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Direct Sales - What's a small company to do?

A significant reason for failure that I have observed with small companies is an "aversion" to the direct sales process. This includes the failure to define and execute an effective sales strategy. It extends to the failure to hire, manage and compensate a direct salesperson in a sustainable manner.

Most small businesses that I have observed have a clear focus of the value that their product/service creates. They manage product development and delivery with high standards of professionalism. They have invested time, money and energy to sustain their product.

What methods of hiring, managing and compensating a direct salesperson have produced sustainable results for you?

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As Progressive Solutions (an online provider of continuing education for Nursing Professionals and Medical Technicians) enters its second year as a registered small business, we have only just become fully operational.  With that said, we are focused on effective sales strategies, and figuring out what that will look and sound like for our company.  Verbally provoking interest in who/what a company is about to its target demo is directly connected to any business's ability to succeed.  Progressive Solutions is now perfecting our process for achieving this goal by,

-calling skilled nursing facilities by phone (in states where there are Nursing CE requirements) to connect with a Director of Nursing (DON), and offering free CE hours for their nursing staff

-contacting the Director of Nursing Education (by phone and/or email) at GA hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities to bring attention to the Georgia upcoming 2016 Nursing CE requirement, and to offer enticing ways for their organization to fulfill the new requirement through Progressive Solutions.

-host speaking engagements that showcase our expertise and open dialogue about the 2016 GA requirement.

-with regard to Govmnt Contracting sales, we will contact appropriate current contract holders who's contracts expire within 1 years time and focus on not only our ability to perform, but our Minority Veterans Business Owners status to assist us in being plugged into the government agencies needing our services.

You've done a smart thing by defining your target buyer (strategic focus.) Your next step will be to define and execute your approach. Cold-calling via phone or email is the least efficient approach. Speaking engagements are good - what else have you thought about doing to make contact with buyers?
  
Robert Earl Baldwin said:

As Progressive Solutions (an online provider of continuing education for Nursing Professionals and Medical Technicians) enters its second year as a registered small business, we have only just become fully operational.  With that said, we are focused on effective sales strategies, and figuring out what that will look and sound like for our company.  Verbally provoking interest in who/what a company is about to its target demo is directly connected to any business's ability to succeed.  Progressive Solutions is now perfecting our process for achieving this goal by,

-calling skilled nursing facilities by phone (in states where there are Nursing CE requirements) to connect with a Director of Nursing (DON), and offering free CE hours for their nursing staff

-contacting the Director of Nursing Education (by phone and/or email) at GA hospitals and Skilled Nursing Facilities to bring attention to the Georgia upcoming 2016 Nursing CE requirement, and to offer enticing ways for their organization to fulfill the new requirement through Progressive Solutions.

-host speaking engagements that showcase our expertise and open dialogue about the 2016 GA requirement.

-with regard to Govmnt Contracting sales, we will contact appropriate current contract holders who's contracts expire within 1 years time and focus on not only our ability to perform, but our Minority Veterans Business Owners status to assist us in being plugged into the government agencies needing our services.

Today, I responded to a discussion in the Sales and Marketing Executives LinkedIn Group related to cold-calling. My response got "likes", positive comments and it generated a phone call to me from one of the participants (A President of a 25 person Furniture Manufacturing company.) Here is my response:

 

Cold calling today is as out-of-date as using a fax for "instant communications."

Instead of cold-calling I suggest you upgrade your sales skills to the 21st century.

-Have an interesting LinkedIn Profile (one that would encourage people who are your prospects to learn more about you.)
-Be an active participant in LinkedIn Groups and networking activities where your intentions are to learn and to help others - but never to sell!
-Be generous towards others. Endorse them or recommend them via LinkedIn - with sincerity, "like" their comments.
-Start your own LinkedIn Group and invite others to start discussions. Use it to bring attention to others that are helping others learn - again - do not use it to sell. Use it to learn and to give visibility for others.
-Engage in one-on-one dialogue via LinkedIn with people that make interesting comments.
-Expand your network with people who know you and value what you do.
-Target your prospects - join groups that they are in - study them - find someone that knows them and is willing to introduce you to them - not because you are a salesperson - but because you are an interesting person that is interested in others and is known to help them.

Selling is a wonderful career - because it forces us to constantly become better - embrace it and enjoy it - love what you do, love helping others, love bringing value to others - enjoy the benefits that will follow!

And now (self servingly) I have added a fourth component to "Are you a contractor, consultant, company?" - It is "Are you a collaborator?"

I got an email today with the following question: 

  • "I recently have been asked by a company to do some consulting. Without going into to much detail, I think I can do what they need in about 40 hours.   I thought you might have some insight into "typical" pricing;   Any thoughts are appreciated."

Here is my response:

  • What is it worth to the buyer and why?
  • How confident are you that you can help them?
  • Do you want more business like this with them and others?

 

Which of the following is your pricing motivation?

  1. To win (quote a low hourly)
  2. To win and establish your reputation (quote a modest fixed price)
  3. To win, establish your reputation and be sure you are helping your client (quote a higher fixed price)
  4. To win, establish your reputation, be sure you are helping your client and leverage more business (Put some of your compensation at risk)

 

You also need to be sure that your motivation matches the buyer’s interests? Do they view you as:

 

  1. A contractor doing just what they tell you to do?
  2. A consultant that has a process that produces better results without having to be told what to do?
  3. A company that commits to assuring that they get the results they want now?
  4. A collaborator that can be depended on to help get results now and in the future?

How is your answer reflected in your scope of work (actions) not just in your words (intentions?)


 
Paul Terlemezian said:

One of the questions I try to get answered as I work with a small training or consulting companies (but not with small technnology companies) is the following:

Are you a contractor, consultant or a company? Most answer that they are a company since they have formed a legal entity that proves that they own a company. My question is focused on how you operate and how your customers perceive you. The way you successfully sell will become a function of which of these entities you really represent. The kind of questions that your buyers ask or answer will communicate you how you are perceived.

Contractor: Delivers a defined product/service (usually defined by the buyer) for a predetermined price. You'll be asked what you do and what it costs.

Consultant: Focuses on determining source of the buyer's need and then defining the process to address the need and produce the solution. The scope of the solution is often broader than the consutant's ability to implement. If the buyer is reluctant to engage at this level of discussion with you it may mean that they perceive you as a contractor or that they are only enabled to engage contractors. You'll be asked how you help, how long it will take and what other investments they will need to make to be successful. You will need to answer these questions.

Company Promises to deliver the business results that the buyer needs. This will involve performing a consultative role and then fulfilling the solution - even if and especially if the solution requires capabilities outside the direct control of the company. You'll be asked to describe the results you've produced for others. You'll need to prove their ROI is achieved.

Which are you? Contractor, Consultant or Company? Is this how your buyers perceive you? What has been effective for you in changing the perception of your buyer?

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