Boost your sales revenue

It isn’t always the best product or service that dominates a marketplace…it’s the best sales force.

Ineffective salespeople are easy to spot. They are the ones who discuss the features of their product or service – not the benefit; quantify discounts to their prospects – not the value of their products or services; talk excessively, and improvise on the fly rather than prepare and strategically execute.

The traditional approach to increasing sales force effectiveness has always been to provide salespeople with additional product knowledge, additional closing techniques, then motivate, motivate, motivate . . . and wait/hope for more sales to come in. Then you measure the results. If you got good results – Great! If not, then you can always fire the sales manager or fire some or all of the sales force and start over again.

There are many problems with the traditional approach, but they all start with what is chosen to be measured.

Step 1: Develop a system to measure improvement in effectiveness

Traditional management measures consider such things as results against quota, average selling price, forecast accuracy, gross margin generated, direct sales and/or promotional expense incurred, and average days to collect accounts receivable, all of which are trailing indicators. They measure some aspect of the sale after it has taken place. If you only measure the results of the sales process, you will never understanding what happened during the process. Management must add to the traditional results-oriented metrics other metrics that measure the sales process while it is happening.

FACT*: More than two thirds of all U.S. companies lack a formal sales process and even fewer document “Best Sales Practices.”

FACT*: Only 16% of salespeople always follow a consistent selling procedure.

Although every company will tell you their sales process is unique, certain key elements are present in one form or another. These elements will give us the insight necessary to develop the process metrics for the company.

Management must define the major functions within the process, name those functions and then identify the activities that must be accomplished prior to moving on to the next function. The functions might be as simple as generating a prospect lead, contacting and qualifying the prospect, determining the prospect’s need(s), formulating a solution to meet the identified need(s), developing and presenting a proposal to the prospect and closing by securing a commitment to purchase.

It is not enough to know how many prospects are in the entire ‘pipeline.’ The first process metric should be the number of prospects in each of the five pre-close functions. The second process metric is the length of the entire sales cycle, and the third process metric is the length of each major function within the entire sales process.

With these basic metrics in place you will be able to evaluate sales people and begin the process of impacting their individual and group effectiveness at converting prospects from one function to the next.

The real value of this approach is not to consume a salesperson’s time with paperwork which detracts from their direct sales time. The only information required should be the expected close date, total value of the transaction and its current position in the sales process. However, this information must be promptly updated when it changes.

Step 2: Prepare for each sales call and establish objectives for each sales call

FACT*: 99% of salespeople fail to set proper sales call objectives.

All too often, salespeople arrive at a sales appointment as tourists (unprepared) and try to make up for it by improvising. They are easily identified. They are the ones who are a bundle of nervous energy, talk excessively and wear the expression on their face “Boy, I hope I get lucky and they buy something from me.”

A salesperson knows they have made a poor presentation when:

  • The prospect is unenthusiastic
  • Objections are raised (regarding products or price)
  • Prospects stall/defer a decision by responding, “I’d like to think about it.”

Sales presentations must target specific, high-priority needs and be perceived as uniquely tailored to the prospect. Such presentations will result in booking more full-price business.

Preparation, and setting a goal for each sales call, always trumps improvising. Improvising does have its place, typically when an opportunity arises to close (or trial close) during the course of a prepared and focused presentation. True sales professionals are not tourists – if they feel like being a tourist, they take a vacation.

Step 3: Ask the right questions

FACT*: 86% of salespeople ask the wrong questions.

FACT*: 86% of salespeople talk more than they listen.

Superior salespeople listen and learn intently with their ears, rather than lead with their mouth.. They know that if they ask the right questions, the answers they receive will provide them with the knowledge necessary to craft an effective sales presentation. And they know that effective sales presentations improve their odds of consummating the sale.

The best questions:

  • Get a prospect talking
  • Are open-ended (result in enhanced answer content)
  • Personalized
  • Show interest in, and concern for, the prospect
  • Are clear and concise
  • Linger on

As Robert Ludlum wrote “It’s no use to have the right answer if you aren’t asked the right questions.”

Step 4: Differentiate the company and the product(s)

FACT*: 82% of salespeople fail to differentiate.

Salespeople that ask the right questions gain useful knowledge from the answers. That knowledge will guide the structuring of solutions to address the prospect’s needs and the development of proposals and presentations. It will also assist the salesperson in differentiating their company and its products and services from other similar items available in the marketplace.

Differentiating the salesperson’s product(s) or service(s):

  • Substantiates the unique nature of the salesperson’s proposal
  • Precludes potential loss of the sale to a competitor
  • Contributes to quantifying the value of the product(s) or service(s)
  • Enhances the probability of a full price sale (precludes discounting)

Step 5: Secure commitment

FACT*: 62% of salespeople fail to ask for commitment.

FACT*: Only 24% of salespeople ask for commitment in at least nine out of 10 sales calls.

Thee principle objective of a salesperson is to secure commitment at every step in the sales process, and especially at the point of purchase.

The typical reasons salespeople skip this step are because they:

  • Didn’t set the right kind of objectives for the sales call
  • Missed prospect buying signals
  • Haven’t developed a consistent approach to securing commitment

Step 6: Exhibit unbridled enthusiasm

Prospects buy from salespeople who really believe in their product or service. The passion a salesperson exhibits is a small, truly intangible, quality that has tremendous significance on how that person is perceived.

Frank Bettger probably put it best when he said, “Have you ever noticed that the breaks seem to go to the person who has a sincere, enthusiastic smile?”

Step 7: Develop and document a unique list of your personal ‘Sales Practices’

Every industry and company is unique. Each should have a list of ‘Sales Practices’ that are tailored to address the dynamic nature of its specific business model, personnel, and product or service.

Some Sales Practices you might include on your list are:

  • Your approach to developing new prospect leads
  • Your approach to prospecting those leads
  • Your approach to setting telephone appointments
  • Your approach to setting sale appointment goals
  • Your prospect qualification process
  • Your approach to identifying and quantifying your prospect’s needs
  • Your commitment to refrain from presenting products or services until your prospect’s needs, objectives and concerns have been accurately identified
  • Your commitment to presenting only the product features and benefits relevant to your prospects issues and concerns (and dismissing irrelevant ones)
  • Your approach to differentiating yourself, your company and its product or services
  • Your format for presenting your product or service as a solution
  • Your approach to quantifying the value of your product or service
  • Your approach to preparing sales proposals
  • Your approach to trial-closes and follow-ups
  • Your commitment to treating client resistance as a series of questions and misunderstandings to be answered and clarified – not as objections to be overcome
  • Your approach to securing commitment

Due to the individual nature of the skills, talents and capabilities of each salesperson, it is imperative to produce a formal sales process. The key to successfully implementing the steps to meet this challenge is seamlessly integrating three concepts – preparation, execution and accountability. All too often when a salesperson is short on time or creativity, improvisation is substituted for preparation. The problem is, salespeople will never improvise as effectively as they can prepare – and, both clients and prospects can usually tell the difference.