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Put the polish on your new sales year

January 17, 2014 in Brain Science, Brand & Reputation, Neuroscience in Sales, Presentation & Grooming, Sales Presentation & Grooming, Self Development, Self Promotion

I have previously written about ‘putting yourself in another’s shoes’, however, I have never written about actual shoes before. In this post I wanted to raise awareness about our attire, our physical presentation – as sales and business professionals.

There are 2 key areas we need to consider:

  1. The overall congruence of what we are wearing and how we present
  2. The relevance and suitability of what we are wearing and how we present

You may think this topic doesn’t matter much with the broader and more relaxed approach to business attire these days, but it does. Consciously or not, people, are making several decisions on different levels about you when you meet with them: They are assessing whether they can trust you, whether they can connect and relate with you. They are assessing if what you are saying matches the non verbal signals presented. And they are looking at your physical presentation – the whole package if you will. They might for instance assess whether you seem to take care of yourself. ‘If you don’t even care for yourself, how am I to expect you to take care of me?’ is the assumption that people might make. In a business context they might wonder if you understand them and their industry. For instance, knowingly turning up to a muddy construction site in high heeled shoes and summer dress for a day’s worth of work in the field with a client may cause quite some doubt about your expertise “in the field”.

We know that common sense should prevail in these matters however, with so many changes in business attire in recent times it’s probably worth taking a look at some of the common sense practices that never go out of date.

The importance of congruence

congruenceAs we have written before, our brains are wired to risk, therefore our brains are looking for things that match and things that don’t so that we can make decisions quickly to protect ourselves from unnecessary danger. When we meet people and vice versa our brains are looking for congruence. The brain likes congruence – when everything lines up and makes sense. Congruence is the state achieved by coming together, the state of agreement. The Latin congru? meaning “I meet together, I agree”. As an abstract term, congruence means similarity between objects.

In short when it comes to sales and our personal presentation including our attire it means everything needs to match or else our prospect or customer will become fixated on and distracted by the things that do not match.

It may sound trivial on the surface but incongruence can be a real game changer. For instance, if you meet a man who is wearing a nice suit, his shirt and tie are clean, he’s had a good shave, smells nice, however his shoes look like he last took care of them five years ago what is going to happen? You are most likely going to be distracted at best by the shoes and it could change the way you think about that person. In short, the shoes are not congruent with the rest of the appearance. This will keep your mind occupied, distracted and might make you wonder what else about this person is just “covering up”.

Now I’m not talking here about being obsessed with clothing and becoming a ‘peacock’ or the latest fashionista, however when considering what you are wearing and what message or impression you would like to leave, the little things do count. It’s those little things, whether we like it or not, that can significantly influence how others perceive us and our overall appearance.

Most important rule: It’s all about cleanliness.

Are your clothes (including shoes) clean, well pressed? How much care did you apply to your body in regards to cleanliness, grooming and a pleasant yet unobtrusive fragrance? Is your brief case, laptop, phone, car, etc. clean and well kept?

There is nothing more off putting than being in the presence of someone who appears bedraggled or messy or smells unpleasant. This, by the way, is not just about body odour or bad breath but also about people who insist on spraying half a bottle of perfume or cologne on themselves. Either way, the other person is overwhelmed by their smell, especially in closed quarters. And what about our equipment and clothes? How do they present in terms of cleanliness?

well-dressed-manThe human brain can take in a lot of information in very short time – you may not consciously register it but the subconscious will notice the chipped nail polish or the dirty marks around that tie that has not been untied for 2 years, the frayed edges of your trousers, the dried sweat marks in the armpits of your suit, the shoes that have never been polished since they were bought, or the worn mark on the back of your right shoe and heel that comes from driving your car. These and many other little things are what people see and these could set up cognitive dissonance or incongruence with how you are perceived by your client or prospect.

As sales professionals the first thing we need to remember is that we need to build trust. We need to make sure that our customers and prospects feel at ease with us. Anything that causes them to be distracted or make them feel uneasy will make it harder for us to work with them.

