Why Questions Matter When Qualifying Your Sales Leads

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In the early ’80s, there was a saleswoman who was awesome at selling mainframes. But really, she just walked into businesses and asked questions. Then she took their responses back to the engineers, they told her what the client needed, she told the customer, and they’d buy.

Obviously, the company loved her, so they sent her to school to learn more about the interworking of the mainframes. After six months of intense training, she knew everything there was to know about them. And her sales were thoroughly average after that. Why? She stopped asking questions. She thought she knew what the customers needed and stopped listening to them.

Being a rock star doesn’t mean knowing the most about a subject — it’s knowing what questions to ask so you can find the right solution.

Questions Start the Story

Qualifying sales leads is all about asking questions. Then, as you come to understand the environment of the company, you can tell your story and make a sale.

As you ask questions and talk with them about their business, you’re not only learning the information, but you’re often validating what they’re doing. Plus, they’re thinking through why they do what they do. Either way, you’re now on a deeper level of conversation.

Now you have the chance to reassure them they’re in a good spot or show them how your product meets their needs. If it’s not a good fit right now, it’s okay to admit it. Every relationship has a beginning, middle, and end. And when the timing is right for them, maybe you’ll be able to work together.

But if you ask the right questions, you’ll know if they have needs you can meet. Then you share your story as a part of that conversation. Maybe you say, “This is why we’re here. Our clients are the same way you are. That’s why I asked you the question. We can solve your problem. You just need to decide how important this need is to your business.”

Related: Sell the Value of Your Product, Not the Price

If You Don’t Qualify Leads

So what happens if you don’t qualify a lead? Well, a number of things can go wrong. Here’s a few:

  • Lose sale opportunities
  • Waste time
  • Send wrong marketing material
  • Nurture prospects in the incorrect way
  • Propose the wrong solution
  • Never figure out what’s really going on

Some of those problems can be avoided if you plug prospects into a marketing analysis to see user variables. But qualifying a lead through conversation takes the business relationship to the next level. Sales happen when you have conversations that lead to the right solutions.

Signs of a Qualified Prospect

So how do you know if a prospect is a good fit? Well, during the conversation, you’ll know if your product lines up with their needs. But in order for them to pull the trigger, they’ll need trust, timing, and money.

Trust begins as you start the relationship and develops over time. As you’re building trust, be consistent. Stay in contact and follow through with what you say. The timing also has to be right. If you have the right process, you’ll know if it’s the right time for them. Money is the easiest factor to check. Look at their business size compared to your cost and see if they can afford it.

Deal With the Decision Maker

You’ll never sell if you’re not talking to the right person. Knowing how to qualify leads is irrelevant if you aren’t dealing with the decision maker. Ask yourself, “Does this person have the authority to make purchasing decisions?”

In a business, there are asset owners (the owner of the business) and asset custodians (the directors). And the priorities of owners and custodians are completely different. If you’re selling a commodity that’s all about lowering the price per product, talk to the asset custodian. The focus is on offering products for less money.

However, if you’re selling value of service, talk to the asset owner. A service is all about the relationship. So you need to explain the benefits of the service to the person who has the most liability. Once they’re on board, they might pass you off to the asset custodian to work out the details, but it takes owner buy-in first.

Qualifying prospects doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s all about a conversation. Ask questions that help your prospect talk about their needs. Then you’ll know if you have the solution to make the relationship worthwhile.

 

3 Ways to Increase Sales Without Hiring a New Salesperson

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Improving your sales team comes at a cost. But what if you could pay for it in time you’re spending elsewhere rather than the actual price of hiring a new salesperson?

An increase in sales productivity doesn’t have to mean hiring another person — sometimes it just means using the team you have more efficiently.

So what do productive sales teams do? Collectively, they increase their market share. You want your business to gain as much of the market share as possible. The company’s success depends on it. Highly effective sales teams also create “sticky” clients. Once you onboard a customer, they won’t slip away to your competitors. When you’re highly productive, you’re able to do more for your clients than anyone else.

So, if you’re a sales manager looking to make your team more effective, here are three tips that can boost your productivity.

Tip #1: Play to Your Strengths

Here’s a secret: a highly productive sales team comes from highly productive individuals. When each salesperson is working efficiently in their area of strength, the team becomes a more productive force. Then you’re able to do more with less.

It’s important to understand role distinction. Someone who’s great at finding new business may be horrible at following through with account management. So rather than trying to solve the problem by giving each person fewer accounts, separate the roles. Then you may not need more people and you can give each person a more specific job.

