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.
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.
As a professional salesperson today, you have the opportunity to be proactive or reactive when it comes to your marketplace and the tasks of the day. The choices that you make will have a major impact in the levels of business that you create.
Top salespeople in any industry are highly proactive and like to retain control of the things that matter in their business. Normally those things will include:
- Selective prospecting
- Client contact systems
- Contracts or orders
- Referral business
All of these things are important when it comes to growing market share and strengthening the personal profile you require as a top salesperson. If any of these five things are neglected, the results that you achieve are likely to be lessened.
So the key issue here is for you to be proactive in all the things that you do. Here are some ideas to help you:
- Use your time well and control it through an effective diary system. Don’t let other people make appointments for you. Their priorities will be different than yours.
- Understand the three or four things that are critical to the success of your business day. Ensure that those issues are merged into your diary activities every day. Get those things done before you attempt anything else. Remember the proactive approach will bring you better results.
- Place some priorities in contacting key clients on a regular basis. Those key clients or key accounts will be responsible for 80% of your business income. Strengthen the relationships of every possible opportunity.
- Understand the seasons of prospecting and sales. In your industry there will be times of the year where sales or more frequent and customers are more receptive to placing orders and signing contracts. Optimise your prospecting activities for those times of the year.
- Your existing high quality clients will be opportunities for future new business and referral leads. Ask the right questions at the right time.
- Help your clients succeed within their business and with their business requirements. In that way you will be bringing a level of value to your clients that will be hard to refuse.
- Always be networking when any spare time is available.
It is not hard to be successful in any industry when you understand that true success is built from proactive and not reactive base of control.
Every year the actions that we take in sales should be carefully planned and actioned. We have no time to lose when it comes to building the business, the market share, and the customer base.
In any period of 12 months it is likely that we have only 10 months of ‘action’ time where we can effectively reach out to the customers and prospects that we serve. The 2 months ‘downtime’ is usually the result of business issues, holidays, seasonal changes in the market, and economic conditions. There are always new clients in the market to find.
When I hear a salesperson say ‘The market is quiet and nothing is happening’, I know that I am looking at a salesperson that is looking for excuses. Top salespeople do not make excuses, knowing that there are only actions in this world of results.
There are 3 types of salespeople in the world. Try these:
- There are those that watch the business go around and other salespeople do the deals. They take no risks. They are happy to ‘help out’ but will not drive market share or new business. When things go quiet, they go quiet.
- There are those that conform and act by following the action of the masses. They know that the ‘status quo’ works (somewhat) and they stay in their comfort zone during the majority of their career. They take few risks they generate ‘ordinary’ levels of business.
- There are those that set their own market and business directions. They watch what is going on and then they start a strategy of action to a plan of focus. They drive exceptional new business and the best client relationships. They have a growth focus.
Many salespeople like to believe that they are in the third group of achievers, however the reality is they are not. Self belief is a good and a bad thing; it can hold you back from achieving and can even divert your actions. Everyone can improve their efforts and focus when it comes to business growth and sales. Importantly a plan and a system of action can improve things substantially.
Step to the front of your market understanding that their are only a few top performers there at the moment. Become ‘one of the few’ and drive massive market share. Every day take strong actions to contact more people and build relationships. Practice your skills so your business conversions improve.
There is only a small difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘excellent’. Take those further efforts in your business and your client connections.
The process of ‘change’ is a very important as a business tool. Your ability to see the need for change and then bring about the processes to get that change implemented will be the most important tool that you develop.
So many salespeople see the need to change and cannot pull it off. They struggle with the discipline and the actions required. When they fail to adjust to the market, they miss out on the opportunities of growth in income, and market share.
It is a well-known fact that the marketplace pressures and the business community are forever changing. Economic pressures, customer interest, and marketing strategies will change throughout the year. For this very reason, a strategy of change should be integrated into every business model for a team; it should also occur at an individual level.
Here are some tips to help you identify the right factors to change in your sales career, and then implement the process.
- Know your business strengths and grow them. Every salesperson will have particular strengths within their industry. It may be in prospecting, communicating, negotiating, or in closing. The strengths that you do have, should be improved through practice.
- Know your weaknesses and fix them. It is interesting to note that our weaknesses are the greatest hurdles that hold us back in business. You have two alternatives to deal with the issue. You can either employ an assistant to fill the gap with those weak skills, or you can deliberately practice and improve the weaknesses so that they diminish and dissolve. The latter is the preferable option that will take you further into your industry with success.
- Change takes time. The process of change needs to be implemented and the only way you can do that is to be diligent and persistent. When you understand what needs to be done, a new habit will be required. Given that we have developed our habits over many years, it can take several weeks if not months to develop the necessary change we want. Get the process started and stick with it.
- Track and measure your progress each and every day. When you can see that you are achieving results, the momentum get stronger and the results start to occur. Given that the sales profession is devoted to growth and results, you have the key to the process.
It is far too easy to stop doing something. The comfort zone will hold us back at each opportunity. Remember the problem of creating new habits and take up the challenge to build a better market place for yourself, and a strong personal sales career.