The Sales Department is the most important department in any organization, regardless of size or scope. Many of you will disagree with that statement and I’m here to tell you you’re all wrong. Without sales, no other department will exist for long. As the saying goes, a line goes up because a sale is made. Nothing else raises a line, and without the line going up it’s simply going down.
Because sales are so critical to your success, it’s critical to create as much production from your salesperson or sales staff as possible. That said I believe firmly that there is a strong obligation from both ownership and the salesperson.
The intent of this article is to outline some of the skillsets, mindsets, and toolsets necessary to produce desired results. The style of this article will provide solutions and instruction for both parties in hopes that you can work with your sales people to ensure you’re both doing what’s in your respective power to produce extraordinary results.
First Tip: Prospecting requires the proper Mindset
Management: The contract is a result that is driven by successful activity. Activity leads to results. You can track your desired results (goals) with lead measures and lag measures. If you don’t know what level of successful activity will lead to the results you’re looking for, start there. How many calls should it take to land a meeting? How many meetings necessary to get to proposal? What percentage of proposals close? By putting some basic metrics and tracking features to your sales guy can really help you keep a close eye on things and motivate towards better results.
Remember, you have to be positive with your salesperson. You have to build them up and encourage them when things aren’t going as well as either of you would like. Just because your meeting ratio is 1 per 125 calls doesn’t mean sales will set an appointment every 125 calls. They may goes days, weeks, or months without setting a meeting and that will likely start to drive them insane. They’ll start doubting themselves, rethinking their approach, making drastic changes. Reassure them, build their confidence, and watch the results improve.
Salesperson: Start by worrying about what you can control, not what you can’t. Too many times sales people begin pointing fingers when things go bad. You blame operations. You blame the weather. You blame the prospects. You blame the time of year. You blame the economy. You blame your product’s lack of features.
Quit crying about everything outside of your care, custody, and control and start taking accountability. What can you do to change your destiny? Remember nothing sells a product or service like a good sales person. You’ll be the reason your prospect buys, not the features & benefits and certainly not price.
Unacceptable: I have to make 100 calls today
Acceptable: If I make 100 calls today I’ll set an appointment
Second Tip: Constantly develop the sales Skillset
Management: Regardless of the level of experience and previous training your sales guy has, it probably isn’t enough. Understand that there is an art and science to sales and there should always be continued learning. My advice is to direct your sales team to the resources you’d like them to work on. Don’t rely on them to build a library of sales resources, build it for them. You don’t have to be a sales expert to have an expert sales staff, you just need to lead and manage them properly. Need a place to start? The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer is fantastic. If you need more, reach out to me I’m happy to share my personal library.
Salesperson: While I’ll hold your Boss accountable for developing an ongoing curriculum I’ll challenge you to do the same. Quit blaming everything else for your lack of success and start doing something about it yourself. There are so many great books on sales I’m embarrassed when I read something new and realize I’ve been making a big mistake with my sales pitch for years and didn’t realize. I have only myself to blame for not even knowing what I don’t know. If you’re missing sales, missing meetings, and missing commissions it’s probably because there’s a flaw in your approach.
If you’re constantly investing your personal time to getting better at your trade that’s exactly what will happen. Want to succeed? Here’s the secret: work while other people aren’t. Read a sales book instead of watching TV. No, don’t do it on the clock do it on your time. It’s your money you’re concerned with right?
Third Tip: Develop a Toolset focused around common pain points
Management: A sexy Power Point doesn’t make your sales guy successful. Systems don’t sell your services, Features & Benefits don’t sell your product, sales people make sales. I’ll be the first to support you on that but I’ll also support your sales guy in his need for tools. Tools don’t make the sale, they enable the sale. If your sales people don’t have a few basic tools they’re fighting the uphill battle. All prospects have objections, and they’re going to make at least 3 false objections before the real one. No sale is made before those objections are handled properly. Many sales people simply can’t get by the objections, sometimes it’s not their fault.
Work with your salesperson to uncover the most common and difficult objections they face in meetings. Develop a plan to put together tools (you may have some in other departments that will work) and deliver an item a week until they have what they need. Work to fine tune, asking for feedback and results.
Salesperson: It’s your job to identify the items & tools you need to be successful. There are times in a meeting when a simple one pager outlining how your customer service works can satisfy a need or overcome an objection. It’s your job to keep the conversation at a high level with these tools and not let your prospect get you stuck in the sand. Your goal is to use those tools to quickly overcome an objection and move on to the sale, not linger and let the tool generate 10 more questions. Only use your tools to further the sales cycle, using a power point to make your presentation for you is just crappy salesmanship. Be better than that, a tool is not a crutch, it’s a tool you tool :)
Fourth Tip: Motivated & confident sales people produce
Management: Remember, you have to be positive with your sales person. You have to build them up and encourage them when things aren’t going as well as either of you would like. Just because your meeting ratio is 1 per 125 calls doesn’t mean sales will set an appointment every 125 calls. They may goes days, weeks, or months without setting a meeting and that will likely start to drive them insane. They’ll start doubting themselves, rethinking their approach, making drastic changes. Reassure them, build their confidence, and watch the results improve.
