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“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”
William Butler Yeats, Irish poet, dramatist, and 1923 Nobel Prize winner for Literature

Bill Hughes Question and Answer Session with Aastha Verma (video)
 

 

EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEWS ABOVE:

WHY DID YOU WRITE THE BOOKS?

Over the past couple of years, actually ever since the economy started slipping, I have had an ever -increasing number of people tell me they are seriously thinking about starting their own business. 

They then go on to tell me what they are thinking of doing and tell me they came to me because 1) they are not salesmen yet they know they are going to have to make sales and 2) they are worried about using the Internet and technology and are somewhat intimidated by today’s multi-tasking young crowd
So… I decided to write a couple of books to help them address the most important challenge facing most any business these days… making enough sales to generate a positive cash flow.

The books are for business owners, entrepreneurs, marketers and especially for baby boomers contemplating or having already started a small business. 

WHAT QUALIFIES YOU TO BE AN EXPERT?

I’ve been in business for some 40 years.  For the first twenty I worked for large and small companies.  For the past twenty I have had my own sales and marketing company helping companies do the right things and meet their business goals.

THERE ARE LOADS OF BOOKS ON HOW TO MAKE A BUSINESS SUCCESSFUL.  WHAT MAKES YOURS DIFFERENT?

The books were written for people with a sense of urgency.  Therefore the books are different in that…

One. They are not for academics.  They only address the need-to-know and do and avoid the nice-to-know and read about.  Both will help the reader to reduce the time it takes to get a business going.

Two. Both focus on making sales fast enough so you can avoid situations where you have to find enough new customers by Wednesday to make payroll on Friday.

And three. They both show you how to leverage and use the Internet to make everything happen faster and cost less.

YOU FOCUSED THE BOOKS ON BABY BOOMERS. WHY?

They need jobs and practically no one wants to hire them.   Anyone today who’s over 55, unemployed and needs a job may have no choice but to start his or her own business.  Recent statistics show that 20% of the 55 to 60 year olds are self-employed… 28% of the 61 to 65 year olds and 42% of the 66 to 70 year olds.  
They could use a mentor to help them not only avoid the most common and costly mistakes that they are bound to make but also provide them with step-by-step instructions to help them avoid the agony of missing their sales goals and tasting the fear of failure.

WHAT INDUSTRIES HAVE YOU WORKED I?

Manufacturing, consulting, management services in the private sector and with state, local and federal government agencies in the public sector.

WHAT IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MISTAKE MADE BY MOST START-UP VENTURES?

Assuming their unknown product from their unknown company is going to sell quickly. 

That because it’s a multi-step process.  First, you have to find your prospective customers and make them aware of you and your product.  Then you have to show them you are credible and worthy of their consideration.  And once you’ve done all that you still haven’t made a sale so then you’ll have to go and convince them to spend their money with you instead of with an established competitor.

WHAT ARE THE PREREQUISITES TO GETTING STARTED BEFORE YOU’VE SPENT THE FIRST DIME?

You should first determine if the business is financially viable. You do this with a pro forma P&L statement… which is the equivalent of your monthly home budget…  you know monthly income minus monthly expenses leaves so much for savings.

In business terms its revenue (cash collections) minus what it cost to make/deliver the product or service equals gross profit (the amount of money left over to pay your monthly bills including yourself.  If there is anything left over its called profit. 

Do this month-by -month for the first twelve months or until you get to the break even point.   For example, in month 1 you have no revenue but you do have expenses.  Do the arithmetic and you’ll get a negative number on the bottom line.  Do the same thing for the next month and so on.  Estimate in which month you will start to generate revenue, keep subtracting.  The negative number s on the bottom line should start getting smaller.  Ultimately it will go to zero—which means you’ve reached the break even point and you are poised to start making a profit.

Now go back and challenge your assumptions and tweak the numbers until it all makes sense.  If you can’t make it all come out like you imagined, this is good time to come up with a different idea and keep your wallet closed.   

HOW MUCH CAPITAL SHOULD A PERSON HAVE TO EVEN BEGIN THE PROCESS?

Go back to the start-up P&L you just completed and add up all the bottom lines (the monthly losses) until the bottom line goes to zero and you’ve reached the break-even point.

Therefore the spread sheet is telling you that the sum of all the monthly losses is how much cash you’ll need to get this business up, running and ready to make a profit.

I will tell you that you should take that number and double it.  That’s how much money I suggest you have before you go into business.

WHY TWO BOOKS? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF EACH?

Action Plan takes you step-by-step through the process of defining, positioning, marketing and selling your product or service with an entire section on how to use technology and the Internet in particular to spread the word and find prospective customers.

Mistakes gives the reader the opportunity to learn from my experiences and short-circuit the trial-and-error learning curve. 