The sales job consists of three different roles: hunters, farmers, and account managers. Ideally, people work only in their area of strength. People who are great at connecting with prospects and closing deals are hunters. Farmers then cultivate those relationships and onboard customers. Then another person manages the accounts in the long term. Usually, individuals who do best in each of those phases aren’t the same people. If your company is big enough, you’ll divide those job responsibilities for the best results. Your hunters find new business, farmers bring them home, and account managers keep them around. When people have specific roles, they become experts at their work. They’re more efficient, and customers stick around because their experience is so good.

Related: The Average Salesperson Wastes 2 Hours a Day — Here’s Why

Tip #2: Create Systems, Not Cycles

Systems boost productivity too. Sales managers usually notice the need for a system from fluctuating sales cycles. If sales aren’t consistent, even after you factor in the time of year and the product, a system may be your solution.

Maybe you have a top salesperson with a great month, but then two bad months follow. Once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find those salespeople have created a cycle for themselves. They focus on prospecting one month, appointments the next month, and then on closing deals.

But you want them on a system, not in a cycle.

If prospecting, appointments, and closes can happen at the same time, months won’t rise and fall. Instead, sales will steadily increase. So help them find a routine of scheduling time for each of their tasks. Rather than spending an entire month prospecting, help them designate specific time weekly for working on each task.

Tip #3: Use Sales Productivity Tools

Rather than adding personnel when you need to up your productivity, use tools that maximize effectiveness. An app like CallProof keeps people accountable to the systems you set and makes their job easier with follow-up reminders, a database of prospects, and easy note-taking. It helps each salesperson maintain a system of prospecting and follow up on a pre-scheduled basis so that they can close deals year-round.

The right tools can also help people schedule their time more efficiently. Think of an account manager who only visits current clients. Let’s say they visit a customer on Tuesday. On Thursday, they go back to the same area to see another customer. They’ve just wasted hours. But if the account manager looks at client assets and group visits together to save time, they become significantly more efficient. Then you’re positioned to grow and scale more quickly. And that kind of efficiency becomes much easier with the right tools.

Tools can also help you measure productivity. As a manager, it’s tempting to use closed deals as your only measure of effectiveness. But there’s more to it. Instead, measure activity. Use an app that tracks real-time activity. When you see how many prospects someone meets, how many phone calls they make, and how many meetings they have, you’ll know how productive they are. So focus on the numbers. Activities lead to sales. You can fix the details later if necessary, but the key is getting the numbers up.

The tools you need to improve aren’t far-fetched. They can be right at your fingertips with an app like CallProof. If you have the right people in the right roles, the right tools will skyrocket their success.

 

How to Close More Deals by Mapping Your Sales Process

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Most builders live by the rule “Measure twice. Cut once.” Sure, it takes more work on the front end, but it saves time, money, and frustration for the overall project. It wastes less material and gets better final results.

But most builders probably learned this rule the hard way. Early on, they skipped those extra measurements and ended up with something that didn’t line up. Then they had to backtrack until they found the wrongly measured piece. In the end, they learned the extra time measuring is well worth the investment.

Isn’t the same true in sales? Sales measurements aren’t taken in inches and feet — they’re taken through a sales process. If you can check measurements of success continually, you’ll be able to catch problems before they destroy your deals.

Here’s how a measured sales process keeps your sales team on track.

Why Sales Process Mapping Works

Any time you put a process in place, you have something to measure. And in sales, a routine sales process gives your salespeople a launching point for success. Sure, people do different things. Some salespeople approach a process with more creativity. Some clients need a more tailored approach to sales before they buy. But the groundwork of a sales process can be the same for everyone.

Related: A Sales Lead Management Process You Can Count On

The Basic Sales Process

A consistent sales process keeps your customers on the same track. Perhaps your sales process steps look something like this:

  1. Schedule an initial meeting
  2. Follow up after the meeting regarding any action items you discussed
  3. Give them a quote
  4. Make sure they received the quote
  5. Make contact regularly until they buy (every 30-60 days)

With sales process mapping, not only do beginning salespeople have a foundation for pursuing prospects, but these sales steps also help you troubleshoot three common problems.

Problem 1: Low-Performing Salesperson

If a salesperson isn’t meeting their goals, you have a starting point for identifying the problem. Look at their sales process. Are they scheduling enough initial meetings? Do they respond with quotes promptly? Do they make contact regularly after sending quotes? If they’re missing one of these steps, you’ve likely found the issue they need to work on in order to improve.

