Business becomes much more enjoyable when you can predict what your sales and profit margins will be. The problem is sales forecasts are usually less reliable than predicting the weather. Mark Denning, CPA and Author of “Drive Your Business to Financial Success” states in his book, “The key variables with the highest risk and level of difficulty to forecast are revenue and gross margin.” These are two areas your sales team plays a big role in setting and achieving. Rather than use a crystal ball, here are seven ways to have 20/20 vision with your sales forecasting.
Have you ever heard sales people complain about attending sales meetings? You might hear comments like, “What’s the sales meeting for?”, “Do you know how long it’s going to be?” or “Do I need to be here?” Does your company have sales meetings? I’ve checked back with some former clients and asked how their sales meetings are going, and to my dismay I hear, “We haven’t had one for awhile.” Let’s be honest. Meetings can be overdone and a waste of time, but they don’t have to be. You can have Money-Making Sales Meetings and here’s how.
There’s a verse in the bible that states, “Don’t cast your pearls among swine”. I’d translate it in sales terms to mean, don’t present what you know as valuable to someone who’s not ready to see it the same way. If people aren’t buying from you when your offer seems like a no brainer decision, you’re probably casting your pearls to someone who sees them as stones. This happens either because you’re working with the wrong type of customer or you haven’t helped them understand your value BEFORE your final proposal or presentation. Let’s look at the latter.
Are there times when your sales process seems longer than needed to win some business? You don’t really need to ask all these discovery questions or meet with multiple contacts and deal with the CRM input, do you? Here’s a scenario when many sales people are tempted to speed things up and take short cuts.
I recently received a 60% discount on a medical treatment when I was calling to pay in full. Are you giving away discounts rather than listening or having a difficult conversation with a customer or client? When you get to the finish line it’s tempting to let a discount help you close the deal or make the customer feel better. In the joy of winning a deal how much money is being left on the table? Working on your conversation skills that transpire at the decision making point is like working on your putting in golf. In golf they say you drive for show and putt for dough. In sales you market and present for show and listen well and manage difficult or uncomfortable conversations for dough. Here is how this medical office can earn over $14,000/hour by listening.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “he has dollar signs in his eyes”? It means the buyer perceives the salesperson’s more interested in their commission to be won or lost than they are with the buyers needs. Buyers don’t want us to be self-centered; it’s what’s given sales people a “bad” name. They want us interested in their needs and them, yet our company sales goals are all about revenue. How does a salesperson and sales manager find a balanced sales approach between the buyer’s needs and company’s requirements? I’ll share my take but I would love to hear yours. Use the comments area below.
More quality sales conversations equate to more sales. So how do you create a steady flow of sales meetings on your calendar? If you have a consistent flow of people calling you to do business each week then I say, bravo. If not, and your pipeline’s a little weak, how easy is it for you to know who you should be calling today and why? Is it more common for days to go by before you make your intended calls? Is your list in your memory, scattered or buried in paper or a simple address book? If you answered yes to any of these questions you have a motivational drain associated with poor contact and list management. An organized and categorized sales list can get you excited and ready to call so your calendar remains full and your sales are consistent.
Wow! I just re-read an incredible article on managing in a way that frees up more of your time. It’s titled MacGregor. It’s a research paper on management that is written in a nice story format. The story is of a manager named MacGregor, who’s mastered his role in managing others that has resulted in the following:
Have you run out of people to ask for referrals or are you going back to the same well too often? I know a place where referrals might exist that most of you have never explored. As with all referrals, they must be earned so I can’t guarantee some of you will find a treasure but for others, there’s a bounty waiting to be tapped. Before I show you the map let me help you decide if it’s worth taking this journey, because you’ll only find treasure if you’ve earned it with your past efforts and actions.
My wife Carolyn, and I were discussing the topic of closing a sale.
I said to her, “A salesperson doesn’t have to close sales”, and she quickly replied, “Sometimes I want to be closed.”
I asked, “Do you want to be closed or do you need reassurance?”, she replied “Reassurance.”
The dialogue brought up a question related to closing and using closing techniques. What should a salesperson do when a buyer’s not ready to make a decision? Should they use closing techniques to close a deal, or help the buyer by using facilitating questions and sharing information?
When somebody calls in and starts asking questions about your product or service, they usually want you to be “the man”. They’re hoping your product or service is the answer to their problems. They really don’t want to shop around. They want to buy! Managing expectations will help you keep them in this frame of mind.
If we approach the sale with a perspective of the buyer wanting “us” to be their solution, it can simplify the sales process. When you really believe this to be true, you’re not “afraid” of losing the deal and you’re not so concerned about the competition (although it’s wise to understand your competitor). You can stop selling and start conversing.
Imagine yourself sitting in front of your CRM or meeting with your manager during a debrief session. It’s time to answer the question, “Reason for Losing the Sale.” The common choices are related to price, product, service etc. I’d suggest you add one more to your list or discussion, “I was outsold.” Have you admitted to being outsold? If you haven’t, it must be your first day on the job, because it’s happened to everyone I know. So what does it mean, being outsold? How do you know if you have and why’s it important to know? Let’s find out.
Today’s buyer-empowered age makes it difficult to stand out in a buyers eyes solely through product knowledge. The importance and necessity of being knowledgeable remains the same, but it doesn’t provide the same differentiator as it once did. Standing out in the eyes of a customer and prospective buyer are what all sales people hope for, but what’s being done to make that happen? Being referred into a prospect is still the best way to start a new relationship with a selling edge. What are you doing to maintain that edge, and how are you recognized as different in your prospects eyes?
