Selling is all about patience, your message and timing. Get the timing and the message wrong and watch your sales opportunity fly right out the window. Unfortunately, a lot of sellers are getting it wrong.
Stop rushing the process.
In large part, this is management’s fault. The fanatical emphasis placed on “getting new business” and measuring activities like number of emails sent or phone calls made per day, encourages salespeople to take short-cuts. I suppose if my sales manager is on my back to send out 100 emails every day, my goal would be to slam them out there as fast as I can. Whether they are truly the “right” emails with the right message is an entirely different story.
I’m still unclear why so many managers insist on focusing on numbers versus quality of the activity. I imagine its a throwback to “back in the day” when the experts of that time trained sellers on formulas based on numbers. Call 100 people, secure 10 meetings, close 3 deals sort of mentality. To me, it makes more sense to focus on a clearly identified target list of companies, create a compelling message to capture attention, zero in on number of conversations held each day, appointments secured and well qualified opportunities generated in the pipeline each month.
Let’s talk about the sales messages being sent.
I published a post on LinkedIn about sales messaging that sucks. I encourage you to check it out, because I included three examples of sales pitches that were sent to me. The harsh reality is that the types of emails I showcased are being sent all day, every day to unsuspecting prospects. Not only do they not do a darn thing to drive pipeline, they actually are slowly killing your company reputation and brand. And they don’t do much for the salesperson’s brand either.
That’s where research comes in.
Before the internet (yes, there was such a time), I went to the library – you know, that brick building where you could check out books – to do my homework. It was the best we had then. With information literally available at our fingertips today, there is no excuse for salespeople not doing a little reconnaissance before they email or call someone.
At a minimum, sellers should be expending energy trying to communicate with their ideal prospect. I’m not in the oil drilling business, so why one salesperson hounded me to buy their Trends in Hydraulics and Oil Drilling report is a mystery to me.
Let’s talk about trigger events.
The first part is doing the homework, but the second part is in the artful use of the information you uncover. The question that I am most often asked when training sales teams in the art of social selling is “when is the right time to engage with someone?” My answer is always the same – it depends. That’s where triggers come in.
A trigger is simply a piece of information or a series of events that signals a potential opportunity. This new information gives you the insight you need to know that now is the right time to start a conversation.
Here is an example of how it works. One of my clients had been trying to penetrate the c-suite of highly regarded financial institution here in the Southeast. Leadership changes was one trigger we established to monitor, because eventually a changing of the guard would help my client get their foot in the door. Another trigger was earnings. A few days later, I saw a press release announcing the retirement of the current CIO. That meant we needed to pay close attention to the next trigger I knew was coming – the announcement of the new leader assuming the role. At the same time, we read through the quarterly earnings report and boom – there it was. Earnings were down and one reason cited was the cyber attack, though thwarted, put their security systems at serious risk. Now we had something to go on. The board would certainly insist that the new CIO put security at the top of their list of priorities. My client sells the kind of software that the CIO would want to know about. The moment we had the name of the new CIO, my client went to work to find out who she knew that could help her secure a meeting. As it turned out, she was well connected to someone in her network who knew this CIO very well. In a matter of days, the meeting my client hadn’t been able to pin down for two years finally materialized.
That’s one example of how triggers can work for you.
What is not a trigger? Someone accepting your LinkedIn connection request. They’ve agreed to connect not to be sold to. If you are the salesperson who decides to pitch the moment someone says yes to your connection request, you will likely find yourself on the receiving end of a little CPR: Connect, Pitch = Remove.
Buyers today don’t need or want the sales pitch. They will, however, pay attention to sellers who bring fresh insight to the table or challenge status quo thinking. When you can educate the buyer on something they didn’t know, or help them consider another point of view, you immediately distance yourself from the competition.
Create a list of trigger terms.
If you are not clear on the triggers that signal an opportunity, you won’t be able to capitalize on them in a strategic way. Here are some common trigger events:
- Leadership changes
- Business expansion
- Launch of a new product or initiative
- New partnerships
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Earning decline
Other triggers are social cues like the groups your prospects join, the people they follow or the conversations they engage in. Use your watch list to strategically filter the information you need to set yourself up to shorten the time it takes to move from first contact to close!