Another year has come and gone. For some sales people 2014 was a great year while others struggled to make ends meet.
Like many sales trainers and speakers, I thought it would be appropriate to list a few things that will help you achieve great results in the upcoming year.
Here are six that immediately come to mind.
1. Make more appointments
This may seem like an obvious one, but many sales people get hung up on the administrative aspect of their job and end up wasting a ton of time on paperwork when they could be selling.
If you are serious about increasing your sales in the upcoming year you MUST make appointment-setting your number one task each and every day. Set aside time every day to make calls and set appointments.
2. Target your prospecting
Many sales people cast a wide net hoping to catch something. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work unless you sell a product or service that appeals to wide range of people or businesses. In today’s highly competitive business world it is essential that you narrow your prospecting efforts.
Who could most benefit from your product, service or solution? If you want to stand out from the crowd you need to become more specific on who you target.
3. Increase Your Pre-Call, Pre-Meeting Research
To survive in the today’s business world, you need to invest time researching your prospects BEFORE you contact them to arrange a meeting or appointment.
Meeting with an executive and saying, “I’d like to take a few minutes to find out exactly what you do and what problems you’re facing” will not get you very far.
Corporate executives and key decision makers are too busy to educate you. They expect you to know AND understand their business and the challenges they are encountering. They don’t have time to listen to a self-serving sales pitch that does not address their specific needs.
Conducting pre-call, pre-meeting research is absolutely essential if you want to survive in today’s tough economy.
It is the ante. The price to play the game.
If you don’t do the homework before contacting a high-quality prospect, you run the risk of losing the business to a competitor who took the time, did some research, and was able to position his or her offering more effectively.
4. Increase your Actual Selling Time
I know, you’re probably thinking that you already spend 40 hours a week selling.
Well, the truth is most sales people do NOT spend as much time selling as they could. Productivity expert, Mark Ellwood, has discovered that most sales people spend as much as 78% of their time on non-selling activities.
This includes: travel time, admin work, planning, researching their prospects, fulfilling orders, dealing with client concerns and problems, attending meetings, training sessions, conferences, and trade shows.
This does NOT include distractions, socializing, and interruptions.
If you want to have a great year you NEED to maximize your selling time.
This means doing pre-call research, completing expense reports, and other admin work during non-selling times. The most successful sales reps do this type of work early in the morning or at the end of the day after they have returned to the office.
If you want to be achieve your sales targets in today’s new economy you need to discipline yourself to do this additional work at a time when it doesn’t interfere with actual selling activities.
5. Improve your Ability to Connect with Decision Makers
This is one the biggest challenges because decision makers are so busy in today’s business environment. Decision makers are incredibly busy which makes it extremely difficult for sales people to actually connect with them. It can even be difficult to connect with existing customers.
It used to take about 7 attempts to connect with a decision maker but now it takes as many 16 tries.
And that’s just to connect with them for the first time.
Maintaining ongoing contact is another challenge.
This means you need to change your approach.
Instead of taking a shotgun approach and trying to connect with decision makers in dozens of companies at the same time, you need to focus your efforts on trying to get into a few businesses at a time.
And to achieve this you need to use a variety of strategies. This includes; calling, snail mail, networking, email, tapping into your network, referrals and using social media.
The key with any of these approaches is to create a compelling message or to demonstrate your expertise on a particular business problem your prospect may be facing. This does not include sending self-promotion emails, corporate brochures or leaving long-winded voice mail messages.
6. Improve your sales presentations and/or sales proposals
Most sales presentations and proposals highlight the seller’s business and/or company. Virtually every presentation I have been subjected to, or proposal I have read, started by outlining the seller’s company.
How long they’ve been in business.
The clients they work with.
The solutions they provide.
The awards they have won.
Blah blah blah…
I recall meeting with a company about a particular training solution a number of years ago. After the meeting the rep sent me proposal and the first two pages talked about his company’s achievements. As I read through the information, the only thought that ran through my mind was “What the heck does this have to do with my problem?”
Your clients and prospect don’t care how many awards you have won.
They don’t care if your company has been in business for 65 years.
They don’t care if you use the latest and greatest technology.
You may be saying, “Yeah, I know that Steve” so I challenge you to examine your current approach. If ANYTHING in the front end of your proposals or presentations references your company, your products, your services or solution, then you need to modify your approach.
Stay away from techno-babble, corporate speak, or marketing mumbo-jumbo. Explain your solution in easy-to-understand terms and vocabulary. Executives don’t care how many hundred dollar words you know; they want to know how you can solve a problem. I learned this in the very first proposal I sent many years ago. When I asked my client why she chose me versus a competitor, she said, “Your proposal was easy to understand.”
Many sales people fall prey to the myth of believing that their marketing materials will seal the deal but fancy brochures don’t capture new business although marketing departments would beg to differ. Brochures can be a good “leave behind” piece of literature but few, if any, companies make their buying decision based on this material.