Today there are many priorities and client issues for a professional salesperson to balance. There are limits to how much work can be done in one day by one person. The important issue to understand here is that time waits for no one. In the selling profession, time use and time management are valuable resources to work with.
Forget about working long hours; focus on working effectively and directly in just 5 hours. Elevate the quality of business that you create and implement in this time.
If you are struggling with getting results in your market or your industry, it is likely to be the case that you are not using your time very well. Here are some tips to help with that:
- Time is valuable – In any 8 hour working day, only 5 of those hours will be very effective. That fact is largely due to competing people, clients, personal performance, and issues that arise that cannot be controlled. Expect to be interrupted but control your response. Make 5 hours of your day highly effective. Do the things that really matter in those 5 hours.
- Control your diary – Don’t let others book you in for appointments. If you are a professional salesperson, make your workload decisions and diary entries yourself based on priorities and people. If the issue or person is not important, then don’t put it in the diary; delegate unnecessary issues.
- Take notes – From every meeting and conversation take notes in a suitable book that can be referred to later when time is less intense. In that way you are not letting immediate things overtake your work priorities. Carry your notebook with you for this purpose. Change your notebook at the end of each month so you have a reliable reference system that you can look back on if important issues arise.
- Circadian Cycle – It is a known fact that the beginning of the day is far more effective for most people when it comes to getting things done. The observation is known as the ‘circadian cycle’. Manage your diary so that the most important things are done in the morning; they should be the things that can bring you the best results.
- Pareto Principle – Most people know that this is the 80/20 rule. It is an observation from the times of Vilfredo Pareto (an Italian Economist from the late 1800’s). He determined that 20% of actions will bring 80% of results. This then says that we should all take the time to focus on important issues for at least 20% of the day. In business and professional selling that is a good rule to have.
- Technology – With the advances of technology there are many tools to help us stay organised and communicate with others. Effectively these technology tools can save us a lot of time. The tools can also help us to remain in contact whilst out of the office. There is no real reason for a salesperson to sit in the office waiting for the telephone to ring; professional salespeople should be out of the office and in the market talking to clients and prospects.
Simple rules like these help us stay on track in professional sales today. Are you up to the challenge?
In professional sales today it is easy to get confused or diverted in the complexity of the job. Things don’t need to be complex; the best salespeople solve problems for their clients in a simple and direct way. When you really understand that, you can see the ways to improve your career.
Consider these questions:
- What problems are out there today now to solve in your industry?
- Can you solve those problems better than your competitors? If so how?
- Do your customers or clients know that they have a problem to solve?
Three simple questions like this can lead to opportunity and business growth providing you really know the answers.
The sales opportunities open up for you when you can deliver a logical solution that helps your clients in some form or another. ‘Logic’ supports the sales process in business today. That could be in:
- Shorter turnaround times
- A better market share
- Cost savings in processes or raw materials
- Quality improvements in product or service
- Deliverable strategies that help with customer service
Here are some valuable marketing ideas and concepts to help your sales positioning:
- Specialise more than you generalise. When you specialise you create more value and lessen the impact of competitors from your market. When you really are the ‘best of the best’, clients need you more than you need them. That’s a great concept don’t you think?
- Have the best market information to use in your sales pitches and presentations. Use comparisons and stories from the market to attract and drive the interest of your clients. They like to know that others in your town or city have similar challenges; then they like to hear about successful outcomes.
- As a general rule don’t discount your prices unless absolutely necessary. The only thing that should drive a discount is a client with repeating orders or large orders. You can assess that when you strike a high value client.
- Take a strategic approach with your market so you connect with higher value clients or those that can be over time.
I go back to the point that a successful salesperson is generally a person that solves problems in a comprehensive and beneficial way for their clients. Revisit your personal business plan to see if that is your focus.
One successful negotiation skill to be practiced and used today is that of ‘elaboration’. When a client or prospect is in negotiation with you, any hurdle or challenge should be explored by ‘elaboration’. Ask more questions of the client and get deeper into their issue or problem. Get them to talk.
Ask or drill down on 3 or 4 levels of questions on any negotiation problem. Seek to know more about the client before you want them to consider your points of negotiation or the transaction. It’s a strategy that is well worth practice and refinement.
From this approach there is a special result that is quite common known as the ‘Freudian Slip’. By asking questions you are encouraging the client to talk about their perspective; soon you will see them open up on the potential for agreement and the ultimate outcome that they seek in final satisfaction. You then know what you can negotiate on and the way to do it. You have something to work with.
So what can you do in this process of ‘elaboration’? Try some of these:
- Get more facts about the client as they see the potential transaction, sale, or deal. Facts can be explored further. Ask the client to tell you more.
- Ask the client for opinions about the situation of the deal and how it could match their situation.
