?”

People on both sides of this debate can be passionate in arguing their beliefs.

So who’s right?  What’s the best approach?  Should you just pick up the phone and get to it or should you take some marketing steps first?

It depends.  The answer varies based on your personal style and your company’s policy.  Either way is right as long as you practice good sales techniques.

If the only reason you like to email first is because you’re afraid to pick up the phone or dread talking to cranky prospects who don’t want to be bothered, then emailing first is the wrong choice.

Whether you call first or email first, selling fundamentals remain the same.  Salespeople are successful when they research their prospects and find out everything they can about the problems they face each day.

When you are armed with detailed background information about a prospect and are prepared to show how your product or service provides genuine value to them, then the communication channel you choose is not terribly relevant.

Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at info@jeffbeals.com or call us at (402) 637-9300.

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