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The 3 Types of Selling Activities That Lead to Sales Success

Great sales people are not a mystery, they are just able to commit their time to the right selling activities and best practices that the rest of us do not.  They could be rain makers for a pharmaceutical firm or they could be a start up business owner that has to sell his own product or service.  Regardless, most sales people are only able to sell 20% of their time because of the non-selling activities that they get involved in.  What would your sales look like if the non-selling activities could be delegated and more time could be committed to selling activities?  How many sales have you lost because the non-selling activities took up too much time?

Let’s take a look at the three types of selling activities and the specific selling activities that you need to start or improve upon to get the results of a great sales person.

Funnel Filling Activities: These are the activities that are going to fill your sales funnel with a higher qualified volume of potential opportunities.  Notice how these are “in-person” selling activities or will lead to other “in-person” selling activities regarding conversations about new business.

  1.  Attending networking events relevant to your potential clients and referral partners interests.
  2. Sponsoring seminars and speaking engagements that attract potential clients and referral partners.
  3. Setting appointments with potential clients that meet your ideal client profile regarding their needs.
  4. Setting appointments with referral partners to help target opportunities to work together.
  5. Meeting with current clients to further understand their business and where you can add value.
  6. Always helping others grow their networks or improving their business when you have the ability and time to do so.

Funnel Accelerating Activities: These are the activities that are going to move your potential opportunities through your sales funnel to become a client and remain a client.  Notice how all of these are meant to move potential clients to a next step.

  1. Understanding who your potential client really is, what they really want, and how they buy.
  2. Presenting as a team with your technical expert to qualified potential clients.
  3. Providing your potential client with two closing options.
  4. Overcoming objections and put-offs that arise unexpectedly.
  5. Giving your potential client all of the information they need regarding integration and delivery.
  6. Making sure that everyone in the organization understands the potential client’s expectations and what their role will be in the integration and delivery phase.

Focusing Activities:  These are the activities that will improve yourself and help you keep your time and energy focused on the Funnel filling and funnel accelerating activities listed above.

  1. Making sure you have a plan for what you are attending, who you are meeting with, and who you are talking to about new business for next week before you leave this week.
  2. Making sure all of relevant customer information is updated in your CRM where others can find it when they need it.
  3. Delegating non-selling activities to the proper support people so you can stay focused on the selling activities.
  4. Taking time to grow your knowledge about business success and industry innovations.
  5. Taking time to grow your skills, capabilities, and belief in yourself.
  6. Unplug once in a while to focus on your personal life.

Notice how nothing has been said about Process and Systems.  That is because I am assuming that you have defined processes and systems in place for you,  your sales people, and your support functions to focus on the right activities for the duties assigned.  Considering that every minute you spend in the non-selling activities is a potential lost opportunity or even potential lost revenue, how much more do you have to lose before you start to integrate some of the right selling activities into your daily and weekly routine?

Please feel free to contact me if you need help on where and how to integrate any of these activities to help you become a great sales person.

7 Sales Metrics and 7 Questions You Should Utilize for Sales Growth and Sales Coaching

In a recent seminar about “Building a Sales Management Function” that I was honored to facilitate, we talked about what metrics matter to an organization that wants to be forward thinking and use leading indicators instead of the traditional “Postmortem” metrics that most companies use.  Looking backwards is fine if you are alright with using your rear view mirror to drive forwards, but companies that are focused on sales growth should be using a different set of Metrics.  These seven metrics are both useful for production and for a sales management function to identify coaching opportunities for better sales performance.

