Timing. It can be the biggest enemy of every sale and it is the weakest score of the 5 Necessary Sales Ingredients of any sales funnel review I do with sales teams in every industry, of every size.
Focusing more on the when before you focus on the who, what, why, and how can be the difference between great and never.
Here are six tactics to increase your paycheck and company sales by getting you focused on the when.
- Understand when your product or service is needed
What is the trigger that needs to happen for your prospects to potentially buy? Is there a driver that makes them need you? Did they have a break-in, did something break, did they become a parent, buy a house, buy a car, lose a vendor, get a price increase, find a big customer, or just lose a deal themselves?
Understanding the trigger will help you focus your messages and time on better qualified prospects that actually have a need.
- Understand when the budget is available
Does your prospect have the budget to make a purchase now, or are they simply shopping? How many proposals have you stayed late to submit only to find out later that it is a budgeting exercise?
Just because they are interested doesn’t mean they have the funds or that they are going to make a purchase soon.
Understanding if they have the budget helps you focus your energy and time on higher qualified prospects, that are going to buy sooner.
- Understand when purchases are made
We just signed a contract. We just switched vendors. We just bought one. Missing a sale is worse than losing a sale. At least you’re given a chance when you lose a sale.
When is the prospect updating what they offer? When does the prospect review contracts? When do they review their vendors? When do they need the proposal? What steps do they require to become a supplier, partner, or vendor, and when are the deadlines? When do they make a decision?
Understand the buying cycle and buying process to make sure you at least have a chance at the sale.
- Understand when more purchases will be made
Selling more and selling frequently to an existing customer is much easier than selling to a new prospect and is a great way to drive your sales volume.
Is this one time or is there an ongoing need? Do you have to adjust inventory to keep them supplied, and is there a price break to be realized by more volume? Can you get commitment for the next order today?
Understanding the volume and frequency of the purchase can help you partner with a customer for a lifetime and not just one transaction.
- Understand when a prospect is available and receptive
Prospects tend to be happier, positive, and more receptive to talking and meeting at certain times. When is the best time to call your prospects? When are they more receptive to meeting to talking?
Don’t call when it is good for you, call when it is good for them. Most people prospect or make inopportune calls in their left over time because they use opportune times for non-selling activities. What would your paycheck look like if you flipped that?
Understanding availability and receptiveness can help drive better conversations and increase the volume, value, and velocity of your sales pipeline.
- Understand when to close
How many proposals or price quotes have you sent without a clear next step of commitment or having asked for the sale? What if you could gain commitment earlier and skip the entire selling process to begin with?
Understanding your prospect’s buying signals or asking for the order early can help you focus on the prospects that are ready to buy.
Focusing on your prospect’s timing will help you spend your time on higher qualified opportunities with less effort and will drive your sales faster.
If you are in the Milwaukee area and need help integrating these tactics or others into your efforts, check out my workshops through the MKE Sales Accelerator.
Being successful in marketing and sales for business development purposes does not happen by doing the same things the same way with the same customers without some adaptation and evolution of your efforts. Customer buying habits continue to evolve, expectations continue to rise, and competition continues to increase.
There are 12 business trends that are inherent in successful marketing and selling efforts that you can integrate to meet these challenges.
- Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
- CRM Systems and Processes
- Original Content and Marketing Automation
- Face-to-Face Marketing
- Build Repeatable Processes
- Business Skills
- Accountability and Transparency
If you have heard of these 12 trends and you have them in place, perfect! If you have heard of these 12 trends and need some additional information to convince yourself or your executive leadership about why you need to take these serious, then here is a further explanation of of the first four of these business trends to integrate for increased marketing and sales results.
The ability to adapt and evolve are not unique to the theory of evolution, they are important factors for your business to thrive in the marketplace. When was the last time you asked your customers what they wanted versus telling them what you think they want? Sure, some of the things they ask for will not be in your wheelhouse, but if enough of them are asking for the same thing and not receiving a solution from your competition, maybe it is time to innovate or diversify what you do to stay on top.
2.Marketing and Sales Alignment
One of the most pragmatic CEO’s that started her own company from scratch once told my B2B marketing class that until someone gives you money, everything you do is marketing and then you market some more until they give you more money. This makes “sales” a point in time on the spectrum, a triggering event where the stars align and the universe seems to make perfect sense to all of the relevant stakeholders.
