Make Yourself a Better Salesperson by Focusing on the Sales Activities That Matter

sales_activities_that_matter

Salespeople will do what they like to do, not what they need to do. If it’s uncomfortable to make cold calls, they’ll find a way to justify doing something else — like sending an email or writing up a proposal. But when you’re focusing on sales activities, you need to dedicate time to the activities that matter — even if you don’t like them.

Real, Severe Commitment

There’s a difference in scheduling time and severely committing to something. I’m working with my assistant on an issue right now. I told him, “I want you to spend one hour a day on this. You can pick the hour. But during that hour, do not stop. Short of a life safety issue, commit for the whole hour. If a customer shows up and is banging on the door, ignore them. If our biggest client calls and threatens to cancel their service, so what? I’ll deal with the fall-out — you do this task for one hour.”

The next day, I asked if he did it. Nope. “Life safety issue?” I asked. “Imminent death of everyone on earth?!” No. He just bailed. See, scheduling is easy, but we avoid actually doing the tasks we hate — even if they’re important tasks. It happens all the time. And the more uncomfortable it is, the more adamantly you need to commit to the activity.

“Productive” Distractions

So what do we do instead of the activities we hate? Anything else. And if it seems productive, we gravitate towards it. Here are just a few ways we occupy our time with deceitfully unproductive tasks.

Research

Research is one of the main activities that snowballs into unproductiveness. Of course, it’s good to an extent — you need to know the basics of a company before you call, but we tend to keep searching. We get interested in a topic and over-inform ourselves. Plus, we take rabbit trails and end up learning all sorts of info we don’t need.

Let’s say you’re about to make a cold call, so you start researching the company. For three hours, you read and figure out everything there is to know about them. You know their story, who founded it, where they’re located, and anything else you’d want to know. Then you call them and they say, “My brother-in-law handles this for us. We’ll never switch.” You just spent three hours researching to get a “no” in two minutes. You wasted 180 minutes on one dead-end client.

Instead, focus your research so you know what to look for before you start. Then set time limits to keep you on track. If you set a seven-minute time limit on your research for each prospect, then call them in two minutes, you contact 20 prospects in those 180 minutes instead of just one.

The more qualified the prospect, the more time you can spend on research. Maybe you spend 14 minutes researching someone who called you or a person you’re meeting for an appointment. Still, research doesn’t consume your day. Time spent researching dead-end prospects is wasted.

Here are some other ways we waste time:

  • Calling only your current customers
  • Not being organized
  • Not finishing to-do lists
  • Not putting to-dos on your calendar

We have to direct our time we can’t let our disorganization and procrastination derail us. The more intentional we become in our work day, the more sales we make.

Maximizing Your Time

Don’t let fruitless work fill your day. Instead, surround yourself with high-payoff people and do high-payoff activities. Meetings, calls, customer contacts, and prospect interactions all lead to sales. So spend your time doing those things — not the little stuff. It also pays off to figure out your process.

Related: How to Close More Deals by Mapping Your Sales Process

These activities fit into two categories — strategic and tactical. Give time to each. There can be high-payoff tactical activities and high-payoff strategic activities. There can also be low-payoff strategic and tactical activities. The goal is to be both strategic and tactical in your choice of high-payoff activities.

I do this with my phone calls — for every two customers I call, I call one prospect. Then I hold myself accountable to reaching out to new people and maintaining current relationships — both with high payoffs.

Be strategic about who is refilling your funnel and tactical about how you approach your current prospects. You’re only as good as your last sale so focus on the activities that help you to close.

The Biggest Challenges for Salespeople in 2016

online groups for salespeople

Richardson Group, an internationally recognized sales training and performance improvement company, just released their 2016 Selling Challenges Study. In polling 400 salespeople, 85% in B2B sales, they revealed the biggest sales challenges in prospecting, discovering client needs, and negotiation.

Here’s what they found… but I don’t completely agree.

