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.
When it comes to working in sales, albeit in any industry, it is essential that you have a solid and reliable prospecting model established at a personal level. That will be something that works for you and you can commit to every working day.
The reason why prospecting and networking has to occur every day is simply that consistency builds results. Lack of call and contact consistency tends to ‘reset the numbers’ and you lose ground on all the efforts and things that you may already have done.
Here are some top tips to help you get your system up and running:
- One of the most important parts of prospecting and networking is to create a habit in your business diary. A regular habit of prospecting and networking will take you forward in the marketplace. That being said, it takes quite some time to modify your business skills and habits. That can be some weeks of deliberate prospecting effort of before you accept the requirement to do the job in that way.
- Focus on just a few prospecting activities but make them quite effective and consistent. I go back to the point that consistency will be critical to the results that you achieve. Like it or not, the cold calling process will be part of your prospecting model. Reach out to new people every day through fresh telephone calls, direct letters, and door knocking. Use your business card as an affective and timeless business tool.
- The prospecting process is not a sales pitch. It is a communication between two people to establish common ground and potential interest. When the client or prospect appreciates your knowledge and skills, the chances of new business escalate. It is just a matter of maintaining contact over time and waiting for the right opportunities to arise.
- Every prospecting call should be focused on the opportunity of a meeting. Meetings build relationships, and relationships lead to potential transactions, agreements, and contracts.
- Provide valuable market information and resource updates to your clients and prospects. At every opportunity and certainly on a regular basis send out product and service updates. Follow-up that information with a telephone call or meeting. Most of the business you create will be through a personal relationship built over the long term with the right people.
- 6. Practice your dialogue for presentations and prospecting. At every opportunity refine the words that you use and the phrases that relate to your product or service. Regular practice will help you with your conversions in prospecting.
It is not difficult to rise the top of any industry as a top salesperson. It is simply a matter of determining the right processes to support your actions and activities. From that point onwards, you repeat the process is every day and consistently grow your client or prospect database.
A clear advantage here is that most salespeople do not have the commitment to do the work required in prospecting and networking. That leaves the marketplace wide open for those quality salespeople that can get their industry and focus under control.
When you work as a professional salesperson in any industry, the only way that you will achieve a dominant market share and a good income is through putting your heart and soul into the selling process. Over time that will help you with building your business and your income.
Professional selling requires practice, good market knowledge, excellent product knowledge, and total personal commitment. Not all salespeople will check all these boxes when it comes to personal performance and business focus.
It is worthwhile saying that many salespeople are not totally committed to the task and the clients that they serve. They prefer to work the hours of an ‘order taker’ and not a top salesperson. That being the case, it is better for them to work in customer service. Let the front line sales go to those people that know how to encourage the transaction, and value to the customer, and grow the relationships over time.
So let’s go back to the point that top results require a top salesperson with a quality level of focus. Here are some points around which you can build your sales business and your leads and opportunities:
- Most customers and clients don’t want to be an experiment when it comes to placing an order or achieving a result. They like to know that they are working with the best people in the industry with the best product or service capability.
- Providing you have a top quality product or service to supply, most of the upcoming new business that you will generate will come from personal relationships established over time. This then says that you will need a good prospecting model and contact process to implement with all of your clients and prospects. It is a personal process that cannot be delegated.
- It may take three or four attempts at contacting the person before a meeting can be arranged. It may also take two or three meetings from that point onwards to establish a potential sale or order. Consistency and persistence within your prospecting model will be essential to building market share.
- Enthusiasm, knowledge, and trust are key elements to the client and customer relationship. Most of the people that we work with will want to see all of these elements before they share their business opportunities with us. Those salespeople with lower levels of integrity or attention to detail will usually not last in any industry over the long term.
- It should be said that people like to do business with the people they know and trust. Top salespeople rise to the top of their industry due to the levels of trust and the relationships that they have established.
Whilst the process sounds basic and simple, many salespeople overlook the necessity to follow through on the points of establishing new relationships and strengthening trust with their clients and prospects.
Forget about the need to make a sale, and focus on the relationships that you require; the business will come your way over time. Put integrity back into your selling processes.
With your career and in business you will come across many challenges that will threaten to derail your efforts and progress. That is why we all need goals and targets. It’s like having a railroad track stretching out in front of you to take you to the correct ‘station’. Every day you move further up the line.
