Every Saturday morning, our six-year-old son comes crashing into our room with the same earnest request; “Daddy, can we play games on the TV together?” Since the time he was able to hold a controller in his hands, Brady and I have spent part of Saturday morning playing video games together. It's become a ritual that is a reward for him, and a fun way for us to spend some dedicated time together.
I just received at least the 10th email this week from a different sales rep trying to sell me prospect leads – and its Tuesday. Now as a sales professional, trainer, and coach, I tend to probably be at the same time more critical and more sympathetic to sales reps trying to do their job. I’m critical in that I dissect their message and approach more than most. But I also feel sorry for many of them because I can tell by their email that they are either new, untrained, or misguided. And when I talk to sales reps about their sales activities, most sheepishly admit that they know what they are doing isn’t working, but just don’t know what else to do. Unfortunately many of the sales activities that we utilize cause more harm than good, labeling us as “salesy” and irritating the prospect.
What do these people have in common: Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, Brett Favre, and Abraham Lincoln. Yes, they are famous. They are considered to be among the greatest of their respective professions. But the primary link is that they all failed frequently, some historically.
Like an assembly line, sales is a process that builds on itself. Regardless of how many stages are in your pipeline, the sales process boils down to four essential areas;
- Prospecting – The initial stage of identifying your potential clients, reaching out to them, and getting them to agree to meet with you
- Understanding and analyzing prospect needs and wants – We need to know what the prospects challenges, opportunities, and desires are to best align our solution
- Creating demand for our solution – This part of the process includes building credibility and interest, presenting your solution, showing how it addresses their challenges, and ultimately how working with you is the best choice for the prospect
- Closing the sale – Converting the prospect to a customer and generating revenue
I’m a big fan of leveraging technology, and now more than ever there are some great resources for sales reps that are free, or almost free. Here are three that I use regularly to make my activity more efficient and drive sales.
Sales is a process. And like any other process, it is only as good as its weakest step. If you are great with one or two steps of the process but weak in others, you will still struggle. But if you focus on improving in each area, you will exponentially improve your sales results. Here are the 5 critical sales steps and how to improve.
“Why do they continue to put up with such high turnover?”
“They keep telling me their current vendor can’t fill their positions, but I just can’t get them to make a change!”
One of the most frustrating aspects of the sales process is when we know the prospect is not happy with their current situation, but they still won’t pull the trigger. Why do they continue to deal with such major issues, when they have even told us that we are a better solution?
Its because we tend to focus on “issues” rather than the consequences associated with these issues. We talk about turnover, time to fill, no shows, the quality and productivity of employees, etc. All of these are issues that the prospect deals with, but in many cases they are not enough to compel them to make a change.
Image courtesy of num_skyman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Let’s face it – sales people (myself included) aren’t usually the best at time management. First, I’ve been around staffing sales people (myself included) for a couple decades now, and have witnessed firsthand how we struggle in this critical area. Second, I regularly speak on the topic, and always ask for a show of hands who considers themselves good at time management. After unofficially polling hundreds of sales professionals, I would say about 1% actually consider themselves somewhat good at managing their time.
While waiting to board my flight back home, the gate attendant made the following announcement:
“This will be a completely full flight. For those of you boarding in later groups, we recommend checking your carry-on as we will run out of overhead space. You will not be charged to have your bag checked – we are performing this as a courtesy to our customers. I repeat, we will check your bag as a courtesy to our customers.”
A courtesy? They run out of overhead space and yet they act like you are doing the customer a favor to check their bag? Come on, they should be apologizing for the inconvenience, not trying to spin it like they are offering some sort of free benefit.
The number one knock I hear on networking as a sales activity is that it doesn’t tend to result in new business. And for many sales people this is true. But in almost every case, it is not because networking doesn’t work, but because the sales person doesn’t network the right way.
Most sales people don’t network enough, and the ones that do typically approach it from a “show up and see what happens” approach. Most of the time, this results in limited interaction with the right people, awkward periods of not having anyone to talk to or butting in to existing conversations, and ultimately frustration. The sales rep then blames the event or organization for being “clickish”, unfriendly, or just plain bad. After one or two attempts most salespeople just give up.
This is where your opportunity lies! That same organization that other salespeople have dismissed could be a gold mine for you, IF you network the right way. Here are 4 ways to get the most out of a networking opportunity and increase your sales.