Use The Tools

20 March 2008

Having the right tools for the right job is imperative in any business operation. A party and event company would not send a crew of men to a job site to erect a structure marquee without the adequate rafters, pins and accessories or lifting equipment that is required.

Yet the same party and event companies are asking their sales staff to compete against others and try to secure business with inadequate sales tools, systems or training.

In the party and event industry specifically, the selling of ideas and concepts relating to a party or event is very visual by nature. Companies who have lagged behind in the technology stakes still send out preprinted colour brochures and proposals in the mail, or try and explain the visual concept with words alone over a phone.

A recent survey conducted in Australia by the HRIA (Hire and Rental Industry Association) revealed that 69% of party and event companies do 71-100% of their business via the telephone (www.davidcaruso.com.au/daytoday.shtml). In a common scenario a customer will never visit the company's physical location or showroom and will make their decision purely on the correspondence by phone or other interaction.

So while technology has changed, the general way customers order party and event equipment hasn't!

With this fact in mind, the companies who are embracing today's technology are emailing dynamic interactive brochures, emailing colour pictures and diagrams, as well as quotes-all while speaking to the customer still on the phone.

They have learnt to answer email enquiries in a professional way, maintaining a professional image and building rapport with the prospective customers through well-written copy. They are guiding customers through their website, as well as providing value-added services of information, ‘how to’ tips, and links to other products and services that will help the customer organise a successful event.

In essence, they have enhanced their party and event rental products by supplying value-added services. It is these value-added services that are ensuring the customers are now choosing them over their ‘snail mail’ brochure-sending competitors.

So the question remains-is your company giving your sales people the right tools for them to provide value-added services to your prospective customers? Have you and your business embraced and implemented technology to enable your sales people to shine above your competitors rather than competing on price?

If you haven't, your company will be soon overtaken by your technology enhanced competitors. Your only chance to compete with be based on price, your margins will deteriorate, and you will not be able to update your products and stock. The slow and dismal demise of your company will ensue.

Whilst the online environment covers many facets, and technological advances encompasses a broad spectrum, written communication and persuasive writing via the electronic medium is tomorrow's ultimate sales skill.

Three questions need to be posed to all party and event businesses.

What training are you giving your sales staff in written communication? How well do they express, sell and persuade prospective customers via written online communication? Having great telephone skills will soon only become one part of the overall sales equation. For example, a growing level of business enquiries today are via email. Before you can even begin to speak to a customer you must generally reply via email. The customer in question may be seeking a number of responses from various companies through the email format. How is your company going to stand above your competitors, other than using price?

Are your sales staff aware of all the features of modern day correspondence? These include hyperlinks, uploads, templates, electronic mail merge, prescheduled messages, auto responders, tracking, and even spell check. A comprehensive reply with supporting information via a hyperlink might be the edge you have over your competitor.

Have you provided the right tools for your staff to perform at their most professional? A professional email system, a dynamic email format, good computer system, interactive pdf brochures, jpeg images, or dynamic sales presentation tools or a resource central area to draw and reference from.

All these features add to the professionalism of the message and need to be handy reference tools for each of your staff.

In an interactive online sales environment the most important element that you need to convey through the sales process is your expertise. People want to deal with experts.

In every nation of the world, a customer is willing to pay a premium price if they perceive they are dealing with an expert or specialist. I offer the common example of the medical world, whereby you pay extra to see a specialist rather than your everyday GP.

People want to deal with those who they have confidence and trust in. The initial building of trust is paramount, thus it is important your sales people need to develop the skill of rapport building through the electronic medium.

Building rapport quickly, establishing expertise and gaining trust through written communication is tomorrow's ultimate sales skill set. Your company needs to train and develop your sales staff in these areas, whilst supplying them with the necessary tools to ensure you company wins the business it deserves.

As every party and event company is painfully aware, having the skill to erect a structure marquee is quickly undermined by not having the right tools to do so.

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