These seven sales metrics are key to effective sales management for organizations focused on growth:

1.    #of  Face-to-face meetings with “new qualified targets” (not prospects or leads) regarding new opportunities
2.    # of two-way phone or email conversations with “new qualified targets” regarding new opportunities
3.    # of Face-to face meetings with existing clients regarding new opportunities
4.    # of two-way phone or email conversations with existing clients regarding new opportunities
5.    Amount of new opportunities added to their sales funnel
6.    The # of actions that moved existing opportunities through their sales funnel
7.    The amount of new business that closed from their sales funnel

These seven sales metrics will help identify how effective a sales rep is at both finding new business (volume) and moving business through the sales funnel (velocity).  These seven sales metrics will also provide your sales management function with the information and business intelligence they need to coach your sales rep for better performance once you bench-mark them.

What questions would you ask as a sales manager to coach your sales reps once you have bench-marked these sales metrics?

1.    How can we increase the average value of the new opportunities you find in new clients and existing clients?
2.    How could we decrease the length of sale from 6 months to four months?
3.    How can we increase the amount of opportunities in existing clients?
4.    What else do you need to help add volume to your sales funnel?
5.    What are the objections you are getting from clients and how are you navigating them?
6.    What do you need to do differently next week to get better results?
7.    How can I help?

You cannot manage want you do not measure and what you measure gets done, so what are you measuring and what else do you need to start measuring? A good sales management function will help their sales reps put money in their pockets so everyone is happy.   I guarantee your sales reps want to know the measuring stick and know that someone wants to help them.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what sales metrics makes sense for you to measure for growing sales and how you can start using them to improve your sales performance.

13 Free Sales Tools to Help Build Your Business

Having worked with these sales tools in my own business and helping my clients integrate these sales tools  into their own habits, I sometimes take it for granted that everyone knows about them.  These should not just be tribal knowledge and I hope these help you in your own selling efforts to the markets you are targeting.

Jigsaw is a user-generated database that is continually updated by its members.  It gives you the name, title, postal and email addresses and direct-dial phone numbers for individual contacts you can’t find directly.  This allows you to find the direct contact information for decisions makers you are targeting without going through the gatekeeper and wondering if you message is even being received.

InfoUSA is a sales tool available with just a library card through your library system.  Not only is this tool useful for finding information on your target customers, but it also give you a list of management names, their competitors, and their SIC and NAICS codes to be able to download searches for even more target customers that may not appear on other search tools.

MyBrainShark is a website that allows you create a voice-enriched multimedia presentation or podcast.  It also makes it easier for you to record your PowerPoint presentation for online display purposes.  This allows the market to view and hear your message and learn from your expertise 24/7.

FirefoxSuperSearch is like the the”Swiss Army Knife” of search engines. It allows users to perform web searches, people searches, reverse lookups, public records searches, due diligence and background research, using over 160 of the internet’s best search engines.  This allows you to learn a lot about your prospects and customers before you engage with them.

Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. It can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents or other downloads.   This will help you identify how your website is connecting with in your market and help you identify what content you need to change.

Xobni is a free add-on to Microsoft Outlook that turns it from an email system into a powerful sales tool. It creates another window in outlook that displays a profile of whoever sent you the currently highlighted email by grabbing that person’s photo and telephone number from LinkedIn, Facebook, or several other social networking sites. It also shows a string of communications that you’ve had with that person. If you use outlook, this is the easiest way to start “social selling” using all of the social media tools.

Hoovers is a database of companies and other organizations, which includes top level data on financials, strategies, competitors, key executives, market dynamics, and so forth. It’s built on a database of information on more than 30 million corporations and organizations, and more than 35 million people. This is a great place to learn about a customer or a competitor, without having to dig through the SEC reports.

Zoho CRM is a Customer Relationship Management tool that has all the features you’d expect in a world-class CRM product, including marketing campaigns, lead management, sales pipeline, forecasts, etc.  This will allow you to keep track of all of your opportunities and activities in one location and you can even have up to 3 people on the same system before you have to pay for it.  I have 3 clients using this currently as their first CRM tool and it works great for a sales management function.