I admit I do pay attention to these things and I have found that I am not alone. You think shoes are an issue? Here are some comments from people who pay attention to shoes, ties, belts, hem and necklines, etc. These are their comments from a web chat room about this topic:

In fact a good pair of shoes can make a cheap suit look good but even a good suit looks cheap if worn with cheap or badly kept shoes.

What is also annoying is the way some guys wear their ties!! What’s that about?? Loosey goosey, the knot looking more like scrambled eggs than a tie. How hard is it to look good and put some effort into: 1) shining shoes, 2) tying a decent looking knot?

Don’t even get me started on belts…sometimes you’ll see a great looking suit, good or decent shoes, and then there’s THE BELT!!! what a nightmare…it seems like  fallen at the seams

Why do some women, usually young women, insist on wearing the neckline of their tops too low? Save it for the nightclub.

My son has informed me that the two things women check out to gauge how well a man looks after themselves are if they have clean well kept shoes and nails.

I agree. Your shoes are an extension of you and how you conduct yourself. It baffles me how people dress for a job interview these days!

I had three equally qualified candidates for a good job. The young man whom had his suit tailored and shoes shined got the job.

The last comment is very telling. You just never know what will get you over the line. So why risk possible exclusion because you didn’t take the time to keep your shoes in good repair, you didn’t change your shirt or get rid of those white socks before you jumped into your suit, you didn’t remove that chipped nail polish, or take up that hem and so on? There are good shoe repairers, dressmakers/tailors, manicurists, etc. who can help you keep a clean and well presented appearance – an investment worth considering!

Relevance and Suitability

As I mentioned at the beginning, over the last decade or so we have seen a more relaxed approach to business attire. While there are still industries that expect business suits and more formal business attire, other industries are more relaxed in their dress codes, think advertising, IT, etc. Even in banking I found that a tie is not necessarily a minimum standard any more.

Business Casual FinalThis is perfectly okay with most people; however, there are still some guidelines we need to consider if we are going to make the most of our sales opportunities deriving from personal meetings. All it takes is in fact a bit of common sense and the effort to observe our environment.

With more relaxed dress codes it is important to be aware of:

A) The General Trend

B) The specific attire of your industry or clientele (industry).

Changes in fashion may change some things, like the width of lapels, the cut of pants, or the colours of blouses, shirts and ties. Basic professional attire does not change with the whims of fashion, however whenever there is change in dress codes you will find that there will be people who explore the extreme end of the spectrum – the more avant-garde or radical styles, and those who try to stick to the old school of dress codes.

There is danger in both these extremes – for instance you may want to wear the latest grooviest patent leather, strappy platform shoes with a mid thigh skirt and flowing blouse in a formal business meeting in town, but despite being dressed up to the height of the fashion, this might be way too relaxed for the occasion or the industry. Or you may want to stick with the formal suit and tie because you want to be perceived as a serious business man despite the fact that all your customers are fine with polo shirts in the heat of midsummer and might perceive you rather as uptight or old fashioned than a credible business partner.

I know that some women think that this is cramping their style if they need to restrict their creativity and personal style. Believe me I know. I have made some bad dress choices in the early years of my career in sales and business. Trying to be a fashionista and professional business person at the same time is hard to pull off.

Determining appropriate business attire can be mine field, and given the wider variety of dress codes on offer this can lead to some confusion over what one should wear and when. So what do we do?

It’s all about the relevance and suitability of what we are wearing and how we present to others.

This could mean that one day we are suited up and more formal in our attire and the next day we are able to dress down to something more casual.

western-work-shirtWe understand that for some professions, like people who work in the agriculture or in industrial sectors, their attire may require polo shirts, cotton drill pants and work boots of some nature which account for the rugged terrain they are likely to encounter in their daily work. However, even the sales people whom we meet in these professions seem to know that keeping their clothes and boots clean and in good working order is tied up with their levels of professionalism. In fact I would say that I see sales people with more clean/polished foot attire in the ‘rugged’ professions than I do in the city high street roles. Interesting, isn’t it? Have a look around when you’re in the CBD or business district next time.

