Seven Standout Ways To Attract New Clients

Customers are the lifeblood of any company. When you have a steady stream of new customers, you can grow your business and fulfill your company vision. However, many salespeople struggle to attract new clients. They’re often not sure where to start. To discover the best strategies for winning new customers, writer Julie Bawden-Davis explored responses from American Express OPEN Forum members.

Today, we highlight Bawden-Davis’ roundup of the best tips for growing your client base.

1. Identify your ideal client. It’s difficult to secure new clients if you don’t know the type of consumers you seek. OPEN Forum community member Nicole Beckett, president of Premier Content Source, says it’s important to have a crystal-clear picture of who you’re targeting. Know what makes this audience angry, upset or worried, and think of how you can make their lives a little easier.

2. Discover where your customer lives. When you know who you want to target, identify where you can find them, whether that’s online or offline. Then you can create messages designed for your targeted customers and reach them where they hang out.

3. Have a solid understanding of your business. It’s important to know your business inside and out if you want to attract new clients. Bawden-Davis says when you know your product and service backward and forward, that fact shines through. Those who might be interested in your offerings can see your knowledge and expertise and are more likely to seek your assistance.

4. Position yourself as the answer. The first step to gaining loyal customers is to give them a reason to meet you and try your services. Determine their pain points and clearly demonstrate how you can provide a solution.

5. Create messages designed for your target market. When you want to attract new clients, reach out and encourage them to take action, whether that’s opting in to your email list or requesting a free consultation. Look for ways to add value and create compelling messages that entice prospects to want to work with you.

6. Build partnerships. Consider teaming up with other businesses that offer complementary services to yours. This synergy can go a long way at building your client base. It all comes down to relationships. The stronger relationships you build with other business owners and customers, the more likely they are to tell others about you.

7. Follow up. To bring in business, it’s important to always close the loop. Set follow-up tasks and execute your plan. Don’t let leads and great conversations go to waste because you fail to follow up. It doesn’t take much time or effort to check in with your leads, and this simple step can lead to more clients.

Although building a robust client list can seem like a daunting task, use the tips above to succeed at attracting new clients.

Source: Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published writer whose work has appeared in many publications, such as American Express OPENForum, The LA TimesBetter Homes & GardensFamily Circle and Parade.com.

What To Do When You Make A Mistake

Whether you make a small error or commit a massive blunder, finding out you’re wrong can sometimes feel like a threat to your self-identity. Researchers find that in both our words and deeds, we are constantly expressing how we see ourselves—and how we want others to see us. This is called “identity claiming.” When we’re wrong, we feel the pain of realizing the identity we claimed for ourselves—an expert, the go-to resource—has suffered a blow.

When you make a mistake about something only you know about, you can reconcile it privately. However, when leaders make a mistake after rallying the troops, they’re faced with an “identity granting” problem. You may have seen yourself as knowledgeable, but if those around you no longer view you as intelligent, the identity you chose for yourself hasn’t been affirmed by others.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Deborah Grayson Riegel, principal at The Boda Group, wrote about how to get ahead of the situation when you realize you’ve made a mistake. She says it’s important to talk with those who are impacted by your decision, including your boss, your team, colleagues, direct reports and clients. Each of these conversations should have three parts. Today, we share Riegel’s thoughts on how you should approach these conversations.

Removing word with pencil’s eraser, Erasing mistake

Take responsibility. Never be afraid to say, “I was wrong.” Riegel says avoid making comments such as, “mistakes were made” or “it didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated.” This deflects or minimizes your personal contribution. Instead, it’s better to offer a brief explanation without making excuses. She suggests acknowledging that your error negatively impacted others and be willing to listen without being defensive to others’ recounting of that impact. Never interrupt and be quick to apologize.

Address what you need to do right now. When you make a mistake, don’t ignore it or hope it goes away. It’s crucial to take ownership of the blunder and take action immediately. This remains core to any crisis communication, even if your mistake doesn’t constitute a major crisis. Riegel suggests telling others what you’re doing right now to remedy the mistake and distinguish between the parts that can be fixed and those that can’t. Include what you’re doing to address the substantive impact as well as the relational impact of being wrong. Always remain open to feedback about your next steps and over-communicate your plans.

