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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

BE HONEST - Just Say No

I believe that every person's time is valuable.  That is right, not just mine, everyone's.  There are many frustrating things in business, but one of the things that really gets me going is someone that wastes my time.  I try very hard not to waste anyone's time.  There are really easy ways to do that.

The easiest way?

BE HONEST.  

Sounds easy right?  There are so many passive-aggressive, can't stand confrontation, can't say no people out there.  If you can't say no thank you to someone, then you most likely should not be in a decision making position.  Really - how can you engage people in a project and then not give them the courtesy of an answer?  BE HONEST.  I would rather hear no, than no answer.

Let's face it.  Salespeople can take the answer no.  So why are people so afraid to say it to us?  Salespeople deal with different levels of rejection on a daily basis.  It could be as simple as the obvious gate keeper that says, "Oh I'm sorry, he just stepped out.  Would you like his voicemail?"  Or it could be someone yelling at you, "Don't ever call here again, we are not interested in you or your products".

Which one do you think I prefer?  #2 - hands down - all day - every day.  Just say no.  BE HONEST. It is ok.  I can take it.

We are a very service oriented sales organization.  Many consultants would say that we give away too much valuable knowledge and information during the sales cycle.   That we consult and offer things that we should actually be charging for.  Well, that may be true, but we are not going to change that.  If you decide to do business with us, we will offer you a lot of information and a high level of service.

Here is where we get burned.  Someone calls, they are looking for a new display.  Of course they are usually on a really short time frame.  They have a show coming up in just a few weeks.  We jump through every hoop imaginable, get our partners engaged, have production on stand-by because the prospect has said that they really want this booth.  Guess what happens?  They quit returning my calls, they don't answer emails.  Seriously - BE HONEST just tell me you bought something else or you aren't going to do anything.

Let's not forget the perennial tire kickers.  "Lori, we are going to look at updating our booth for the huge industry show this year.  Can you do some N/C product concepts for us and renderings and spend 15 hours with multiple meetings in your showroom, and come to our office to visit further?  Then I will decide (again) to not do anything this year and ask you to call me again next year?"

Ok, I exaggerate slightly.  But not much.

If you are just looking for budget numbers and considering an update, BE HONEST.  If you let me know that, I can gauge my time and responses appropriately.  Most likely I can get you what you need to make a good decision without jumping through all those hoops.  Will I jump through them for you the next time - most likely.  Should I pre-qualify the opportunity more?  Possibly.  But trust me, I do ask the right questions and often get the answers that indicate it is an opportunity that should be pursued.  What is your budget, do you have decision making capabilities, is the decision maker on board, what is your timeline etc. etc. etc.?

If you are not in sales, you need to know that a good sales rep gets really excited about a new opportunity.  What is the magic number where you have burned me with a no decision or a no response before I will quit responding? I honestly don't know.  If I did know, I would BE HONEST.

Will I change how I do things?  Probably not.  I still believe in full service sales and I believe it speaks to our culture.  Should I change how I do things?  There are probably a lot of opinions about that.  If you choose to share your opinions, feel free, be nice but BE HONEST.

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Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients.  Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events, trade shows, in retail, museums and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more, email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/


Monday, March 21, 2016

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

For many years I sold, installed and supported ERP software written specifically for wholesale distribution clients.  I lived, ate, slept, breathed distribution.  I worked in every aspect of the company including, sales, purchasing, accounting and customer service.  One of the age long conversations was about keeping manufacturing and distribution as separate entities.  When manufacturers started selling direct to the end user, breaking the distribution chain, there were lots of problems and lots of companies very upset.  It is virtually impossible for a distributor to compete directly with a manufacturer.  Typically the manufacturer did not have the infrastructure in place to support a direct sales team.

Fast forward a number of years.  I have left the software industry and moved in the trade show exhibit, retail, museum and event space.  We are a distributor in that industry.  We research and source the best of the best products in the industry.  We keep on top of trends so that we can best service our clients and prospects and help them look the best they can.  We feel this allows us to be objective in product recommendations and can truly listen to our customer or prospect to recommend the best possible solution without being tied to a specific brand or product line.

As part of our offerings we provide printed graphics, fabric, vinyl, sintra and many other substrates.   We work with a few providers but all of the providers that we use DO NOT sell direct to the end user.  We have a couple of companies that call on us quite regularly to try to get us to sell their printing.  We always tell them the same thing.

When our client's job is on your production floor, what is to stop a sales rep from seeing it and thinking, hmmm I should be calling on that client, I can give them better pricing.  We had a rep that I personally knew from college try to get me to buy from them.  We sent a couple of jobs to them because of my relationship with her.  A couple of months later, she emailed me asking me to price a shipping case.  She sent me a picture of a case with OUR logo sticker right on the case.  I questioned her and told her that this was clearly our client.  She said she was given this account when she started with this company.


If you have read any of my posts you know how important trust and relationships are to me.   So, she wanted me to sell her products, but yet she was selling her products to our customers.  How does this make any sense?  Why would I ever trust having my customer's work in their facility for their reps to poach?