As a general rule it is recommended that if our work environment is changing in terms of dress code we should not opt for the lower, most progressive or avant-garde end of the spectrum of styles. It is suggested that we stick to the top half of the industry’s or environment’s dress code. However, this does not mean we have to be conformist or invisible. We can still dress in a style that suits us and our personality, however we just need to remember we aren’t just dressing for ourselves we are dressing for others too (remember Theory of Mind). We are dressing to ensure that we can continue to create trusted relationships based on a fair exchange of value.

On your marks… Get set… GO!

December 6, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Education in Sales, Life Skills, Sales Training, Self Development, Self Promotion, Success

A prosperous life after elite sport is critically important to elite athletes as many of them have dedicated the best part of their lives (some into their 30’s) pursing excellence in their chosen sport often leaving education or business pursuits on the side.  These elite athletes know that achieving excellence in sport requires dedication, determination, discipline and sacrifice.  So what do you do career wise after a life in elite sport?  Or what can you do business wise while still pursuing your sporting goals?

These are just two of the many questions asked by the ACE (Athlete Career & Education) advisors of the many Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) athletes when looking for this year’s participants in the third VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program.

victorian institute of sports logoFor the last 2-3 months I have been working with 11 elite athletes from the VIS helping them develop their business ideas and actual businesses via the VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program.  And this week three of the athletes stepped up and presented their vision and Go-to-market action plans to a panel looking to win a business/sales coaching scholarship with Barrett in 2013.

The process has been amazing for all concerned with some incredible insights, ideas and initiatives now in progress and of course, there was a winner.

What was fantastic about the 2012 program is we had athletes from many sports including able-bodied and paralympic athletes: wheel chair rugby, track & field, golf, cycling, rowing, canoeing slalom, snowboarding and equestrian/para-triathlon; we had Olympic and Paralympic medalists and an athlete who had just returned from their third Olympics campaign looking at their 4th in 2016 at Rio.  

What was even more amazing was the range of businesses that were represented on the program, each very different and each requiring a considered approach about how they need to get to market and position themselves effectively to win the hearts and minds of their customers and markets.  

Using the Sales Essentials Models, philosophy and principles coupled with brain science we worked together developing viable Go-to-market action plans for each of their businesses or business ideas.  The collective learning shared across the group really accelerated the understanding of how businesses can differ in how they need to go to market.   While there are common elements to be applied in all aspects of a functioning business and especially in sales, the real learning came when the athletes realised how they needed to fine tune Go-to-market action plans to hit the spot and get traction.  For instance when we looked at prospecting and developing new business each participant  needed to consider how they would prospect for new opportunities and get new clients on board.  By comparing and contrasting businesses we were able to see the weighting in direct calls to individuals or a weighting to social media campaigns needed in each case and there were distinct differences.

Alli van Ommen

Alli van Ommen (Victorian Tigers vs Drummoyne Devils)

Like the action and results oriented people they are, after each session these athletes would go out and apply what they learnt and examined, bringing back real life examples of the applications of their  efforts to the group.   Each session they continued to build on solid foundations.  What helped is that we created a  peer to peer learning environment which is a fantastic way to accelerate learning. With four sessions run over 2 months the athletes were able to gain entire group experiences ‘positive interdependence’, face-to-face interaction, group processing and individual and group accountability while working on their own businesses.   We consciously orchestrated each learning exercise which allowed the participants to fully engage in peer learning and reap the benefits.

What I love about this program is the opportunity to work with high performance individuals and see the ease with which they can transfer their knowledge and experience about being an elite athlete into the business arena.  Open to learning and not frightened to be challenged, here are some of the athletes’ insights from the program:

  • I never thought I was in selling and then realised that indeed I am in sales every day. If I do not make those calls then nothing changes and I get nowhere fast. However if I make the calls and the answer is ‘No’ at least I know.  But to my pleasant surprise there are so many Yes out there I just keep calling and guess what, there is business out there.
  • I realised that I had to pay as much attention to the prospect pipeline as I did to the customers we had got on board, if I didn’t we would have no business next season.
  • Getting the value proposition right and making it resonate with customers was crucial.  It is so important to see the world from your customers’ eyes.
  • I never knew really listening to someone was so hard – but when you do it’s really worth it.  Those listening and questioning exercises are vital.   
Steph Hickey, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg, Warwick Draper

Steph Hickey, Cameron McKenzie-McHarg, Warwick Draper(top to bottom)

Not all the athletes chose to go to final presentation evening; some were still working their way through the formation of their business ideas.  But those who presented did an excellent job. The panel was extremely impressed and it was a tough decision to choose the winner.