Without a process, it’s hard to identify the problems. Why isn’t this salesperson performing? When you have the same sales steps in place for everyone, you can identify low performers and pinpoint the problems.

Problem 2: Disappearing Prospects

A process also keeps your clients on a marketing path. Maybe a deal gets delayed or a prospect seems to disappear for a while. At one point, this prospect seemed interested, but something happened. They managed to fall out of the sales funnel either by choice or because a salesperson didn’t follow through.

But sales process steps help you pick up where they left off. If a prospect already received a quote, you can follow up on that quote rather than starting over when you resume contact.

Problem 3: Inconsistency

A sales process gives your clients consistency. And consistency builds trust. Your clients will come to realize everyone at your business is on the same page. They trust that you’ll be in contact regularly and know the next steps. And when they know they can count on you, they’re more likely to give you their business.

Setting Up the Sales Process

Paint broad strokes as you come up with the right process for your business. You don’t want to box people in. Instead, show them what general activities lead to sales. Then tie those activities to different steps, but leave room for salespeople to tailor their approach to the clients.

Then teach the process from the top down. Use top salespeople to outline the activities that led to their sales. After they have collectively outlined their sales process, they can teach it to others. If everyone follows that outline, each salesperson will be on the same page as they move clients through the funnel.

Make Sure It Works

You’re measuring the activities of your sales team along the way, but now it’s time for one extra measurement. Evaluate the sales process itself. Look at your sales process at least every six months to see what works and what doesn’t. You’ll start to notice trends like when people buy, where people fall off, and where individual salespeople succeed or struggle. Don’t isolate individual sales situations, but look at the whole sample. Then you’ll be able to make better decisions about what actions to take.

Sales is a marathon, not a sprint. It evolves over time. As the market changes, your sales process changes. So evaluate it regularly to make sure it matches up with the results you want.

As a manager, you’ll find a sales process makes it much easier to manage your team, replicate effectiveness, and scale your success.

Field Sales 101: Follow These 10 Solid Tips for Success

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If you’re new to field sales, there’s no sense wasting time. You have people to see and sales to make.

But there’s a learning curve. Being a field sales representative is tough work. You’re out of the office more than you’re in it — meeting people, building relationships, and trying to remember who said what so you know how to follow up.

So, as you navigate the obstacles, try these 10 tips and tools to take your field sales to the next level.

#1: Have a Sales Process Before You Meet With Prospects

Every sales representative needs a solid process before they meet a new prospect. When you have a process, you stay in control of the results. A plan keeps you on track and establishes a call to action. Then you know the possible outcomes and can be prepared to guide the prospect through their responses.

In doing so, you’ll show them you’re organized, and they’ll know they’re in good hands.

#2: Stay Organized

Have a plan for dealing with people at every stage of the sales process. Always know your action. And have a system for everything. Then, no matter where a prospect is in the funnel, you know the next touchpoint.

Moreover, don’t over-complicate your touchpoints. They’re molehills, not mountains. It’s easy for a new field sales representative to think of making contact as a giant task when it only takes a few minutes. Make sure you realize the simplicity of the task so you don’t put it off.

#3: Don’t Keep Anything in Your Head

As you work your system, use tools to keep you on track. That way you won’t overlook something (or someone) by accident. It’s a little easier to keep track of things mentally when you’re younger, but the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to mentally track it all.

So trust your calendar. Trust your CRM. Even if your memory is great, you cloud your judgment by mentally trying to keep track of everything. Instead, use a reliable CRM to track your data so you can stay focused on what you’re doing. A clear mind frees you up to be more strategic.

#4: Tell Your Story

Qualify your prospects before you meet with them. Then focus on your story. Work on telling the story of why your company exists and what your business brings to the table. It will allow you to see how that applies to your customers.

When you meet with customers, center your conversation on the story. Tell your story and listen to theirs. Customers need time, trust, and money before they buy. So build that into your story. How does your product bring value to their company?

Related Post: Sell the Value of Your Product, Not the Price

Once you hear their story and tell them yours, you’ll know if their needs align with your product. When you have conversations with the right people (people who want to buy now, not those who may want to buy “one day”), your stories will match up.

#5: Admit If You’re Not a Good Fit

If you’re not the right fit, be the first to admit it. There’s no problem in saying, “Hey, I can’t help you, and here’s why.”

