The biggest change of the 21st century for a sales leader is the influx of trackable metrics. Metrics are divided into 5 major categories, time, data, KPI, CRM, Customer Reviews.
Everyone has only 24 hours in a day, but some people just seem to get more done than others. The typical reasons people associate this efficiency is due to hard work, long hours and a lack of a social life. However, while effective in the short run, it fails to work over the long term.
The first step is classification. Identify what you spend time on, how your day is spent, and then rank those activities based on importance and requirement. Once you’ve created this list, make a schedule that is molded around these requirements. The reasoning behind this is idiot-proof; a single hour saved every day adds up six extra weeks of time in a year.
Let’s be honest, salespeople aren’t big fans of data. We like to focus on the people, the emotions that go into a purchase and the pitch. Leave the number crunching to the analysts. However, data is the petroleum of the information age.
Sales pitches and strategies can be endlessly fine-tuned. You can tweak your product offerings based on customer profiles, region, and economic mix. Make sure you share this information with your team by way of general insights but keep territory or client-specific information to yourself, so as to avoid clashes.
There’s no point to having a badly designed report. Make each one as crisp and clear as you can, pay attention to the insights you seek to derive from the data. Set a high bar for data collection and document it in a clean, organized manner. More often than not, a disorganized sales report is more harmful than none at all. But if done properly, it can help you be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition.
Key Performance Indicators are an integral part of developing a winning culture in your company, one supported by numbers and justified by performance. KPI’s, when implemented correctly ensure employee enthusiasm and satisfaction with great customer service.
When you keep these indicators up to date and available for yourself as a manager, you can discuss these scores at weekly team meetings and in 1-on-1 meetings. this helps to ensure consistency of performance and consistency of outcomes.
Sometimes it takes years and months, if you’re lucky it’ll take you days and hours.
The opposite of networking, is not working. – Hank Blank
Networking is one of the most important sales skills available and proper, educated exposure is important for both you and your team. In sales, networking is a necessary skill for finding new clients and centers of influence and building a strong referral pipeline. It is also a strategy used to open doors and build powerful relationships.
The ideal network is one that revolves around your customers’ needs. Seek your customers’ ideal inputs and using quotes and imagery from people and organizations inside the network carries a lot more weight than do claims from an outsider.
2. educate & incentivize your pitch
In an article we wrote earlier, we made the point that one of the ways a company loses leads is because of a lack of awareness. Customers don’t always know everything about your product or the industry, and are likely to back out of the sales process if they don’t.
There are various ways to counteract this, and make your sales pitch as educating as it is entertaining. Establish yourself as an expert, think about the audience and establish your sales funnel. Apple’s ‘Genius Bar’ – which is a free in-store help service for Apple customers – is a particularly good example of how the company educates users to encourage them to use their products and buy more.
Clients also have competing priorities, they’re flooded with information every day and have a range of priorities with varying degrees of urgency. It is thereby pertinent that your pitch rewards them for making a purchase decision sooner rather than later. Time-sensitive promotions are the most commonly used version of this phenomenon, by giving your lead a limited time to take advantage of an offer, you push them to convert them into sales as soon as possible.
3. maintain relationships
“The key to this business is personal relationships” – Jerry Maguire
Tom Cruise was referring to the world of sports in the classic movie, but it applies just as well to sales professionals. You’d be remiss to state that the most important facet of the sales industry is built on relationships. Your prospecting team is responsible for building sales relationships with clients initially, and your sales reps have to maintain and improve upon those relationships.
As a leader, you’re going to have to lead this charge. There are various articles that can help with this, but the general gist follows the same process: Listen, add value, have conversations, be patient and follow through with your customers.
Make meetings more productive
Your weekly or monthly sales meeting is your opportunity to gauge how your team is performing, how your employees are feeling and how attainable your goals are in the long and short run. Here are a couple of tips to help your next sales meeting.
- Start on time. End on time.
- Follow up on individual items after the meeting
- Reach agreement on specific next steps.
- Allow for discussion and input.
- Announce ahead of time the agenda and topics to be covered.
- Recognize performance.
Listen more, speak less
The golden ratio for the “highest yielding” B2B sales conversations hovered around a 43:57 talk-to-listen ratio. This mindset has to be driven down, and the best way to do that is to lead by example.
One of the best ways to do that is called the “three hollow seconds.” After someone says something, instead of replying immediately, let three seconds of awkward silence elapse before you say something. It’ll feel a bit weird when you do this for the first time, but that awkwardness helps people “add-on” to the conversation and it is in that time where they tell you what they’re actually thinking.
No Credit, All Blame
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review titled, “Why Good Leaders Pass the Credit and Take the Blame“, the author Tobias Fredberg makes the case that ‘high ambition’ CEO’s and sales managers assume personal responsibility when things are bad and they give collective credit when things are good.
This, he says, is critical to winning the trust of shareholders and employees, especially during troubling times. Leaders or managers who spread blame, tend to increase the insecurities of their employees and lessens the likelihood for them to take ownership of their initiatives.
Let others lead
It may seem counterintuitive to have someone do something you’re the best at. But consider for a second how you became the best at it. A lot of it came from innate skill, sure. But more came from experience; doing it for yourself and learning from trial and error.
There are three reasons why you should let others lead as a sales manager: Training, Delegation, or Expertise. This could be as simple as letting an employee run a meeting, or run a pitch for a client.
Call Janet into your office and tell her, “We’re having a client pitch today, I want you to deliver it. I’ll be there with you if you have any questions, but it’s your ball to knock out of the park.”
That simple transition of responsibility of power might not mean much to you as a manager, you’ve done hundreds of these in your life, but for Janet, it’s the highlight of her day. It’s what she’ll tell her parents and friends when she goes home that day.
If there are questions during the meeting, they should be directed to Janet, not the boss. If someone asks the boss something, you should defer to Janet. As a manager, you should pitch in when Janet asks you something.
Simply defined, gamification is the application of competition and leaderboards to motivate sales behaviors. Growth focused corporate giants such as SAP, Comcast, PayPal, and Stanley Black & Decker all use gamification to maximize the potential of their sales teams. Gamification helps amp up the competition, encourage collaboration, create mentorship and facilitate an engaging workspace.
break the mission down
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Simon Sinek
There’s this great story about Clay Mathile, the ex-CEO of Iams. Iams was a company that made cat and dog food, and as such had a company mission, “Improving the well-being of dogs and cats.” Clay was approached by a leading business newspaper, that wanted to do a story about him and his life. While most executives would’ve jumped at the opportunity to be profiled in a paper of this stature, Clay flat-out refused. His reasoning? “I don’t see how this improves the well being of dogs and cats.”
strategy > culture
The thought process that dictates the apparent battle between Strategy and Culture often boils down a Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.”
The argument usually revolves around this train of thought; strategy is something that’s put down on paper, anyone can come up with a decent strategy, but culture is an invisible force that dictates how the strategy is implemented. But the simple matter is this, no culture, however strong, can overcome poor choices when it comes to corporate strategy.
It is often a combination of both that makes for the biggest bang, create a culture that rewards out of the box thinking and implementation.