Right now is often the start of the new fiscal year and in most areas of the country right now there are super hot days and loads of folks on vacation – what an odd combination if you are in sales. To your sales team it seems like getting sales are as tough as ever during these times. They can’t reach their clients or potential clients because of vacations and the heat is not much of a motivator, unless you’re selling air conditioners or ice. So here are some suggestions to advance sales during these somewhat frustrating summer sales months.
1. Time to get to know your Gatekeepers: We all know that there are those people that are between you and the decision-maker who keep you from getting to them. They may be a secretary, an assistant or just a colleague. As a salesperson, you try different ways of getting past them so you can have your shot with the person who can approve the sale. Well, during these lean months, now is the time to work smarter, not just harder. When coming upon these “gatekeepers” now is a great time for you to finesse that relationship not only to get to your true potential client but to find out a.what the needs are for their company, b. if the person you think is the decision maker is indeed that person and c. as if an afterthought, who is currently servicing their needs. These conversations will help you with follow-up and ease of getting where you want with the right people later on during the summer.
2. Get Visible: You’ve got to be seen to be seen, they say. And in today’s world of tech, that’s all about getting a presence online. Update your LinkedIn account and make sure it’s all about what you are selling right now, not how you’d be a great employee for someone. If you’re working for someone right now and believe in what you are offering don’t look like you are shopping for a better job. Your personal LinkedIn account is nimble enough later on to be adjusted if you decide it’s time to move on. Make it work for you now. Also, set up your own webpage. You may think that is ridiculous since your company has a website. But, you are a professional and need to show you can “double down” for your company. Make sure you set up for blogs and interesting pages that tell about how you work for and what your core values are as a professional sales person. You can get your own domain cheaply through sources like GoDaddy.com using your name most time and then have a free website on Weebly, where I set up mine. Then you can add both your company’s website and your website and LinkedIn info in your email signature.
3. Stay Productive: Today, you need to make appointments even to have telephone conversations. The world is busier than ever so face it and don’t complain about it, it’s not changing. Role-play with your colleagues as you work on how to get those appointments is a great task. Yes, you can email to set them up, but those are usually better reserved for the final time and day. If you trade off with someone to try different styles to get the appointments, you will be stronger on the phone when you make those calls. Carve out a time (mornings seem to work best for me) when you are going to spend a good amount of time just working on getting those appointments (an hour or two every day)– not the sales, that’s a different process – and fill up your calendar.
4. Plan for tomorrow: Take the last hour of every day to plan out your goals and schedule for tomorrow. This does many things for a salesperson. It allows you to recap and refocus on your potential, it allows you to get off the good and bad of the current day and it gives you peace of mind when you get off work, knowing that you already have written out what lies ahead tomorrow and not sitting around worrying about it tonight – there’s no need to manufacture your own misery wondering about the “what ifs” when you are focused on possibilities that tomorrow offers.
I’ve always said sales are not for wimps. If you’re in it to win it you need to be focused, disciplined and unyielding in your belief that summer is a great time to get opportunities for you and your company. Now, go get it!!!
I don’t know how it happened but the telephone is slowly becoming extinct…well, okay, not extinct but no longer being used for calling each other. Our phones are still a major part of our lives we just have slowed down how often we use them to talk. This blog is not heading in the direction of how or why we should stop this trend; this is about how to make sales in this changing dynamic. When your potential customer is doing business this way, you had better get savvy at communicating via emails and texts.
The mistake that most make when evaluating their efforts to garner sales via the “written word” is that they are looking at how persuasive and articulate they are in convincing their buyer to buy. They’ll look for strong, confident and intelligent phrasing in their writings to compel a positive response from the buyer that indicates the sale is near. Sounds like Sales 101, right? Wrong…
Sales 101 always reminds the sales person that listening to your customer is how you can understand what they need and how they’d like it. So how does that work when you are reduced to emails and texting?
