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.
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 you work in selling and customer service you must have the right mindset. This is even more so the case if your income depends on your sales.
Have you ever come across a salesperson that has an obvious problem of client commitment and attention? You know the type; they only help you if you ask and then they do so without a smile or willing gesture. You tend to remember these poor sales people and the bad experiences that they have given you. Do you go back to them? Do you refer others to them? Probably not. If you are like me, you will prefer to stay away; you may even be inclined to spread the word about the poor service and experience.
If you work in sales in any industry it is time to have a good look at the messages you send when you connect with and serve your clients. The right mindset and attitude are key parts of building your sales results and client database. Start the day with an ‘attitude boost’. Look in the bathroom mirror and smile. Tell yourself that today will be a great day and that you are committed to excellence in sales and service.
So I know we all have ‘bad days’ but don’t let that spread to your customers and clients. Take steps to improve your attitude and mindset to that of a professional salesperson. Treat people as you would like to be treated. Make the experience of doing business with you an absolute pleasure.