My world has three phases to successful business development: awareness, conversion, and account management. Marketing has specific messages and activities aligned on the customers in all three phases just as sales has specific activities and milestones that need to be in the same alignment. Why did you send an email about what you do to a customer that you have had for years? Why did the sales team not follow up with all of the leads from the last targeted campaign? Why, on this earth, are you not communicating with and making visits to customers that just bought from you but then went silent?
Marketing and sales is a world of infinite possibilities but limited resources. Make sure that everything you do in marketing and sales is aligned to create efficiencies that minimize the overlap and maximize the opportunities.
3.Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
Long gone are the days of leadership informing you of what your goals should have been in the annual company address that is three months into the following year, or at least they should be? If you want your business to grow, why are you not giving all of the stakeholders a seat at the table to set the goals and be part of the planning that it will take to reach your vision?
Wait, you don’t have a vision for the business and have not communicated it? This should not be a new trend and that is the reason there is not a number 13 to this blog. Marketing, sales, IT, finance, administration, HR, operations, and even a few strategic partners should all be at the table to help you determine what they can do and how they are going achieve that vision.
4. CRM Systems and Processes
One of my favorite hot buttons of all time. Did you know that only 10% of companies have some sort customer relationship management (CRM) in place and that only 10% of those companies use the CRM systems to their full extent? My math may not be the best but that means only 1% of companies are using CRM to the fullest extent. The top 1% is called that for a reason, and it is not always because they are lucky. This 1% uses the intelligence from their customers and their business to make smart business decisions.
Your customers are your largest asset and if you do not have a tool in place to manage that asset, then you should not blame internal or external forces for sales declines, shrinking margins, or lost market share. A proper CRM system can be your crystal ball to help you stop all three of those scenarios.
5. Original Content and Marketing Automation
I am sure you have seen or read plenty of white papers on how SEO is positively impacted by the original content you produce about what you do and how it impacts your customers’ business just as much as you should be communicating on every channel that the internet makes possible. I have to say that I have seen the results of this and you need to take it seriously. What have you done to document what you do? Do you even know how you make a positive impact on your customers? What are you doing to tell the world about it? Who are you even talking to?
Here is the answer to the last questions in point five. If you are utilizing your CRM system and marketing automation processes properly, then you should know which customers are ideal, which products are profitable, what market segments are growing, what lead sources are productive, and what activities are working. How efficient would your business development efforts be if you knew who you should talk to, could communicate how to increase your customer’s value to their customers business, and knew what products you need to sell more of? Instead of trying to be something to everyone and doing and saying what you think is right, why not let your customer intelligence and business intelligence tell you what you should actually be doing and saying?
In a previous post about legacy sales teams (link) and in the words of the immortal Montgomery Burns, it is time to “release the hounds.” Is your business development team expected to clock in and clock out on-site, working from desktop based software, making phone calls from a desk phone that is within proximity to 15 other conversations in the background, or do they have tablets or laptops with cloud based applications, have VOIP solutions that make them available seamlessly from anywhere, and have the autonomy to develop relationships anytime and anywhere? It is a 24/7/365 global economy that demands success to let go of traditional management and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Why do you think E-Commerce is growing? What time of the day did you place your last Amazon order?
You would be correct to set some boundaries for your mobile business development efforts but you would be foolish not to explore the technologies and practices that have helped the successful 1% we mentioned.
8. Face-to-Face Marketing
While we are on the subject of mobility, how are you incentivizing your business development team members to get in front of customers and prospective customers? Especially in the Milwaukee and WI marketplaces, showing up and talking to people is probably 80% of business development success. Magic happens when people get together and have conversations about what each other does.
With people you know, the conversation should have a point and targeted results. With people you don’t know, there is a different approach. I learned this from Robert Rose at a BMA-Milwaukee event in February of 2015 (I forgot where he stated it was from or if it was original) and it just seemed to make sense. When talking to an individual that you have never met before at a networking event or an event where you have a shared interest, use the (FORM) framework to structure the conversation. FORM is an acronym for (F) Family, (O) Occupation, (R) Recreation, and (M) Motivation. Tell me about your family, tell me about what you do, tell me about what you do for fun, and tell me about what gets you out of bed in the morning. I think your conversation will be amazing and probably lead to a next step with both of your efforts.
9. Build Repeatable Processes
Why re-create the wheel? Doesn’t that work alright? Business development is all about volume and velocity. We’ll talk about keeping it simple in point #11 but I will ask a simple question: What if you could predict results based on what information you have and what activities you executed regularly? Too good to be true?