WOULD YOU SAY TODAY’S MARKET IS MORE DIFFICULT TO NAVIGATE THAN IT WAS 20 YEARS AGO?

    • The Internet has made it easier for everyone to navigate the market.
    • Secrets are hard to keep, especially now with the social networks.
    • Customers are much more knowledgeable and informed.

However, as a professional business person, the Internet is the most powerful sales and marketing weapon ever known to man.  You the seller can leverage the Internet and use audio, video, interactivity, social networks; the list goes on and on and gives your prospective buyers every possible reason and then some to do business with you—anytime, anywhere and from anyplace.

WHAT WILL A PERSON WHO INVESTS IN THESE BOOKS BE ABLE TO WALK AWAY WITH?

Know how to…

  • Position their products properly. 
  • Handle themselves in a face-to-face selling situation.
  • Ask for and get an order. 
  • Use the Internet to find new customers.
  • Not make the mistakes that most everyone else makes.

Each is book is short, succinct, uncluttered and easily absorbed. With Mistakes you’ll be making the right decisions with confidence and with Action Plan you’ll be able to have your sales plan sketched out before the day is over. 

TELL ME ABOUT BILL HUGHES

I’m a business guy—specializing in sales and marketing.  I’ve been a salesman, sales manager, product manager, marketing manager, trainer, business owner and consultant.
Grew up in North Philadelphia where I learned the ways of the street.  Joined the Lighthouse Boys Club at eight and they kept me out of trouble.  Joined the USMC at 17.
Got into electronics and computers in my 20’s. Worked for the government and then for a start-up minicomputer company where I first worked in the engineering department and then got into sales and marketing.  That was 40 years ago.

How I Became an Overnight Success in Selling in Only 3 Years

sdfSome people are natural salespeople. I’m not one of them. Some learn quickly and start making effective one-on-one sales calls in just a few months. Some never learn. In my case, it took me over three years to transform myself from a failing sales person into a successful one.   So I’m going to trace my path and identify what I was doing wrong and what to do instead.

My business career started way back in the 70’s when I worked for a company that sold complex computing systems to engineers.  I worked as an engineer and often went out with the company’s sales people to write their proposals and explain the technical eccentricities of our computers.

Then one day, I found out how much more money the sales people were making than I was and for the first time in my life I thought about becoming a salesman.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.  After all, I knew all about how these systems worked, our buyers were very technical, and once the buyers saw how smart I was and how much I knew, they'd trust me and buy from me. 

Soon I'd have one of those big commission checks.

I went to the sales manager to convince him I was just what he needed.  Curiously, he wasn't too excited.  Finally, he succumbed, but only after cutting my base salary in half.  I became a salesman and... many months later I was still looking for my first order!

My boss, who by then had lost his sense of humor, sat me down and talked about my rookie mistakes.  He said my long-winded, detailed presentations on how computers worked were driving him and the prospects, crazy.

He told me that the next time someone asked me how our products worked, I was forbidden to stand up, go to the white board and give a non-stop lecture.  Instead I was to answer, "Terrific, everyone who buys one loves it.  So, let’s figure out which model makes the most sense for you."

That was many years ago, and the first of many sales and marketing lessons learned.

Think like a sales person, listen and probe to find out what it takes to turn this prospect into a customer.
I should have labled it number 3, because there are a couple of mandatory first steps to take before you get in front of a prospective customer.  The first being…

1. Product knowledge and self-confidence
Before you even put on your business suit, you must know what you’re selling and all the answers to the most common and likely objections.  Because if you don’t nobody will want to buy from you and you’ll soon lose confidence in yourself.    However, having product knowledge and self confidence alone does not translate into a successful sales call.  I proved that my first year.   I knew everything about the product, was full of myself, and couldn’t make a sale.

So… following my bosses advice I started thinking like a sales person and realized that whenever I was talking to a prospect, on the phone or in person, my job was to find out what’s keeping them from saying yes.  In the process, I came to the realization that when you first ask customers what they really want, you rarely get a straight answer.   They may tell you they want the lowest cost or best service, but what they may really want is a product their spouse likes or the one that is most convenient or the one that makes them look good.

You’ll never know what really matters unless you probe more deeply.  So after asking your prospect what benefits they really want, note their initial answers, pause (they may keep talking and if so let them) and then say… "In addition to that" or "why."  Follow that with “Really” or “And what else.”  Keep it up and you will ultimately uncover the prospect’s real motivation to buy.

I remember one prospect, who I repeatedly kept trying to find out what was keeping him from buying, actually leaning over to me and whispering, "To tell you the truth, I'll buy your machines if you promise me they can be programmed to be incompatible with Smith's machine down the hall.  I don't want him using my work on his machine.  So I had our engineers disable that capability and sold him a number of incompatible computers—not the kind of message you’d see on a brochure.
However, not withstanding a few isolated successes, I still wasn’t setting any sales records.  So, I looked back at my sales call activity and started noticed that, in many cases I was making multiple sales calls on prospects who ultimately did nothing; i.e., they just didn’t buy from me they didn’t buy from anyone.   Guess they were just window shopping.  So, I began to learn lesson number 3.