Many books have been written on the goal process and systems available. Choose one or two of those books and develop your goals based on proven systems and evidence from those that have achieved results. Implement your goals system.
Here are some tips to help you get this process under control:
- Having goals will help you see what’s possible. Set targets for set periods of time to help you move through barriers and levels of achievement. It’s a bit like moving up a staircase; eventually you can and should reach the top.
- Action systems should be based around your targets. Every day the right things should be done that help you move ahead.
- The comfort zone can be a real problem for some salespeople and business professionals. The accumulated habits that we have built up over the years threaten to hold us back and take us to the things that are ‘comfortable’. Don’t let that happen.
- Track and measure your progress using benchmarks of performance that are quantifiable. That could be in the number of sales, clients, database growth, or market share.
- At the end of each week give yourself some small reward or benefit, recognising that you have made some progress.
- Create a pictorial storyboard of progress and experiences. You can inspire yourself into further action by remembering the barriers and achievements that you have made.
- Look for mentors and the people that have achieved results under immense pressure. Their experiences will inspire you to take greater action.
It’s great to work in a career that is challenging, rewarding, and interesting. Given all of that, it is a personal process of success and effort that will help take you forward.
In professional sales you need a ‘game plan’ to help take you to the market and the clients that want your products and services. It’s all very nice to think that you are the ‘top specialist’ in your industry, but if the clients and customers are unaware of your skills and relevance, then nothing will happen with your market share (or income). That is why you need a ‘game plan’.
So many salespeople are ‘order takers’; they think that the company that they work for will create the leads and opportunities, and that they will close the deal. If only things were that easy!
So what is the focus of this plan? Here are some key factors for you:
- The plan must help you get in front of new people that could need your services at some stage in the future.
- The plan must help you with referrals and introductions through third parties
- The plan must help others to find you and contact you directly when they have a product or service need.
- The plan must help you with relationship building with prospects and customers alike.
So what does your plan look like now? In most circumstances many salespeople have only one or two of these issues covered. They do the most convenient things that are not challenging or confronting; the ‘comfort zone’ is a big problem for many salespeople.
You have a real choice here. You can ‘take the orders’ or you can ‘build market share’; the latter being the best road to success in sales. New habits are required if you want to rise up in your market and industry as the ‘expert of choice’.
Develop an action plan that puts you into your market every day in a positive and new way. Reach out to the new prospects and clients that you really need and may not be helping yet. Remember that you are the ‘expert’ that people require. Sell yourself and your relevance.
Many people start a career in sales thinking that they will rise to the top of the industry quickly, and that their income earned will be high. If only life was that easy.
Professional selling is a specific career that requires a high degree of personal development and practice; that process should never stop. Those people that are very good at selling are particularly so not through luck, but by the specific actions and choices that they take. They work really hard. They have systems to underpin the actions that they take every day, and they look for ways to improve their processes. They actually do what they say they will do.
The averages of performance therefore apply to most people in a ‘career of sales’. Less than 10% of salespeople in any industry are truly the ‘high performers’. This number should say to you that there is a massive opportunity for most to improve and grow their business if they apply themselves to the tasks required.
Daily actions and results should be tracked and ratios monitored when you work in sales. In this way you will know when things are improving. New sales skills take time to develop; but develop they will do so if you practice your efforts and take the right action every day.
The core sales skills that are important to us are usually a combination of all of the following and some of us are better at some of those things than others:
- Meeting generation
- Sales pitches
- Client service and communication
Some of these things are very important but only you can decide what they are for you and your business. For example, if you lack a lot of clients and prospects then you will need to do some prospecting. If you are getting the meetings but not the business then you have an issue with presentations, and you will need to improve in that way.
Understand this; most of us are not good at everything, but we are good at some things. Understand your weaknesses and start to improve them. Practice every day the skills that will help you rise up in your market.
Know where you are now
To understand if you are growing your business and market share, here are some numbers to track on an individual basis. Assess and tally the numbers at the end of each week.
- Calls outbound
- Calls inbound
- Meetings arranged with prospects and clients
- Meetings to new business ratio
- Business generated by volume
- Business generated by $ value
- Seasonal sales trends
- Enquiry rates
- Average sales
- Database growth
A top salesperson is not ‘lucky’; they win the business because they are very good at understanding what to do and how to do it. They then take the actions to improve their skills in the right things for their market and locality. Does this help your sales career? I think it will if you take the actions needed.