Regardless of how good you are there is always value in elevating your game. Obviously, your competitors’ are always looking to move up in the standings, and there is no need for that.
Let’s get a sense of where you are currently. If we analyze sales performance in a general way, salespeople typically fall into one of four buckets:
- Business is outstanding. Growth is excellent and you are crushing your numbers.
- Business is OK. Growth is slow or non-existent and, although you’re not going backwards, you’re disappointed.
- Business is down. Performance is not as expected, and you are 5-25% off last year’s revenue.
- You’re in trouble. The Grim Reaper cometh.
If you’re in the first category, life is good. However, when things are going well, you should look to double down and take advantage of the momentum. Many people will settle back and coast to the end with a nice increase, but now is the time to set the stage for another great year next year!
If you’re in the second or third category, you need to make things happen – especially if business is down. Obvious? Of course. But many salespeople just limp home and make excuses for their misfortune.
The thing is, no matter where you are, you can choose to change your circumstances. With only rare exceptions, you still have another gear or two left on the sprocket, and more often than not, there is a lot of room for improvement – if you just had some ideas to act on.
Well, here are three of those ideas to consider. They can vault you to the next level; or turn things around; or, in some cases, save you from complete disaster.
- Create a groundswell of customer conversations
Unless you’re just killin’ it out there, the very best thing that can happen is for you to create a surge of momentum. You need good things to happen; you need to generate a significant amount of positive activity that will lead to productive conversations with current or prospective customers.
Step 1: Go visit (or call, if you don’t work in outside sales) your top 15 or 20 customers. If at all possible, set up a breakfast or lunch meeting. Your objective is simple – to say thank you for their business. No selling. No pitches. Nothing. Make it clear: “I just want to say thanks for your business, and see how things are going with your company.” If these are your top customers, and you have the relationship you claim to have, they will almost always make time for a free lunch.
Once you meet, just conduct a simple interview. Ask questions. Create an easy, low-key dialogue. See how things are going with their business:
How are current economic conditions impacting their customer base?
Are they meeting their objectives this year?
What kinds of challenges are you experiencing that you didn’t anticipate?
Do you have any new products (or services) in a development?
Step 2: Get a list of every customer that’s ordered from you in the past two years, and look at it carefully. You want to pick another 15 or 20 customers and start creating conversations similar to what I have already described. Look for customers in the middle of the pack who have a lot more potential that what you’re currently selling. Look for customers who completed a successful one-off project with you and haven’t bought anything since. Look for customers who are cyclical in nature and aren’t buying anything now.
The idea in both situations is to call or visit and simply create conversations. Nothing more. But in my experience, quite often a simple conversation will lead to this:
“Hey, I’m glad you called. We’re considering a new project….”
“You know I have thought about calling you. We are starting…”
“You might be a good person to ask. Do you guys do…”
If they ask these or other questions about your business, don’t get revved up and turn into a shark. Just answer in a low-key fashion and work towards setting another appointment in the future to follow up on “some ideas.”
Conversations create opportunities. Guaranteed.
2. Make yourself far more visible
Are you a member of the Rotary Club or other civic organizations? Do you volunteer in any community organizations? Are you a member of the local Chamber of Commerce? How about your industry’s trade associations?
Many salespeople fail to take full advantage of the opportunities to assemble and network. Others take advantage of it and make people crazy by jumping into “sales mode” at the slightest provocation.
In many cases, these organizations can be a wealth of opportunity if handled properly. Instead of stalking potential prospects, make yourself visible and valuable. Volunteer for committees. Make friends. Get interested in the other members and the challenges they are dealing with.
When they ask what you do or what you sell, you need to be ready with something more than the usual bit of trivial nonsense. Here’s my advice: Say something like this: “I work in a great company. I just love the people there, and I get the opportunity do a lot of good things.
What I do is [fill in the blank]. That certainly doesn’t make me unique, but what does make us unique is [fill in the blank].”
If your uniqueness is actually meaningful a solid prospect will almost always ask you for more information. But avoid claims like “we’re the best” or “we’re the leader” or other generalities that mean absolutely nothing. That will be the end of any opportunity that may exist, Mr. Irrelevant.
Another great way to be visible is to speak at these organizations. Most of these types of organizations need speakers each month, and a professional presentation on an important business or consumer topic would be a welcome departure from some of the usual yawners. If you can speak in front of people and deliver a compelling message, you will get a lot of attention.
If, on the other hand, speaking isn’t your game, join these groups anyway. The network connections can prove to be invaluable, and they are a great place to promote free workshops or other free value-added services your company may provide.
Remember, if you’re not visible the opportunities will go to someone else.
3. Reach out and help someone
Salespeople rarely come calling unless they want something. As such, they are usually viewed in a particular way.
One way to offset that perspective, and to create meaningful interactions with current and prospective customers is to ask for something completely different. Instead of asking for an appointment or an order, ask how you can help.
Today’s organizations commonly participate in charitable work or get involved in the community in which they do business. No, I’m not talking about raising funds for your charity or community organization – that is just more of the same and a good reason to avoid you.
Instead, I’m suggesting you see if you can play a role in helping the charitable/community organization they are involved in. Of course, that isn’t always feasible or appropriate, so another tack is to ask them to attend a charitable/community event your company is sponsoring. Ask if they want to put together a group to get involved. In some cases, it might be applicable to ask if there is anyone in their circle of influence your charitable/community organization might serve.
Show customers your giving side. Do so genuinely, and you’ll create more opportunities.
For more great ideas about taking your sales performance to the next level, read Kelly’s new book, “Quit Whining and Start SELLING! A Step-by-Step Guide to a