I recently reached out to Chad Levitt, author of the New Sales Economy blog. The blog focuses on how sales 2.0, social media, and inbound marketing can be used as a sales strategy for the Web 2.0 world. I’m a big fan of Chad’s work (we featured one of his recent articles on our OpenView Labs site), so I was curious to acquire his insight on sales trends, content marketing strategy and cold calling as a lead generation tool.
DW: What interesting trends have you observed in 2010 for sales professionals?
CL: The most interesting trend has been the move to sales and marketing alignment at forward thinking organizations. Organizations that are sales and marketing aligned have a higher percentage of sales rep quota attainment than those that do not. This is critical to move the needle because recent data from the Bridge Group shows that about 50% of all sales reps miss their quota.
DW: What advice do you have for someone who is struggling to hit their sales quota each month?
CL: First, do a deep dive assessment of why you are not making your number. There could be many factors and you need to know the most likely cause that is resulting in poor performance. Is it your activity? Is it your messaging? Is it your confidence? Those three are typically the triple headed monster. Then get back to the basics and work on the fundamentals.
DW: What is the most important piece of content a salesperson should use to gain the interest of a prospect and why?
CL: That is a real tough one because there is no magic wand or piece of content that guarantees you get the interest of the prospect. Here is something to try that I know works. Create a free assessment of some kind that will show the prospect how they are doing against industry benchmarks, key performance indicators, etc. Offer the free assessment to your prospects and many of them will commit to a meeting. Your company probably has some kind of ROI calculator or spreadsheet you can leverage to show prospects how you can help them. Use the assessment to qualify and highlight the gap in the prospect’s business that you can improve.
DW: What differentiates a mediocre sales person from a top salesperson in your opinion?
CL: Their commitment to constant improvement and being uncomfortable. Sales is tough and you are going to make mistakes along the way — we all do at some point or another. If you are constantly learning in an attempt to become a sales expert, it is only a matter of time until you arrive.
DW: What can a salesperson do to differentiate himself/herself in the eyes of a prospect?
CL: You need to find a way to become a trusted advisor in the eyes of the prospect. It is super helpful if you have a good understanding of the prospect’s business and how you helped other organizations just like theirs to improve. Always remember — in most competitive situations, the biggest differentiator is you.
DW: Before making a cold call, what should a salesperson do to prepare himself/herself?
CL: If you are relying on cold calls to hit your number you are in for a tough road. Calling inbound leads generated by the marketing organization is a much better way to go about business. But, when making cold calls you need to be direct and to the point. Tell the prospect why you are calling and let them know you have some ideas you would like to share with them.
DW: What best practices would you suggest to a salesperson trying to generate leads through social media?
CL: There are two ways to look at generating leads with social media and the majority of advice focuses on the wrong avenue. Most advice these days is focused on the rep using something like Twitter to generate leads. While that can be done it is not where the focus should be. The focus should be on the marketing organization using social media to help them get more eye balls to your content so prospects organically turn into leads on your website. Your marketing organization should also be monitoring your company’s most valuable keyword phrases on the relevant social media sites and blogs. This is one of the reasons sales and marketing alignment is so critical to success in the marketplace today.
DW: What is the biggest mistake that a salesperson can make during the sales process?
CL: I’m going to take a different angle on this one. The biggest mistake is not having a sales process or not following the defined sales process. You will be much more successful if you know what you are supposed to be doing at all points within the sales cycle. Eventually, sales reps that follow a successful sales process become really, really good at closing business.
Thanks Chad! Happy hunting everyone!