The sales profession is one of the most difficult in America and it is constantly changing. Hundreds of books have been written on how to excel in it, and with good reason. It is an occupation filled with pressure, high risk and endlessly overwhelming opportunities.
Despite this, more than one in eight jobs in the United States are full-time sales positions according to a study done by The Brevet Group. You’ve already got the shining personalities and knowledge of the product. But true success in sales requires every move you make to be focused on results.
Here are five tips to help keep you up to date in the coming year and focused on the results as you build a truly great sales team.
Build Lifetime Value
Sometimes, the amount of an initial sale is totally irrelevant.
Hearsay? Not really. It may just be that performing flawlessly on that smaller first order is what it takes for a potentially large client to gain trust in you and your mission.
Before your first pitch, have an understanding of how much potential there is over many years. A clear picture of the lifetime value of the customer will help guide how much energy you invest on a prospect. The beginning of the year is often ideal for doing the homework needed to outline what your expectations are for the customer’s lifetime value.
Plan for ‘What If?”
It may depend on the complexity of the product or service you are selling, but most of the time there is a certain amount of onboarding involved to get your customer up and running. A product can’t simply be sold and shipped, especially when it comes to the complexity of technology in the modern day. You’ve got to be able to support it, too.
Here’s why. When there is potential for your customers to have issues, the relationship is best served when you address issues proactively. When an issue does arise, your customer wants to be able to make one call, to you, to have the issue fixed. Not being able to do so may cost your customer’s trust. Once that is broken, it is extremely difficult to rebuild that relationship.
That’s why converting a customer is not just about getting the order. You must also make sure your team is made up of experts who can follow through on the steps needed to ensure a smooth launch. Identify any potential problems that could arise with your client before a sale is made. Address them and assign them to your team, or yourself, before they even arise.
Prospecting is one of the most time-consuming and challenging parts of any salesperson’s job. According to a study done by Hubspot, 38 percent of salespeople say that finding good prospects is the most challenging part of the sales process.
It can be hard to narrow the prospect field without feeling as though you are ridding yourself of viable prospects. The key word here is “viable.” Get narrow, specific, and selective with your prospecting in order to spend less time on it and more time on actual selling.
Write out specific parameters that make for the ideal prospect. You should be able to describe your target in one clear, simple and specific sentence. This may sound overly simplified, but it takes time to get used to not worrying about excluding other opportunities outside of this narrow focus.
Make sure you’re using every available tool within your customer relationship management suite to identify and prioritize your ideal prospects. Utilizing this technology in 2019 will help you know where to focus the majority of your time and increase your ROI. Time is money, and focusing on the right prospects means you spend less time disqualifying customers that aren’t a good fit.
Know The Why Behind Your What
Economist Theodore Levitt famously said “People don’t want the quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” It may be that nobody knows the ins and outs of your product or service you are selling better than you. But at the end of the day, wading through the particulars and features are often not what the prospect or customer wants to hear right away.
The beginning of the year is a great time to focus (or re-focus) on your Why.
Start off with a succinct benefit and end goal. Paint a true picture of how it will meet your prospect’s key pain point, then stay focused on that end goal.
It’s worth remembering here that the end goal isn’t just about what the client is getting; it’s also about your own end goals. Before approaching a client, have very some specific goals for the conversation you’re about to have. What exactly would you like to accomplish by the end of this conversation? Having a clear and realistic idea of what will constitute a win for both you and the prospect can bring clarity and purpose to every contact you make.
Make Your Prospect’s Problems Your Problems
It is likely you already do some research prior to a sales call or presentation. Depending on your management, or the way your team’s calendar works, you may be doing that research long before the time at which you are actually making a sales call.
If so, take a quick moment before you make a call or visit to refresh yourself and your notes on that client. What new developments in the industry happened during the past year that could have impacted their business? What’s the most recent announcement they’ve made or new product they’ve introduced?
The call itself is a huge research opportunity if you can take a moment to ask the right questions before diving straight into the pitch. What are they working on now? What are their goals for the new year? For all you know, your research might have overlooked an important issue that’s just emerged, and you could be the one with the relevant and very timely solution.
Pro Tip: Set up Google Alerts for all of your prospects and current clients AND their competitors. You’ll not only be able to keep track of news coverage on them, you’ll often be able to see new press releases from the company itself. These company-issued documents are invaluable for gaining insight on how your prospects talk about themselves, their products, and their industries.
You can spend days, months—even years—reading all of the best literature on how to maximize your selling potential. But at the end of the day, the best tips for 2019 are those that are focused and actionable within the industry you’re selling within, and can be incorporated easily into your routine.