If you are initiating the communication, be brief, to the point and be specific in asking for a response. “Hi Dave, We have some new items that will benefit you and your company making your next quarter more profitable. Are you available for a call tomorrow at ten a.m. or early afternoon?” Notice how brief the email is and how I am requesting two specific times of day to have him get back to me. Getting call to action is partly based on not giving too much information upfront. I didn’t say what items will help him or how, just that it will. Let Dave ask or give an alternate time to talk or write you with his questions because he’s too busy for a call.
Now is where the listening begins. With luck he’ll write back some kind of a response. This is the “listening” I was speaking of at the top. Is he brief, too? Does he say how busy he is or what pressures he’s under? Are there buying signs showing yet or is he sitting on his dug -in heels asking “What’ja got?”
If he’s brief, be brief back. If he asks good questions, answer them directly and without the “pitch”. Match his style so he’ll trust you and want more information. Make it easy for him to communicate with you and he’ll show you what he needs in the end. Listen (or really “read”) to how they respond – both in tone and style, not just in content. Remember, they want to succeed and if you can make that happen for them, you have your way in for the close – which is another blog for another time.
Thanks to so many who asked, and because I finally have some time to do this, my blog is back. And what a great time to start in again. Sales in most industries are stagnating again and everyone is looking around going “What happened to the recovery?”
As you’ve read many times in my blog, the paradigm of how sales get done has shifted and has become somewhat mercurial. Just when you think you have your finger on it, it moves, changes and remains elusive. The digital “on the go” world has made competition and clients commitment to sales tougher than ever.
Over the next few months I will be bringing tools to the blog for you and your team to use for greater success. These tools are simple “additions” to what you are already doing well. They will take advantage of the technology that is part of today’s business world and allow you to both broaden and connect with more customers.
Finally, as I step back into my blogging chair and get comfortable offering up tips and such for successful sales, remember that patience, tenacity and awareness of your style of communication are some of the essential elements for success today. The delicate tightrope walking of online communication – whether via email, text or IM – requires a firm commitment to getting the sale combined with the confidence to not force the sale. And though that sounds contradictory, the truth is that the balance of the two is how you can continue to ask for what you know will help your customer – the sale.
Feel free to comment or ask questions as we move forward together and thanks for looking in.
If you look through the past blogs you will see a theme – change has come to those in sales. It is no longer the old adage of doing the same thing and getting the same results. We are at a unique time in the world of sales. With smartphones, digital, and ridiculously fast response times and broadband and WIFI everywhere – the paradigm for sales has changed.
Yes, it’s still about relationships and trust and creative, frank ways of relaying information to get your sales. But today’s customer has changed because of their access to…just about everything. And what has that done? It’s made all of your customers “shoppers of price”. If your office is hearing time again from potential customers “But ABC said they’d sell it/do it for less than you’ve quoted” you know what I’m talking about.
I don’t believe anyone has to be the lowest priced product or service to get their potential client base to go with their offerings. Yet, because of this new regime of “shoppers”, what are you to do? Let’s look at what often happens at most busy street corners where gasoline is sold. Usually where there is one gas station at one corner, on an opposite corner there will be another competing station. And often, they are within one to two cents of each other in price. Who wins – so to speak?
If I only care about price, the answer is very easy. But what if one has cleaner looking pumps, offers the self-serve window washing materials or an easier store to slip into to get a pack of gum. The answer is obvious, some will still shop price, but plenty are willing to pay a little bit more for the extra service provided.
Now look at your offerings. Are you providing the difference that makes your team better than the next guy? Are you helping your customer to realize that you are more than a “price” to be shopped? Are you pushing your team to be of service and offer a level of professionalism that makes the difference? These cost your company nothing as an “add”, but can make your sales soar.
Your sales team will be chomping at the bit to make your company blossom as the sales world changes – all because you let your company represent more than a thing, a product and/or a service. You make your sales team believe your company makes a difference and that any potential client should be demanding what you are selling – and the selling will seem like “kids play” to your team..
That’s always the question during this season, “Where are the sales?” With folks on vacation or spending their extra money on the family because the kids are NOT in school one has to wonder how to get by and my money during these hot months.
One of my strongest beliefs in sales is that you lead with your strengths and don’t abandon what has worked in the past. But when you read something like that when sales are down, you question how that can help? But the truth about sales do not change because of the seasons. The problem that often ocurs in the summer seasons is the abandoning of the things that work.
