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IN preparing for our sales and marketing summit in Perth [held Friday February 27], and visiting with some of the world’s top sales and marketing thought leaders, as well as CEOs whose firms are seeing dramatic increases in revenue during this downturn, several actionable ideas have emerged on which you can act immediately. Dramatically reduce sales cycle time The first is from Victoria Medvec, negotiations expert from Northwestern University and author of the series High Stakes Negotiation: Ten Steps for Maximizing Outcomes and Building Relationships. Nothing improves cash flow (CFOs are fans) and revenue more than reducing your sales cycle time. And an important technique to dramatically reducing it is to use synchronous communication throughout the sales process. “This starts with never presenting a sales proposal to a customer without being on the phone or in person with them,” Dr Medvec says. “Emailing a proposal to a customer ahead of a meeting doesn’t give you the opportunity to react immediately to potential concerns and objections that might arise as they read through your proposal. And the more time the customer has to ponder an objection and potentially pollute their colleagues with negative reactions, the more difficult it will be to move the sales process forward. “Even if the customer is adamant about receiving a proposal ahead of a physical meeting, suggest it will save them time if you can review the proposal over the phone and that you’ll email it to them a few minutes before a scheduled phone call. What you and your sales people want is the opportunity to see, hear, or at least sense specific objections, as you review the proposal, so you can react immediately. And then you want to continue to utilise synchronous communication for the rest of the sales negotiation process.” Pricing with confidence Of the four P’s of marketing, price is the only one that directly puts money in your pocket. Yet I find companies setting price with very little strategy behind their decisions. And panicked decisions about pricing in turbulent times can be costly in both the short and long run. For answers, it’s imperative you read Pricing with Confidence: Ten Ways to Stop Leaving Money on the Table by Reed Holden and Mark Burton. Pay particular attention to ‘rule three’ in their book where they outline three simple pricing strategies all firms can use. “Too many firms have gotten caught flat-footed and are using price discounts in a panic to try to keep demand that is going away no matter what they do. The firms that do this are creating two very significant long-term problems. First, they are destroying the integrity of their pricing and the value of their brands. Second, they are training their customers to negotiate for every last penny thus undermining their most valuable asset – trusting customer relationships,” Mr Burton said recently. He suggests the way around this is to look objectively at pricing as a strategic tool that must be managed systematically based on value, market demand, cost structure, product lifecycle, and firm capabilities. Multiple channels “Place” is one of the other four P’s of marketing. Recent research indicates that companies with more sales channels trump competing firms with less. This means setting aside all the debate about protecting various territories and giving your customers as many options for purchasing your product as you can. In the end, you can’t dictate from whom and how your customers will purchase your products and services. They all have different preferences and will find competitors who give them these options. In turn, it’s up to your various sales channels to earn their right to distribute your services. If the customer wants high touch, value-added consultative help in purchasing your product, they’ll utilise that channel. If instead, they prefer to do it themselves then give them that option as well. Half the customers, twice the attention More than ever you need to identify your best customers and shower them with twice the attention. Chet Holmes, author of mega-hit The Ultimate Sales Machine, drives home this point in Chapter 4 of his book. Mr Holmes, who doubled sales three years in a row for nine divisions of Charlie Munger’s firm (Munger is Warren Buffett’s partner), encourages firms to focus on their best buyer or best neighbourhood and then create a nurturing marketing campaign that touches these customers 10 to 15 times with educational information. Nurturing marketing starts with doing a thorough job of researching the benefits of your product or service. Web 2.0 The third P of marketing “promotion” has taken on a new twist given the power of the web to reach customers. There is an array of inexpensive promotional opportunities available to a growth firm. David Meerman Scott’s best-selling book The New Rules of PR and Marketing: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly is the first to explain the options in a way I find non-tech company executives can understand and implement. Keep on learning More than ever, the field of sales and marketing is undergoing a transformation while harkening back to basics that have always been critical to driving revenue. So grab a book and start innovating in your sales and marketing activities

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