Kids are so smart. Have you ever watched them in action? More often than not, when they want something they get it. Why? They get yes answers because they have a natural radar that tells them who to ask? Not really. What they have is a natural instinct to remember what does and doesn’t work depending on their want or need. They know if they want sweets at 4 p.m. that Mom will say,”No, it’s too close to dinner.” Dad will say, “Okay, if you bring me one too.” If they want new clothes, dad might say, “You have a closet full.” Mom might say, “All of your pants are getting short. We can make a stop at the clothing store on Tuesday when I go into town to get groceries.”
If you’ve been in the sales business for years you have most likely developed a sense of who best to approach based on trial and error, but what if you’re new to the game and your instincts are not yet fine tuned? It would be wise to avoid making assumptions about where the power lies to start the sales process. It isn’t as obvious as it seems on the surface. Starting at the top – just might be a waste of time and a quick step to “no thanks.”
There are no ironclad rules about who the right person to call is, but aside from your experience and gut instinct, there are things to consider.
Who To Call
- CEO’s – While one might assume it best to just start at the top, it could play out to be a mistake. There’s a reason a gatekeeper is often in place; a reason that a team of advising department heads exist. CEO’s like filtered information because they are busy with commitments that encompass the whole company. What software their accountant is using is not their top priority. The accountant best know what works for them. Starting with the CEO is a risky first call.
- VP’s & Directors – You could be in the right place, but whether they are regional or a major voice out of Corporate might have some bearing on their decision making authority, but they can invite your second call.
- Sales Engineers are a good place to start. They too can agree to a second call.
- Managers – Not a strong foothold, but not a total rule out either. The larger a company is the less likely your success with managers – especially territory managers. There are stronger voices higher up.
- Sales Effectiveness, Sales Enablement & Sales Coordinators are reasonable targets because they aren’t generally inundated with sales calls. They may listen with a fresh ear and be a back door in.
- Referrals – Positively a great foot in the door. Name dropping can be magic.
- About that Gatekeeper – They aren’t decision makers; nor can they invite a call back, but they do have power. They are a friend you want to have because you have to get around them to get to anyone else. If you can’t engage them, they won’t pass on your message. That’s their job.
Communicate with your sales team and share insights and pick up tidbits, and then urge your lead generators to target specifics. They can find most anything if they know what you’re looking for. I don’t know if they can help with getting you a cookie just before dinner, but you’re in sales… It’s always worth an ask.
Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships. Michael Jordan
There is a reason that we have multiple governing houses making decisions for our country. They are meant as a check and balance system, but too, it is a division of responsibilities and a way to tap into the experience and expertise of many. So it works in business too. Even the strongest, most dedicated, hardworking CEO of a company could not be successful without a solid team of qualified professionals under him/her dividing up the responsibilities. The success of a team depends on level of leadership and the success of the company depends on the level of team work.
Some years back I lived in a small town that had just one grocery store. The store had every appearance of one that belonged to a major chain. It was large, well-stocked, and clean. Prices were competitive. Its owners were known to be involved in the community and they placed full-page, color ads in the city paper. For all intent and purpose it looked like “the” place to shop.
I shopped there for some time, but I eventually took my business eight miles up the road to a store in a larger city. Why? The store lost my business because every time a bagger saw me to my car they expressed what a hateful place it was to work. (Keep in mind, in a small town everyone knows everyone, and most knew me because I was the editor of the city paper – so to them it was just friends talking to a friend.) It may well be right that they should have never voiced their grievances with a “customer,” but the fact remains – the sales team in the store from the bagger on up were not being led in a way that made them an effective team, and sales were lost.
If a sales team is comprised of qualified people who understand the value in working together; if their leader instilled common goals and principles through explanation and example, the odds of achieving success climb. People live up to expectations.
With a solid team, you don’t make a sales call alone; you do it with
backup. The stress, responsibility and work is divided, which makes your jobs easier. The prospect relaxes when they know you rely on your team members because they know the process is fine-tuned; each step managed by the professional who is best at it. It is a win for all.
Quality Sales Team
- Divided Workload
- Diversified Expertise
- Shared Accountability
- Less Stress
Quality Buying Team
- Purchase Considered from Multiple Angles
- Right Questions Asked
- Strong Change Leadership
Remember even if you’re playing a game of Bingo it takes five spots covered to win. One base covered just can’t get the job done. Strong leaders build strong teams. Collaboration and teamwork are the backbone of successful decisions.
Whether you were born with a passion for your craft or whether you learned it along the way, the bottom line is that without the passion, your success will not be consistent. Consider the sales people that are recognized by the industry as being the best. If you do a little research you will find that almost without exception they either cut their teeth on it following in their parent’s footsteps or they were just naturally, genuinely driven to help people.