We all know the basic concept of working smarter, not harder. If you’ve looked at what has worked for your company in good times, then it’s time to break it down into the increments to examine each part of your sales success, so you can lead with your strengths and increase your efforts within those successful increments.
When reviewing where your sales are coming from, or you are breaking down which buttons are “hot” when speaking to a potential sale – you then want to increase your efforts to push those increments and stop wasting efforts that aren’t giving you the same return. Break those increments down – how many can you get out of a single sale? What made the phone ring? How long before it was answered? How clear were the qualifying questions to establish your client’s needs? How well did your sales folks close off other options to help lead the client to the sale? Who’s “hot” right now and leading in closing ratios? What are they doing that others are not? Who is strongest in retention and getting the return sale (the most valuable salesperson on your team)?
When you break down where you are successful and lead with your strengths during the lean summer months, you can increase your ROI and rejuvenate your sales team. And we all know when you do those two things the revenue soon follows.
As we all know, no business can survive without having an effective manner to review the inventory of their company, evaluating both their excesses and their deficiencies. Without proper inventory checks and balances, no facility can confidently operate.
The same can be made of sales. When evaluating your individual sales team you have to break it down like you are taking inventory. If you just try scoring your sales or looking at only the closing ratios, then you just downing stats, you are not getting the whole picture.
So, how does one go about taking a sales inventory? It takes more than just listing what strengths you want from your team, it takes getting boldly honest about realistic expectations so you can get a smarter assessment of what you’ve got and what you don’t need – or need more of.
If your sales team is out in the field, how much time are your team members traveling and how much time are they spending with their clients – both potential and existing?Are they good at chasing down their leads? Are they in good contact with the office? Are their proposals concise and clear?
If they are inside sales, how many calls are you looking for each team member to reach per hour? How clearly do they help differentiate your company’s strengths from your competitors?How proactive are they and do they create a compelling structure that can lead to sales?
Take a look at our CEO Diagnostics page on our site. We ask some great questions when a new company looks to us for help. Start with those questions and work on a check list to examine your sales inventory.
When you think you have something to work from review it with one other thought in mind…am I evaluating both our strengths AND our weaknesses. Too often we want to find our weaknesses when doing these inventories, but seeing where your team’s strengths are can help create a better understanding – a realistic understanding – that can help you adjust your team's efforts for even greater success.
Here are some check points to make sure you are getting the most out of your B2B sales. They are easy questions to ask about your client/customer, but do you know the answers?
What is the current status of the company?
How is your contact there feeling about things there?
How does your service or product affect their workflow?
Do you understand the buying procedures there?
Are you just waiting for P.O.’s or have you seen them face to face recently?
How can you impact their bottom line?
Who else might they be turning to for what you provide and why?
When you speak, who does most of the talking?
Have reintroduced your company with updated information since first contact?
Can you list three personal interests of your client?
Hopefully, you are not shrugging off these questions with the easy decision that these questions don’t matter. All of these questions really have ONE thing in common, getting to know your customer. Having the gift of gab, as they say is not what sales is all about. Communication is a two way process and so is sales.
I make it a habit to find a way early on in my first conversation with a contact to find out a little about them. More importantly, I write a log of what I learned (or enter it into my CRM), so that I can refer to it later. Sports, family, hobbies, pressures of the company – these priorities help you to know who they are, what they care about and more importantly, what best to bring up in relating what you offer to that they need.
Good sales start with good communication. But more importantly, good work skills. What good is the good communication if next time you speak with them you’ve forgotten all you learned last time? Make a list of questions and post it by your phone or in your work materials. Make getting to know your customer more than just a saying, make it a skill.
I was working with an account executive of a small company the other day and I was explaining some of the ways we want to help customers towards the sale. I’ve come to believe over the years that our customers want clear direction. In some cases, they actually want us to tell them what to do - if they trust us. And that’s when the power of “we” or “let’s” works as the magic key towards the final part of a good sale.