What Salespeople Struggle With in Prospecting

prospecting

When asked what sales associates expected their biggest challenge in prospecting efforts to be, 16% said, “identifying sales triggers/sales signals that indicate issues that you can resolve.”

Essentially, these reps and managers have difficulty finding out what they can fix. Buyers investigate solutions on the web just like the rest of us. When they go in to make a purchase, they usually know what they want. They leave the salesperson out of the decision-making process. So the salesperson never knows the client’s deciding factors, which means they also don’t know what they need to overcome to make the sale.

Related: 5 Ways to Quickly Qualify Prospects

Closely tied to the inability to discern buyer signals, 14.4% of sales professionals also struggle to identify whom to target. Basically, when we don’t connect with the buyer in a personal way, we don’t know their true buying power. 

Qualifying prospects, a growing problem in the industry, is the primary struggle for 10% of salespeople. Why? Most likely because so few prospects respond to a seller’s attempts to reach out. 

Uncovering and Exploring Client Needs

client needs

When asked about the biggest challenge in uncovering and exploring client needs, most find it difficult to gain insight via conversations and understand the decision-making process.

That makes sense: you have to talk to the right people to get a true read of the potential. More often, sellers begin working with an individual only to find that a group of decision-makers with no clear roles will be making the final call.

If you can’t talk to the person with the power to make the decision, the sale comes to the bottom line rather than the package deal.

Challenges in Closing a Deal

closing a deal

If they had done this survey in 1976, it probably would have had the same results. Why? Because there is always someone selling it cheaper.

Related: How To Eliminate Price From Your Negotiation Process

Sure, the internet has made those options more prevalent (hence the overwhelming 48% who claim this as their biggest challenge), but it’s not unique to 2016. There will always be someone trying to sell for less. How do you overcome it? By finding what you can provide that the low-cost provider can’t.

The Bigger Picture? Distraction

Regardless of the survey results, these aren’t the biggest challenges. Rather, they’re symptoms of a bigger problem.

Most salespeople struggle because they are distracted. With what? Their smartphone. What makes it worse is that few admit the barrier phones create to connecting with clients.

All these issues stem from a failure to know your clients. You have to do the work to get to know whom you’re contacting. It’s much easier to mass-email potential prospects and to try the latest marketing gimmicks, but connection overcomes a world of challenges. When you give your full attention to your prospects, you’ll be able to qualify prospects and find the decision-makers.

If you’re getting distracted, admit it. Then take steps to zero in on your sales strategy. CallProof helps us stay focused. It records our calls and gives us the chance to learn from them. As salespeople, we need to take ownership of our day. If it takes activity to win sales, then we need to put in the undivided work of making connections.

Challenges in sales are inevitable. How will you handle them? My advice: look your challenge in the face. If distraction is your problem, do what’s necessary to focus. Build the connections with your prospects and clients to make your service worth their investment.

FreeEbook

 

Top 4 Ways to Evaluate a Salesperson’s Performance

evaluate salesperson

Evaluating a salesperson’s performance is one of the basic responsibilities of a sales manager. It’s also essential to company success. But how can you do it when sales cycles vary so greatly?

If it takes months to close a sale, do you have to wait until those numbers post to see how your sales team is doing? In short, no. A salesperson’s performance is about more than sales. By tracking these vital signs of sales health, you can measure the success of your team in as little as a week.

The Best Ways to Gauge Success

1. Track Number of Appointments, Calls, and Emails

This is a quick measure of how many connections each salesperson makes day to day. Sales is a numbers game. If you have employees making the calls, sending the emails, and visiting prospects in high volume, their sales will come in high too.

Related: Sales Managers: How To Get Over Micromanaging Your Salespeople

Especially focus on the number of booked appointments. The best sales people use those appointments to get referrals. An increased number of face-to-face meetings almost always indicates a higher potential for success.

2. Qualify Prospects

Salespeople have to quantify booked appointments with qualified prospects. Appointments with people outside the targeted buyer demographic won’t get them far. On paper, they’ll look like they’re doing the job. However, if they aren’t booking the right appointments, they won’t make the sales.