How efficient would your business development efforts be if you were able to on-board new customers without having to do things differently every single time? I am talking about pricing, contracting, delivering, billing, and even resolving complaints. Did you know that the average person in a business development role is only able to “sell” about 10% to 20% of the time because they take it upon themselves to do everything else because there are no processes in place? What would your sales look like and what would everyone’s paycheck look like if your business development team could “sell” 60% of the time?
10. Business Skills
Have you read the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson? If not, you should (link). The book identifies the successful traits and skills of the business development people that have been exceeding expectation since the latest “recession.” Equip your business development team with the tools to understand business, not just the products and services you offer. Give your business development team the ability to understand how your customers make money. Stop talking about your product and service and start talking about how your product and service can impact your customer’s revenues, efficiencies, and profits and add value to their customers. Help your business development team become advisors to their customers and your business relationship with your customers will evolve from a supplier to a trusted partner.
In a previous post, we talked about the four “F” words you should be using when talking about your efforts. Those words are: focus, fill, forward, and finish (link). Whatever your efforts may be, they should be focused on the right activities that are designed on filling the funnel, moving opportunities forward, and finishing (closing) the opportunities that you have been cultivating….keep it simple stupid……that’s it! How much “new” business can you find and how fast can you on-board “new” business and use your sales funnel metrics to help you get better?
However, you need to be aware of opportunity costs your current marketing and sales structure and processes may be producing. Beware of “non-selling” activities delegated to the personnel that are responsible for your business development efforts because they will cost you money. These non-selling activities will impede new business development and should to be reviewed and be delegated to appropriate support personnel. Ask your team about what is keeping them from spending more time in front of their prospects and take the excuses away.
12. Accountability and Transparency
Sales is a team sport. Is everyone rowing in the same direction for the successful growth of your company? The actual activities that are associated with business development transcends just the marketing and sales department. Everyone in your company has an impact on your prospective customers and your current customers. What are the customer touch points? What are the roles and activities that are needed at each touch point? What needs to happen by whom and when to be successful?
Once you get everyone on board, determine what the goals are, determine the metrics to be measured, determine who is responsible for the appropriate activities, and make the results public so everyone holds each other accountable. One of my favorite tools is a “war board” that is visible to everyone. This single tool has aligned more efforts and generated more results than any other tool I have seen. I don’t care if you use chalk, dry-erase, spray paint, oil paints, or even permanent ink. Just make sure you are using something visible to all for documenting progress.
Integrating these 12 business trends into your marketing and selling efforts will make a positive impact on your results in a short amount of time when committed to. If you want to grow your business or even just your individual marketing and sales business development efforts, prioritize which of these 12 business trends could make an impact your marketing and sales efforts and make a plan to integrate them over the next 30-60-90 days.
Getting results out of your sales team is still the goal but the days of beating the Viking drum are over except for those lucky few that still work in a pirate culture where beatings will continue until moral improves. These are the companies and bosses that only care about how many calls you made, how many leads you found, and how late you are working this Saturday when you come in. Most socks in your dresser drawer have a longer life than the sales team members and sales managers in these types of cultures.
Today’s sales leaders don’t yell down from upstairs, ask questions that are meant to make you look foolish in front of your peers, threaten to take accounts away if you don’t make your numbers, or force their teams to sit through sales training from the bosses networking friend that only addresses perceived organizational problems.
Today’s sales leaders are characterized by the following:
- They work with and support their teams in the field
- They work hard to make sure their teams have the resources and training they need
- They make sure post-sales support is in place
- They make sure that marketing is aligned with target markets and generating leads
- They make sure that goals have been developed together, plans are in place, and that activities are aligned with meeting the goals.
They also keep their teams focused by asking these 6 simple questions of their sales team members on a weekly basis:
- What went great this week?
- What got in the way?
- What is your plan for next week?
- What does success look like next week?
- What changes do you need to make for that success to happen?
- How can I help you?
Today’s sales leaders get their team members to become autonomous and self-directed like independent business units that independently have a unique set of skills. These questions are asked in a one-on-one setting where individual hurdles and constraints can be solved like using a personal trainer versus the traditional drill instructor that we see in movies.
Results still matter at the end of the day but so does how you get them. Provide your sales team members with the resources and training they need and make sure they have a personal trainer to help them.
We’ll end with a quick quiz.