Very spiritually driven because of instances of what he saw as miraculous in his own life. As a motivational speaker he helped shape the modern vocabulary of sales.
Popeil is the hands down king of the infomercials. He says, “If I create a product, I can market it as well as or better than anyone on the planet. I have the confidence and the passion. People see that, and they know it is real.”
She sold over $41 million dollars in pianos for Steinway & Sons by taking the time to match-make people to the right piano. For beginning players she wore the symbolic hat of piano teacher; for the experienced she matched their personalities to the personalities of the piano. She made it personal.
It wasn’t the products he sold that he is remembered for; it is the drive he had to teach others how to sell.
Ogilvy’s mantra was that he believed the best way to get new clients was to do notable work for existing ones. His level of service is legendary.
Sales is Not a Profession for the Faint-Hearted
Even when you have the passion for your craft you have to be thick-skinned and resilient. Know that even the most successful have days of frustration, but they recognize when they need to refresh their energy and seek ways to do so, because prospects can spot a fake a mile away.
12 Ways to Stay Passionate
- Surround yourself with people who share your passion for sales. It really will rub off on you. It’s among the Laws of Attraction.
- Make lists – to-do lists; things that worked list; things that didn’t work.
- Carry a small notebook everywhere. Noting inspirational ideas can help you freshen up your sales methods.
- Take Breaks – Schedule in time to change the view. Leave your desk for lunch.
- Seek feedback on your efforts. Love the good and learn from the not so good.
- Collaborate. Brainstorming and sharing experiences with colleagues will energize you.
- Allow yourself to make mistakes; just make it a point to learn from them. It will make others trust and respect you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Give your sales pitch to family and friends and ask for their opinions. Everything can always be made better, no matter how long you’ve been at it.
- Get lots of rest. You can’t deliver energy if you don’t have any.
- Clean your workspace. You will think clearer and feel more professional without clutter and with organization.
- Stay on top of new technology.
- Attend webinars and seminars to gain new ideas.
Imagine having customers who both appreciate the product – and remember how energetic, passionate, and genuine you were when you sold it to them. It will get you repeat business.
When I was growing up we had a gigantic garden in back of the house. Actually maybe it wasn’t gigantic; maybe I was just small? Anyone who knew my grandmother said that she had a “green thumb.” No matter what she grew it had more flavor than the same thing grown next door. She grew the biggest, sweetest strawberries, tomatoes flavored by the vine and watermelon so perfect that you didn’t need salt. There were cucumbers, long white icicle radishes and sweet onions… Out in front of the house there was a roadside produce stand that she kept stocked with whatever was in season. On the counter there was a small wooden box with a slot in the top and a sign that said, “Pay What You Can,” and people did.
Whenever someone new moved into the neighborhood, or someone was sick, or maybe they brought home a new baby, my grandmother would fill a basket – not with strawberries, but with strawberry jam; not with cucumbers but with bread and butter pickles. When I asked her why she didn’t just give the fruits and vegetables, she said, “The fruits and vegetables are the things I sell, but the jam and pickles are what I give to make and keep friends.
When you think about your sales technique do your efforts lean toward selling a product or building a relationship? What’s the difference?
Just the Product
- Products are sold on retail shelves.
- A sale may be lost because the competitor’s product that is right next to yours, costs less, or has a more attractive package.
- A sale often depends on the store display.
- You never get to know the buyer, so your only feedback is quantity sold.
- You don’t get any recommendations or insight about how you could improve your product and encourage higher sales.
- Brand loyalty is hard to earn
- Quick sale and now it’s a wait and see.
- People buy more from people they come to know and trust.
- Your analytics are more predictable.
- Future upgrades of your product are watched for.
- You get testimonials when you do a good job.
- Your customers will help you sell your product.
- You get feedback from those who actually use your product.
When you make that sales call, remember the idea is to forge a long-term relationship, not one quick sale.
Build the Relationship
- Be trustworthy, reliable, objective, and available.
- Exhibit a care for the prospect’s needs and limitations.
- Listen to the prospect and respond in a way that shows you hear and understand.
- Don’t be all talk and no action.
- Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise at appropriate times.
- Keep everything confidential.
You can’t put a price on trust, but you can take the profits to the bank when you build it. My grandmother’s sales at that produce stand kept all of us kids in shoes and coats all the way through high school because the relationships she built, kept buying from her.
Many companies pay significant amounts of money to generate leads for their sales teams, and yet, many of those leads never get called. Salespeople have a tendency, like most of us do to take the path of least resistance, and as a result, many otherwise perfectly viable leads get ignored and become stale. Why is that?
