Many people think that sales and a career in sales is a ‘cushy’ job where you do not have to work hard. Many administrative or office based ‘backroom people’ will frequently question what the sales team or key account team are actually doing for their salary.
The fact of the matter is that the sales team and individual salespeople work differently. They are creators of opportunity; they look for the next sale and they push towards it. That being said, there are great salespeople, and there are ordinary salespeople. In every industry you see the ‘greats’ and you see the ‘not so greats’.
A salesperson without action, drive and vision is like a car without wheels. It has an engine, makes a lot of noise, but travels nowhere.
If you have chosen sales as your career, you are in a good spot, but you are also in a hard place that will require real work and effort. Great sales specialists are self-motivators and drivers of their business. They know that the business will come in if they get out the door and into their market.
Here are some ideas to help you move into your industry and sales career with greater success.
- Define your focus so you know exactly who your market is and where they are. Every prospecting effort and client connection should be to a plan and strategy of approach. Your vision should be specific to what you sell and how you do it. Practice will help you improve as you move ahead. It should be remembered that this is very personal and in that respect you and the motivator to get the job done.
- Connect with clients each and every day. When you open the door with your clients, ensure that they know you well and that you connect with them on a frequent basis. Client contact should be a process in your diary. It has to happen every day.
- Grow your database of prospects on a daily basis. Devote about 2 or 3 hours each day to regular prospecting; that is talking to new people that are not clients at the moment. It is a fact that many clients will disappear over time, given that their situation will change. You must fill the pipeline of opportunity with new people.
- Practice your craft and your dialogue. Connecting with clients and prospects will involve a number of situations such as presentations, sales pitches, product updates, negotiations, placing orders, and service requirements. All situations require practice and very good dialogue. If you practice what you say and do with the most important parts of client connection, you can lift your conversions of sales.
- Believe in yourself and sell yourself at every logical opportunity. You are the best person to do this. Self-promotion is all part of being a salesperson. You promote with relevance, style, and professionalism.
- Look for new ideas and people to connect with. Read papers, surf the internet, and ask for referrals. There is always a new client just around the corner if you know how to find them.
If you have chosen ‘sales’ as a career you are at the start of something exciting. Take charge of your day and your actions. Start driving yourself into your market. Get to know lots of the right people. Be a professional.
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.
It really does not matter what industry you work in, competition is strong and active most of the time. Some of that competition will be relevant and of interest to your clients. The clients will be on the lookout for the best deal or supply arrangement. Those clients will listen to the offering of your business competitors, and over time you can lose your best clients to the competitors in your industry.
Complacency is not a ‘good look’ in business today. All of your clients are doing things with a greater focus on the ‘bottom line’. They know what is required to keep their business on track for the year given the changes in their industry.
The ‘glue’ that holds the client relationship together in most cases is the bond and connection that they have with you as the ‘specialist’ that you say you are. Are you the expert of choice that your clients would go to in times of pressure or need? Would they call you before they contact the competition with a concern or challenge that needs resolve?
Relationships are the Key
In key account management and customer service the ‘expert’ status is really of great importance to ongoing business. Our clients must know that they are dealing with the best supplier of relevant goods and services locally and regionally. You must be the best choice of supplier and they must know that.
Some clients put priorities on different aspects of the business relationships they have with their suppliers. It is up to you to know what those priorities are; ignore them at your peril. Here are some factors that could be considered in that assessment.
- The role that cost plays in the supply of goods and services.
- The pressures of time in ordering and delivery
- Relationships between your clients key staff and your personnel
- Communication regards the progress of orders and supply
- Contact processes and systems when a problem or challenge evolves
- Guarantees on workmanship and replacement strategies that minimise downtime and loss for the client.
- Any business advantage that you can provide your client with, that can improve their business effectiveness, costs and or timeliness.
Today we need to consider the clients business and get to know it comprehensively. When we do that we can see the right ways to protect our client base from ‘competitor attack’.
In these times of business stress, the client is the key to your ongoing liquidity and market share. Focus on the client and give them the best information, service, and backup solutions available. When you find new clients, look to improve the process where and when you can. Become that expert of choice that clients expect in these challenging business times.
In business today, the humble telephone remains the most effective way to grow your business. The telephone allows you to make cold calls and find more clients to connect to; you can do all of this from the comfort of your desk. That being said, many salespeople will avoid the cold calling process at any and every opportunity.