There is another company that has wanted our business.  We have had similar issues with them.  We decided to give them a shot and to quote a job.  We sent them the details and we got "the" phone call.  He said, "Lori I had to call you about this quote request.  This company is a current client of ours and we are bidding on this job also."  Do you think we got that business? No, I am sure as they knew we were bidding they undercut their pricing to be sure their price was less than ours.  As much as I love saving a customer money, we are in business, like everyone, to make a profit.

I just found out that one of our long time product providers in another industry is also selling direct to the end user.  I am deeply saddened and disappointed by this.  I will be digging deeper to find out the truth on this one.  We have been led to believe that they only sold through a distribution channel.

So I put this right out there to all of you companies that are selling direct to the end user and through a distribution channel.  Until you decide which you are going to be, we are not interested in doing business with you.  We will compete with you.  And, I will be bold enough to say, we will win many of those deals.

If there is one thing in business that I despise more than anything else is companies that are deceitful.

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Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients.  Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events, trade shows, in retail, museums and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more, email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Do You Value Partnerships - Update

If you red my post Do You Value Partnerships? you may be interested in a quick little update about this situation.

To recap, we lost a deal when our prospect asked a competitor to bid on a project we already had a verbal approval on.  The prospect had a number of issues but the biggest was they wanted to get a better price.  Our supplier - quickly responded to them and gave them pricing. Their pricing was the same as ours but from my conversations with our prospect, our competitor bid way below retail to get the business.

I called our partner out for not truly valuing our partnership. I sent them an email that received absolutely no response.  It didn't matter to them who got the business, because ultimately they got the business either way right?


So we were just at a trade show for our industry.   We went in with absolutely no preconceived notions about this show.  When we walked by representatives from our partner, they did not say a word to us.  We were at a reception and they were there sitting at a table right behind us.  Nothing.  They looked right at us multiple times and walked right by.  Maybe they didn't see you, you might say.  Maybe once or even twice.  We saw them MANY times during the week, on the show floor, at receptions, in the lobby.  No one even said hello.  From the people with whom I have spoken they believe that they are embarrassed by what they did.  I don't know.  If it were me I would have made the effort to repair the relationship, not ignore it.

Needless to say, we found another well recommended supplier to replace them.  We talked to many people in the industry to find out who they were using and our new supplier came VERY highly recommended.  We even heard many negative comments about the service from our former supplier.  Today I am placing my first order with our new partner.

Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients.  Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events, trade shows, in retail, museums and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more, email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Gate Keepers - Friend or Foe?

In today's world of immediate gratification it is rare anymore to even find a company with someone to answer a phone.  With the trend of auto attendants more and more companies are opting to not have a live person answer the phone.  Personally I think that is a mistake, but that is a topic for another day.  As a result of dial by names and auto attendants, I am finding less and less the traditional "gatekeeper" of old.
I will date myself, but at one time in my professional life, I was that gatekeeper.  This was before cell phones, before LinkedIn and before email.  Yikes, yes I am truly that old.  Back then, when someone was incredibly demanding and would call for the president of the company, they would demand his home phone number.  99% of the time I would politely tell them that was against company policy.   Generally speaking though people would take a phone call from anyone that called.  It was simply a matter of saying, "No thank you, I am not interested".  
So today, much to my surprise I came across a rather rude gatekeeper.  Today I was calling on a large, local financial services company.   I had already been in contact with a person at that company and had built a relationship with them.  Unfortunately they had left the company.  So my conversation went something like this:
GK:  Hello, can I get your name please?
L:  Lori
GK:  Are you a current financial services client or are you looking to become one?
(Note:  I am actually a prospect for them and they were treating me as such initially)
L:  No I am actually calling for a different reason.  I was working in the past with Sue Jones.  She is no longer there and I understand that Joan Johnson has taken over those responsibilities.  I am trying to reach her to follow up on the work I had done with Sue.
GK:  What is this in regards to?
L:  Your tradeshows and events.
GK:  Where are you calling from?
L:  Minneapolis?
GK:  What is your phone number?
L:  952-941-4511
GK:  What is the company name?
L:  Total Displays
GK:  Hold on, let me check
L:  Thank you
GK:  Due to her position within the company I am unable to put you through.
Ok, that was a complete new one to me.
So what is a hardy, pig headed sales person to do?  I called after 5 and the gatekeeper had gone home.  I was able to access a dial by name and get my contacts email address.  No I didn't speak with her in person, but the door cracked open slightly.
Now keep in mind, I wasn't trying to reach the president or even a C-Level exec.  I was trying to reach a corporate events manager.
Brand is everything about your company.  It is how you answer the phone, how you treat people, the language you use, your marketing materials and so much more.  People seriously underestimate the depth and power of a companies' brand.
So this experience raises some questions for me?
1.  When your business is a B2C business does it damage your corporate reputation when you are stand-offish or not approachable?
2. With the advent of social media and auto attendants, how important is the gatekeeper?
3.  What does it say about the company culture?
Inquiring minds want to know.
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Lori Hanken has been in sales and marketing for over 30 years.  She is passionate about service and providing value to her vendors, prospects and clients. Lori is currently co-owner of Total Displays with her husband David.  They help people look great at events and trade shows and develop long partnerships with customers and suppliers.  If you would like to learn more email her at lori@totaldisplays.com.  Connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Read other Total Displays Blog posts at http://totaldisplays.blogspot.com/