But even if your product won’t solve their problem, point them in the right direction. Give them a recommendation of a person or company who will meet their needs. Then ask for a referral. I usually say, “I know I’m not the right person for you, but if you know someone else…” They almost always refer. And I almost always make a sale by telling them no.

#6: Balance Your Goals With the Customer’s Goals

Before you take on a customer, make sure it’s a win for both sides. You have a responsibility to your customers, employees, and vendors to make good decisions that benefit everyone involved.

To keep that balance, you need a direct line of sight to success. So figure out what “success” is to each person involved. As you sell to new clients or adjust to current customers’ needs, ask them what they need to be successful. Then see how you can help meet those needs. When your clients are successful, you are too.

#7: Keep the Price Fair

Price your product accordingly. You’re working with customers, not against them. So don’t gouge people. But also, don’t cheapen your product. Instead, charge a fair price where you can explain why you charge what you do.

When you’re offering a product that helps clients be successful at a fair price, you’ll see good results. Why? You’re working towards the same goal. With a fair price, the customer gets good value, and you make enough for it to be worthwhile.

#8: Take a Team Approach With Vendors

If you use vendors, don’t forget to consider their success. In the past, I didn’t want to hear about the vendors at all. I just wanted the results. Worst idea ever.

Vendors should be treated as part of the team. You have a responsibility to make sure the customer gets a good product. So everyone involved needs to be on the same page — including vendors.

Vendors are good at what they do. They’re experts — you just don’t need them full-time. Even if they only work for you temporarily, make your efforts collaborative. When you do, you’ll see better results for everyone involved.

#9: Communicate During Onboarding

You want new clients to become lifelong customers. Good onboarding sets the stage for a long-term working relationship. Onboarding is all about communication. Make sure you know what pieces need to be in place to make it successful. You’ve onboarded customers before. You have experience. They don’t. So guide them down the path and make them feel comfortable with the process.

Communicate every step of the way. It’s just like the sales process. In sales, you close a call with, “Here’s what’s going to happen next…” The onboarding process should work the same way. Make sure there’s no question about what comes next.

#10: Quote Quickly

Quotes need to be prompt. Don’t say, “I’ll get it to you soon.” Instead, tell them exactly when you’ll send it. Leads and deals are like fish. The older they get, the more they start to stink. So move fast — the more touches you make in a short time (especially during the quoting phase), the faster you’ll build trust in the relationship.

Your product is not their world. They don’t spend days thinking about your solution. That’s just something they did once and don’t want to deal with again. So get started, pull off the band-aid, show them what they need, tell them what’s going to happen, and deliver.

I typically leave a meeting, send a handwritten thank-you note, email the proposal, call them to make sure they received it, then give them their next steps. The goal is to meet their needs quickly.

These 10 tips are no great secret. The real secret to success is doing them. So don’t be one of those people who know what to do but fail to follow through. Instead, let these time-proven practices change your work.

How Women In Sales Can Succeed In The Male-Dominated Industry

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Sales used to be an industry dominated by men. Why do you think we still default to “salesman” rather than “salesperson”?

However, there are more women in the job market today than ever before. In fact, women make up about 45% of the workforce in the United States. And sales is no different; as the number of women in the workplace rises, so does the number of women in sales.

Men vs. Women in Sales

Like men, women can be excellent at sales. And like men, some women struggle at it. The qualities of a top salesperson are the same. Everyone needs confidence. And everyone needs a process for collecting leads, following up, and closing sales. But a person’s level of confidence and the quality of their sales system depend much more on the individual than on their gender.

That being said, there are parts of sales where women generally have an advantage. For example, many women get better results in prospecting. Women listen differently than men. And whereas men may listen to see how their solution fits your problem, women hear the emotional undertones of the conversation. They can often figure out a customer’s real problem and offer the best next step. Men, however, often push people to the next step without considering what the correct next step should be.

That also means men generally close more sales, more quickly. They’re less concerned with the emotional implications, not overthinking each step, so they negotiate to close and then move on.

Yet, these are just stereotyped advantages. While some women hold an advantage in face-to-face or phone prospecting and men take the advantage in negotiation, individual work ethic is much more important.

The Most Successful Women in Sales

Some of the most outstanding salespeople I know are women. And, though the sales industry is often perceived as a “man’s world”, some of our most groundbreaking leaders have been women. From Mary Musgrave, who used fur trading posts to establish peace with the Europeans during the 1700s, to Estee Lauder, who introduced the idea of incentivizing purchases, to Oprah Winfrey, who is often called “the most powerful woman in the world”, women have been revolutionizing sales for hundreds of years.

