In sales today, we can easily get bogged down in doing things that are of little value to our careers. We have to do these things because we have a client or a boss in the background pushing the issue. This type of work is called ‘reactive’ and it doesn’t disappear (unfortunately).
The key to a successful sales career is to balance your work between reactive and proactive work. If you can spend at least 1/3rd of your day on proactive things, you will generally see a growth of market share and opportunities.
It is worth noting that many salespeople never get out of the ‘reactive’ zone of work. They are constantly battling between the requirements of the market, clients, customer service, the boss, and the competition.
It takes some time to shift your work patterns from reactive to proactive. Set yourself a pattern of work that gradually moves you away from the things that are wasting your time. After about 4 weeks you should have achieved the result and momentum you are looking for. You owe it to yourself to make the business change. Soon your commissions or income will improve as a result of you proactively moving ahead with the right elements to your business.
Have you ever seen a reactive salesperson? They are generally fairly well out of control most of the time, and doing lots of things at the beckon of clients and management. At the end of the day they go home on the dot of 5pm because they have ‘had enough’ of other people. Most of the things that they wanted to do in the day they would not have achieved.
So we all have choices as to how we structure a working day in ‘sales’ and who we respond to as part of ‘doing the business’. Perhaps we have to respond to clients and management, but we should have and retain some flexibility in doing so. To be a top salesperson, your career just has to be under control and each day at least 50% of the things that you do should be proactive towards growing your market or your income.
Here is an interesting exercise for you. On a piece of paper, write down the key things that will bring you new business or increase your market share. In most cases the list would look something like this:
- Researching new and current clients
- Touching base with customers
- Presentations and pitches
- Placing orders or contracts
Now that you have done the list, think about yesterday and the events of the day. How many things in your short list or priorities did you get done? If you are like most salespeople, you will have got to less than 50% of the items on your list.
Perhaps we make our days and working weeks overly complicated, but the fact of the matter is that we are really in control and from that point we can make our ‘sales day’ quite proactive and productive.
When a salesperson tells me that they are getting nothing done or are losing market share, I usually say to them that the solution ‘lies within’. They are the problem and the solution in one. They have the key to resolving the challenges.
Every month I recommend that every sales person in a business team takes a serious look at their successes over the last month and where they are headed. If they truly want to be ‘proactive’ they can plan their way forward for even greater results in income and customer connections. They just need to commit.
So the message here is ‘don’t work harder, work smarter’.
When you work in sales and it is a major part of your career, you should be very serious about prospecting. It really does not matter how long you have been in the industry or in your career, the prospecting process should not stop.
Here are some rules to help you understand this important priority:
- If you have been in your career for some time and you have an established market share, then you should be prospecting for 2 or 3 hours per day. Half of that time should be devoted to existing contacts whilst the other half should be devoted to new contacts. Do not overlook the requirement to find new people to talk to.
- If you are new to your career and have few contacts of any type, then your prospecting time should take up at least half of your day and in that case over 4 hours. The research required to make that work should occur outside of those hours. Use your prospecting time to make calls and meet new people.
- Make at least 40 to 50 outbound calls per day. You will need a tracking system and database to help you there. Monitor your calls to meeting conversions. Also track your meeting to new business conversions.
- The way to get your ‘head’ into the process of productive prospecting is to understand that you are a ‘specialist’ in your field and that you are calling to see if the person has a need or an interest.
- Understand the best segments of your market and the best clients to keep in contact with. Maximise your efforts in the productive areas and segments of your market.
- If you are new to prospecting, you may require a script to help you get started. After 3 or 4 weeks the process becomes more natural and you will not need scripts to keep you on track and professional in your call connection.
To make all of this work, you will need a good time management process that allows you to do the right things at the right time. Prospecting and cold calling should become a regular daily event in your diary. It has to become a habit.
In professional selling in any industry you will meet many salespeople that have a drive and a passion for what they do. Those salespeople will form the top 10% of the market. The fact of the matter is that the most successful usually have a ‘lust for growth’. That is a growth in clients, sales, opportunities and market share. They strive to build things and improve their performance in many different ways. They can see the road ahead.
So how does one get this magic elixir as a salesperson? It’s a ‘mindset’ that when nurtured helps actions and results evolve.
If you want to dominate your market and your industry you must start with the ‘internal’ stuff first. Over time your focus and your efforts must improve and that is a personal thing. Breaking old habits and setting new ones can be a real challenge; many salespeople fall back into the ‘comfort zone’ and struggle with the change.
Here are some tips to help you effect change and growth:
- Understand that there will always be opportunity around you. It is just a matter of digging to find it.
- Build your working day to a system and a plan of action. Regular steps and action can take you forward.
- Establish clear goals that have real meaning for you and where you must go.
- Track your progress every step of the way.
- Look for mentors and highly experienced people that have achieved what you are looking to do. Success always leaves clues.
Growth is a good thing. Champions of any industry have a real lust for growth. You can too. Drive your sales career with a real lust for growth of market share and income.
It is a fact that every person knows quite a few other people. On that basis we can use the connections of our clients to grow our businesses and sales opportunities.
So this is the advantage of ‘referral’ business. It’s always there for us to tap into. It’s just a matter of asking the right questions with the right people at the right time. That being said, the client must trust you and fully respect your relevance and experience.
Now it should be said that the process only works when you have served a client very well; when they are fully satisfied with the outcomes achieved. Their great satisfaction will give the momentum to the referral question and the leads to the people that they know.
Would you reward a person in some way for a converted referral? In most cases a simple gift or benefit will show the client that you are grateful for them in passing on the name of the referral. Even something as simple as ‘theatre tickets’, can be a positive way of showing the client that you really appreciate their help.
A good example of how this process works is well evidenced in the use of social media and ‘LinkedIn’. It is a social media platform that is built on the back of relationships and connections. Why not use this idea yourself and network through your good clients to others that they know and that you can serve?
When you work in a sales position in a competitive industry, you really do need to understand your character when it comes to selling and the factors that go with it. When you truly understand how you like to do things, you can build on your strengths as a top salesperson.
There are many different ways to establish and grow as a person in your sales career or industry.
Here are some questions to review and consider as part of this process:
- If you are presented with some serious challenges in your marketplace, are you prepared to do what it takes to create the necessary opportunity and new business?
- Do you like to listen to other salespeople when it comes to market place activity, or do you work on the basis of your own experience and momentum?
- How do you see the opportunity for building a client base and selection of services in your business and market today?
- When negotiations get tough, do you know how to move to the next level and use the necessary confidence to close the deal?
- Do you practice your professional sales skills on a daily basis so that you can grow your client base from regular prospecting and referral business?
- Exactly how much knowledge to you have when it comes to your product or service? Can it be better?
They are interesting questions which many salespeople will answer quite differently. It is the top salespeople in any profession that are highly independent and driven when it comes to skills and market activity. Every day they strive to grow their client base and or attract more sales. They look at ways to do just that.
A ‘great salesperson’ you can be if you decide to move ahead with your skills. Take charge of your market by knowing where you are right now and planning the factors of personal improvement that will take you forward.