While luck might occasionally play a part in sales success (who knew you’d bump into that perfect prospect at your kid’s preschool play?), prep and research are much more likely to help you meet sales quotas. The “silver bullet” for sales success is, as it turns out, plain old hard work.
Another factor is “kaizen” – the Japanese philosophy around continuous improvement of working practices. It’s a good concept to keep in mind for sales: the more you refine your approach, the more successful you’ll be. Luckily for sales professionals, prep and research have become faster and easier, thanks to tools like professional social networks and sales engagement platforms.
These selling tools, combined with a methodical approach to raising your profile among prospects and gathering information that helps make a sale, can streamline the process of selling. Here are 10 ideas for making a better impression on prospects, growing your network, and refining your sales pitches.
Setup An Agenda for Everything
Whether you’re talking to prospects or internal colleagues, don’t meet without having a clear idea of what’s on the table for discussion, and what you want to accomplish. Share these agendas with the people you’re meeting, so they too know what’s expected of them (and for prospects, how the meeting will benefit them).
This process forces you to understand your objectives, and helps you control the conversation. It’s also a boon if the prospect is throwing objections your way. By saying, “Let’s stick to the agenda and I’ll answer your questions afterwards,” you show respect for the prospect’s time, while you guide yourself through your core concepts. Agendas are equally important for internal meetings, and tells attendees that you’re fully prepared.
Build Your Own Personal Brand
LinkedIn gives you powerful ways to showcase who you are and how you can help people and their companies become more successful. Make the most of the space that LinkedIn provides in your profile to give a human or “people” angle to your sales pitches. Don’t make the mistake of positioning your profile as just an online resume; rest assured if you’re making progress with a prospect, he or she is checking you out on LinkedIn, so your profile should prove your sales acumen:
• Use a professional, approachable photo (don’t make do with a selfie or a vacation snapshot).
• Add sales collateral, such as videos and presentations, that highlight what you’re selling. It’s an easy way to allow prospects to browse your products and services on their own.
• Post an overview of your company, as well your own particular expertise in the industry or market. You can also link to your business’s Company Page on LinkedIn.
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”
– Jeff Bezos
Expand Your Network
Networking with the same old set of contacts doesn’t help you expand your universe of prospects. Meet on a regular basis with people outside your company. Set a goal to have lunch once a month with someone that you don’t work with, but who can teach you something about your market or industry. An outsider will offer a fresh perspective, and perhaps get you out of your sales comfort zone.
This is where LinkedIn can come in handy – you can connect with new people that know your colleagues, and then suggest meeting up offline. Also, if you’re planning to travel, think about who you can meet with away from your home base, such as someone whose blog you read regularly.
“Mise En Place” or How To Put Things in Place
Your parents and teachers were right: keep your desk clean so you can think better. “Mise en place” is a term used by professional chefs to describe how they organize and arrange ingredients in their kitchens. They work in fast-paced, high-stress environments, so staying organized helps get them through the day – and if it works for them, it might work for you too. Here are some ideas for organizing not only your workspace, but also your time:
• Organize your work station the way a master chef does – to remove any distractions.
• Segment your call list into the following categories – this helps organize your train of thought and improves your focus
– Time zone or territory
– Roles/titles – call high-level executives at the beginning or end of the day when there are no “gatekeepers” to block access
– Tier – if it’s the end of the quarter, get the tier 1 calls out of the way so you can focus on other prospects
• Create time blocks so that you make calls and send emails during times when prospects are most likely to pay attention, and have time to consider your message:
– 8am to 9am and 4pm to 6pm in each prospect’s time zone
– Call between :58 and :02 on the hour, when your prospects’ calls end and before new ones begin
Do Your Sales Math
Add science to sales – it’s a good way to work smarter instead of harder, which is what your most successful sales colleagues are doing. They make the most of their time by working backwards to figure out strategic ways to close sales.
By “backing in” to your plan of action, you can determine how many sales you need to close – and better yet, where these sales will come from. Start by compiling the number of deals you’ve closed in a given period, as well as the average deal value. Then, look at conversion rates, as well as how many prospects you needed to pitch in order to win a sales opportunity.
In the graphic to the right, you can see how slicing and dicing your sales metrics can clarify what you need to do in order to reach your goals. For example, if you need to make 120 pitches and your email open rate is 20%, can you boost the email open rate so that you can land more pitches?
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