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.
The Traditional Sales “Strategy”:
There’s a vicious cycle that plagues a lot of sales efforts today. It looks kind of like this:
- Caffeinate – Slug back 20 oz coffee and give yourself a pep-talk. Today is the day.
- Wing it – Work like a person on fire and hope “the flow” will just happen.
- Rejection – The flow didn’t happen. Why didn’t the flow happen? More caffeine.
- Overwhelmed– The flow cannot be found, no matter how hard I try. Prayer offered.
- Panic – The axe is coming, because the flow isn’t happening. More prayer.
- Justify – Report imaginary numbers to delay the axe from coming. We’re good, really we are.
- Realization – The process isn’t working. Something needs to change.
Hope is not a strategy and by itself, a tragedy. Sure, you may get lucky once in awhile but I doubt your company is all that excited about your occasional lucky streaks. What they get really excited about is regular, consistent sales results they can use to build their business month-after-month.
A Simplified Sales Strategy
If you think about almost any other type of work where something complex is built, there are principles that make all the difference between successful completion of goals, and getting lucky from time to time:
Developing a Plan
Some of the best advice we’ve heard about planning comes from the late great Stephen R Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.” What is the end goal for your business? If you are in sales there’s probably a quota that is the primary objective of your job: X Dollars per X timeframe. If a company does not begin their sales strategy with concrete goals, they will not have any idea if they have achieved them. Many salespeople fail simply because they do not set realistic achievable goals for themselves to start with.
Measure and Adjust
Set up milestones to determine if goals are being reached in a productive way. Breaking these goals down into smaller chunks will enable sales professionals to keep track of where they are. Am I still on track for the month? If not, then the sales plan needs to be changed. At this point, it is easy to see what points within the sales cycle need to be adjusted in order to make a productive change.
Report True Projections
For a manager trying to determine the health of their sales team’s efforts, and the level of completion of their goals, true numbers are a must. By reporting exactly what the sales team is up to and demonstrating the results match the companies plan, sales managers can determine if their efforts are paying off.
Does your sales team follow this simplified strategy? Or, are they stuck in a never ending vicious cycle of imaginary numbers and caffeine?
The Great Pyramid of Giza built in 2584 BC; the beautiful Sistine Chapel constructed in 1473, and our own White House, whose cornerstone was laid in 1792, would have undoubtedly never stood against time, without a building plan. Greatness requires a plan, but how many sales people shortcut the planning stage in their day?
Exactly what is a plan?
It is the map you follow; a task management tool that allows you to efficiently navigate the road you travel toward your goal. It helps you budget your time, monitor your progress, side-step bad habits, and recognize a crisis before it happens. It aids in decision making, and it ultimately enables you to build a competitive edge.
Why wouldn’t every sales call be preceded by planning, when we know planning works?
It is fact that most calls don’t end in a conversation – and that alone would tend to make it feel like the planning is a waste of time, especially when the steps in the planning process are both tedious and time consuming. Sometimes it just feels easier to wing it and jump into the fray. Someone who has been working in sales a longtime may step over some of the planning, feeling assured that their gut instinct and experience, will fill in the blanks. Someone new to the game may not always see the reasoning for some of the steps in the planning process. There are times that the pressure to make the number of goal driven calls in a day makes if feel like there isn’t enough time for thorough planning. There are a multitude of reasons for short-cutting the planning, but still, the value of the planning is undeniable.
What is the cause of insufficient planning?
It lies in the fact that the process is time consuming and complex – because each target is unique, and the information you need is scattered across countless web pages. The note gathering lacks efficiency, and gaining a solid view of the whole picture is very difficult.
What would be on the wish list that would take the sting out of pre-call planning?
Ideal would mean having all of your information at your finger tips, all on one page. It would mean that right from the beginning, when an account was first created in your data bank, every piece of information associated with it would be automatically sent to one place, where you could view it collectively. In that single location you not only would have your research visible, but call prompts that were tailored for success – and a complete history of all your hard work displayed. There would be an active timeline that you could hover over with a mouse to gleam the details, allowing you to see at a glance see where you’ve been, as well as where you need to go.
If you had the information and capabilities of a checklist at your fingertips – all on one computer screen, would your job be easier? Could you make more calls, in less time? Would you be better prepared for your calls? Would automatically documenting your calling history help? Can you imagine your rate of success going up?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!