Demandbase Stream is a nice little sales tool that works like a news ticker displaying information across the desktop about which businesses are visiting your Web site, along with their interests, and contact details for the most appropriate decision makers to contact for follow up. You can also flag existing customers, prospects, partners, and competitors, so that you’re aware when they’re doing something on your website.  This helps you act fast when someone is interested in what you have to offer.

Super Pages has proven useful for search for companies that are typically hard to find because they do not “fit” into a specific market segment.  You are able to search for companies in specific geographic areas using key words of the service they may offer.

LinkedIn continues to be a valuable sales tool for business development as more and more companies are joining and senior leadership begins to adopt it as a tool themselves.  Although they have removed some of the features since going public like Events and Answers, you can generate plenty of activity with a target audience by posting useful information to help your network or take part in discussions within the groups you belong to.  Make sure you join 50 groups that are relevant to your expertise, industry, and interests to get the most reach.  Chances are, if I do not know something, my network or fellow group members do and I get an answer very quickly.

Evernote is a great way to keep your projects and to-do list organized.  You can access it through both a desktop and your mobile device to add activities and make new notes when you think about them so you do not forget about them

Xmind is a mind mapping tool that helps you visualize strategic plans, build organizational charts, develop fish bone diagrams for processes, and even can be used to map a potential website site map.  This is a great tool for those of us who are more visual learners.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with these or just want my library card number.

10 Reasons your sales effort is complacent

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

  1. You do not have regular sales meetings.
  2. A member of your team quit and you have no CRM to access account information.
  3. You spend less than 60% of your time with customers.
  4. 20% of your selling efforts accounts for 80% of your sales.
  5. You recently lost sales because you did nothing.
  6. Your sales cycle is longer than last year.
  7. Your customers are buying less.
  8. Less than 25% of your sales come from new customers.
  9. You have seen less than 4 customers and prospects in the last week.
  10. You do not subscribe to any sales blogs or read any books on new ways of doing things.

If more than 3 of these reflect your organization’s selling function, you may want to consider making some changes to your selling processes, changes to your structure, changes to your compensation plan, and investing in some training.

Why can’t I close sales faster?

With sales cycles getting longer, understanding the problems you are faced with will help you change the way you sell for faster sales.

1.  Your sales process is not aligned with your prospect’s buying process.   Most companies design their sales process on how they sell to the market without regard to how the market buys from them.  If you start to think as a buyer, you would be able to identify potential obstacles earlier in the sale and develop solutions around them.

2.  You do not follow your process.  When you do not follow all of the steps when building a model or replacing your brake pads?  What if pilots and surgeons ignored their processes and checklists?  Experts say that it takes 10,000 hours to master your profession, so until then you should probably follow the steps.

3.  You have not created a sense of urgency by discussing “risk” with the buyer.  The best question you can ask if you feel an objection to your solution: “What is the cost of not doing this?”  If you can you’re your prospect that the rewards outweigh the risks, you will help them say “yes” faster.

What steps should you take to correct these problems?

1.  Define how your customer buys.  If you ask “What would you like to see from me to help you make your decision”, you will save a lot of time trying to figure out what they want.

2.  Have a goal for each and every sales call.   When you understand all of the stages a prospect goes through in their buying process, you can identify milestones that need to be met for the prospect to reach the next stage.  What needs to happen in your next call or meeting to make that happen to keep the sale moving?

3.  Talk about rewards with your prospects. Companies are always concerned with committing funds to something that is not necessarily tangible.  Help your prospect understand the opportunity costs of not saying “yes”.

By aligning the way you sell to the way your prospects buy, following a repeatable process, and helping the prospect see the rewards of saying yes, you will close sales faster.

6 Questions to Help Move the Chains

In how many sales meetings this week is the owner looking at the sales funnel and scratching their head about the lack of movement of opportunities from one stage to the next?  There seem to be plenty of opportunities and potential clients out there so what is the problem?