Share what you will do differently next time. It’s tough being wrong and you don’t want to make the same mistake again. Riegel says that being wrong without self-reflection is irresponsible, even if you rarely take to reflect on yourself and how you can change and grow. She encourages you to take some time contemplating your contribution to the situation and how others contributed as well. Then tell those who were impacted by your mistake what you learned about yourself in the process and what you plan to do differently in the future. You should also commit to asking others for frequent feedback to ensure you stay on the path of the commitments you made.

Mistakes at work happen. By responding appropriately, you can learn from the situation and prevent it from happening again.

Source: Deborah Grayson Riegel is a principal at The Boda Group, a leadership and team development firm. She also teaches management communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Why You Need To Be A Needs-Based Salesperson

When you work in sales, it’s never enough to simply know the features and benefits of what you’re selling. You can be ready to address any questions your prospect might have and you might have a polished pitch ready to go, but to achieve the most success, you must be able to identify the needs of each potential customer.

According to Kevin Gardner, a business consultant for InnovateBTS, a needs-based salesperson is the gateway between brands and consumers. He says it’s critical to understand how sales are changing from both a professional and consumer’s standpoint. Here, we share Gardner’s three tips for becoming a needs-based salesperson.

1. Know that it’s okay to go off-script. Gardner says that one of the reasons salespeople are so valuable is that they can provide a personalized touch to the marketing process. While it’s good to have a general pitch in mind when presenting a product, a needs-based approach to marketing encourages you to go off-script. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that encourage thoughtful responses from your clients instead of questions that allow them to respond with a simple yes or no. By asking the right questions, you open the door to a conversation, which creates a connection and leads to a greater chance of conversion. Show your own interest in the client’s needs and demonstrate how your product can offer a solution.

2. Focus on education instead of information. Customers can get a basic rundown of a product’s core features anywhere. Don’t just give a generic spiel as this won’t win over a client. Instead, Gardner recommends taking a needs-based approach, which focuses on a client’s individual likes, dislikes and specific challenges. This helps them take a new perspective of their issue through the lens of your product. Remember not to simply talk about what your business can do for a customer – show them why it matters.

3. Embrace digital media. Don’t show up to a meeting with only business cards and printed handouts. Instead, aim to present facts and figures authentically to potential clients. If you can combine your brand’s social media and digital assets in your presentation, you can demonstrate a sense of brand awareness and continuity that shows your clients you have something valuable to offer. The goal is to leave a lasting impression in the customer’s mind and encourage them to explore further.

By tapping into your customer’s needs, you can become an invaluable asset to your team and organization. Although it may appear difficult to compete with customers who want to buy online, when it comes to closing a deal, statistics prove otherwise. An app or website only lists the facts, while a salesperson can adjust his or her approach for each individual client. People want to work with other people, especially when they are making a large purchase. Consider the points above to ensure you’re a needs-based salesperson for your clients.

Source: Kevin Gardner works as a business consultant for InnovateBTS where he helps companies integrate technology to improve performance. He shares his knowledge and expertise not only with his clients but with his fellow bloggers and readers.

What Meditation Can Teach You About Sales

Those who take a few minutes for mindful meditation each day experience many benefits, from greater self-awareness to better emotional health. For salespeople, meditating can lead to improved listening skills, better mental resilience, slower reactions for improved critical thinking, and reduced stress, which leads to better overall health and more time for selling.

If you don’t regularly meditate or you’ve never tried sitting in silence for a short time, it’s worth checking out. You don’t even need to carve out a big chunk of time—just a few minutes will do the trick. Alex Kremer, a speaker and account executive who has worked at Microsoft and Docusign, recently meditated for 365 days in a row and discovered three big takeaways from this daily practice. Here, we explore Kremer’s findings and how meditation can help you achieve more success in sales.