When you’re evaluating their success, consider who the appointments are with. Once you find a value to place on their prospects, you’ll more realistically gauge their performance.

3. Implement a Training Program With an Observer

Set up triangulated sales situations to evaluate your sales team. Create a scenario where the salesperson pitches to a pretend client (played by another salesperson).

Either another salesperson or the sales manager observes the interaction. The client brings up objections and plays hard to get. Then the observer gives feedback about what goes right and wrong during the pitch. This gives you a means of observation and shows salespeople where to improve.

4. Record Sales Calls and Demos

Management needs to record and listen to every sales demonstration and call. Your organization spends good money to book demos, either buying leads or running pay-to-click campaigns. If you’re not intentional, you could have an unqualified salesperson trying to close these hard-earned pitches.

Related: The 4 Biggest Mistakes A Sales Manager Can Make

Listen back to each recording so you can identify the key phases that secure (or kill) sales. As you listen to your sales team, ask yourself, “How do they effectively build rapport? Are they talking to qualified prospects?” In doing so, you’ll separate your top sellers from the ones sabotaging deals.

After You Evaluate a Salesperson

Now that you have the info, use these assessments to boost your sales. Assign point values to the number of calls, face-to-face meetings, quality of prospects, training scenarios, and recorded pitches. Then use those points, combined with actual sales numbers, to rank your salespeople.

Once you know where each member on your team stands, give additional training where it’s needed. If someone’s main struggle is phrasing the pitch, work on semantics. If they’re not booking the right type of prospect, identify key characteristics of the target client.

If a lead comes in tomorrow, who are you going to give it to? The struggling sales rep that doesn’t follow procedure, or the person who considers ROI and follows through? Once you have the data, the choice is obvious.

FreeEbook

5 Ways to Quickly Qualify Prospects

5 ways qualify sales prospects

Having a steady flow of prospects who interact with you, and hopefully become customers, promotes your company’s long-term profitability. To do that, you need reliable methods for qualifying prospects. And not all of them are created equal.

Before exploring how to qualify prospects, however, you need to consider the size of your market and the segments of the market you serve. For example, an auto parts manufacturer might want to focus on marketing to larger car dealers that would purchase a large volume of parts. Focusing on lower volume sales to multiple smaller car dealers would not be as financially rewarding for the manufacturer.

They could waste many resources talking to prospects of the wrong size or with the wrong characteristics. Instead, they focus on winning the business of customers that yield the biggest return on investment.

FreeEbook

Not All Qualifying Methods are Created Equal

Certain ways of qualifying prospects are better for attracting the right customers to your company. Here are five ways to quickly qualify prospects most likely to become high-yield customers:

  1. Examine your customer base and find your best customers. The 80/20 rule is a good way to think about this. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customer base. Your best customers generate the most revenue while demanding the least expenditure of resources.
  2. Look for a specific buyer characteristic, such as a buyer’s age. If you’re selling copy machines, you’d target businesses with older buyers who see a business need for copying. You wouldn’t target copiers to companies with younger buyers, who are more likely to believe photocopying is a thing of the past.
  3. Consider using a list broker to find prospects with your preferred set of qualifications. Prepare a list of customers and let a broker generate a new list, in a defined market or geographic region, that mirrors your current list. These prospects are most likely to buy from you because they match your current customer demographics.
  4. If you have a huge list of prospects, let your salespeople go through it and shorten it. They can use available labor hours to call prospects and narrow down the list. Focus future marketing efforts on these leads because they share characteristics with your best customers.
  5. Measure the reliability of the list of prospects. You can narrow down the prospective customers through phone calls, but seeing if they’ll become buyers occurs only after completing their individual appointments and noting their characteristics. Measure the characteristics of those leads who become buyers, seeking patterns of consumer characteristics they share. Those are the types of prospects you want to target the next time around.