Those women were successful in their own right. They didn’t do the same thing as everyone else in their time. They didn’t learn how to succeed in sales by copying the people before them. Instead, they listened to others and found the approach that worked best for the surrounding needs. They didn’t let gender stand in the way of using their strengths to succeed.

Sales Tips for Women

People who make it in sales are disciplined and intentional. They have a plan for how to do business and who to work with, and they make it all better with their personal strengths. So, if you’re wondering how to succeed in sales, here are three tips for moving in the right direction.

1. Have a System

The single biggest differentiator in your performance is how you move prospects through your pipeline. Man or woman, you need a way to keep track of people, no matter where they are in the sales process.

2. Capitalize on Your Own Talents

What are your talents as an individual? Leverage those to your advantage in the sales process. Whether your strengths are gender-specific is irrelevant. It’s all about how you use your best qualities to move clients through your system. Focus on your own strengths.

3. Look for Leadership

It’s always helpful to work with and for strong leaders. It’s not as common as we’d hope for new salespeople to surpass the leaders who train them. Usually, you’ll find the best people in sales have a good leader… and good leaders have good salespeople.

There aren’t just good salesmen. There are great salespeople. And today, we’re glad that more of those people are women.

3 Characteristics of Successful Salespeople

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Salespeople come in all forms. Some are pushy. Some play hard to get. Either way, the best in sales have a charisma that seems to come naturally. They connect with prospects, gain trust quickly, and can find conversation points with anyone.

Yet sales require more than charm. There’s a difference in being a charismatic person and a top salesperson. Whether you were born charming or not, success in sales means capitalizing on the skills you have.

Think of your natural strengths as muscles. Yes, you were born with them, but if you don’t build them up, they won’t amount to much.

By practicing these three characteristics of successful salespeople, you’ll develop your sales instincts to their potential.

1. Tenacity

Obstacles are inevitable when you’re trying to make a sale. Top salespeople power through those hindrances to move the sale forward. You’ll hear “no” repeatedly. The tenacious person persists and keeps chipping away at the stumbling blocks.

Related: A Day in the Life of a Successful Salesperson

There are plenty of opportunities to give up. Yet the most successful salespeople understand that the customer may not really mean “no.” Often, the customer just needs help overcoming an obstacle and better understanding the product. Determination can turn that initial “no” into a successful sale!

2. Prospecting

A strong salesperson markets constantly. Most people close a sale, get busy working with that client, and temporarily stop generating new leads. This natural mistake leads to inconsistent sales numbers. Never stop looking for new deals, even right after a big deal.

The best salespeople do this to a fault. A true hunter can’t help but go out and get the kill, making sale after sale. As soon as one deal closes, they’re on to the next potential client. Often, they’ll even neglect a new customer because they’ve filled their time prospecting.

Instead, be intentional about your post-sale relationships. Pass your new clients to a customer support team if one is available. If not, build time into your schedule for existing and potential customers. When you allot time for each, your schedule can work to your benefit.

3. Mastering the Schedule

Schedules aren’t cages, but rather guidelines to maximize each day. Choose a time frame for phone calls to follow up with prospects and make appointments for the next day. Then spend the rest of your day going to appointments.

Successful sales people schedule appointments based on location. They focus on one area of town at a time rather than driving back and forth from one meeting to the next. Choose a location. Then see as many people in that area as you can. If you find a nearby prospect, stop by (even unexpectedly) to maximize your time in each place.

Related: How to Write the Perfect Sales Email

When you categorize your day by task, just looking at the clock tells you what you should be doing. I always spent my mornings booking appointments for the next day and following up from the office. Then, after lunch, I went from one appointment to the next. If it was after noon, I knew I should be out making face-to-face contact. If I didn’t have an appointment, I found a way to meet someone and generate business.

Developing Your Sales Team’s Skills

As a manager, promote these traits among your sales team. Choose people that have really developed one of these characteristics and showcase their success. 

For example, if you have a tenacious salesperson, set up mock presentations where they can demonstrate how to overcome objections. As your determined salesperson unpacks the “no” and tries to turn it into a “yes,” they’ll teach others some strategies for jumping common hurdles. If you have team members who really need improvement, use the mock presentations to help them cultivate these skills.

Sales strategy may be rooted in natural ability, but it doesn’t stop there. If you want to learn how to be a successful salesperson, develop these traits and build yourself into the sales typhoon you hope to be.

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