Lesson No. 1: Let the pressure be heard. With quotas and deadlines looming, Kremer admits that the pressure salespeople sometimes feel can be crushing. Rather than trying to tamp down that tension, Kremer learned to accept it. He found that when he turned toward the tension, he could see the gift in it. It’s healthier for salespeople to acknowledge job stress than keep pushing it down and grinding it out.

Lesson No. 2: Acknowledge without judgment. Many of us are guilty of overthinking and wondering how we ended up at a certain conclusion. Through meditation, Kremer learned to become aware of the overthinking and decided to simply listen to his mind and body. By being more mindful, Kremer says he has become more empathetic with prospects during conversations. He can more easily pick up on tensions and nuances. Noticing these things without judging takes practice, but in the long run, Kremer says it allows for stronger relationships to form.

Lesson No. 3: Stop the burnout before it happens. When you work in sales, the calls, e-mails, negotiations and meetings seem to stack up without an end in sight. While you might be used to powering through, Kremer suggests a different approach: take a step back. When you feel your stress mounting and you feel you are approaching your breaking point, pause for a moment. Take a few deep breaths. Center yourself. Level your nerves before getting back to work.

What started as a year-long practice for Kremer has become a lifelong journey. He recommends starting at five minutes of meditation every day and seeing where that takes you. A variety of apps offer guided meditation, or you can simply quiet your mind, breathe in for four seconds and exhale for five seconds. If a guided or structured meditation isn’t right for you, Kremer recommends simply sitting quietly for two minutes with no book, television, laptop or people to interrupt this dedicated time.

Whether you start your day with a morning meditation, squeeze in some quiet time on your lunch break or fit in some mindfulness before bed, meditation can do wonders for your stress levels and productivity in the workplace.

Source: Alex Kremer is a speaker and an account executive who has experience working at Microsoft and Docusign.

Nine Bad Sales Habits To Break

Highly successful salespeople have developed some stellar habits. They didn’t become one of their organization’s top reps by good luck. They have honed their craft and become the best at what they do. On the flip side, many sales reps struggle to develop winning habits. Or, maybe they remain stuck in old practices that no longer generate sales. Whatever the case may be, it’s important that you connect with prospective customers the right way and provide real value in order to close the most deals. It pays to take a step back and reflect on sales habits that might be harming your success.

Marketing and social media professional James Meincke has identified nine bad sales habits that hinder a salesperson’s ability to close deals.

1. Trying to sell to everyone. Don’t make as many calls as possible and hope that you land a few clients. That’s not effective. Meincke asserts that it’s much better to target your sales pitches to companies that are a good fit for what you’re selling.

2. Sending generic e-mails. Considering that most people receive close to 100 business-related e-mails each day, it’s no secret that e-mail overload is a staggering problem. When you send a sales e-mail that is clearly from a template, you make it all too easy for the recipient to click “delete.” Instead, aim to personalize your e-mails to increase your chances of getting a response.

3. Calling without conducting any research first. Don’t waste your prospect’s time by asking questions that can easily be researched. Before you dial their number, research the company and contact person. Use this information to inform your approach. By asking customized questions, you position yourself as a consultative partner.

4. Still using BANT. For nearly six decades, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need and Time) has been used as a tool to qualify prospects. However, the problem remains that this technique focuses on the seller’s needs. When using BANT, sales reps are essentially asking questions to determine if the prospect is worth their time. Don’t continue using this old-school approach. Meincke says the sales process-including qualification—should always be customer-focused. Make sure you put the customer’s needs before your own.

5. Overly stating someone’s name. You may think it’s a good thing to keep saying a prospect’s name to prove you actually know the person. However, it ends up coming off as cheesy and could potentially cost you the sale.

6. Pretending you know everything. Prospects know when you’re making up an answer. It’s best to admit when you don’t know the answer to a question and commit to getting back to the prospect as soon as possible.

7. Sending a follow-up e-mail simply to ask for a status update. Nobody likes getting those “just checking in” e-mails. Every time you reach out to your clients and prospects, you should be adding value. Give them a link to a great article or provide an interesting piece of research. Never just “check in.”

