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.
When it comes to a professional sales career, it pays to understand the things that are truly important to your business and your sales progress in your market. I like to call it a constant focus on growth and service. The client is at the centre of the process and the assessment.
When you are really productive you tend to remove the ‘peaks and valleys’ from your sales year and your sales performance. Generally everything gets a lot easier from a results perspective, but you have to keep up the personal momentum.
So how do you get this productivity and systemisation into your business plan and sales focus for the year? Here are some tips that I have gathered from many years talking and working with sales teams in different industries:
- Use your time very well. Protect your time from the frustrations of servicing time wasting people. In professional selling you are totally accountable for the way you use your time and doing so with the right people. Some clients will take a lot of your time so you should understand the value of some clients over others. It might sound a bit selective but that is the way it must be.
- Know your priorities in the working day. Some things on a daily basis will have to be done over others. In normal sales markets and industries the prospecting process and client contact cycle should take priority over everything else. When you do this correctly you can keep the orders and sales coming in with little disruption. It also helps you see the changes to your clients needs before that has a major impact on your sales results and income.
- Make sure your key clients are treated differently than ordinary clients, and are contacted as part of a key account management program. You may choose to ‘coach’ them, ‘partner’ with them, or provide exceptional service to help with their bottom line. When the client knows the true value of your products and services, the ordering and sales process is quite easy.
- Note the ‘selling seasons’ that apply to your products and services. In most financial years you will have 2 or 3 ‘selling seasons’ where sales and orders are easier. You get to know these cycles by understanding your clients. How long does a selling season run for in your industry? When do they start, and why do they stop?
- Seek referral business leads from all of your good clients and prospects. It is easier to convert new business from a referral than it is in anything else you may choose to do in prospecting.
- Assess your clients for the repeat business opportunity they can give you. Also assess the size and frequency of the typical order that they place with you. Soon you will see some clients bring in most of your business annually. The Pareto Principle applies (80/20 rule) where about 80% of your business will come from 20% of your clients. You just need to know which clients are the best ones to work with.
Perhaps you can add to this list. The issue is that you really do need to understand your market and the sales and income you can build from it each year. Become a productive salesperson that works to a client contact system.
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.
When it comes to being a top salesperson, your fitness is something that you should seriously consider. Your fitness will help you drive through difficult times and do the work that is required.
A lot of people will say that they are fit; however there are two parts to the fitness equation. That is ‘mental’ and ‘physical’. Here is why that is the case:
- You need to have a good mind and focus on the things that need to be done. Attention to detail and creativity are all needed.
- When you strive for more sales, you rise earlier, you work later, and you do the things that other people overlook.
In any industry you will find opportunity to get more clients and better sales. It all comes down to what you do and what you think. Your fitness will underpin both of those things.
It is an interesting fact that many salespeople are quite ‘random’ when it comes to getting the job done. The comfort zone is a dangerous place for a salesperson or sales team.
When you look at the average working day, you will have peaks and troughs of performance. It is a fact that the principles of the ‘circadian cycle’ apply in what we do and hence will impact our workplace. The cycle says that you have about 5 hours each day where you are working at best efficiency; but they are not continuous hours. They are split in about 3 and 2 hour time windows.
The first time window extends from about 7 am to 11 am, and the second time window extends from 3 pm to 5 pm. Outside those windows of time, things are quite ordinary from a personal performance perspective. It is in these low periods where you rest your mind and charge your mind for the next endeavour.
Given all of this it is a known fact that you can extend the circadian ‘windows’ or make them ‘stronger’ by exercise. If you exercise in the morning before work you prepare the body for better action and momentum in your ‘circadian cycle’. You then get more done and you have better outcomes.
So I go back to the point of all this; if you are a salesperson, take a serious look at how you can improve your fitness. Build a routine into your working day where you can do the exercise and prepare the mind and the body for better quality work and focus. If you are a salesperson that works on commission or similar reward system, this fact is essential for your income.
When you start work as a professional salesperson you will soon know that your income is driven from your success rate. Over time the success rate must be established and driven. There is no room for salespeople that cannot sell. It can also be said that salespeople that are constantly struggling are of little use to a business.
In the average business today, the sales team is at the front line of building market share and customer satisfaction. Without those two things working well, the business fails to survive and those employed in the business will lose their jobs.
So everything hinges on the salesperson and the team in getting their act together and bringing the business some solid results. There is a simple process to producing the new business and the market share that you need. Every part of the simple process has to be optimised and practiced. When you understand the elements of this you can soon see the things that are critical to building your business.
Selling anything is a simple process of communication. That is communication in stages. Here are those stages:
- Researching the right people to talk to. When you get the research correct, every other stage of the process is quite easy.
- Prospecting in a consistent way so that you can find more customers and clients that need your services. Prospecting has to occur every day.
- Qualifying those clients and customers so you know the value that they can bring you and just how you could service them.
- Creating meetings should be a daily event. From your prospecting model you should be generating one or two new meetings per week.
- Categorising the customers into groups such as Key Accounts, Ordinary Accounts, and Basic Accounts. Each level will receive differing levels of attention and service. Key accounts are of the highest value to you over the long term.
- Presenting your services is something quite special. Your presentational style and sales pitch should be of high quality and relevant to the customers that you approach.
- Handling objections is a special process. There will always be some objections and you have to be ready for the common ones.
- Closing the order should not be hard if you have done everything else correctly. Be prepared to close at the right time and in the right way.
- Servicing the customer through the order and to final supply is really important. You want the client to stay with you for the long haul.
- Referral business has to be asked for. It is always available if you have done a good job on the sale and the supply.
Every salesperson should consider just how effective they are in each of these stages. Practice is required to improve the overall result. Professional selling is today one of the most exciting professions to pursue.