When I write articles like this I sometimes feel that I may have regressed into my former roles as the whining sales manager. While there may be some truth to that, the following also represents me looking into the mirror and not liking what I see since I have personally committed each of these selling sins and, believe me, have done so more than once. Since practice makes permanent, I’ve gotten pretty damn good at many of them. Old habits are hard to break.
Moreover, the responsibility for all of these areas lies with both the salesperson and those who are charged with managing them. As a sales manager’s tenure is generally directly impacted by their people’s performance … managers had best pay close attention to each. Your job is to coach your reps up to their maximum performance levels and then continue to take that to the next plateau and then to the next. Here are 15 ways to help you with that and to get 2016 off to a fast start! They have been separated into 3 key skill areas …
Traditionally, organization has never been a salesperson’s strong suit. The truly great salespeople have overcome this challenge.
Your CRM is a mess – Just about everybody and everything needs regular maintenance and your CRM is no different. This means clean and updated records, taking and keeping good notes related to your activities and then allowing, yes allowing, your CRM to help you to sell more. Of course, if you don’t use a CRM … yikes! I’m not sure how you can manage to keep anything straight.
You don’t maintain an accurate pipeline – Your forecast is little more than a wish list that has been sprinkled with pixie dust. It is critical that your forecast reflect accurate, complete, and real-time up-to-date information. This means that deals move up and down throughout your pipeline, as conditions change, and they don’t languish in any given stage for an excessive amount of time. As a sales manager … it is your responsibility to help your salespeople to monitor and manage this important tool. As a salesperson, I need to know what I can or should expect in terms of billed business as well as my projected income. Your company has exactly these same needs!
You need help with managing your territory and your time – This includes knowing how to effectively prioritize and organize both your tasks and your calendar. I’m one of those old-fashioned guys who keeps his task list (to-dos) on paper and I am always ahead on these activities. This means that I can exceed customer expectations in this regard and that I always have time available for the unexpected. My calendar is the system backbone which tracks reminders set by my CRM as well as appointments which I try like hell to group by area and/or by type. Sales has always been 24/7 and we need every one of these precious minutes in order to maximize our effectiveness.
Count me as one of those people who strongly believe that there are direct correlations between the right sales activities and awesome sales results. Just remember that activity does not necessarily equate to productivity.
You don’t prospect – Which is why your sales, and your commission checks, have the equivalent trajectory of a roller coaster. When your sales are high, this means that your previous prospecting activities are now closing. The problem is that, while we are closing, we are not prospecting. We’re just too busy. The next month, after these sales close, while we may be back to prospecting, there is nothing to close for this month. Hence, the vicious cycle repeats itself until you make the commitment to even things out by prospecting consistently.
Your activity is too low – You may feel that you are busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, and maybe you are but, does all of that ass kicking get you sales? If not, you need to take a closer look at your productive activities and focus on those only and ditch the rest. Now, like all good salespeople, I hated it when I was asked to do daily call reports yet, they do have value. It’s difficult to determine needed areas for improvement without any sort of hard data. As for sales managers, it would be nice if you would review these with your people, coach from there, and you and I both know that you are often too busy to even read them which, in turn, contributes to your salespeople’s reluctance to fill them out.
Your ratios are out of whack – Call to appointment to presentation to sale. Somewhere(s) your percentages are not where they should be, need to be, and you need to find out where and why. Certainly, your sales manager or other salespeople should be able to help you to determine historical ratios for these areas. Take those and then exceed them! Small (actually minuscule) percentage improvements in each will dramatically improve your results.
Fail to plan and plan to fail. You simply must have a plan in place and this include goals, the activities needed to achieve them, and a strategies that drive them. As a salesperson, you should be formulating and reviewing these during non-selling hours and your sales manager should be there to assist you.
You are focused on quantity vs. the quality of contacts – You have too many contacts and you don’t know jack about most of them. Consequently, you don’t have prospects, you have a Rolodex. Too many contacts, of suspicious quality, take precious time away from your ability to focus on those who will buy or refer. You need to be connected to the right people, no more and no less.
You go too fast and don’t look for clues – I happen to have an extremely high sense of urgency. While this can be beneficial in some areas, it is disastrous in others. My lack of patience is certainly no blessing. In my constant rush to motor through and motor on, I often skip the fine details and take little time to review what I have on file before proceeding. Don’t let this be you! Take the time to learn all you can about your customers. What you uncover will save you time in the long run and will substantially accelerate both your sales and conversion processes.
You don’t invest in yourself to get better at what you do – If you want to succeed and exceed, you simply must invest in your greatest sales asset … you. This means that you don’t wait for your company to offer this training. Rather you seek it out on your own and make the investment yourself if necessary. Learning is not an expense. Your return in terms of increased commissions will (should) far eclipse any monetary or time investment that you may have made.
You don’t ask for, earn, or get referrals – First let me state that referrals must be earned. This is quite similar to the fact that you must earn the right to ask for the order. Assuming that you have placed yourself in this position, you then need to ask for referrals and teach your customers how to give them to you. “I talked to someone about your services and I gave them your name” is not a good referral.
“I spoke with John Smith over at ABC Company and he expressed to me his need for your services. I gave him your name and contact info and told him that I would have you get in touch with him. His info is .. “ is a good referral but, once again, you need to instruct your customers on how to do this. Then you need to be in front of them consistently to reinforce your desire to continuously earn these opportunities. Your customer is busy and if you think for one minute that all they do is think about you … wake up.
You are so concerned with new business that you neglect your customer base – Your absolute best source for new business is your existing accounts. Even if they can’t buy right now, they can and will refer you to those who do. You have invested all of this time in securing this account and then you ignore it? Over 60% of your former customers left because they no longer felt the love. It’s like Christmas … for your competitors.
You don’t create and develop relationships consistently – Relationships have always been the foundation of any business and they are the absolute key to repeat business. Having already run the competitor gauntlet, these commissions spend even better than do those from new business.
You seek to meet, instead of exceed, customer expectations – Every customer interaction will leave one of three impressions … you have not met expectations, you met them, or you exceeded them. Not meeting these probably means that there will be no second chance for you. Meeting their expectations is a neutral experience at best which might result in a future opportunity for you to compete for business again along with every other sales weasel (nod to Dilbert) who wants in on a piece of that pie. Exceeding expectations, as long as you do this consistently, will vault you into the coveted role of trusted advisor and, unlike a vendor, you likely will not be asked to compete with unwashed rodents.
You are constantly on the hunt for the BBD – While the Bigger, Better, Deal may be out there, it is very easy to be distracted and consumed by the search. This can apply to both opportunities as well as those tools that you are considering to help you to achieve these goals. My advice has always been to embrace what you have, focus on squeezing every last ounce out of those, and then selecting only a very few outstanding tools that can be quickly deployed to vault you to the next level.
You have not embraced new technologies – Your customers have changed and so have their buying habits. The new sales model is conversation and education and the social tools (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.) play a huge role in this equation and dismissing them offhand could be a fatal mistake. While you won’t die, your business just might. This does not mean that you abandon your traditional sales methodologies. Rather, you augment them with these new tools and techniques.
How about you? I am sure that I have missed some very important points. Could you please help us to fill in these blanks by leaving a comment below? Good selling!