Salesperson: The bottom line is most prospecting requires a positive mental attitude. You don’t have to call, you choose to call. You’re not calling to hit a call number, you’re calling to set an appointment. Think about it this way, you have the power of choice and you have the ability to carry your own weather. It might be raining all around you but it can still be sunny in your world. If you can’t get your mind right, believe in your company, products, and in yourself you’re toast. Pack up your things and get a nice job behind some cubicle because you’re just not cut out for sales.
Fifth Tip: A proposal is not a quote or estimate
Management: I’ve missed the boat on this for years, and have only recently come to understand the difference between a proposal and an estimate. You need to help your sales people develop a proposal for services. One that is flexible enough to match the different needs of the prospect and your different sets of solutions or products. It needs to have some weight to it, some poundage as we call it. A proposal is not one page, that’s an estimate or summary sheet. You’ll need details about the finer points, what happens after the sale is made. Who do they contact for support? What should they expect for warranties, lead times, delivery of goods, etc? What protection do they have? Who will be their primary contact? Put together a 5-15 page proposal that handles all of the dirty details and make it clear to your sales person what latitude they have to customize and adjust.
Salesperson: You need to do your part with understanding your prospect. During the discovery process your job is to really dig in and get down to the pains and opportunities you’re trying to solve. If you’ve done your job in identifying all of the things your services need to provide the prospect then you’ll have what you need for the proposal. Make sure your proposal has a one page summary, detailing the pain points the prospect raised and the solutions you suggested. Make sure you understand your prospect’s personality type, a driver-CEO-type rarely wants to read through 20 pages of fine print. The CFO-type might want to do just that. Be prepared before you go into the proposal meeting to move with them and not spend too much time in the wrong areas at the wrong time. Be flexible, be a good salesperson
Final Tip: The Key to Sales is Socratic
Management: If you’re a small business owner you undoubtedly are proud of what you produce. Your product is the best in the world. The features are fantastic. The competition can’t compete with your brilliant design and delivery. Or not. Fact is this may just not be as true as you think it is. And the second fact is that bragging about how great you and your product are doesn’t sell. When you’re in front of a prospect you have credibility your salesperson will never have, and that’s probably how you’ve sold your services.
Your salesperson needs more than that, they need sales enablement. Instead of a power point with F&Bs give them the gift of questions. Yes questions. Question-based selling really works. Fantastic questions uncover needs and pain. Help your sales people develop questions that drive to what your product provides solutions for. They need your help, you’re the expert in the industry not them. Read a good book on question based selling so you can support them better. Do you part, you won’t regret it.
Salesperson: Socratic selling is simply asking strategic questions based on getting the prospect to open up and tell you what you need to know to make a sale. Hint: your prospect didn’t give you a meeting because they want to hear you talk. They gave you a meeting because they have a need they want filled. It’s your job to uncover that need and the way to do it is with good questions.
The key to asking good questions is planning. Develop a list of powerful questions that you can use in any meeting, at any time. Work hard to memorize them and apply them at key points during the meeting. Now add to that some specific questions you develop before the meeting. Yes, prepare for your meetings.
Remember you’re the only problem and you’re the only solution. One solution would be to spend 15-30 minutes using the resources you have available to learn about your prospect. Learn about the company you’re meeting with and the person you’re meeting with. There is so much public information these day’s you have no excuse. From this research build 3 questions that really set you apart and get your prospects thinking. It will set you apart and really make you look more credible. Don’t believe me? Don’t be stupid and lazy.
Bonus Tip: "Excuses are like __________"
Challenge your salesperson to make solutions, not excuses. Here are a few of my favorite excuses you’ll hear as a parting shot, good luck and let me know if there is anything else I can do to help!
I need a new lead list, I’ve called everyone on the list you gave me and none of them want to meet
I need a certification, if I have one it will help me sell more because I’d have more credibility
I need a different device, this laptop is old and if I had an iPad I would be more effective
I need new gear, if I had a cool bag, a classier coat, and a pair of branded shades sales will fall in my lap
Conclusion: Nothing in this article is unachievable
Now that you’ve been empowered and enlightened with my sales knowledge there’s nothing left but the celebration. Well not quite, now there is nothing left but your collective ability and drive to get things done. There will be excuses, from both sides. You won’t have the time and your salesperson will have a million excuses why they can’t do it themselves. This sales enablement services agency would like to challenge both sides to make an appointment with yourself. Forward movement and improvement only happens by dedicating the proper time. Have a standing sales meeting and attack this list during the meeting. Leave with deliverables and report on them at the next meeting. If you drop the ball apologize and get better.