Any order taker or even a technician can tell someone the benefits to whatever it is your company sells. (Hope that doesn’t hurt to hear) But, it’s the approach into the “close” that can set up an easy, non-objecting “close”. Yeah, you got it…”non-objecting”. Why? Because you go through the start of the close as a team, you with them, it eases a lot of possible issues. They don’t feel like they are doing it alone. In fact, they feel empowered by your “joining” them as they take the first few steps towards the “close”.
I often use phrases like “So, why don’t we do this…” or “Let’s do the smartthing here and do this…” – as simple as these examples seem, the inclusive style of this approach to the “close” allows the customer to render themselves a willing follower of your expert advice. Yeah…remember? You are the expert when you approach your customer; hence you get to tell them what they should do – at least I would hope that you would join me in assuming this.
Creating the “we” in the relationship during the approach of the “close” makes your customer more willing to continue to follow your advice for all the other parts of the sale – deposits or follow-ups. You are now both “in this together”, so to speak, and you can begin to develop a teacher/student type relation that will grow into a great steady customer.
This entry is short and to the point – if you were a plumber and made a house call to someone who had a faulty toilet, no matter what you stated needed to be done to fix it, the customer would agree to have you do it. It’s easy to see how the “need” in this situation creates the impetus for the easy sale. That’s not the point. It’s the plumber that is the point.
He’s seen as the expert. He’s looked to as the hero. He’s the expert, hence the customer trusts him – and THAT’S the point.
The most successful salespeople ALWAYS come across as the expert in their field. It’s a combination of confidence, knowledge and an excellent understanding of offering what they are selling in a service manner (whether they are selling a service or a product) that seems to solve their customers problem.
Briefly put, strong salesmanship starts with a plumber-like attitude, and that attitude creates the trust to close the sale. You’ve got the answer to their problem and you know what they need because you ARE the professional expert in the discussion. You’ve been trained to know all the ins and outs of your product or service. Help your customer understand not only what you know or what they should know, but also to believe that you have their best interest because you’re an expert in your field (and they are not, otherwise they’d be your competition – not your customer). Gain THAT trust and the rest is just the ABC’s of closing.
There you are, standing there at the end of the hallway with your customer. At the other end is the sale. It’s a straight shot from one end of the hallway to the other. But, like a hotel, there are many doors between where you stand and the other end of the hallway (your sale), and those doors are all wide open. Those doors are the all the ways your customer can exit the hallway and you losing the sale.
So often I speak with folks in sales they talk of tales of the “one that got away” - their customer turning into one of the open doors and walking away from your goal, your sale. And there’s always an excuse or an intangible that they hadn’t seen coming or weren’t expecting.
Look, we all know there are times where there is nothing that can be done to stop the loss of a sale. But all too often, it’s really about preparation and planning. I can't emphasize this enough - great salesmanship requires more than just natural talent, it requires the discipline of planning and preparation.
Close the doors in that hallway as you walk your customer to the sale by planning out your sales strategy. Plan through what objections might pull your customer in through one of the doorways. Assume there are others wanting their business that might be lurking back there, as well. Game plan the process that gets you to your sale. Be smart and recognize that the closer you get to the sale, the further on down the hall, the greater the chance of a surprise turn into an unexpected doorway and the loss of the sale.
I’m a big believer that the closer you get to the end, the more important it is to close those doors. I’ve seen too many sales folks get cocky and believe their customer is locked up, and yet when the sale goes sideways (yes, into a doorway), they seem shocked and blame the customer. Ego often helps to make that ridiculous argument.
But the prepared salesperson, the one who has done their homework and doesn’t just create a desire for the customer, but has designed a complete course to escort their customer to the sale – one that is designed to close all the doors along the way and keeps your customer on track. Walking that hallway and closing the doors along the way, sprinting to the finish with a succession of “yes’s” and assuming the sale with confidence that you know you are offering the best service or product for your customers needs will get you your sale.
Michael Moss, a graduate of Syracuse University has helped many companies flourish in all kinds of economic times. His insight and experience continue to assist companies to find their way and find their groove. Check out his LinkedIn profile or make a comment on his blog to participate in the NEW adventures in sales.