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

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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.

What to Look for When Researching Prospects

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We’re always talking about tools to use for research, but how should you go about actual research? Knowing what information to look for is as important as knowing where to find it. With these ways of qualifying prospects, you’ll gain an edge when you make the pitch.

Find Relationships

As you look through LinkedIn or Facebook, find ways that you’re connected. If you’re in your prospect’s social circle, they are less likely to treat you negatively. Without connections, it’s easy for someone to dismiss you as a routine salesperson. But connections are game changers. They make you a person worth hearing.

These connections can take various forms. Personal connections work well. Having a close friend in common boosts your credibility. Yet, if the connections are too far removed, they’ll lose their effect.

Related: Which Sales Follow-Up Strategies Work Best for Your Prospects?

Business relationships help you relate as well. If you see a shared client, use that to your advantage. One of the best examples of this was a financial advisor I met with. He called saying, “Hey, I know PanAmerican Electric does business with you and I want to get on your schedule next Tuesday.” As a business owner, my instinct was to meet with him. Because my customer may have referred him, I took the appointment, if for no other reason than to satisfy my customer.

You may also find local groups you share. Perhaps you’re both involved in the same benevolent program or business association. Use those shared experiences to build your rapport and earn their ear.

Understand the Company

Look up the size and reach of the company. If you see there are only a few connections on LinkedIn, the company may be too small to require your product. If the company has a large volume, you can gauge how your product would best fit in their organization.

Troubleshoot the Problems

Look for problems an organization may be experiencing, either localized or industry-wide. A simple Google search of the company (type in “company name” + review) sheds light on areas for improvement. Also, search for news articles that comment on the company or their competitors. Maybe the industry is going through a lot of change and you can help them navigate it.

Related: How to Build Trust Over the Phone with Cold Prospects

Glassdoor and Quora offer insight into employee complaints and HR issues. If you sell payroll services, you may see businesses where employees complain about the way they’re paid. That’s an immediate indication that you can help them. Through these sites, you’ll also find industry problems, as well as CEO responses. Again, look for struggles you can address. Then align your product pitch to solve that problem. If you can ease their pain, you’ve found a way in.

Research Works

The time you spend qualifying prospects shows. The clients notice when you go the extra mile to understand their companies. A templated email means nothing up against the person that has done some research. I know when I’m being sold, but I like to see how it plays out when someone knows my business.

If you can only do one thing, find your prospects on LinkedIn and go from there. The 80/20 rule applies. If you can just put in 20% more effort researching, you’ll find yourself reaping 80% more results.

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