8. Giving up on a deal too soon. Sales, especially large ones, take time. Expect to talk to multiple people and complete many processes before closing a deal. Remain persistent and the work you invest will eventually pay off.

9. Asking prospects to print and sign a PDF. Don’t expect customers to shoulder all the work of printing, signing and scanning the documents you need. Invest in a tool that allows contracts to be signed digitally.
Are you guilty of one (or a few) of these bad sales habits? If so, commit to building better sales habits one at a time.

Source: James Meincke is senior marketing manager at CloserIQ and a freelance social media strategist.

Watch For These Marketing Trends In 2019

To maximize your marketing in the year ahead, it’s important to know how to connect with your audience in the ever-evolving marketing landscape. With new technologies and new behaviors impacting the effectiveness of your marketing, it pays to consider the past year’s patterns and note emerging trends.
Here, author Deep Patel shares some of the biggest marketing trends to keep an eye on in 2019.

A shifting marketing funnel. Instead of creating a marketing funnel that accepts anyone, move toward niche audiences. Contacting people and businesses who are interested in your products and services saves you money and time.

Content rises in importance. People crave phenomenal content. In the year ahead, think about how you can create articles or videos that inspire your audience, provoke their thoughts, appeal to their emotions, or excite them. Don’t just write a post to write it; craft a piece with a goal of getting readers to share and engage with it. When you do, you open the door for two-way communication, which ultimately helps you build trust.

AI’s growth continues. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help you target potential leads faster and can perform all kinds of tasks such as monitoring consumers’ online patterns. No matter how you choose to take advantage of AI in the year ahead, it’s smart to pay attention to how your audience reacts to it and whether your competitors use it.

An uptick in chatbots. In 2019, these AI helpers aren’t going anywhere. Grand View Research reports that the worldwide chatbot market will reach $1.25 billion by 2025, growing 24.3 percent annually. Plus, your customers likely want to use chatbots instead of calling someone or sending an e-mail. Nearly half (45 percent) of end users prefer using chatbots for customer service.

Consumers pay more attention to security. People want to know how businesses handle their information, so ensure that your company’s security is thorough. In an era of hacks, leaks and theft, make sure to discuss your security with customers. What are you doing to ensure the safest business experience?

Voice search gets louder. If you haven’t yet explored voice search, make 2019 the year to get ahead of the game by making sure you’re optimized for voice searches. Search Engine Land predicts voice-based commerce sales will soar to $40 billion by 2022.

Visual searches take off. Voice searches will be huge this year and so will visual searches thanks to new camera technology that allows people to find information about something simply by snapping a photo. To take advantage of visual searches, make sure you include Pinterest in your marketing efforts and optimize your website for SEO.

A greater focus on Gen Z. Members of the second-youngest generation crave authenticity and prefer socially responsible businesses. As they get older, their buying power increases. Make sure your marketing reflects what matters to this group to best connect with them in 2019.

Influencers become more personal. While celebrities used to dominate influencer marketing, consumers now lean toward their peers to decide what to buy. Instead of celebrity marketing, many brands are turning to real people (micro-influencers) because people trust individuals like them.

To win at marketing in the year ahead, don’t keep doing what you have always done. Keep an eye on emerging technologies, methods and patterns to maximize your marketing efforts.

Source: Deep Patel is the author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success. The book was dubbed the No. 1 best business book in 2016 by Success Magazineand named the best book for entrepreneurs in 2016 by Entrepreneur Magazine.

What Leaders Should Know About the Rumor Mill

My company recently announced an organizational change. An entire department that used to report to one senior leader was told it would now report to a different senior leader. The funny thing is that when the change was announced, the reaction among employees was, “So what?”

The reason for the apathetic attitude? This rumor had already been circulating around the company for months, so by the time the actual move took place, people no longer had a reaction to it.

