Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sales Advice - Being a Student of Your Customers

To be an effective salesperson in today’s global market, you have to be a student of your customers and know their businesses as well as they do. 

Being great at building rapport should additionally be a critical tool in your war chest, because ultimately customers buy from those they like and trust.  From my perspective, the talents and skills necessary to be a really effective salesperson include:

  • Determining multiple buyers for every opportunity (Executive, User, Technical, Coach).
  • Identifying your ideal customer profile and developing an aggressive plan to network within high-value accounts.
  • Distinguishing the personal wins and goals for each buyer.
  • Knowing your customer well enough to speak his or her language and modeling your behavior  to meet that customer’s needs.
  • Setting stretch goals for yourself and examining them every day.
  • Being actively involved in industry networking groups.
  • Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and being able to communicate what separates you from them.
  • Avoiding gossip, working hard and having fun.

How Did I Formulate My Advice?

Upon graduation from Cal Poly (I’m a California boy who loves and played baseball), I began my career with Westin Hotels & Resorts in food and beverage management before accepting a position with Hilton Hotels Corporation in a convention sales role.  My hotel sales career includes senior sales manager positions for over 9 years with Hilton and Disney before joining BI Worldwide as Director of Business Development for incentive sales.

In all, I’d amassed 23 years of business development experience before joining Extraordinary Events as a Senior Account Executive. In addition to BI Worldwide and my hotel experience, I was Vice President of Business Development at RPMC and managed high-impact global and national events for the latter two companies. During that time, I specialized in the key disciplines of promotions, travel incentives, special events, consumer loyalty and brand marketing experiences. 

My experiences working at RPMC and BI Worldwide taught me important skills in the areas of relationship building, networking and selling "intangible" products and services.  These are skills I use every day at EE in my new business development role. Disney taught me the importance of brand identity. Understanding and being able to communicate what separates you from the competition was a critical skill I was able to bring with me to EE.

Why Are Industry Organizations Important to Salespeople?

Participation in industry organizations, like MPI, SITE and HSMAI, allows us to continuously network with customers and peers in the industry on a weekly/monthly basis. It is extremely important to be actively involved so that your company is “top of mind” when business opportunities arise.  As you get to know individuals on a deeper, more personal level, you tend to uncover the "personal wins" of an individual for his or her company.  If you can demonstrate how solutions from your company will address a need within the organization and make the customer look good, they will feel like you are helping to advance their careers rather than being sold.

What Are My Top 7 Sales Tips?

For those looking to get into the sales side of meeting and event production or to increase sales, it’s imperative that you keep the following in mind.

1 Try to uncover the needs of the customer first instead of trying to sell them something they may not want. If they don’t want to spend a lot of money, don’t show them grandiose projects.
2 Uber-prepare. Activity is not enough to succeed.  Preparation in advance of every customer interaction is essential in dictating whether or not our activity will prompt client action.
3 Be disciplined.  Plan your day for the important activities and guard against outside distractions.
4 Leverage your best customers for referrals and endorsements.
5 Know what distinguishes you from the competition and be able to communicate that to potential customers.
6 Uncover what will make your customers’ lives easier and how they prefer to be communicated with.
7 Be adaptable. It’s important to know the customer’s needs, but in today’s global market, it goes beyond that. For instance, if the language you speak is not their first language, adjust how you speak with them. Speak slowly and simply to make yourself understood.   

Want to get to know Mark Houck better? He may be reached at mhouck@extraordinaryevents.net.

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