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.
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
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.
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.
If you are like most sales people, you struggle to get prospects to read and respond to your emails. There are a variety of likely reasons prospects are deleting your emails:
- It looks too much like spam or mass email
- Its too wordy
- The subject line and/or opening sentence is too salesy
- There is no value in your message
- You sound like every other staffing sales person trying to get their business.
While no sales email is going to result in a 100% success rate (or 75 or 50% for that matter), we’ve identified 7 essential components that significantly increase your odds of a response.
A few years ago I was working with a new sales rep (we’ll call him Bill) that was struggling to hit his activity numbers. In fact, he wasn’t recording ANY activities after several weeks in the position. So I of course asked him what was taking up his time.
To paraphrase a famous quote from Douglas MacArthur – “Old deals never die; they just fade away.” Odds are, most of the deals that fall out of your pipeline you don’t technically ever “lose”, they just lose momentum until the deal is eventually gone. This can happen when a client has other priorities pop up, over vacations and holidays, or because the sales person loses focus (or interest) on the deal.
Deals require consistent action in order to move through the sales process. The problem is that during a longer sales cycle (60 days or more), there is likely to be a period of inactivity. Most sales people don’t want to come across as a pest, so they just wait a couple weeks, or even months. Unfortunately during that time the prospect often will redirect their attention to new priorities, and the pain they were feeling has subsided (usually because the incumbent staffing firm caught wind they were at risk of losing the account, so they stepped up their game).
But there are ways that you can maintain momentum even during the longest of sales cycles, and do it without coming across as the pushy sales person. Here are 8 ways you can keep communication flowing without irritating the prospect:
If you're like most sales reps, you tend to take on each day as it comes. Make a bunch of phone calls, read and respond to your emails, and hopefully go on a couple of appointments. The more activity the better, right? Well yes, and no.
Certainly there is a correlation between activity volume and sales results, but activity for the sake of activity is not a strategy. We refer to this as the “shotgun”, or “throw spaghetti against the wall” approach – throw enough of it and something has to stick.
Unfortunately this hit or miss approach yields hit or miss results. Without a clear plan, opportunities are missed or lost, and you can spend much of your time spinning your wheels. This is why it is so important to take a few minutes to review your accomplishments from the prior week, and plan out your most important tasks for the coming week.
We’ve all heard the phrase “won the battle but lost the war.” It refers to someone that was able to make a short term gain (the battle) at the expense of long term objectives (the war). For example, we’ve all worked with or known someone that was great at winning arguments, but they turned off so many people that they could never advance in their career. Or a baseball team that wears out their starting pitchers to win games early in the season, only to have them be injured or ineffective come playoff time.
Unfortunately, many sales reps unwittingly fall into the same trap. They focus so much on closing new business that sometimes it negatively impacts their long-term success. Here are four approaches that are commonly used to land deals, but backfire in the long run.
Let’s face it; most of us aren’t good at effectively managing our time, especially sales people. What makes us good at sales, often works against us as well. For instance, most good sales people exhibit high energy and like to continuously take on new challenges (such as finding and closing new prospects). But the flip side of these characteristics often times is that we can be unfocused.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry. I do time management training regularly and when asked, less than 5% of attendees consider themselves effective time managers. And even though I teach a class on time management, I certainly don’t fall into that 5% category either. However, I early on identified that time management was a weakness of mine and have incorporated many tactics and tools into my routine that I believe makes me more effective than most.