Q: What do typewriters, asparagus tongs, horse plows, beta cassettes, Polaroids, and 1950 sales management tactics have in common?
Feel free to contact us if you need help with the answer.
Stay ahead of the market by maximizing the opportunities in the world around you.
Leading a sales team is a constantly evolving mission with a single objective: to meet and exceed the sales objectives for the area you’re managing. It involves constant recruiting, training, motivating, and coaching of both direct reports and non-reports. It is a constantly giving position that takes nothing and gives credit where credit is due.
The variables that can impact your success as a leader are tremendous. Below is a weekly sales management checklist and its purpose is to help you stay on top of the primary issues that should have your attention on a regular basis to keep you on track.
- Do we know what is going on in our industry?
- Do we know what is going on in our market?
- Do we know what is going on in our competitors?
- Do we know what is going on in our customers?
- How are we differentiated?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure change?
- What does the team need to know more about?
Goals & Roles
- Do we have defined goals for the year?
- Do we have defined sub-goals for the next 30/60/90 days based on the annual goal?
- Does everyone understand their roles and expectations in achieving the goals?
- Does my team have a plan for achieving those goals?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure progress?
- What can we provide to the team to help them?
- Do we have the right people on the team?
- Do we know what the team is great at?
- Is the team utilizing their strengths to their full potential?
- Do we know where the team needs help?
- What tools do we need to use better?
- What activities do we need to do better?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to drive success?
- How can we coach the team for better performance?
- How well is our lead generation working?
- Are we easy to do business with?
- Do we have the people and processes to support the sales?
- Are we maximizing our capacity?
- Are we meeting our revenue / units / margin goals?
- What are our customers saying?
- Do we have the right business intelligence to make informed decisions?
- What can we improve this week?
- Who are our top customer? Who changed? Who can we grow in the middle 60? Who do we fire>
- Do we have the right strategic partners to help us add value to our customers?
- Who else need to know about what we do?
- Who can we be a resource for?
- What is my 30-60-90 day plan and is it focused on the goal?
- Who can I use as a sounding board?
- Who can hold me accountable
- What books have I read in the last 3 months?
- How can I help others in their personal lives?
- What can we celebrate?
Your particular sales world will most likely involves a few more points or slight changes that are specific to you and your team, your company, your industry, and your market. You may be an owner in charge of the sales effort, a sales manager in a large company, or even an autonomous sales person that has to manage themselves. Regardless, the sales management function still needs to perform and consistently addressed, these are the sales management fundamentals that will put you and your team in front of the pack and help you maximize the opportunities in the world around you.
Does your company share the characteristics of such successful selling organizations as SAP, Oracle, CA Technologies, SalesForce.com, Monster.com, Cisco, Clear Channel, and VMWare? These are just a few on the Forbes 2013 list of top selling organizations. These are all companies that:
- Outpace their competition
- Are leaders in their markets
- Consistently deliver profits year after year to their share holders
- Are capable of hiring great sales representatives
We previously wrote about the 3 benefits of being a market-oriented and customer-focused organization so we narrowed the list down to 9 characteristics that top selling organizations share:
- They all have a vision of what they want to be and have the entire organization aligned on it.
- The all foster a culture of continuous improvement and learning where employees are expected to challenge the status-quo and help increase revenues, decrease costs, and increase efficiency.
- They all operate under a sense of urgency.
- They are all very process driven with a repeatable sales process.
- The are able to hire superior sale people because the have sales processes and systems in place.
- They are all results focuses and not activity focused.
- They all have leading indicators and metrics in place to measure success that is focused on new business and not just any business.
- Their compensation plans are aligned with the goals of the organization so their people are rewards to produce the right results.
- They all have strong sales leadership and a strong sales management function.
So how does your organization rate for these characteristics? Do you have some of these characteristics, are you strong in any of them and weak in others, or do you not have any of these? We invited you to be part of our survey to see how you rate your selling organization based on the 9 characteristics listed here. The results will be published in November 2013.
Please feel free to contact us if you need help with building these characteristics into your selling organization.
Innovation is difficult and innovations alone will not drive sales so who is on your team that can help you grow your business? Do you have the right types of sales representatives for your efforts? Can your sales efforts increase market share utilizing current resources?
What made your organization successful in the past may not be enough to maintain the current sales levels or even survive in the future. Many companies are doing the same thing the same way with the same people and with the same customers. Companies must evaluate their sales efforts and sales teams if they want to grow in this “new economy”.