- Get the client to talk about their targets and help them compare those targets to the market conditions and the supply of goods or services from their perspective.
- Questions can be directed towards ‘minor closes’. In that way you take the client closer to the main negotiation result. Any major negotiation is a series of small agreements in a logical order. Structure your pitch or presentation accordingly.
- Some clients get lost in the complexity of a transaction, sale, or negotiation; perhaps the market conditions are new to them. Make things simple. Identify if there is any lack of understanding on the clients part that could have an impact on your ultimate outcome. You will soon know if they really do not understand the reality of your produce and service supply.
Simple skills like this can help you with the negotiation techniques and strategies that directly suit the product or service that you are offering. I go back to the main point here. Get the facts from the client and then drill down deeper.
When it comes to understanding your sales activity and opportunity you can learn a lot from looking back in sales history and forward in market potential. That then gives you the fuller picture of activity in your industry.
Let’s face facts; things do change. Your clients will have pressures, the economy will be fluctuating and the margins on your sales activity will vary. If prices can’t change, your margins are likely to. Constant tracking is required to stay ahead of the wave of sales and client opportunity.
Here are some tips to help you gather all the facts from the market:
- Define any problems that your clients could be suffering. Common problems are opportunities in disguise.
- Look into problem specific data to see what the impact may be on sales currently. A problem in any industry or market is likely to be the result of a number of things.
- Survey your clients to see and understand their industry and hurdles that they are struggling with.
- Identify what your competitors may be doing currently with their market share and their top clients.
- Find out what fellow salespeople may be experiencing with their clients and sales or orders.
- Understand any economic pressures that may be applying from the global and regional economy.
- Review the government pressures and legislation that may have relevance to your clients and their margins or operating standards.
- Are there any changes to consumer sentiment and if so how will that impact your industry and clients?
Top salespeople generally track and measure many factors from their area and industry. The history of sales and assumptions for the future can be very valuable as you seek to set your new marketing plans and territory targets.
I was meeting with a training customer today and we were talking about the need to find another new and successful salesperson. The business is currently medium size and successful in its market segment and product. They do however require expansion and growth. They need a new person to do that. Timing and selection of the best person for the sales role was of some focus.
Currently the other sales person in the team was highly successful; that success was largely due to market awareness and the maturity of the team member. He had been in the industry for some years and at the age of 62 he was well known as the specialist in his field. Clients and customers were attracted to him because they trusted him. He had no intention of retiring anytime soon so he had a lot of ongoing value he could offer to the business.
There is a massive opportunity here for the new salesperson to learn from the established person. Maturity in sales is a good thing. They say that the really good salespeople ‘live and breathe’ the process of client contact and service. This was well evidenced in this business. Sales can be regarded as a true profession for the best in any industry.
So what is the recommendation? Try these for starters:
- Have the new salesperson work with the older established person for 3 to 6 months. During that time there will be the opportunity for learning and growth. The new salesperson can learn the market and the client base from the other salesperson.
- Break the skills of the older salesperson up into core attributes to be developed in the newer person.
- Start a training program in skill development.
- Role play in the small sales team on a weekly basis
- Have the new team member visit clients with the older team member to see how the relationships and customer service connections work in the group.
It’s all common sense really. You can do the same. Look at your resources currently and decide how the strengths of the team can be shared.
When you work in sales it is easy to be overwhelmed with daily events and tasks. The more clients and prospects that you know, the easier it is to be overloaded with issues and business matters every day. When you lose your focus you lose business. It is a simple fact that has a real impact on our profession.
In these days of smart phones and computers, the traditional written ‘to do list’ is still the most powerful way of tracking progress in sales and customer service. Whilst a computer based program can remind you to do something that seemed important a few days ago, it doesn’t help you get it done. That is the difference between a written ‘to do list’ and something that the computer gives you.
It is a known fact that the process of writing something out as a ‘list’ helps you deal with the order and priority of things. The brain functions in particular ways, and one of them is known as the ‘Reticular Activation Process’ or RAS as it is often referred to. The frontal cortex of the brain is thought to be the main area where RAS processes occur. It creates the order of things.
So let’s go back to the ‘sales profession’ where we are typically very busy most days. The main issue for most sales people is in being effective and getting results. The list writing process will help you. That doesn’t mean that you should do away with your smart phone or computer; it does mean that you can take the issues from your computer and write them into a day planner. From that point onwards you have a list to work with. It is remarkable just how effective you will feel as you tick off your items from your list every day.
In summary the great advantages in all of this are:
- Gives you focus
- Helps you take action
- Understand what really matters
- Allows you to compound your progress
Make tomorrow a great day in sales by starting a list of priority issues and targets. Win more business the right way. To your success in professional sales!