Our finalists were:

Warwick Draper was the eventual winner after a tight race to the finish line, so watch this space.  If you want to know more about Warwick hear him speak about his preparation for the London Olympics. 

And if you are interested in how past participants and winners of the VIS Barrett Business Scholarship program are doing you can listen to and watch them via the youtube links below. 

Alli Van Ommen (sport – water polo; business – osteopathy)

Shane Reese & Luke Harper (sport – swimming and life saving; business – swim school)

Matt Berriman (sport – cricket; business digital media, general manager, business leader)

Don Elgin (sport – paralympic bronze medalist 2000 Sydney, athletics, business – speakers bureau)

Again it has been a privilege to watch new businesses come to life and work with such an amazing group of people.

 

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au 

So What Does Being Strategic Really Mean?

April 19, 2012 in Attitudes & Behaviours, Life Skills, Sales Consulting, Sales Strategy, Self Promotion

With sales under pressure to perform in a market where differentiation has almost disappeared and so many products and services are becoming ‘commoditised’,leaders and management are looking for an effective alternative. Everywhere you turn these days companies are (or want to be)’strategic‘. The challenge is, many business leaders and their management generally don’t say what they really mean by that, or how to do it.

So, what does being strategic really mean? Well for starters, being strategic is not a simple event. It is an enterprise-wide philosophy that resonates throughout the organisation, affecting everything from how and what raw materials are purchased, to how the organisation provides customers with access to their resources for service and support. And whilst there are many definitions (a Google search of the term “being strategic” will give you 85 million), all have a few criteria in common, namely being strategic means.

everyone-needs-to-be-committed

everyone needs to be committed

  • The organisation takes an outside – in view of how things are, and should be done (in other words, they base their methods and operations on what customers want, not what they do)
  • Organisation are proactive – strategic companies make things happen at a time that suits them, rather than waiting for events to force them to change
  • Everything is aligned – the entire organisation is committed to the journey, not just a department or two
  • Everyone involved is committed to an inspiring vision and purpose

With these fundamentals in place, like so many other business processes, there is no magic formula for being strategic. Probably a good definition is simply:“Being strategic means ensuring the organisation’s core competence is consistently focusing on those directional choices that will best move the organisation toward its new future, with the least risk and in the most orderly fashion”.

Whilst there are many nuances and pitfalls along the way, Barrett has a practical approach for creating realistic strategic maps and then using that map to navigate through the rough or calm waters. Here are the five steps in a nutshell

  1. Decide what challenges you’re solving: Once there is a clear sense of the challenges being addressed – they can start being addressed.
  2. Answer the Value Proposition question: “How can we provide a uniquely valuable customer experience that drives our business’ success?” Look at core competence and decide what the value proposition is. Make sure it answers the question.
  3. Know where you’re starting from: Once you’re clear on your challenge, it’s important to have an accurate picture of the current reality. Be brutally honest as the one check the way the business is run, versus what management wants it to be like.
  4. Be clear about your new future: In difficult times it’s always easy to retreat into survival mode. However, having a clear, bold sense of the future gives employees a positive frame and offers an antidote to fear.
  5. Face the obstacles and determine the brutal facts: Now look at the possible obstacles to the vision in a dispassionate / objective way. What are the brutal facts you can control and which ones can’t you control? By facing the obstacles in a clear minded manner allows the organisation to assess the situation well and take appropriate action to overcome them.
Risk management flow chart on paper

Calculated Risk

Therefore strategies are based on a combination of our knowledge, experiences and hunches where we take calculated and, sometimes, uncalculated risks that we hope will pay off sometime in the future. So ‘being strategic’ really takes courage to lead people into uncharted and uncertain futures. “Being strategic” requires a sense of confidence in one’s decision making process which cannot be founded on 100% proof of concept. ‘Being strategic’ means being perceptive, future oriented, open minded, proactive, working off the front foot, making and taking decisions based on evidence and calculated hunches. As Samuel Johnson said “Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings.” Being strategic can be and often is the beginning of great undertakings and with all that the reality is only you know if a strategy works after it has happened. So do you have the self confidence, insight, and courage to be strategic?

