Posts Tagged: Sales and Marketing

What’s Your Social Media Recruiting Presence?

October 12th, 2016

Social media use has jumped dramatically in the past decade; almost two-thirds of Americans were active on social media networks in 2015, up from only seven percent a decade earlier. This substantial increase in social media usage presents a significant opportunity for Recruiters to reach more potential candidates, and customers, if used and promoted the correct way.

Social media use in job searches on the riseInternet of things and cloud computing concept - wifi outline by cloud computing and Internet of things concept icons

A 2015 Pew Research Center study on the role of the Internet in job searches found that almost two-thirds of Americans who use social media have used social networks in some part of their job search process. Specifically, 35 percent of social media users turn to the various social networks as they research and search for potential jobs, and 34 percent of users share information on available jobs with friends and family. This trend is particularly pronounced for Millennials, an important demographic for employers seeking candidates to grow within the business. Forty-three percent of social media users between the ages of 18 and 29 have used social media in the process of searching for and researching open positions, and 40 percent of users in this age group have informed others of job opportunities through social networks.

Why you should be all over Social Media

Recruiters and Sourcers can focus their entire social media presence on their expertise, providing oneself with much greater visibility to the potential workforce and customers who are looking to fill a number of roles. Due to the nature of the business, and the difficulty connecting with passive candidates specifically, building a large professional network outside of LinkedIn can set you apart from the competition.

Talent acquisition professionals are also able to build robust networks on social media by cultivating connections with individuals who have been placed in the past, or even just spoken to about a particular role. These former placements, who are often potential candidates for future roles themselves, bring with them their networks of friends and family. Referrals and recommendations are a fantastic source for recruiters to not only build their network, but also develop new talent pools to target during a search.

What’s it mean?

As social media use rises and gains importance in the job search process and recruiting in general, the ability to reach the broadest range of candidates on social media will be key in identifying the best talent. Of equal importance is how social media is used by recruiters; with job promotion and marketing being key. Utilizing social media to market jobs, while also sourcing and identifying candidates with profiles or social media activity – who might not be found elsewhere – a focus on your social profile can create huge benefits in the long run.

Blank Sheet of Paper: Customers Do Not Want a Sales Pitch!

April 15th, 2015

Blank Sheet of Paper is the attitude we take towards how we interact with customers. Are we open or close minded in our thinking and in our words with customers? Do we think constantly about how to do more for our customer? What would make their experience Nth Degree? Blank Sheet of Paper is also about how we organize the way we chose to conduct our business! For example, are you easy to do business with? Are you and your team accessible? What does that look like? For us, it’s about answering the phone in three rings and limiting voice mail. Or allowing service folks to spend as much time as needed with customers and with no maximum time goal on the phones.

BlankSheetofPaperNow, go ahead and take out of a piece of paper from a notebook or copy paper. There is nothing on it, right? It is a blank sheet of paper! Having a Blank Sheet of Paper value is a really important element to how the Outside-In® Companies go to the marketplace. Blank does not mean we lack ideas and creativity, it simply means that our process of selling and serving our customer starts without jumping to quick assumptions or borrowed ideas from our past experiences. We try hard to listen and acknowledge each new prospect by answering questions and addressing specific needs.

There are stories of legend from service companies where the “solution” presentation to Nabisco happened to have the Kraft logo on one of the slides. Imagine saying you listen well, have a great consulting or selling process, bragging about your custom work and having a multimillion dollar customer see a competitor’s name on their slide deck! Was it copy and pasted? Was it a joke or bad editing? Regardless, legend has it that this happened to a global consulting company on pitch day. And yes, they lost the deal! That won’t happen here. There is nothing wrong with leveraging your expertise and experiences—it’s simply how you chose to do it! Don’t get me wrong, we have many different talent services. Some have a relatively short buying cycle, while others take hundreds of hours to build them out properly. The key? Demonstrate authenticity and build relationships. Have a clear system to get the answers and information you need to solve customer problems. This is our OI-Q. Battle and time tested, this is our method of effectively and efficiently learning what we need to in order to do our best work!

We know that to truly solve a customer’s problems, we need to demonstrate that we have earned the right, invested the time, followed the right approach and process and then brought our talents, experiences, and expertise to bear on the problems!

