In professional selling it is interesting to ask yourself if you are ‘on track’ or ‘on course’ with your targets and goals. Given the pressures of any business unit or sales team today it pays to ask that question at the end of each week to see what you have individually done and what you could have done better. You will then know if changes need to occur.
When things are not working, it is poor business practice to repeat the errors and things that are not working. Only good habits change the future.
It is very easy to get distracted or diverted when you consider all the things that we have to do each day. How does this list seem to you for a list of daily issues?
- Client contact
- Sales negotiations
- Follow-up on current deals and activities
- Assessing the competition
- Maintaining contact with key accounts
I guess you could add to this list yourself with some other sales or customer related challenges. The point is that things will happen every day, and it is our responses that we can control and that will get us through. We hold the key to the process when it comes to improving sales results in any market and economy.
So what can you do here? A healthy dose of dialogue practice doesn’t go amiss when things seem frustrating in your market and industry. You can add to that some time management practices to get your business day under control.
Here are some good approaches to rectify poor performance in any sales team situation:
- Test and measure the things that you are doing today
- Understand what you are there to do in selling and why that is the case
- Take ownership of the business, your market and your clients
- Put yourself back into the sales territory personally by talking to more new people every day
- Look for patterns that are opportunities in waiting
- As for the business and ask for the new client relationship
So what is the message here? It is time to get out and build that market share and your client relationships.
Working in a professional sales position, you will find many pressures occurring on a daily basis. Sometimes it is tempting to take the ‘easy’ way out when it comes to issues and tasks. It is not unusual for most sales people to take the ‘road of less difficulty’. Unfortunately this does not always bring in the best results in new business and income.
When you look at your career, your industry, and the competition, it will be very obvious what needs to be done if you are to rise to the top of your market. Are you doing all of those things now? Could you do more of them? What would happen if you started working on those difficult things that you have been putting off for so long?
Here is a list of the common ‘matters of avoidance’ for most salespeople:
- Contacting clients in an ongoing way
- Paperwork and reports
- Key performance indicators
- Database entries
- Following up on business and transactions
Just about all of these things will have a big impact on the business activities of the average salesperson. Some of these things will be more important than others.
The rules here are quite simple:
- Look at the list and decide what you could improve on.
- Get the knowledge that you need to build your skills that may require more work.
- Start practicing your skills.
- Take action to a plan.
It is not easy being a salesperson in any industry. You must rise to the market and the pressures of the day with a great attitude and a momentum to take your business and market share forward. Developing a plan for the process is a good thing, however the start of any day should feature the things that are hard and that you have been putting off. Get the ‘hard stuff’ done first and the business will start to move ahead.
Why Do People Need You?
When it comes to selling your services or prospecting today, you really should know why people would need what you have to offer. That knowledge helps you frame prospecting conversations and questions. You can ask good questions like:
- I am calling to see if you have any issues with your stationery costs that may be lifting costs for the business.
- I am calling to see if you are struggling with photocopier operational costs in your office structure.
- I am calling to see if you are having issues with car parking costs for the staff.
- I am calling to see if you are struggling with sales team performance particularly with reaching budget.
- I am calling to see if warehousing costs are a frustration to your business and if you’d be open to looking at other premises in the local area.
- I am calling to see if you are having issues with business insurance and if it is impacting performance of the company overall.
Specific questions like these help you identify pressure points and frustrations for customers and prospects.
So why do prospects and customers really need you? Answer these questions:
- What can you provide?
- How is it done?
- What is your point of difference?
- What is your benefit to the client?
- How can you improve the situation for the customers that you serve?
- Are you really different when it comes to comparisons with other similar suppliers?
- What advantages do you bring to the customers that you help?
- How are you better than your competitors?
- Why should a prospect or customer listen to you?
Taking these questions you can easily phrase some targeted questions that help your prospecting conversations and connections. Unless the client or prospect has a genuine need or interest there is no need to take matters further. Frame your questions so you know if the customer is a clear match for you.
When it comes to sales team effectiveness and your results, your time is the most important resource that you have available. It sounds so simple and yet so many salespeople waste time. In an average group of 10 salespeople, only a few would have time optimised for the tasks at hand. It is common to see 50% of the working day being wasted.
If your salary or your commission is based on performance and outcomes, you simply cannot avoid the time management rules and controls. Everything that you do every day should be well considered.
Here are some rules to help you get your business and your activities under control:
- Set some goals for yourself. In this way you will know where you are headed and why. Make sure those goals are based on specific outcomes and time. Each week you can track your processes and adjust where necessary.