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, www.barrett.com.au

4 rules to best validate yourself with buyers

February 23, 2012 in Communication, Negotiation, Sales Relationships, Sales Strategy, Self Promotion

Ever been asked straight up at the beginning of a prospective client meeting, “So what do you do?” despite your sincere intention to ask questions of your prospective buyer rather than talk about yourself?

I bet you have and I bet you found yourself on more than one occasion feeling somewhat uncomfortable because:

a) You didn’t know what to say quickly and succinctly thus making yourself feel and look a bit silly;

or

b) You ended up talking about your business, your products and yourself ad nauseam while watching your client or buyer’s eyes glaze over.

Hmm Awkward … why do most of us find this awkward?

Because we have been asked to validate ourselves; establish our credentials; prove our worth to the buyer – quickly.

If we’re not prepared we can often find ourselves floundering and we don’t want to find ourselves stuck in a 15-20 minute monologue talking about ourselves and our company. However, we still need to answer the question “so what do you do?” in a manner that has our buyer feeling at ease with our answer and wanting to continue the conversation. With so much spin out there it’s only right that a buyer should know that we are who we say we are and we can do what we say we do so how do you positively validate yourself with buyers – quickly?

Avoiding these awkward situations is simple if we are prepared to look at ourselves through our buyers and clients eyes. Here are some simple rules we can follow to help us positively validate ourselves and position us positively in the minds and hearts of our clients.

Rule Number 1: What does your marketing material say to your customer?

barrett marketing material

some of barrett's current marketing material

Make sure marketing literature about your company and products is written for your buyers, not you and explains how you will help them.
Yet most ‘brochures’ are still written for the company, not the customer. Most sales people and frontline managers know this.

They’re often embarrassed to admit that most marketing material is written for the company – glorifying the company and its products and its founders or CEOs rather than speaking directly to the customer about their issues, concerns or aspirations. What’s crucial and often missing is the explanation about how the company is best suited to help the customer solve their problems, generate new ideas, realise their goals and achieve results.

 

Rule Number 2: What’s your statement?

NEVER answer the buyer’s question “so what do you do?” by handing out your company or product brochure. Instead make sure that you have a one to two sentence statement that quickly and succinctly explains:

WHY & WHAT: what you stand for and what you do.

For example here are a couple of our team’s versions from Barrett:

  1. We are an end-to-end business consulting & people development practice specialising in helping leaders create Sales Driven Organisations where people know that selling is everybody’s business and everybody lives by selling something.
  2. We are a business consulting practice that specialises in helping our clients optimize and improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of their sales operations, reduce their cost of sale and increase their own customer satisfaction.

 

Rule Number 3: The “Common Problems We Solve” hand-out

After opening with your statement of WHY & WHAT in Rule 2 immediately show your client your ‘Common Problems We Solve’ document. As mentioned NEVER start showing your prospective buyer the company or product brochure that makes no sense to them because it is not contextually anchored. Instead create a ‘Common Problems We Solve’ document/ page.

barrett's company brochure 2005

barrett's company brochure in 2005

Make a small list of problems you solve for your customers.
Each week we meet and speak with prospects and existing clients who have problems they want to solve or results they want to achieve. Our products and services sell because they solve problems for our customers and help them achieve results. A ‘problem’ can be interpreted as an issue, opportunity or priority a client wants to address. By understanding this, you can deliver value to your customer rather that just selling to them based on price and product. To ensure that you do not miss valuable business opportunities, always think about your business in terms of problems you solve for your clients.
As an example here’s a snippet of some of the problems Barrett fixes for its clients. So, when we’re asked ‘so what do you do?’ We begin with our version of WHY & WHAT statement followed on with ‘and we fix things like this’ then we let the buyer read the list and we stay quiet.