In the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson published in 2011, the authors studied the skills, behaviors, knowledge, and attitudes that matter for high performance and developed five profiles of sales representatives including the identity of the most successful one. It is a brilliant book that you should read if you are serious about taking your sales effort to the next level and stay ahead of the competition.
So what are the five different profiles and what is the most successful one?
The Hard Worker: This sales representative is always willing to go the extra mile, does not give up easily, is self-motivated, and interested in feedback and development. 21% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Relationship Builder: This sales representative builds strong advocates in customer organizations, is generous in giving time to help others, and gets along with everyone. 21% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Lone Wolf: This sales representative follows their own instincts, is self-assured, and difficult to control. 18% of sales representatives fall into this category.
The Reactive Problem Solver: This sales representative reliably responds to internal and external stakeholders, ensures that all problems will be solved, and is very detail oriented. 14% of sales representatives fall in to this category.
The Challenger: This sales representative always has a different view of the world, understands the customer’s business, loves to debate, and pushes the customers. 27% of sales representatives fall into this category.
There is no doubt that the “Challenger” is the most successful of sales representatives studied. The good news is that the characteristics and style of the “Challenger” representative can be taught and replicated in any organization.
Challengers do not lead with information, they lead with insights about how they can save money, increase revenues, or increase efficiency in their prospect’s or client’s business. The Challenger teaches their prospects and clients things that they do not know and can use to improve their business.
Please feel free to contact us if you need help building challenger representatives in your organization for your selling efforts.
The following is a summary from”To Sell is Human” by author Daniel Pink.
We are all in “Non-Sales Selling”
You don’t have to be a sales person to be in sales today. According to Daniel Pink, everyone in an organization spend 24 minutes of every hour trying to persuade, influence, and convince others to move. He calls it non-sales selling because it does not require anyone to purchase anything but in our world, that is still considered selling. You are simply trying to get others to move in a direction that you want them to go. But how do you get them to move? How do you sell them on moving?
Start with the end in mind
In today’s world which is full of distractions, we get a very limited time to be in front of people to talk therefore your message has to be concise and to the point in a way that people can hear and understand simply. Ask these three questions when you are formulating your message:
- What do you want them to know?
- What do you want them to feel?
- What do you want them to do?
Using these tree questions will help provide clarity to your message. Now, how do you deliver it?
Use one of these 6 different pitches for different opportunities
How may of us have been told to develop and “Elevator Pitch” at sales classes for networking events and any time we had the opportunity to tell someone what we do? Today, we have many other opportunities to get our message out there and with all of the distractions that our audience has, we need to be concise and deliver our pitch in a way that is relative to the people we are trying to move in our direction.
- The One-Word Pitch is mostly used in things like political campaigns and social movements. What is the one word that people will associate with how you are trying to move them. Words such as “forward”, “solidarity”, “joy”, and “believe” all have meaning depending on who you are.
- The Question Pitch should be used when your argument is strong and making a statement might not be the best approach. Ronald Reagan asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” to move people away from Jimmy Carter. “What is the cost of not doing this?” is a personal favorite of mine since people move when they can understand how much money they could lose if they do not make necessary changes.
- The Rhyming Pitch is typically used to simplify how we process the information we hear. One of the most famous rhyming pitches was used by Johnie Cochran during the OJ Simpson trial when OJ could not get the famous black glove on his hand. “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” became his battle cry for the closing arguments. “Woes unites foes” works better than “woes unites enemies” and “caution and measure will bring you treasure” work better than “caution and measure brings you riches”
- The Subject Line Pitch can be very effective when you have to use email to try and move people. Did you know that people and much more likely to open an email when they think they have something to lose or something to gain or the subject matter directly affects their work? Who would not open an email with the subject line:”Delivery options for dropping off your suitcase full of cash?”
- The Twitter Pitch is quick, painless, to the point, cuts through all the PR babble, and forces people to summarize what they want you to hear in 140 characters or less. Be sure to make it 120 characters or less if you want it to be retweeted.
- The Pixar Pitch involves six sequential sentences that Pixar executives have used to move the film industry to produce such academy award winning movies such as Finding Nemo, WALL-E, The Incredibles, and Toy Story 3. Try pitching your message in this format: Once upon a time_____________________. Every day, _________________. One day ________________________. Because of that, __________________. Until finally ______________.
The elevator pitch is not dead, it has just evolved to meet the need for us to communicate efficiently and effectively to the people we are trying to move.