I guarantee it is a lack of proper qualification of the opportunity to begin with.  The sales funnel needs to be cleaned up and by asking some basic sales leadership questions, you can help coach your team to identify the true opportunities to potentially “move the chains” and take them to the next level.

  • Who is the potential client?
  • What do they actually need and want?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • What other options does the potential client have?
  • What is a clear next step that we need to do now to move this forward?

Many sales people can’t say “no” to potential opportunities and clients even though they are not ideal prospects.  This causes their sales funnel becomes full of opportunities that get stuck at the proposal phase because they have no clue what to actually offer to them.

If you are looking at the sales funnel and can’t understand why the actually sales are not happening, try drilling down deeper into each opportunity with these questions to coach your team to move their chains.

If you need help integrating some of the best practices to help coach your sales team, please contact us to schedule a SWOT analysis of your sales structure, sales process, and sales skills

How leading indicators can help keep your eyes on the prize

During my spare time while traveling for a project with a major Midwest manufacturer, I decided to summarize a take away I had from reading “The Four Disciplines of Execution”.1 The book is very relevant for any of us who have started major initiatives in our organizations only to watch them be stifled by competing priorities or as I call it, “the tyranny of the urgent”. These are daily need-to-do activities and organizational fire fighting that makes us wonder what we actually accomplished and did all day.

After an organization determines a relevant business goal they want to achieve and target date for completion, they traditionally measure their progress through what the book calls “Lagging Indicators”.  These lagging Indicators are reflective of the goals that we traditionally set quarterly or annually such as:

  • Increase sales from $500K to $625K by 2015.
  • Increase the number of dealers from 10 to 15 by 2013.
  • Reduce cost of sales by 10% by Q3.
  • Increase average selling price per transaction by 5% by March
  • Increase our market share by 10% by 2014.

Sound familiar?  If achieved, any of these are all good indicators of success, but when does and organization traditionally look at the results? Most of them only look at their progress a few days before the target completion date.  This can produce only one of two possible results: a sense of jubilation and desire to celebrate, or a instantaneous increase in your pucker factor that now has you worrying about your year, your career, and the future of your organization.  Using these lagging indicators to measure success at the end of a target date is about as useful as looking in your vehicles rear view mirror to navigate in a forward direction.

What if you could measure your progress along the entire way toward your target date?
What if you were able to change your game plan at half time instead of the two-minute warning?  What if everyone in the company knew could measure results on a weekly basis?
What do you have to start measuring to be able to do that?

The book introduces the development and use of “Leading Indicators”.  Leading indicators measure the achievement of specific activities and activity levels that are necessary for you to achieve your goal.  These can be as simple as:

  • Meet with 10 new qualified targets per week.
  • Present to 4 qualified prospects per week.
  • Up sell 10 clients per week.
  • Mail 100 new information packets to targets per month..
  • Complete 3 field assessments per month.
  • Participate in 2 trade shows per quarter

All of these leading indicators can be reverse engineered from looking at your past successes and determining what activities helped you get there.  For example, if your goal (lag indicator) is to sell $100K of materials in 10 months to new clients, your average client is worth $10K, 50% of the prospects let you send them a quote, and you closing ratio is 10%, then you will have to talk to 200 prospects and propose to 100 of them to reach your goals.  Breaking down these activities into leading indicators determines that you need to talk to 20 new prospects and propose to 10 of them every month or even talk to five prospects a week and propose to 2.5 of them on average. Your goal of $100K in new revenue in 10 months does not seem all that hard to achieve know what you have to do each week in the midst of the tyranny of the urgent.

The last words of advice from the book are to develop and maintain a public score card that helps everyone in the organization understand how they are meeting their leading indicators and progressing towards their goals on a weekly/monthly basis.  Read here to understand the benefits of keeping score properly to drive accountability in your organization or contact SalesTechnik  should you like help developing relevant leading indicators to help you achieve your goals.

1. The Four Disciplines of Execution: McChesney, Covey, and Huling, Free Press 2012
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