Customers want to buy, not be sold to. Think about when you walk into a retail establishment. When someone asks you if you need help do you ever say yes? Even when you are there to buy? Most of us say no. None of us like to be followed around and asked stupid questions.  Even when we are there to make a purchase. Approaching a customer is everything!

So how do you help a customer buy? Build relationships not just on the golf course or at business lunches. The world has little time for lunch for the sake of lunch. Relationship building takes place when you’re asking questions about the customer and their talent challenges and opportunities. Listen, ask questions, do the work, observe, volunteer. All of these ways demonstrate that what you know will make more sense. Yes, what your expertise is all about will be more believable because you invested the times in your customers business. That is the key to Blank Sheet of Paper—showing what you know comes out through your ability to deftly and skillfully take your customer through the buying process. A process that helps you earn the right, establish credibility, demonstrate knowledge, and ultimately identify the issues and challenges that you identify to your way to solve the problem!

Salespeople: Be Yourself and Keep Your Commitments

October 22nd, 2014

ID-100256646Sales is so full of stereotypes that it’s not even fun to use them anymore. I have found that failures in sales happen because there is a general lack of understanding that onboarding a new customer is a process just like ordering office supplies or sending out an invoice. Somehow those processes seem more tangible and visible to the world. Sales is a diva business. Sales is magic. Sales is that thing that no one can understand. A handful can do it, and even fewer want any part of it. Sales is about knowing what you’re doing, following a good process, always doing what you say, and being your authentic self along the way. Be fake? Try to be something you’re not? Well, prospects buy from people they like and if you would be yourself they probably would.  Be what you are—not what you think a salesperson is supposed to be!

A sales process is nothing more than a series of steps to be completed with your prospect. The big challenge is that your prospect does not have that matrix or checklist and is probably unaware of where you are and what you need to complete the sale. That is where you come in.

You could hand the customer the steps to be completed and let them participate. Or at the very least tell them what to expect next. However, this is most likely not your customers job. I bet it is not your only job either. You have other parts to your role like being a part of your team, or delivery, or internal projects, maybe even other prospects.

This is where it gets tricky. Sales people are human. We are flawed—busy, lazy, new, overly confident, on plan, off plan. We are all this and much more. These flaws show up in how we do our business and whether or not we follow our process. It is our commitment to the next step and our ability to deliver that makes all the difference.

This is at the subconscious level mind you with your prospect. They probably don’t say anything if you call later than expected or miss a deadline. They definitely don’t say anything out loud if you’re trying to be something you’re not. They simply don’t buy.

Are You a Sales Person or Are You a Consultant?

September 3rd, 2014

Salespeople and consultants have a lot in common. While both strive to improve their client’s business performance, each take a different approach to providing their client with the best experience possible. Here are how salespeople and consultants differ when it comes to how they approach the overall client process:

A salesperson asks for the order. A consultant is helpful along the way, making little problems disapear and providing insights and information that guide the buying process.

A salesperson chases the customer. A consultant thinks ahead and has the time scheduled because of the value they can create with the insights and information they provide.

A salesperson can’t get customers to call them back and often quits on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th effort. A consultant understands human nature and the modern workplace and they know it is their role to be visible and to connect appropriately with their customer.

A salesperson asks, “Do you need anything else or do you have all the information you need?” A consultant knows what the customer needs and wants and they offer it up.

ID-100163128A salesperson asks what the next step is. A consultant shares all of the steps with the customer in advance.

A salesperson cannot understand why a customer did not buy. A consultant advises the customer that their solution is not the right one. Yet gets them to the right solution anyway.

A salesperson is a stereotype. They are selfish and take orders. A consultant is also a stereotype. They are selfish, guiding, disruptive, and knowledgeable.

A salesperson is not on sales quota. A consultant earns their clients but wins in the long run.

Are you a salesperson or a consultant? Which would you rather be?

Time Has Come Today!

July 9th, 2014

Whenever I approach my business development day I often feel like I can hear the old Chambers Brothers song in my head with “Time Has Come Today” echoing and reverberating around my office! Time!!!! Time!!!! Time!!! There seems like there is never ever enough of it for doing sales the right way. The song is eleven minutes long by the way—about as much time as it takes to really plan your sales day!