In her recent Forbes article, Dr. Carol Kinsey Goman, an expert body language coach, stated that 70 percent of communication that takes place within an organization comes through the grapevine, yet many senior leaders are unaware that it exists or how it operates. In this case, the “grapevine” is the informal and unsanctioned communication network found in every organization.

Goman interviewed more than 1,100 employees in a wide variety of companies and industries regarding the power of the grapevine.

1. Rumor trumps the actual source. Goman’s interviews revealed that if there were conflicting messages—one delivered during a speech from the company leader and another spread through the grapevine—more people (47 percent) would believe the grapevine, and only 42 percent would believe senior leadership. (The remaining 11 percent were undecided.)

2. Put it in writing. Goman found that putting something in writing tends to give the content more validity. When she asked if people were more likely to believe an official newsletter (online or print) versus the rumor mill, most respondents (51 percent) favored the newsletter, with only 40 percent placing more faith in the grapevine.

3. Direct supervisors were the most trusted sources of information. Due to the more personal relationship that exists between employee and supervisor, it wasn’t surprising that 74 percent said they would believe their boss. Still, many stipulated that it would depend on the quality of that relationship.

4. Certain situations escalate the rumor mill. In her interviews, Goman discovered there were some conditions when you should expect the rumor mill to kick into high gear: These conditions include:

  • When formal communication is lacking
  • When the situation is ambiguous or uncertain (as in times of major change)
  • When there is no sanctioned channel for venting
  • When there is a culture of silos and internal competition
  • When the communicator’s body language (gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice) contradicts his/her verbal message
  • When there is a heavy-handed attempt by management to kill the grapevine

5. Multiple sources of truth. In Goman’s study, 57 percent believed the rumor mill was accurate, but what tends to happen most often in the workplace is that people believe a “blend” of what they hear, rather than making a clear choice between more formal communication and the grapevine.

Companies are a combination of formal hierarchy and informal networks, but most communication strategies consider only the formal organization. While we will always need authentic speeches from senior leaders, for example, it’s just as important to understand the power and influence from the complex web of social interactions and informal networks within our organizations. Identify the most influential people who operate within it and listen to the information being communicated by them.

Source: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., is an international speaker and a body language coach who helps politicians, business executives and sales teams align their verbal and nonverbal messages for greater impact and professional success.

Get Your Day Back By Saying No

Yep, it happened again this morning. My coffee was hot. I had my task list laid out for the day, and I was ready to seize the day. Then the distractions started.

A coworker walked into my office with a “quick question” that turned into a 30-minute discussion. Then, I got a call to join a meeting that was in progress, because they needed my feedback. I had no sooner arrived back at my desk when I received an e-mail asking for more detailed instructions on a project I was roped into the week before. I looked up and it was noon. I hadn’t even started on task No. 1 for the day.

Here, we’re sharing insights about time management from Mike Schultz, president of RAIN Group a sales training organization. Schultz hears similar stories from clients across the country. In order to help employees get their days back and become more productive, he offers insight into four things you should decline on a regular basis.

Prune your priorities. The adage goes, if you have 12 priorities, you have none. Schultz notes that many leaders not only have too many priorities, but they also often don’t have the right priorities. He suggests that leaders who want to lower the number of priorities and focus on the right ones ask themselves which ones they’re excited about. His mantra for this: “If it’s not a gung-ho, it’s a no.” Select five key priorities you need to focus on for the day, and work from there.

Turn down the noise. Office and remote workers alike are being bombarded daily with requests that take their time. If you are being called into too many office meetings, ask the meeting planners in advance about the meeting agenda and how you can be helpful. If the planner only needs you for five minutes out of the 60-minute meeting, arrange for when you can join the meeting to provide that update and leave immediately afterwards. You’ve just saved yourself 55 minutes.

Keep a “to-don’t” list. Most leaders know what they want to accomplish and keep a to-do list to manage their time. But what about a list of what you need toavoid to stay focused. Keep a list of tasks that you should not be doing right now and keep it nearby your to-do list. For instance, you know that a presentation is due next week, but it isn’t high priority today, like the other tasks you need to complete. Write down that this presentation should not be a part of your day (just for today) and keep the to—don’t list as a reminder to stop yourself from working on that project—at least until the high-priority tasks have been completed. There will be a time when working on this project is a mandatory task.