Problem #1: Where to Begin
Some salespeople have a knack for organizing their day and executing on the highest return activities, but they are in the minority. Lacking clear direction and a solid plan, the majority will actually only spend about 40% of their time on the most valuable sales activities. Whether it’s a lack of confidence, or a lack of organization, the result is the same… a lack of worthwhile activity.
Problem #2: But Other Leads Responded
If salespeople are getting more traction with a handful of their leads, others are often left to rot on the vine. Intuitively, salespeople equate activity (any customer-facing activity) as a buying signal, the fast track to sales nirvana, the shortest path to quota attainment. Unfortunately, just because a lead is willing to talk, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the ideal lead that should get the salesperson’s full attention, to the exclusion of others.
Problem #3: I Got Distracted / Busy
Social media, email, customer issues, colleagues over the cubicle wall…the list goes on and on. A recent article by Reuters states that an estimated 2.1 hours of productivity a day is lost, per employee, because of distractions. It’s not necessarily that the distractions themselves are not pertinent, but the refocusing time to get back to the task in a fully cognizant mode after being distracted or interrupted can be as much as 15 minutes!
Problem #4: I Tried Once, but They Didn’t Answer
Experts differ and pontificate on the number of attempts one should make to reach a prospect before giving up. Anywhere from 4 to 18 attempts have been recommended so it’s clear that calling once and giving up should not be an option.
According to a CSO Insights survey, sales reps research as many as 15 different sources prior to calling a prospect. 82% of sales teams feel challenged by the amount of data available and the time it takes to research a prospect before making a call.
You’ve got some hard working salespeople. So why are they struggling to make quota? The problem could be that they are busy doing a lot of the wrong things. Equipping your reps with the right tools can make all the difference. If you could give your reps more time to sell, more focus, more confidence, a guide to prioritize who to call and when, and what to say to them, what might that be worth? How would that speed up sales cycle times?
Get involved in the conversation in the comments section below!
Sales conversations inevitably follow a specific course, down one topical path. It is a well-worn and often quite predictable track called “product and price.” To improve your chances for a sale, you may try to steer the conversation in other, more intellectual directions. Your intention of course is to engage the buyer in a higher quality discussion that addresses their precise challenges and objectives.
All inspired and resourceful reps that expect or intend to blow past their quota start their day in the same dedicated manner. They ask themselves two fundamental questions:
1. “What should I do today?” (Prioritization)
2. “What do I need in order to do it?” (Execution) Read more
Would you like your sales pipeline to be optimized, or to operate in a more streamlined fashion? I am not referring to the number of prospects currently in the funnel, or even the number of deals being worked. I am asking whether you would like to guarantee that every prospect and every deal is moving swiftly through the pipeline in the smartest, most efficient, and most effective manner. If you are nodding “yes”, then you are my kind of manager – forward-thinking, and motivated toward finding a practical and sustainable solution.
Optimizing the pipeline is the essential key to unlocking productivity. In the dynamic and constantly evolving world of sales, that is the equivalent to finding “the holy grail” is it not?
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So how can you begin to approach the strategy of optimizing your pipeline? I suggest laser-focusing on the all-important follow-up process. That is because consistent,persistent, and expedient follow-up is what actually moves deals through the pipeline. This means no hesitations, no hindrances, and no hurdles. In a recent post, I described follow-up as the single most important element of sales for those precise reasons. In today’s post, I will reveal the steps you can take to transition from good to better, and eventually, from better to best. Read more
What, does the term “Selling” mean to you? I decided to see how the various dictionaries define Selling–beyond the obvious. Paraphrasing what I found, Selling is “to persuade or influence to a course of action or to the acceptance of something; to bring about or cause to be accepted; to advocate successfully.”
Persuade. Influence. Advocate. To sell-and to do it consistently and successfully-you must communicate ideas to the prospective client. To really draw them into the process, you must first listen, then ask, and answer questions. Communicating is not the same as telling,just as hearing is not the same as listening. Indeed, if you measure a reps performance only by the number of calls they make, you may not adequately be emphasizing the distinction between holding a conversation with someone, and simply speaking with them. That’s becausetalking is not the same as conversing. Read more
As sales leaders, we place a high degree of focus, energy, and resources on lead generation to keep our sales pipeline full, and of course, flowing steadily. And rightly so, we direct an equally high degree of these same assets toward the other end of the pipeline where – if all goes according to plan – we chalk opportunities up in the plus column as closed deals.
Your success at both the beginning and the end of the pipeline is crucial for obvious reasons. Yet it is how effectively we move deals through the middle of the pipeline that calibrates our over-all level of success.
To build an analogy, the beginning and the end of the sales pipeline are the pillars of the sales process. They are the columns supporting the bridge to revenue. But it is, in fact, the middle of the pipeline where a salesperson must perform their greatest feats. Read more