The ABC's of Sales & Marketing
By Sonna Robinson, The Chesapeake Business Centres
Several attendees at this year's convention requested that we publish this
article from Sonna Robinson's Sales and Marketing presentation. Sonna is the
recipient of this year's Leadership Award.
A is for AVAILABLE – This seems like a no-brainer, but I suggest you track
when you get the most walk-in prospects. I suspect they visit you between the
hours of 4 and 6 p.m. If your leasing or sales staff leaves at 4:30, you are
missing sales. Is someone on call for prospect tours evenings and weekends?
Is there a cell phone number on your sales voice mailbox to reach that
B is for BEST FOOT FORWARD – Have an objective person (I use my
favorite, completely objective, housekeeping “expert” – my mother!) tour your
center at least monthly. Have them inspect your center and give you feedback
on the appearance of your common areas, restrooms, and operations areas.
They will see things you don‟t see and help you make your center more
presentable to prospects, clients, and guests.
C is for CREATING a CARING COMMUNITY – whether you have 12 clients or
200, provide your clients a comfortable environment in which to work and
network. We have seen partnerships formed, ventures launched, referrals fly,
and even books written by our clients coming together at the Peake!
Communicate and support service opportunities to your clients like blood
drives, school projects, or Habitat builds. For example, during the holidays,
each of our centers adopts a needy family or individuals, and our clients will
shop, wrap and deliver gifts. Our clients tell us they appreciate being able to
participate in this type of effort generally available only to those in a large,
D is for DEMOGRAPHICS – Monitor your demographics – know how many of
your in-house clients are male/female, from what industry, corporate or
entrepreneurs, in-town or branch offices, etc. But remember that as important
as demographics are, don‟t let them rule your marketing plan! Even if your
demographics say your clientele is mostly male, speak to women‟s groups –
they want their husbands out of the bonus room or guest room or off the dining
room table! We get a lot of initial prospect calls from women who are
“shopping” on behalf of their husbands, and sometimes their “hot buttons” are
different from their husbands in terms of preferences and amenities.
E is for ENLISTING your clients as selling tools. Ask your best “cheerleader-
clients” to help you during prospect tours by introducing them. Find common
ties between your client and prospect, whether that‟s industry, business model,
children‟s private school, neighborhood, whatever. They will offer your
prospect an “impromptu”, over the top, testimonial that means more than
anything you or your staff can present.
F is for FOLLOW-UP. Make sure it‟s prompt, precise, yet patient! Find out
where your prospect is in the sales process, set a date for the next contact,
and stick to it. When my prospect leaves my center or hangs up the phone, I
know exactly when they expect to hear from us again and what information
they will expect – whether that‟s a contract, a proposal, or more information.
G is for GIVING AWAY SOMETHING at every opportunity. Offer your
conference room at no cost to community and religious groups for meetings,
give away door prizes at events, make your facilities available to your clients,
both in-house and virtual - for parties and gatherings – especially during the
holidays. Help them plan and host grand openings or ribbon cuttings. Figure
out what you have that‟s not costly to give away, such as free DID numbers
and voice mails to non-profit organizations. Everyone likes to do business with
people they consider industry leaders and community supporters.
H is for HOLDING PRICING FIRM. Our holding companies have put in place
rather minimal across the board rate increases in the past seven years. I use
this as a selling point, and prospects appreciate it. I emphasize that we
understand our fixed costs and have priced our products and services
accordingly. It keeps our clients loyal and definitely helps with client retention.
It also helps you battle shoppers who try to get you to discount or match a
competitor‟s lowball offer.
I is for INVESTIGATE. Prior to your prospect‟s visit, spend some time
researching their company or personal background, which is quite simple on
the web. Knowing what they market and to whom, their company‟s HQ and
branch structure, even their head honchos names can help you communicate
to your prospect that you want them as a client. The more you know, the more
THEY know you‟re serious about selling to them.
J is for JUSTIFYING your pricing by packaging it. Don‟t offer an a la carte
menu, or prospects will pick it apart every time. Not only that, but people hate
doing math! Our only option in our full-time office package is furniture. We find
our prospects appreciate seeing a turnkey, bottom line pricing proposal that
mirrors their monthly recurring charges. It differentiates us in the market from
our clients who have four or five line items in their proposals that add up to –
K is for KNOW YOUR COMPETITION. Understand the other OBCs in your
market by becoming familiar with their overall client base and niche. Find out
how they market themselves and position themselves. Some of this
information will come from your prospects or their former clients who now
office with you. If you find you are competing with a lot of sublease space or
office condominium developments in your market, get to know the agents in
your area that do this type of work. Put together some comparisons of pricing
for the “extras” in a raw space scenario – understand the financing and resale
implications of condo ownership.
L is for LOCAL MEMBER NETWORK. If you have one in your area,
participate. If you don‟t, get together with your fellow OBCAI members in your
market and found one. Local Member Networks help centers refer to each
other, promote the industry, support vendors, and keep pricing level. There is
no doubt that participating in an LMN will improve your business relationship
with your competitors, but it can also help open up a dialogue with prospects
who are shopping – “Have you visited Lori at ABC Executive Center? Their
center‟s compact floor plan might be a good solution for your budgetary
requirements.” OR “Their center is in an older building, but it‟s recently been
M is for MONITOR REFERRALS specifically. Don‟t just ask, “How did you
hear about us?” If they say, “on the web”, find out what exact search engine
they used or what keywords they entered to find you. If it‟s Yellow Pages, find
out which directory they used to find your ad, and use a unique call in number
for advertisement. If they say “I called the Chamber”, find out who they spoke
with there and send him or her a nice thank you!
