Updated: Jan 4
It's amazing to think how Technology has impacted sales techinques and approach over the past 25 years of my sales career....
1995 saw "Flip-phones" becoming affordable to rookie sales people and calls were no longer just in the cars of successful veterans. Cellular calls were dropping below $1/minute but we were still carrying a $10 roll of quarters and using hotel pay phones in between appointments for returning pages & prospecting new accounts. The "Book of Lists", local business journals, and the local Yellow Pages were my key resources for targeting new accounts.
To say technology has changed our approach to sales in the last 24 years is an understatement. Customers who were once reliant on sales representatives to provide product information are now consuming product knowledge courtesy of the internet.
If you're a business whose sales training focuses on product presentations, you need to keep reading this. I'm not saying product knowledge is irrelevant, just that technology has reduced the emphasis on "salesy" product pitches.
Businesses that understand the impacts of technology and have adapted their sales process to reflect this new reality are having tremendous success. Those that have not grasped this new buyer's "self-education" process struggle with half-empty pipelines and close rates under 30%.
My favorite quote from Jeffrey Gitomer's "Little Red Book of Selling" emphasizes the importance of this buyer preference: "People don't like to be sold, but they love to buy."
Many times, I find sales reps and managers also struggle because they have not introduced technology tools to augment proven best practices. Several tactics that I have learned as both a sales manager and sales producer include using affordable and sometimes free Technology basics - that even an "old school" guy like me has managed to figure out along my journey.
Here are 3 of my favorite "technology" tips that companies can easily implement to improve their B2B Sales Team's productivity:
1. Pre-Call Research -
One of the most under-rated habits of highly effective sales people is researching their prospect prior to their first face-face meeting. Social media sites including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can give us valuable insights into our prospect's interests, passions, and even shared professional connections.
While personal information may not be appropriate to discuss during an initial business meeting, knowing what shared connections you have on LinkedIn with a prospect can often have a huge impact. It can determine whether you even get a meeting with the prospect in the first place. Nothing is more powerful than a warm referral from a mutual friend.
In addition to social media, Google-searching the company and visiting their website can provide great insights on recent corporate initiatives, client's they serve, and anything "About" them shared online.
This pre-call research can help you prepare thoughtful questions for that initial meeting. This best practice also demonstrates the thoroughness of your approach and displays a genuine interest in providing value that meets their specific business objectives.
Can you think of anything worse than showing up for a first meeting and asking the awkward question - "So, tell me about what your company does?" If this sounds familiar, call us. We can help.
2. Use LinkedIn for Initial Contact
Traditional research suggests that it take 7-10 touches with a prospect before they become an actual customer. Wow that's a bunch! Where to begin when most people don't answer their phones from unknown numbers or screen calls through personal assistants.
When I suggest making "initial contact" on LinkedIn, I do not mean sending InMails to your best customer prospects soliciting business.
Best practice today is to send a connection request to your prospects and if you are unsure about whether or not to include a personal note - my suggestion is not and here is why.
Focus on your profile and make sure that if you saw your profile for the first time you would accept an invitation from YOU. Provided you are successful adding new connections, you now have the opportunity to make some key initial touches with your 1st degree network by sharing helpful content in your posts that can serve to develop relationships with your network.
3. Use Your CRM Efficiently to Win More Business
Note the emphasis on efficiently. CRM's today have so many features that even large companies using popular applications have failed to gain user adoption and leverage their investment wisely.
Here's why companies I have worked with initially failed and then later gained traction using a CRM:
When everything is important, nothing is important.
- I found when companies initially tried to use all the features of their new "toy" and track too many "management metrics" with their CRM, the sales team could not focus on what was truly important. Most sales people ended up listing just their top projects - which had been already been secured and the CRM did not enhance the sales process or effectively grow the business.
- My suggestion: Identify the 3 to 5 KPI's that you want your managers to coach their sales team to on a weekly basis.
When companies focus on 3-5 sales metrics here is what happens: the sales Team buys into the value of the improved focus - especially when they have input what those metrics are. When this simplification and user input occur, both CRM adoption + sales grew.
Here are 3 of my favorite metrics or KPI's that apply to any outside sales team in almost any industry:
1. # Face to Face meetings - record the # weekly meetings and have post-call debriefs with your team about what went right, what could have gone better, and the next steps required.
Emphasizing the meetings with new prospects versus maintenance calls with existing customers will also have a big impact on whether you are getting traction for future growth.
The post-call debriefs will reveal the quality of business conversations and how strong an understanding your sales person has of their customer's buying stage. You will be in great position to coach these really important sales skills now on a weekly basis. Good job!
2. # New opportunities entered - I can not think of a more important metric or KPI. If your sales team is not entering new opportunities on a weekly basis, how on earth can you predict or expect their future sales success?
The coaching opportunity here is to help qualify the new opportunities entered and plot a strategy to nurture these as they progress through the sales cycle. If a salesperson is not entering any new opportunities after several weeks, you have just quickly discovered that this person may be in the wrong role and saved yourself a lot of money by delaying a necessary role change. Whew.
3. Total Pipeline Value - Your company needs to establish a Total pipeline value that allows your Team to achieve their sales goals.
Do this quick exercise to determine what your Total Pipeline Value should be:
If your win rate is 33% and your sales cycle is 12 months, then you should have a minimum pipeline value goal that is 3X your sales person's annual sales goal. Again, sales activity that is measurable - and that is one of the key wins of the CRM - providing everyone with key metrics that insure their future success - remember this is about them, not you.
Once your Team has bought into this new simplified approach, you will no longer feel like you are "herding cats". Besides, who likes to play a game and not keep score?
If your business is looking to implement a CRM or just need to develop a pipeline model that creates more enthusiastic adoption for your Team, then call us we can help. Simplification is just one of our many strategies that will allow you to leverage this powerful tool to grow your business.
Hope you enjoyed reading these 3 tips. I wish you best of luck implementing and please call or write if you wish to chat further.
You are not alone, We are here to help you grow your business.