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?
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.
It may seem a bit strange but you can use stories of ‘failure’ as part of your sales pitch. By ‘failure’ I mean situations where other clients and prospects really made the wrong choices and suffered as a consequence. That simple illustration can help your current clients see the advantage of fresh new ideas and perhaps the recommendations made as part of your sales pitch today.
Clients don’t want to make mistakes. A ‘failure’ situation is actually something that can help your current clients move ahead in a positive way and in doing so avoid any poor decisions.
So here are the rules to the process:
- Tell stories from the market and provide real life facts and information.
- A failure situation is actually a valuable lesson to someone. Your current clients may appreciate that knowledge.
- Make connections between your current clients situation and the ‘failure event’ so they know that it is relevant and real.
- From the failure you can work up recommendations and alternatives. Every client likes to have a few alternatives to consider.
- Put yourself in the solution and in the story. Show the client the timeline to progress as you see it and break it up into stages of action. Small simple steps are the easy way to move through a problem.
It is fairly easy to pitch on a sale situation if you follow these rules. It is simple sales logic. The client doesn’t want to make a mistake; they will listen to you. You become the solution process. The depth of your recommendations and solutions will help the client move ahead. That’s how you can close on a sales pitch.
In sales today, many things will happen to distract your focus. Clients, market pressures, orders, seasonal changes in the market will all have an impact.
The only way to establish some progress is to track your sales results or ‘scores’. You don’t have to track a lot of things; only the ones that have meaning to your product and services. Small incremental increases in actions will compound your progress in sales.
So what can you track? If you have been working in a market or industry for some time you will already have facts and figures you can draw on. If you are new to a zone then you will need to develop assumptions based on real market trends; that will take research and investigation. Answer these questions in doing so:
- Where are the clients coming from?
- What are they looking for in obtaining service and supply of goods?
- How can you tap into the client segments in a regular way?
- What prospecting methods work better than others?
- How many prospecting calls are you making?
- What is the average unit of sale over the last 12 months?
- What is the average unit of commission or profit over the last 12 months?
- What is the volume of sales per person in your industry versus your business?
- How long does it take to connect with your clients and prospects at a level that you would regard as primed for new business activity?
- What’s your market share? How has that market share changed?
Questions like these help you move ahead. Success in professional sales today is a very personal thing. Results come from personal action and incremental improvements in doing so. Take action every day; that’s what sales success is all about.
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!