N is for NEVER APOLOGIZE. Our son‟s high school band director has a crazy
saying he hammers into the brains of his students - TWBNAFWAEIN –
pronounced “twib-na-FWAY-in”) He prints it on every communique to parents
and students and they all know what it means: “There will be no action for
which an explanation is necessary.” I keep this wise little ditty in mind at work
every day. No one wants to hear excuses like “We‟re short staffed today” or
“our cleaning people must have missed this” – so if it sounds vaguely like an
apology – fahgedaboutit!
O is for OBCAI – obviously! You have all made an important and intentional
effort to optimize your center‟s operation and profitability by joining this
association. Our annual conference is a wonderful opportunity to get to know
others and share information, learn about trends in the industry and new
products and services, and get to know and learn from a variety of vendors.
Your are paving your own “Pathway to Prosperity” by your membership in
P is for PERSONALIZING PROSPECT TOURS. I truly believe that 90% of
selling is making a personal connection with your prospect. When you have
advance notice of a scheduled tour, make sure your staff members are
prepared and involved. We expect our receptionist to briefly explain her job,
demonstrate phone answering options and procedures, and tell the prospect
how much she LOVEs her job. Our administrative staff explain what they do
and often accompany me on tours so they can fill in. I try to find some way to
relate each person‟s personality to the prospect, for example: “Martha‟s our
Nascar fan, and she‟s also a spreadsheet expert! She keeps the stats on the
races that way, and she can even spreadsheet your child‟s chores for you!”
Q is for QUESTIONS – always ask more than you answer. Specify some basic
questions on your prospect form, but add others on the back for more in-depth
investigation. Some prospects will tell you more than you need to know, and
others don‟t want to reveal anything! Use personal icebreaker questions when
you can to bridge the gap between you and your prospect: “What drew you to
this type of business?” “What made you want to make this career change?”
“What do you like best about living here?”
R is for REWARDING REFERRALS. When you have a vacancy, always start
with your existing clients, and let them try to fill it for you first! Offer your virtual
or corporate ID clients first shot at available offices along with an incentive to
upgrade. Give your in-house clients a month free rent for a referral fee. Keep
track of agents that bring you business, and send them a gift whenever you
can – gift baskets, restaurant gift certificates, etc.
S is for SOLVING your prospect‟s #1 problem. They have it – this problem,
and your #1 key to successful selling is finding out that it is! Is it a long
commute to their office across town? Difficulty working from home? Having no
place to meet regularly with staff and keep them motivated? Once you nail
down that #1 problem, you can emphasize how your center can help them
T is for TESTIMONIALS. Use them everywhere – on your website, in
proposals, on introductory e-mails, etc. Make sure everyone who leaves you
HAPPY, leaves you one! One of the most memorable OBCAI presentations
I‟ve ever heard referred to the power that the “THUD” sound a book of
testimonials can make on a prospect! Keep them indexed and organized by
client type, industry, and of course, chronologically, so they are easily
U is for USING DOWNTIME WISELY. When prospects aren‟t knocking on
your door, use this time to scour business journals and websites for
opportunities. Pay particular attention to new company startups and new
companies moving into your area. We have a “Coming Soon” column in our
local paper showing what new retail establishments have secured space in our
area, and we offer them our conference rooms for interviewing and training.
There‟s a stream of them in our area, and they love to barter for services! We
did a good bit of administrative work for Outback Steakhouse and got paid in
Outback Bucks, which made great gifts for our clients!
V is for VALUE. If you keep the value of your products and services in your
mind, you won‟t have problems justifying your package price. Although the
cost of the raw technology may be decreasing, the value of the knowledge to
operate it is going up. When you offer your client a turnkey technology
solution, make it clear they are not just purchasing dial tone and bandwidth,
they are contracting for the expertise of your staff and vendors in training,
tweaking and customizing the technology to work for THEM.
W is for WIDENING your circle of compatriots. Never turn down an opportunity
for free publicity. If your local newspaper is looking for columnists, offer to
submit a column on small business – and include your clients as contributors.
Host a business show on your public access cable channel. Offer your
services as a speaker for groups of attorneys, CPAs, or small business people
through your Chamber or local speaker‟s bureau.
X is for EXAMINING lost sales.
Don‟t let follow up end when you lose a sale. Evaluate the factors that
determined your prospect‟s decision (was it price, location, home office
decision to use another vendor?) Keep a record of these and refer to them
often to help determine whether your pricing is market-driven and what
services are important to prospects that you might not have (i.e., video
conferencing, adequate bandwidth, credit card acceptance).
Y is for YIELD to market pressure only as a last resort. Use ramp pricing
rather than discounting for startup companies or struggling entrepreneurs. If
you have a corporate client who has a firm monthly budget, include escalating
pricing – they are used to that on raw space leases. If your prospects tell you
your competitors are advertising free rent, keep in mind my favorite Scott Rae
Buono quote: “Buyers are LIARS!” Try this reply: “Our occupancy rate has
been such that we haven‟t had to give our services away.” A bit snobby?
Maybe. Does it end the freebie talk? YES!
Z is for ZEALOUSLY and shamelessly promoting your center EVERYWHERE!
Promote at neighborhood gatherings, church, everywhere you go. Become the
“go to” guru for knowing where clients can find the best: travel agent, dry
cleaners, Indian food, whatever! Brand yourself, even if you are independent:
overheard at a cocktail party recently in my neighborhood, “He offices at one
of those „Chesapeake‟ kind of places!” See me smile?
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