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.
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.
When you are selling or pitching your services it is important that you stand out as relevant and real as a professional in your industry. One of the ways that you can do that is by offering the client or prospect a timeline or timetable of actions to be taken. It will show how you will take them forward.
A timetable process is a tool of presentation and will help the client when it comes to the final agreement. It is easy for the client to see what is about to happen and why. It helps them make a decision.
Here are some tips to help you with this process:
- Get a graphing package that allows you to create and use GANTT charts. They are timed based methods of display.
- Whilst you can have a graph for each product or service offering, create a personal graph for the client that you are working with.
- The beginning of the display graph should be where the client is today, and the end of the process is the ideal position of where they want to be.
- If you have a complex product or service then you may need quite a few stages in the graphing process. In the most complex of situations you can use a ‘PERT’ graph to comprehensively display the stages to the transaction or order. In that situation, the PERT graph is used before you use the GANTT chart.
- If you want to see examples of PERT graphing you can get a good set of examples from the internet or in a professional graphing software package.
If you have any challenges of supply and lead times to the end result for the client, then you will need to handle that in the graphing timeline. If you are getting goods and services from your overseas suppliers the same rules apply. Understand the time factors and feed them into your presentational material.
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 involved in sales and marketing it is easy to succumb to the pressures of the situation. Some clients will be tougher to work with than others. Some deals will seem impossible at first glance. Some negotiations will take a long time to work through. It is too easy to take situations personally and give in to a problem.
Show me a top salesperson and I will show you a person that has stepped up to the challenge of many different deals and situations. The ‘easy way’ is rarely the ‘best way’ when it comes to professional selling. Look at a client challenge for what it is; an opportunity to go further and work under seemingly impossible odds.
So how can you handle this? Understand what your market is doing and prepare for it. At your next sales meeting ask around the team to see what the biggest challenges are at the moment. Make a list of current difficulties. Here is one that I got from a recent team in a coaching situation:
- Clients are slow to make a decision
- The price is slowing the decision down
- The ultimate decision maker is not involved in the pitch until the very last stage
- The client will not give you the whole story and list their requirements
- Comparable prices are ‘killing’ the deal
- The client is not totally honest.
- There are not enough clients in the market
- The competitors are ‘jumping’ all over my clients with special deals
- Head office has stepped into the deal and now I am working with others to get a decision
Given your client base and business market you can probably add to the ‘challenges’ list. When you look at each issue singularly it is easy to see that there are ways to get through the challenge. Push further into the requirements and the current information. Go that little bit further to understand; become a ‘solution provider’ and not a ‘solution pusher’.
Every client will be motivated by something. Perhaps their motivation is a combination of a number of things. Take the time to get closer to your clients before you push the negotiation and sale button. A good question and answer process together with excellent product knowledge will get you much closer to a deal than anything else.