- Identify the 3 things that are critical to your business growth. Those things should be done every day to allow you to improve your market share and client outcomes.
- Control your telephone both in the office and on mobile. When people ring you they put other tasks and focus into your day. Preserve a period of 3 hours each day where you get key things done. During that time the message bank on your telephone can take messages.
- Tidy up your desk, car, and briefcase. Nothing is more off-putting than a desk area that is out of control. If you see the clutter you will feel that you are getting nowhere fast.
- Use a written diary to control your time in manageable chunks. Work in chunks of 2 hours. In this way you will get 4 or 5 things done each day.
- Use a system to get the basics and everyday things under control. This will normally be a computer and a database. Record the important things and get back to them later.
- Set priorities in your business and for you personally. Some things are more important than others and you are the best person to know what the priorities are.
- Audit your use of time so you can identify the weaknesses and remove them.
- Do the hard and difficult things done each day first up. In this way those issues are likely to be done. It is a known fact that most business people put the hard things off and wait until the very last minute to do the job.
- Exercise each day to give yourself some personal time. This will help you feel less stressed and remove some pressure from your life.
We tend to forget that we are the ones that are (or should be) in control. Seek to get yourself under control and optimise your business outcomes. These rules will help you do that.
Some sales teams are built with focus to bring in the results. Others are seen as just a group of people that have been given a name tag and a department within the overall business. The performance between these two teams is radically different.
The sales team is the life blood of the business (or should be). When they are producing the results you get all of the following:
- More clients
- Referral business
- Greater volumes of sales
- Customer satisfaction
- Dominant market share
I weak link in a sales team can slow or destroy the foundations of growth and client stability. So what are the characteristics of a top sales team today? Try some of these:
- They will have a clear understanding of the goals for the business and where they sit in the overall plan.
- They will understand how they can improve the business from their position in the market.
- They will have and accept key performance indicators both as a team and also as individuals to which they agree to strive and achieve.
- Objectivity will be the case in any team assessment as the year progresses. Members of the team will accept guidance and objectivity.
- The team should be cohesive and committed to each other in building the results for the overall business.
- Whilst the team will have a leader, each person will understand that they are leaders themselves in what they need to do with their clients and territory.
- There will be a high degree of trust between members of the team, and where required the team will support each other in any client or sales requirements.
- A good sales team is flexible so that the overall goals are encouraged through the pressures of any single transaction or client connection.
- The members of the team will understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide backup to fill the shortcomings of each other.
- The team will have a strategic plan of action that they stick to in business and as part of ongoing team performance.
- Knowledge and service will be high on the agenda when working with and serving clients and prospects.
- Every team member will understand the priorities of growth and stability as it applies to the clients that they have.
To manage a sales team you need a leader of skill and drive. A sales team is a unique business unit that is different than all others and that requires direction, and seeks respectful leadership promoting the core values of business.
There are plenty of challenges when it comes to sales and sales teams today, but one problem is far bigger than everything else and it sets the scene for overall personal results and income. If you understand the problem you can do something about it.
In simple terms the problem goes something like this:
‘Your daily habits determine your outcomes, and most salespeople cannot or do not modify their habits to lift personal performance’.
It is a simple issue, but it has huge impact across sales teams and also individually. Your habits in business can hold you back or change the future.
So what is the Problem?
We have had many years to develop our habits and focus. When it comes to modifying those habits for our business and personal income, the challenge is beyond most salespeople. The personal discipline of most salespeople will shift on a daily basis, and all good intentions become lost in a ‘sea of inaction’.
If you work for yourself or work on commission, there are all sorts of tools that can help you with bringing about the changes that you require. You hear of them in many different ways. Depending on your industry some will be more important than others.
The list of processes and tools that are available to lift personal performance are typically:
- Scripts and Dialogues
- Cold Calling
- Sales territory
- Contact plans
All of these things can strengthen your market and your personal brand. The real fact of the matter is that they are all personal issues. The results that you get back will only come from the results that you put in.
When a salesperson is well paid they become complacent; the motivation to lift performance is just not there. However, when a salesperson is rewarded by effort and commission, they can see what they have to do, and they know that they are the key to getting habits and challenges sorted and strengthened. It is the small percentage of sales people that then rise to the occasion and get active on the tasks and systems to build their business.
You have a choice here. You can accept your habits and keep doing the same old things that have got you to where you are today; or you can challenge yourself to lift your focus and skills with new effort and focus. The rewards are many for those salespeople that can make the change and lift their performance.