The Salesman Cometh

Utilizing Modern Sales Tools to Create Lucrative Business Opportunities
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Growth has been robust during the past few years but that hasnt stopped integrators from looking for more. Happily, by applying sound marketing techniques and implementing sales pearls from the field, its quite possible to double sales and simultaneously close more profitable opportunities.

When those doubled sales do arrive, its important to have the improved efficiencies necessary to accommodate the increased installation load. As it is the salesmans job to generate more leads, close more high-quality sales, and put more business into the queue, it is essential to get more sales per salesman. To share from the best, weve gathered success pearls from some of the most successful salesmen in the integrator space and placed them into two areas: marketing and presentation success.

Marketing. Under the old system, nearly all leads came from client referrals. However, a good marketing campaign makes industry professionals aware of the company and then transforms them into positive referral partners. Leads then pour in from everywhere: architects, lighting designers, interior designers, former clients, electricians, builders and realtors, as well as the web and other sources. Those quality referrals become the integrators lifeblood. Once these champions start passing leads your way, your firm, the recommended one, has an inside track to win the job. Whats more, your firm may be the only one considered if no other names are offered to the client.

Another cost-effective way to build a bigger referral team is to publish a monthly e-mail newsletter with eye-catching updates. Writing time is minimal, especially if you use your vendors support materials. The e-mail can introduce your referral team to your companys latest products, services, and installations by way of hot links.

The simplest e-mail puts the willing recipients name on the blind carbon copy (bcc) line; that way, the recipient sees only his name, which makes him think its personally addressed to him. The bcc list drawback is that spam filters detect large strings of cc or bcc names and often divert the e-mail.

To prevent spam filters from blocking your e-mails, consider using an intermediary, known as an e-mail marketing service. These services are inexpensive (under $50 per month) and have some great advantages, such as the ability to individually address e-mails and partition your list for only selected names or categories. Whether the e-mail is in plain text or html, a secondary benefit is the services software tracks how many people clicked on each link and what e-mail address did the clicking.

Simple Website. A simple website can be inexpensive but still lucrative. Since your manufacturers need to convey much the same information as you do, one starting point is to copy the format they use or ask them for downloads you can post. A simple web design is not difficult to create and web contractors can implement it quickly and save you money. They can even design pages that let you enter your own material anytime you want. This allows you to keep the site up to date and the costs down.

A good website must be fast, attractive, and well organized, but if the site is on page 758 of a Google search, it may as well not exist. A professional web designer boosts the site hit rate by knowing the tricks that search engines use to determine a sites rank. An attractive, professionally designed website optimized for search engines represents an initial investment on the order of $2,000-$4,000, and it will pay for itself in a single sale.

Besides your contact information, consider links to your latest newsletter, installations, and testimonials.

Customize, Customize, Customize. Leads and referrals are a salesmans insurance policy. They come from people as diverse as clients, architects, electricians, designers (interior and lighting), builders, realtors and more. To reach these people effectively and turn them into champions for your cause, the message must be customized and personalized to their needs, experiences, and profession.

Additionally, create a unique strategy for recruiting each member type. Architects, for example, often prefer Lunch-and-Learns in their offices. Thats perfect for the salesman, who now gets to deliver his architect-specific presentation to several people simultaneously. The builder, on the other hand, spends little time at the office and often prefers a laptop or a flipbook presentation.

After each presentation, its important to schedule follow-up calls approximately every two months. Out of touch is out of mind applies to every industry. Treat these resources well because they are one of your best business assets.

Presentation Success. Traditionally, salesmen who also were installers often talked a lot trying to impress clients with their technical knowledge. When meetings were over, clients often felt their needs, anxieties, and budget werent well understood. But in todays integration world salesmen are more professional. They dress professionally, listen well, and use professional sales tools.

The high-achieving salesman is positive--very positive. He just assumes that hes going to close a high percentage of his sales. He may have started his career as an electrician or an installer, but now that hes in the role of salesman, he knows the importance of professionalism including appearance, presentation, selling tools, documentation, and referrals.

He dresses more like an architect than a technician. He makes a profession out of focused listening. He concentrates on high-level benefits and product information, even though he knows the system inside out. He dwells only on what the client wants to know: What is it? Why should I want it? Is it easy to operate? How much does it cost? He handles these questions with ease and assures the client the system will indeed simplify his life and blend with his house.

First Client Meetings. The salesman does his homework, getting the architect, builder or interior designer to share the clients floor plans before his first client meeting. He then loads the floor plan into his software, adds sample lights and sets up a demonstration program. During the meeting, the salesman demonstrates real-time simulations using his lighting programs on the clients own floor plan. The typical client response is Wow!

Also during that initial meeting, the salesman discusses scope and budget to learn how to position his first proposal. He takes the data back to the office and creates his plan for lighting and control using the floor plan software. He moves quickly because it takes as little as two to three hours to do a 10,000-square-foot house. From the plan, automatic floor plan drawings are plotted, accurate bills of materials are created, and profit analyses are generated. Armed with these tools, the salesman goes into the second meeting and again impresses the client with his professionalism. The client would never expect formal plans to be presented or such a complete equipment list. The salesmans chances of success are hovering around 100 percent.

Sales Tools. Imagine covering your sales presentation in a third of the time. Its easy if your core information is presented in a linear, efficient manner. The key is to use a slide show (data projector, laptop screen, or printouts in a flip book), which speaks to major features and benefits. After seeing the slide show, the client gets it quickly and fully engages. Leaving a printout of the slides with the client helps him remember key points later on.

Salesmen are significantly more effective when they can create Power Point presentations on their own. After creating the first few slide shows, the next ones are fast and easy. At that point, salesmen can client-customize a generic slide show in a matter of minutes.

Demo cases, software simulators, professional documentation, and hardware show-and-tells are all effective sales tools and provide great returns when used. Even though sales tools may seem old hat to the salesman, theyre always fresh and appreciated by the clients.

Quality of Sale. The professional salesman should ask himself, Is this going to be a profitable client? He must learn to focus on the good ones and let the others go. As most integrators know, some clients claim to be all knowing or insist on going over the details about every connector, byte, and lumen. These may be the ones to let go. Similarly, if the client fixates on price, the arrangement may not be good either. One quality sale can easily equal two low-margin sales.

By using inexpensive, time-tested marketing techniques to recruit a referral team, an integration salesman can dramatically increase the number of leads. Then applying professional sales techniques to those all-important early client meetings, he will capture all the high quality business the firm can handle. And technology vendors can help by supporting the salesman with professional sales tools and effective products.

Bill Beierwaltes (bill_beierwaltes@ColoradovNet.com) is the CEO of Colorado vNet and holds BSEE, BSMath, and MBA degrees. An entrepreneur for most of his career, he makes a habit of doing serious due diligence, thoroughly investigating the best technologies.

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