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.

3 Strategies for Unlocking Deals Stuck in the Pipeline

sales strategies for closing a deal

You just made a killer pitch. You demonstrated how your product solves their problems, then left them with action steps – and expected an answer within days.

But that was over a month ago, and you still haven’t heard anything back. So what’s the trouble? You thought you were on track to seal the deal, but it hasn’t happened. The deal is officially stuck in the pipeline.

It’s easy for a sale to hit a snag that puts it in limbo. These strategies offer the key to unlocking those deals so you can move them to the next level.

1. Teach Your Prospect How to Sell to Their Manager

The biggest reason a sale goes on hold is because you’re not talking to the real decision maker. Maybe you’ve been dealing with the purchaser and they have to get approval from the supervisor. In those circumstances, teach your prospect how to sell your service to the boss.

Start by equipping them with the ammunition to close the sale. Explain the ROI your product carries. How will it make or save the organization money? When they go to their higher-up for a $5,000 check, they need to explain how this investment helps the organization financially. Put the return on investment in a quote, and then coach the person on the talking points.

Continue with conversations about the benefits of the service. In fact, work through product material together. Teach the prospect how this changes their organization. Essentially, you become their sales manager for the deal.

Related: 3 Common Sales Objections and How To Overcome Them

For example, if you’re pitching a website overhaul, your conversation may go something like this:

“It will cost $5,000 for a website redesign. At its core, this new improved website will increase your daily sales conversion rate. For those $5,000, you should be able to get a net return of $15,000.”

Those are numbers your contact can take to their boss.

Quotes give them something tangible. You don’t want their pitch to be, “We want a new website because it’s cool.” Instead, you want them to say something along the lines of, “We want to convert more customers through our website.” The proposal isn’t about features but about the benefits of the service.

When you’re not able to get a sales meeting with the right person, you have to help your contact make the sale.

2. Text Prospects With Direct Questions

If you shake a tree, something is going to fall out. By sending direct questions via text message, you shake the figurative tree of prospects. You’ll either move on to the next client, or they’ll move on to the next phase. Either way, you get results.

If you sent a proposal months ago and the prospect never responded, it’s time for a text. You may send a message that says, “Hey, my boss is hounding me and wants to know where you are in their proposal? How soon can we get started?” If the response is, “Sorry, you’re out of our league in price,” you just moved to the negotiation phase. Price is the obstacle. Now you can start figuring out the dollar amount for that customer to say yes.

Related: 4 Negotiation Skills You Need to Close More Deals

You won’t get that type of response with an email. Email is impersonal and easily ignored. But we all read our text messages and usually respond within five minutes, making it a great tool to move clients down the line.

3. Insert an Expiration Date

Create a deadline on your offer to promote action. Products and services cure pain points. But if you’re scratching an itch that isn’t that bothersome, you need another motivator. The motivation may be a lower price, special training, or extra features. Put those perks on a timeline to keep the deal moving.

Then, find a reason to justify the deadline. Maybe you say, “The proposal is good until the last day of March. March is a slow month for us, but we get really busy in April.” By setting an end date, you’ve manufactured a reason for them to make a decision. Then, you can rule them out or close the deal.

No one wants a deal that sits in limbo indefinitely.

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Sales Team Strategies to Start the New Year Off Right

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Is this the year you’ve resolved to help your sales team hit the ground running after the holiday break? Have you vowed not to let them get into a slump after reveling in holiday parties, drinking eggnog and spending time with family?

To accomplish these goals and make 2016 a successful year, you need a plan to help your sales team build momentum and a strategy to successfully implement that plan.

Here are some tips for developing a sales team strategy and getting off to a rockin’ sales start in 2015:

  • Don’t make the same mistake twice. Build on what you’ve learned from last year’s sales, especially what didn’t go so well. If you pause to contemplate and write down what didn’t work for your sales team last year, you’ll avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
  • Focus on the things you did right. The strategies that did work are also an important part of your team’s plan. Make a list of what worked, then use that to springboard to even more success in 2015.
  • Applaud your failures. If you went after a niche last year and failed miserably, take that lesson to heart — but don’t be discouraged. It just means you need to hone your sales team’s focus to a different niche. Reward failure like Google does, and you’ll nurture innovation and eventually land on a successful sales tactic or niche.
  • Learn from your best clients. Learn from what worked with your best clients. Evaluate what it took to sign them on and identify their needs. Then, incorporate this audience into your sales team’s 2015 strategies.

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In addition to creating a plan and building momentum, you can also empower your team with some encouraging New Year advice. This is the advice I give sales leaders when their teams need a boost:

  • Remember the 80/20 rule for salespeople. The majority of sales teams find that 80 percent of their business comes from 20 percent of their people. Find ways to get better performance from the other 80 percent of your team.
  • Don’t waste your energy on trying to turn around the bottom 20 percent of your sales team. In my experience, less than 10 percent of these people will actually change their performance as a result of a program. Instead of focusing your efforts on a performance improvement plan, create opportunities for the salesperson to exit the company, or just let him go.
  • Be sensitive to personal issues. Sometimes, a salesperson might underperform due to pressures at home, like a divorce or illness. Assess the salesperson’s history. If they were previously successful, cut them some slack or provide some tools to help them get going again.
  • Be willing to point the finger at yourself; it’s possible that YOU are the problem behind a lagging sales team. If you need to, hire a coach to work with your team and find out the cause behind low sales numbers.

2016 has the potential to be a great year — if you learn from the lessons of 2015. Find out what worked and what didn’t, and give your sales team the strategies it needs to be successful.