I received a question on motivation today. “What’s the best way to motivate a sales team without high pressure?” Before going into the details and do’s and don’ts take a look at the question. What is the question presuming? I read that it is the sales managers responsibility to provide motivation to the team. Is it?
Revenue’s down, sales goals aren’t being met, it’s classic sales underachievement and there’s one group to blame, right? Or is there? Sales people obviously need to carry the ultimate responsibility of securing more business but they can only be at their best if the right environment exists.
Earlier in my career while I was in the cellular industry our company purchased a new market
How patient should you be in a sales process? I’d say as patient as you need to be as long as the process is continuing. Am I saying you should just let the buyer lead the sales process? No. At the same time that you’re being patient, you also need to be urgent. It’s what I call the delicate balance of patience and urgency.
I’d like to introduce you to an alternative approach to presenting and reviewing proposals with your prospective buyers. Picture the key elements of your proposal laid out on one page, either Letter size (8.5 x 11) or Tabloid (17 x 11). You and your buyers each have a copy of the One Page Proposal in front you and your having great dialogue regarding your design, implementation, pricing and solving their key business objectives. You’re not flipping through 30 pages reading over data they’re not ready to digest. Instead, you’re having an enjoyable business conversation that’s leading to a decision. That’s what you can have using a One Page Executive Sales Proposal.
To plan or not to plan? Time to answer that question again. As the New Year approaches Sales Manager Now has been working on client sales and business plans for next year. In our experience more than half of the businesses we encounter don’t have a current documented business plan. If they do, it’s usually not reviewed on a regular basis. Writing a business or sales plan is one thing, but having a plan that’s useful and used is a different story. Not all business plans work. Jim Horan, author of The One Page Business Plan lists the following reasons why business plans don’t work:
When unforeseen obstacles and challenges present themselves during a year, the commitment you have to your sales goal will be tested. Here’s a story of a team that passed the commitment test. Our United States space program plans for every possible contingency to ensure our astronauts return to earth safely. There are multiple goals on each mission with having the astronauts return home to their families being number one.
How successful are you at having your contacts make effective introductions to the right decision makers (being referred)? If you’re not having as much success as you’d like, you’re not alone. Here’s a question I ran across on LinkedIn.
The best selling conversations are among two or more people that trust each other. How you communicate in your sales conversations will either build or lose trust with your prospect. I asked buyers on LinkedIn, Which phrases tell you someone is “selling” you something? And, what qualities or attitudes do your favorite sales people posses? I was provided with a great variety of responses. As a Sales Rep, read their remarks and notice if you get defensive in any way or if you agree with them. Remember this, what’s most important to buyers is what will build trust, not what you believe is most important for them.
Here are the answers.
We’re in the process of tightening up the sales process with one of our clients. In the past two years the focus has been on increasing sales (new business) and holding the line on retention. Sales Processes have been instilled; there is more accountability, ongoing education and team cross selling, which have all contributed to the attainment of the focus on growing revenue.
On LinkedIn a business owner asked, “Is business growth through referrals possible?” He further explained, “In B2B, is it possible to actively, positively encourage client referrals?” He continued, “I’m not talking about just doing a good job and waiting for our client to sing our praises – No – this is a question about whether it is possible to “push” our clients to refer (referral selling). Is it doable, and how???”
This blog is not about a new term for sales prospecting, it is more about what your mindset is when needing more prospective clients.
When your mindset is to “find” or “get you” some prospects you might be focused more on finding people you can get something from.
When your mindset is to find new people you can build a relationship with, it changes from what you can get to what you can give, as relationships require a give and take.
Most of us have heard the definition of Insanity, “Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” In most sales departments as well as in the company in general, a little “Insanity” usually exists and it is part of my role to shed light on it and make changes that produce different results. Increasing your B2B Sales will not happen by accident or just doing more of what is not working. It is worth stepping back to see what does not work as well as what does. Preston Pond, co-founder of The Center of Organizational Design says, “Organizations are designed perfectly for the results they produce.” Design includes the strategy, structure, culture and execution. Let me provide you with food for thought in these four areas that might provide some light for you to assess your current design.
To improve your sales closing ratio you need to focus on working smarter and harder. Once you have proven to yourself you can produce consistently at an acceptable level most good sales people want to sell more. Since sales is a numbers game, doing more of what you do now to make sales seems like a good formula for success. Unfortunately, sales is also a time game, and there is only so much of it in each day. There comes a time when you are maxed out and this is when working smarter and harder can come in handy.
Should you leave a voicemail message or should you hang up when cold calling? I have seen both work, but with caller ID just hanging up becomes a little more obvious to the prospect and can work against you. I suggest polishing up on your voice messages to increase the number of call backs and position yourself as someone your prospect would like to talk with. Leaving a bunch of missed calls will probably not peak a quality prospects interest in speaking with you.
If you have managed to maintain your sales volume and customer base during the past 14 months, I say well done! If business has been down or you feel like you have taken a beating during a weak economy, make sure you have not weakened your approach to opportunities. Continue selling strong by sticking to your fundamentals.
I have received a number of searches seeking sales manager evaluation criteria. Here is a list to consider in your hiring and evaluation process.
LEADERSHIP – How effective is the sales manager at providing leadership for their sales team and department? To what degree is the team working toward long and short term goals?