Common problems we solve for sales teams
  • Sales people making more excuses than sales
  • Sales or Service Team losing clients to competitors
  • No ‘Go-to-market’ sales plan/ strategy to follow
  • Sales team too reactive, unfocused, disorganised
  • Discounting prices to win business
  • Ad-hoc or reactive sales approach – no logical sales processes to follow
  • No prospecting for new business in new or existing accounts
  • Not meeting sales budgets/targets
  • Unaware of value & potential of clients – hitting wrong targets
  • Plateau in sales production
  • Team of Professional “Visitors”
  • Lots of client visits – few sales

We find the buyer begins to nod their head and we can see them doing a mental check list of all the things they can see in their business. Our list resonates with their set of problems. Now we’re in their world; in their reality and they know we can relate to them and their challenges. After they have finished reading the list we ask them ‘Is there anything on the list that is relevant to you now?’ The answer is invariably ‘yes.’

 

Rule Number 4: How do we do it?

Whether or not the buyer indicates their issues are represented on my list, we now have an opportunity to explain to them how we go about helping people (at a high level – no details or specifics yet).

How you do it … For example here are a couple of our team’s versions from Barrett:

  1. Whatever your priorities in this space we work holistically across six domains in Sales giving you access to Consulting, Strategy, Assessments, Training, Coaching and Brain Science services, where we help you work out how to achieve increased sales results, better margins, and happier clients and employees.
  2. To achieve this we provide an holistic service which includes sales Consulting, Strategy, Assessments, Training, Coaching and Brain Science.
boring-monologue-of-a-speaker

boring monologue of a speaker

NB you can combine Rules 2 & 4 in one statement followed by Rule 3 if that seems to flow more easily. And it is important that you use your own words. These statements also help you out when you meet people in all sorts of other situations. These statements can also be used as your ‘Elevator’ pitch or your ‘BBQ’ speech however they may need some refinement depending on the level of your audience.

So, instead of drawing yourself into a 15-20 minute monologue or being caught like rabbit in the head lights, now you can quickly and succinctly validate yourself and position yourself to begin to ask questions and listen to their real priorities. Once you’ve established their priorities you can talk specifics about how you can help them, but not before.

 

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barret Articles 2012, www.barrett.com.au,

(c)2012 Barrett

Exceptional Prospecting and Social Media

April 7, 2011 in Call Reluctance, Communication, Prospecting, Sales Tips, Self Promotion, Social Media, Social Sales

With social networking sites and the plethora of online data available, 2011 presents us with better quality prospecting and more qualified prospects. ‘Prospecting and Social Media’ was voted as the Number 4 Sales Trends for 2011. Business networking sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo, and the emergence of Facebook and Twitter as business destinations, give the discerning business or sales person access to quality data where they can research key contacts with an organisation, as well as business activity. Then, when appropriate, they can use this data to make professional connections.

Smart business leaders and sales people are using social networking sites as tools to engage in better quality prospecting and improve conversion rates rather than just using them to make a list of prospects. These sites potentially make redundant, the concept of Cold Calling and the fear of prospecting and can help people become exceptional prospectors. So how do you get the best out of Social Networking sites when prospecting? Let’s look at the business phenomenon that is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn

For Business to Business prospecting, LinkedIn is proving to be a rich source of information, contacts, suppliers, prospects, referrals and clients. It has exploded in connections and content, and usage has skyrocketed in the last 18 months through its many features helping you get connected to the right people. It is the largest B2B social media networking group in the world. For instance my own LinkedIn profile and network currently can connect me with over 5,200,000+ contacts, imagine how we could all harness the power of these connections. So how do you use LinkedIn to help you prospect more effectively?

Step 1: Develop a sales plan, clear message and profile
Before you set up your LinkedIn profile make sure you have a clear sales plan which identifies who you need to be connecting with i.e. types of clients, suppliers, peers, industry sources and groups. Think about what you want to present by way of image, message and purpose i.e. what do you stand for? What do you do for people? Look at how you would like to position yourself as a business professional. Like websites, your LinkedIn profile is your professional resume online; it represents your professional brand. This is why you need to be clear about who you are, what you do and what you want to communicate to a broad audience. What you do, what your company does, what you represent, people are likely to make up their mind about you based on what they see and read about you. Your LinkedIn profile should form part of your sales and marketing strategy.