ID-100248281So for you time-pressured folks with sales responsibilities here are my greatest hits:

  • Focus on the right target customers. You may like certain customers and enjoy the conversations. We all have legacy and long-term customers that we are friendly with. The key is to focus on the right type of prospect and to define it.  
  • Have the right service or products to offer. Many small businesses start selling and servicing to anyone that will buy. This pays the bills and keeps the lights on. However, very quickly an organization needs to make a strategic decision with its resources and focus on selling the right size products and services. If your customers buy too little your costs of sales rises too high!
  • Don’t quit on your pipeline. Too many times sales professionals stop following up on leads and prospects. Social media is riddled with articles and blogs on this topic alone. However, we still stop too early. It takes 6 to 10 attempts to make something happen. Too many sales professionals stop after 1 or 2. Is it mental approach or organizational skills? Either way, time is the enemy!
  • Have a plan. Block your time. Be organized and know what you’re doing before you start. Do your research in organized times. When you’re making calls and sending notes do it in blocks. MOST block their time but do not prepare their work!
  • Create balance. Why do some people hit quota and most don’t? Some of it is about how you spend your valuable time. Do you make the extra call or do the extra work? Do you think long term and invest in key relationships? Do you add value to the people you meet and network with? It took me 20 years to become an overnight success! Get it? If you think about today’s or this month’s quota you may win for a month or two—but not in the long run. Sales is a balance of short and long term with activities, with your pipeline and size deals, and in your overall mindset!

Now the time has come! There’s no place to run! Time! Time! Time!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Sales Introductions

February 5th, 2014

You have a choice to make in your sales approach. There are many research and internet tools readily available for you to learn about the person you are calling and the company they work for. I think it’s fair to say that you should look at all those materials and learn what you can—this is honorable and respectful. It’s also a good first beginning to “earning the right” with your prospect.

ID-10058046However, I do not agree with a salesperson’s attempt to use that information to create an environment of warmth and closeness on the first call to the prospect. You do not know this person and whatever critical issues, challenges, struggles, or opportunities they might be dealing with. There is nothing worse than attempting to be specific when all it does is generalize and stereotype you as the caller/salesperson.

Today, I received this phone call, “I see that you won an award with SmartCEO for growth. Congratulations! I am calling all of the winners today to tell them about our new widget.”

I think it’s in good taste to do your homework. One might even consider this a compliment. However, to grab a fact and throw it out there and then to go right into your product pitch? Well, this just does not work today. This is not knowledge of me and my issues; this is a worthless attempt on the caller’s behalf to feel better about picking up the phone. This is nothing but fake warmth.

I much prefer the honest attempt at relationship building and prospecting. For example, a better approach would have been, “Chris, I see that your companies have achieved some growth awards. Congratulations!  I am_______ from _______ and the purpose of my call was to ask if we might schedule twenty minutes in the next few days where I could share a little bit about myself and the organization I represent.”

At Outside-In® Companies, we create talent solutions for growth companies. However, I need to earn the right and learn more about you and your organization. We have a great story to share and from there we can determine if it is appropriate for you to share more about your business!

Be honest and direct with your purpose. Be careful about pretending to know your target or their business. It only takes one question to undo this shallow preparation. With most people, you lose before you even get started. Don’t be a sales stereotype when you sell. You would be surprised how hard it is stop the things we know don’t work!

Image courtesy of

Sales Strategy + Values Philosophy = Consultative Success

August 28th, 2013

BlankSheetofPaperAs a values-based recruitment services company, our value called Blank Sheet of Paper is what we believe is our biggest differentiator with all of our customers and prospects. Hold up a blank sheet of paper. Obviously, there is nothing on it. So what does this have to do with customers and prospects? From a sales perspective, this means that we do not go into our dialogue and discussion with pre-built solutions or a preconceived notion of how we are going to help. Instead, we start with a blank slate – or in our case, a blank sheet. There are legendary stories in business where an international consulting company sends a “custom solution” to their customer however it has the logo of a competitors on the cover page!  So much for a blank sheet of paper!

The challenges to this concept are many. So many companies use the comparison or the notion of Mission Statement. The Mission is on the wall, or above each door jam, or in the annual report, but the actions and values of the company look nothing like it! There is no alignment or resemblance to the word. The gap is huge! Many use ‘consultative’ or ‘solutions-based’ selling as their catch phrase so many times that the words mean little and become contrived. When you really do it though, customers see and experience the difference.