So why do so many people have a problem with calls to new prospective clients? Here are some reasons that are common in most industries today.
- Lack of organisation
- No idea of how to make the process work
- Failure to develop a habit of making calls every day
- Call reluctance
- Not knowing of what to say
So the list will go on and on. The opportunity that exists here is massive; a good salesperson that can establish an effective call contact process in their market can create massive new business opportunity. That can then mean better salary or commission depending on how you get paid for results.
So what is the secret to progress here? The secret to making prospecting and cold calling work for you is to get started today and keep it going. Do not stop prospecting for any reason; every day you should be prospecting for new clients for at least 2 hours. This single fact will keep the business coming in and your pipeline growing.
If your industry is tough or slow, go back to the basics and get out amongst your clients and potential targets. Make prospecting the number one thing that you do every day. Quite soon you will see things change around for the positive and when that happens do not stop what you are doing, but lift your efforts even higher. Top salespeople know that everything comes down to them and what they do every day.
So many salespeople struggle with growing market share. The single reason for this is that they have little or no personal system to build their business. Every day is a new day, and nothing consistently happens to build on the success of yesterday.
Perhaps I have upset some salespeople in saying that, however it is a proven fact that the performance of most sales teams is low for this very reason.
In any business and market there are also some other excuses that hold teams back. Some of them are here:
- No support from the management team
- No leadership to correct faults or lacking processes
- No standards that can focus the prospecting and customer service processes.
- Little action to a system that works in their market
- Forgetting the clients and keeping in contact with them over time
So, all of this is a personal process; that’s the reality of it all. Any salesperson can improve their ‘lot’ by taking action. Given that most do not do the right things every day, there is huge potential out there for those that do.
If a salesperson takes on the personal challenges of their industry and takes action every day to a good plan, there is a very good chance that they will rise to the top of their market quickly and effectively.
Here are some tips for getting control of your market and market share.
- Define your territory geographically and physically so you know where you will find the business.
- See how many potential clients could be in your areas that are serviced by your competitors. Can you open the door with these clients?
- Be prepared to talk to many people to find the one opportunity. As long as your market is large enough that will not be a problem. The issue is in getting the right resources and research around you.
- Use a database that is comprehensive and easy to access. Over time you can build your database by 4 or 5 new people a day. Keep in regular contact so you can open up the relationship when the prospect requires help.
Are you the best service provider in your local area? Can you say that your product or service is as good if not better than the competition? If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to these questions yet, you have some work to do. Devise your business system and work to it every day.
When you work in sales of any type you will see prime examples of clients that are not serviced well. It could be that they do not purchase often enough, or not in sufficient volume to rank as a priority. That being said, they are likely to be an opportunity in waiting.
Many of those poorly serviced clients not purchasing much today can be key clients of the future. Everything changes in business and you should not accept the status quo when it comes to clients and their business situations. Keep in touch so you know when their business or personal situation requires your product or service.
It is interesting to note that many salespeople do not maintain regular and consistent contact with their entire database. In most situations they will contact less than 25 clients on a regular basis. All other clients will be relegated to the ‘call me when you need me’ process.
It has been proven that a regular 90 day contact system with all clients in your database will build greater business opportunity than just waiting for the ‘client to call’ when they want something. After the third contact of 90 days, the client or prospect starts to see that you are really interested in them and their needs. It is likely that they will get closer to your business and could potentially over time convert to a key customer.
So often I have seen sales and customer service situations where many clients and prospects move to another supplier simply because they felt overlooked or neglected. That’s something to be avoided.
Here is a contact model to help your business growth:
- Understand who your key clients are by definition and location. Yes they will need special attention; however that attention should be in balance with all other clients.
- Create a contact model for Key clients and then all others. Key clients should be contacted at least every 30 days. Other clients should be contacted inside 90 days regardless of their status.
- Use a multi faceted contact process to give your clients information about your product or service and any changes of product that they may be interested in. The contact tools that you can use should include email newsletter, direct calls, and drop in meetings, product updates, and industry briefings. In balance they create a good source of market and product information.
- Look at the competitors in your industry and identify their client base. It is likely that you can open the contact process with some of their clients.
- Devote the first part of your day to contacting at least 10 new people that you have not made contact with previously. When this is done in balance with your existing database you have a pipeline of growth.
Those clients that are underserviced will be great allies, if and when you convert them to greater levels of business. It may take months or years to move them closer to your business, however the journey is worth it with some clients.