Step 2: Join LinkedIn
Get your profile up and live. It’s easy and it’s free – go to www.linkedin.com and get started. There are also various levels you can subscribe to enhance your profile and get you better connected with search features and other options. These extras come with a monthly fee attached. Begin by using the free access option and try it out before committing to upgrades.

Step 3: Join LinkedIn Groups
There are many and varied LinkedIn Groups you can join. These groups provide people with forums to discuss and exchange ideas and opinion, as well as keep up to date on the latest trends, ideas, innovations, etc. It’s also where buyers are increasingly looking to research suppliers before they buy. They are looking for what others say about you and your products or your industry. They can compare you with your competitors’ offerings. In these groups you can listen to what your customers are saying before they even decide to talk to you. Your sales strategy should guide you as to who you should be in contact with. What types of groups would be useful for you to belong to? For instance if you are a Learning and Development specialist, Engineering sales professional, Environmentalist or Procurement Manager then there are groups focusing in these spaces and many more. But do not limit yourself to the narrow bandwidth of your own expertise. Often looking outside your comfort zone can give you access to new ideas and contacts as well. These groups allow you to listen to your community, suppliers, clients and other interested parties. This gives you access to a wide range of people. See Barrett Consulting Group LinkedIn group as an example. A word of caution: Do not blatantly self promote or advertise your wares in these groups; it will not go down well. If you try to blatantly self promote and prospect in these groups you will be shunned and often kicked off the group.

Step 4: Start to connect
The best way to build up your network of contacts is to invite people you know to connect with you. This way you can begin to build up direct connections who, in turn, can then give you access to people outside of your direct network. You can often look at your contacts list of connections and you can see who might be good to make contact with. It’s advised that you don’t contact someone you do not know directly without some form of personal connection or link; instead, you can seek an introduction through one of your direct contacts. Sending out LinkedIn requests to people at random will not be seen as good business and will be deemed inappropriate or spam by many and may affect your reputation. It is also wise to be discerning about which connections you accept as well. Don’t just accept invitations from anyone, make sure you find out why they want to connect with and how you can be of best service to each other.

Step 5: Identify and Research Your Prospects
If you are already connected on LinkedIn and you know what types of people you need to prospect to you can look through your contacts lists to see who is there. You can also develop a list of names of people who are in your target market via business websites which often have names of key contacts or business news sites and industry magazines which often feature key decision makers. Your own CRM or client database should have lots of names you need to speak to. And of course you can buy lists once you are on LinkedIn and begin to research your prospects. In the upper right hand corner, there is a search box with a pull down menu. Click on that and you’ll see six options (people, jobs, companies, answers, inbox, groups). Click on “people” and enter the prospect’s name. You can see a lot of information about prospects, the groups they belong to, what they are interested in, their experience and knowledge, etc. You can use a prospect’s background to develop questions that relate to their area of responsibility. It will help you to develop very clear Valid Business Reasons (VBR’s) when calling them. Make sure you know how to get prospects to talk to you.

Step 6: Start Prospecting
Develop a list of 20 to 40 prospects per week and then make contact via the telephone as you would normally do. Use relevant VBR’s to help you connect. Pretty soon you will be making contact with the viable prospects and on your way to making more sales. If you are still not comfortable calling people via the phone you can use Linkedin as a prospecting option however make sure that you still use a VBR in your message or invitation to them.

Summary
Does this mean you will learn everything about a person via their profile or that you take a carte blanche approach to prospecting? NO. We will need to be mindful about how we go about making contact as we will still need to engage in skillful prospecting activities to position ourselves effectively. Remember information is not POWER it is potential power. LinkedIn and other social media networks are not the only sources for prospecting but they certainly can help you achieve peak performance in prospecting.

With clear sales plans and well defined prospect profiles there’s no excuse NOT to prospect effectively. 2011 will be about a Total Quality Prospecting environment.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett, MD of www.barrett.com.au

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