Say no to your bad work habits. Bad habits are to blame for sabotaging time, no matter what the vice is. Do you check e-mail so often that it distracts you from your workload? Do you reach for your phone every time you hear it buzz? Do you check your fantasy football team every hour to make sure none of your players have reported an injury that will prevent him from playing? Well, it’s time to put those behaviors to an end—if you’re aiming to be more productive, that is. Even if these distractions only appear momentarily, they’re still absorbing precious time in your workday that could be used to complete tasks.

Source: Mike Shultz is the director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research and president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company.

Promotional Food Tips & Trends

If you make your money selling food, should you give it away as a promo product? The connection seems like a natural fit, but the reality is that the food service industry looks first to apparel and hard goods when it comes to their promotional needs.

Still, don’t discount food as a powerful gift, especially as suppliers offer the capability to integrate it into a kitted package. Mosinee, WI-based Maple Ridge Farms (asi/68680) has added logoed mugs, beach bags, towels, tumblers, cheese boards and office accessories to its food baskets from suppliers that distributors already trust. “The great thing for our distributor partners is they get to utilize those same supplier relationships and pair it together with our food gifts,” says Jodie Schillinger, director of customer care for Maple Ridge Farms. “Suppliers are trying to be more agile in competing with e-commerce. We’re competing with insta-click and ship. We need to ask ourselves, what are you doing to disrupt it back?”

As far as food trends, Schillinger says spice-infused foods and candies are popular now, echoing the National Restaurant Association report that saw ethnic spices come in at number 10 on its Top 20 Food Trends list for 2018 and number two on its Condiments and Accouterments forecast. Sea salt is also on-trend, Schillinger says: Maple Ridge Farms’ sea salt chocolate caramels – a “rookie product just a few years ago,” she adds – is now its bestselling chocolate.

Wood is also trending, she says, in the form of crates to hold food and cutting boards inside food-gift baskets.

Will Smith’s Top Video Tips

Video is a great way to market your business. According to Vidyard, 70 percent of marketers say that video creates more conversions than any other type of content. However, as effective as video is at marketing products and services, it is increasingly difficult to be noticed—especially in a world where more content is uploaded to YouTube in 30-days than was created during the first 30 years of television.

Actor Will Smith knows a thing or two about building an audience. When he posts a new video on YouTube, he attracts four million viewers. Smith recently spoke at Advertising Week about strategies marketers could use to build their own video audiences. Today, we’ll share these fun and effective video tips from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Be flexible. When Smith was making Fresh Prince in the 1980s, the show stuck to a rigid formula. In today’s climate, where reviews of shows and videos are released instantaneously, a rigid plan can do more harm than good. “You have to be paying attention,” he told his audience.

Be deliberate. Focus on quality over quantity. “The quality of the storytelling leads the engagement and then how much you’ll be able to carry people along with you,” Smith said. People are not going to be interested in viewing content that is not captivating, or does not have a message to communicate. But if a company films a commercial that tells the story of a product in a particularly interesting way, it may catch your attention.

Be daring. “I know if I post something on Saturday night with me dancing, it’ll be my biggest post for the week,” Smith said, emphasizing that the biggest wins happen when you venture outside of your conference zone. (But don’t go too overboard, as it may turn off customers.)

Be human. “The question is ‘How do my products, and how do my services, improve lives?'” Smith said. Reading the comments can help to gauge how people are receiving the content. “Staying in touch with people and not in touch with numbers and products has been really helpful for me over the past year.” Humans build relationships; computers do not. Stay in touch with the people in your network, even if the topics of conversation include non-business-related issues.

Be authentic. According to Smith, “Authenticity is going to be at the center of being able to create and succeed with this next generation.”

Source: Krystle Davis is a senior manager for Forbes BrandVoice.