My goal is to make sure that we live a Blank Sheet of Paper sales philosophy and to demonstrate its value. Knowing what questions to ask matter. Getting to the root of the customer challenge or opportunity is what everyone really wants right? What customers want is an HR consulting service that works and that is going to address the problem. Going at it with options and ideas is wonderful, but lets be clear: this is really about doing a better job for your customer! And the best way to do that? Show your customer how and what you do can make their HR recruiting world better.

Let them know you listened. Tie what you do to the problem at hand. That is what Blank Sheet of Paper is all about. Find the problem and address the problem uniquely through your service offerings!

The First 30 Seconds

May 1st, 2013

At our company we examine every customer interaction and decide how we could take that experience as far as we can. We call this our Service to the Nth degree value. Can we take every moment of interaction to an extreme? How could we make it better for that person? For example, how can we answer a phone call with Nth degree thinking? Try getting to the caller quickly and eliminating voice mail. Or perhaps, always answer in three rings – or better yet, two. (Maybe even one!) Why keep that customer waiting? Create the best Outside-In experience you can.

However, today’s blog is about extending that service impression to the process of sales. In fact to put a fine point to it, for those of us that have to introduce ourselves and our companies to prospects, this is about the first 30 seconds of an interaction! Sales people struggle with the first introduction. Most of us spend hours preparing and researching our target. We know about their last annual report, we have read the press releases, we know about our competitors. My guess is that you’re loaded up with marketing materials. You have brochures, white papers, and case studies coming out of your ears.

So what do you need to focus on during the first 30 seconds? First off, your words.

1.  Be crystal clear with your purpose.  Sales people of the world… face it – we’re not crystal clear with our purpose in the first 30 seconds! We wander in these early conversations. We try to connect and “build relationships”. We try to impress with our knowledge of our offerings. We ask for the “order” when our prospect barely knows us. Be direct without being pushy. Be authentic.

2.  Don’t ask for a relationship right out of the gate. It is weird to ask to build a relationship in the first call. It did not work in the hallways of high school, and it is just as well, creepy when selling. This is just too much of a leap of faith for an audience that really is still paying attention to their email or the project they were working on when you called them and interrupted them.

3.  Differentiate yourself. Oftentimes, we act like and conduct business like everyone else. You could insert any product into your introduction and you would sound like the other ten voice mail messages your prospect deleted this week. Make yourself stand out. Think about how your company differentiates itself and how you can communicate it. Don’t let your introduction be “one size fits all”.

4.  Make sure to speak in terms of customer benefit.  As sales people, if we’re not careful our opening conversation sounds something like this to our prospect, “I am Chris Burkhard, I work for my company, I am interested in getting to know you so I can sell you my product so that I can meet my monthly quota, because I am falling behind on my bills, and I really need this sale now, you see.  Truth is, I need a a quick hit to stay on track, and keep my sales manager off my back.” Does your introduction sound like me, me, me?  It is subtle but true.  Until we learn to speak in an Outside-In way and in terms of the customers benefit, we will always sound selfish. Who wants to build a relationship, ever, with someone that is all about themselves?

Sales people of the world, if you’re on plan then you can ignore me.  If you’re falling behind, I bet I know why, and I have the answer – it starts with your first 30 seconds.  How good are you and your company at first impressions?

Is Your Brand Working Hard for You?

March 27th, 2013

Sales is not an easy profession. By the very nature of the role you have to be able to deal with a lot of negativity and rejection. Most buyers say no. This is simply a fact. The job requires so much hard work – busy work, really – research, preparation, meeting planning, detail follow-up with emails and phone calls, all for brief “performances” with your prospect and customer.  Sales is 99% hard work, planning and preparation, and 1% actually selling.

There is so much we can do to be better sales people.  Reading about sales and going to workshops on sales technique is a must. Being prepared and planned everyday is critical. Many sales people sometimes wing it; they count on their strengths too much, and they don’t prepare to to maximize their time. They do too little in the way of the activities that are necessary to produce the volume of output their quota probably requires!