2. If they aren’t qualified to buy, you’re wasting your time.
By qualified I mean the prospective customer has a problem my product or service can satisfy, enough money to afford my solution, authority to purchase, and a firm schedule and budget allocation to make a purchase over the next 30/60 days.

In truth, this is the most critical step in the entire selling process.  Because, if you put the "best" salesperson in front of an unqualified prospect and the "worst" salesperson in front of a qualified prospect... the ‘worst’ will outsell the "best" every time” 

So, I started using the phone to ask all the qualifying questions.  Consequently, not only were my actual sales calls more productive but I also had more time to reach out and call new prospects.   Things were starting to look up.

However, I still was having trouble asking for the order and actually closing the deals.  I even went so far as to make a copy of an article I read somewhere that listed the top ten “sure-fire” closing lines used by hotshot sales people.  I stuck the paper into my notebook, and as the prospect was talking, I would pretend I was taking notes, but instead was scanning the list to see which line would was appropriate for the situation.  Needless to say, my closing stats did not improve.

3. Think like a sales person, listen and probe to find out what it takes to turn this prospect into a customer.

4. Always ask for an order
Ultimately, I learned the best closing line of all.  Ask for the order and shut up.  Don’t say a word. The silence can be agonizing and puts real pressure on the prospect.  And, it really works. And when it doesn’t, resume your probing techniques, stimulating the prospect to tell you the real reason he/she can’t sign today.

By this time I had become a decent salesperson, and could hold my own in any just about any situation.  Problem was I needed more situations; i.e., I (and just about every other sales person in the world) needed more qualified prospects.

So, what do you do?  Make more phone calls—Yes.  Make more cold calls—Yes.  Socialize and network more—yes.  Follow-up on every lead—yes.  Make friends with the major influencers in your market—yes.  Get your customers to recommend your product—yes.

Knock on new doors
Get on the phone, use the Internet, make new friends—stir the air—new business is the true measure of your sales and marketing investments.

That’s it, the four essential ingredients for an effective sales call and a reminder that diligent prospecting is a mandatory first step in growing a business.

  1. Product knowledge, self confidence
  2. Qualify
  3. Think like a sales person, probe, listen
  4. Close
And, never stop prospecting
Tips for Salespeople In a Down Economy

In tough times, prospective customers will be reducing their operating expenses and be inclined to cancel or delay planned acquisitions. The same is true on the vendor side; i.e., reduced operating budgets and fewer marketing programs.

However, there is one thing you can bet on that will not be cut—the sales person’s quota. Here are some suggestions for sale people operating under these conditions.

The first thing I would do is make sure I’m not fooling myself.  I would look at my sales forecast and make sure my “qualified” prospects are just that; i.e., really committed to go ahead with a purchase. Even in the best of times, you cannot afford to spend time with people who say they are going to buy and don’t Over optimistic sales forecasts get sales people fired and can put companies out of business. 

The sales person (and sales manager) should scrutinize the active prospect list, aka sales forecast. Ask yourself—“What are the chances of this customer buying a product or service like what you are offering and spending this amount of money at this time?”  Ignore your competitive situation—you’re making a judgment as to whether they are really going to spend the money—with you or anyone else. Instead ask, “Do they have to go through with this acquisition or could they push it off till next quarter or next year or do without?”

Even in good times, many ‘lost’ sales do not go to a competitor but instead are ‘lost’ because the customer simply decides to not buy anything from anyone. In difficult economic times this happens much more frequently.

Monetize your offer.  Turn general benefits into specific benefits. Rather than tell the customer your product or service will save them money. Quantify it. Exactly how much? Make it so financially compelling that your prospect would be remiss if he/she didn’t buy or recommend it to management.  

Use existing, already-paid-for assets. 

  • Use senior executives. In tough times, senior executives sit at their desks bemoaning the slow sales. Get them out of the office and take them with you on your sales calls. 
  • Use demonstration equipment. How often are prospects coming through your demo room? If the answer is rarely, then why not move some of the equipment out of the room and give your best prospects a free trial.   
  • Use the Internet. How would you present your company and products on your first visit to a new customer? Record it and make it available on the web. Lot’s of choices here. Your own site. Your company’s site. YouTube. It almost doesn’t matter. 
Now, with your best pitch recorded, call your new prospects and direct them to your recorded pitch. This way you’re able to make your initial pitch anywhere and anytime without incurring travel expenses. Now after they’ve viewed your presentation, call them back and make sure what you’re selling solves their problem. If so, pick it up from there. If not, you’ve saved yourself a lot of time and money.
 
 


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