However, I have come to grasp that sales people can’t do it alone! Your company has to work hard on your behalf.  I believe a company must work hard on its brand, and that the brand must be an honest representation of what the company stands for, whats it personality and character are like, and what promise you can make to your prospects.

This is always a brand challenge for any business. Every business has a brand.  Sometimes the brand is intentional; sometimes it is the absence of a plan. In all cases your company gives the marketplace an impression of what it is all about and what it stands for.

In my experience, I have found that being an Outside-In® company matters. Our brand is about being all about the customer. Our brand is our culture, and our culture is how we view ourselves. You can call this our overall personality! This personality is how we help our sales staff add value and clearly how we stand out in a world that is terribly the same! We are definitely not the same. However, we are not different for the sake of being different.  Our difference is because we chose to turn ourselves inside out. We are what our customers need and want us to be!

Our culture and our values? 100% a reflection of employee behaviors that will best enable each employee to be the best they can be in the unique business landscape we all operate in today. Our brand is our culture.  Our culture is our values.

Remember, good marketing helps you amplify the truth, not pitch something that you wish exists. That is the difference!

Watch our video for our truth!

Know Yourself, Know Your Sales

February 6th, 2013

I think it is incredibly challenging to have true awareness as a sales person.  Things like ego, attitude, and personal life can get in the way of  having true awareness in sales. We need to be aware of other people and frankly we need to be aware for others in sales.  This awareness is about understanding what prospects want and what this selling situation might require.  This is about intuition.  This is about knowing yourself. This is about knowing your products and services.  And this is about having the interpersonal skills to observe and respond to your audience’s many verbal, non-verbal, and other environmental cues that happen in every interaction.  Even if you have these things, many lack the self-confidence and trust required to go in a different direction if it warrants it.  We march forward on sticking with the plan; and we wonder why we are not closing deals or meeting our quotas.  It all comes down to awareness.

Having true awareness puts your focus in selling on the true needs of your audience.  But it is more than simply identifying needs.  Sales people have been doing fact finding for needs for decades!  I am talking about being so good at what you do that your entire focus can be on your audience.  We sell with our external needs in mind.  Goals, sales, finances, reports to be turned in.  And it shows.  Not directly of course.  This comes out in meetings that turn into next steps.  Phone calls and emails that do not get responses.  Sometimes, some sales people march blindly forward with “their” agenda.  Their needs and wants take center stage.  But their reception can be blocked by lack of awareness of their surroundings and what is actually happening in the moment.We simply cannot get out of our own way to be truly aware.

When it comes to awareness, there’s something to be said for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Maslow’s Heirarchy is a part of the Theory of Human Motivation, proposed by psychologist Abraham Maslow. It represents Maslow’s proposed pattern that human motivations and curiosities generally move through, that humans need to fulfill their basic, fundamental needs (food, water, shelter) before they can move on to higher level needs (self-actualization).

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, interpreted by graphic designer and creative guru Stefan Sagmeister:

The Happiness Hierarchy by Stefan Sagmeister

In sales, employees face issues that impact their well-being around basic needs like a roof over their head, money to pay bills,  food in the fridge, etc. and  this makes it extra challenging to be aware and to be “self actualized”.  This is where the rubber meets the road as they say.  All of us have issues and challenges.  Some of us work through them and can work on our awareness.  Others, must work on it.  But take it from an entrepreneur that has boot strapped a start-up company more than a few times.  Some of us can handle the pressure and the issues and compartmentalize them and be aware.  Some cannot.

If this notion of sales person awareness is not clicking for you than think about how you might prepare for an upcoming meeting with a prospect.  Are you so focused on your monthly targets and your need for income?  Is your Sales Leader coming with you on this appointment and this requires more and different levels of preparation and performance?  Or perhaps you simply have issues at home, the car broke down, or your children are not doing well in school.  All of these things combine to make it hard for us to get to the spot where we can do our jobs.  We carry this burden around like a mask we might wear and hide behind, and it occupies our every moment.  These internal thoughts block our thinking and prevent us from even thinking about being aware of the prospects we are meeting!

My advice?  Make sure you know yourself.  Don’t meet prospects when you know you can’t shed your internal focus. Be present. The key is to know yourself, so that you can know your sales. Once you know your strengths, your weaknesses, and your boundaries you’ll be able to really build that outward awareness that is invaluable to a sales person.

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