Are You a Lean, Mean Selling Machine?
Spring has arrived in full style. Often referred to as the season of renewal and rebirth, spring is the perfect time to do some tidying up—not only to that stack of papers on your desk, but to your sales approach as well. Are certain habits cluttering up your process? Eliminate them. Here are four best practices that can help you develop a neat and successful sales process.
1. Make a list
The first way to improve your process is to set priorities. As Bill Farquharson, vice president of Epicomm, Alexandria, Va., reminded, there are only 24 hours in a day, so it's important to make the most of the time you do have. He recommended creating a to-do list before the workday ends, and following through on those tasks, whether you like them or not.
Farquharson related this to a lesson his daughter learned in kindergarten that stuck with him. "I remember when my daughter came home from kindergarten 20 years ago, and she said, 'Daddy, we learned that we need to get our have-to's done before our want-to's.' I think salespeople do the same thing," he commented. "[Some salespeople] do their want-to's. They look at the things they've got to do and they say, 'Oh, I don't want to prospect,' and as a result, they don't prospect."
Brittany David, vice president of sales for SnugZ USA, West Jordan, Utah, said that in the fast-paced world of sales, being able to prioritize is an invaluable asset. "Once you figure out how to prioritize and delegate, you become a lot more effective and efficient," she noted. "Especially with sales in our industry, how everything is urgent, you want to treat everyone with the utmost respect for their time, and get to people as quickly as possible."
Farquharson also cautioned salespeople to be realistic about what they can accomplish. After all, an agenda or a to-do list doesn't mean much if you can't finish it. "Let's say I have a big gap, and my first have-to isn't until 2 o'clock, and now I'm thinking, what can I do with that big block of time?" he said. "I can create content, I could prospect, I could call different accounts. What fits in that block? If I had five or six one-hour appointments today, then I'd say to myself, 'OK, I'm not really going to get any office work done. This is going to be a day of bouncing around from project to project.'"
2. Know your own strengths
In sports, winning coaches build strategies around their players' strengths. (It wouldn't make much sense to force a running back to keep going up the middle against an unstoppable defensive line.) This tactic also applies to sales.
David said that when salespeople recognize their own strengths, they are then able to build a process on their own terms, rather than having to adapt to someone else's preferred method. This, in turn, gives them the confidence to complete tasks and achieve sales goals. "Some people want to tackle their most difficult task in the morning, but if you're not a morning person, that's not always the best thing," she said. "You need to find balance, and you need to find what your strengths are, and how you focus, and when you produce your best result to be able to fit that into your schedule."
Farquharson said it helps to know what types of personalities complement your own, and vice versa. "When I worked in my early 20s, my target market was very specific," he said. "This was the first time I really understood target markets. Now I'm 54 years old, and Millennials scare me. I can't relate to that group anymore. It's no longer my target market."
Establishing a good rapport is important to Farquharson. "If I click with them, that's one of my priorities that I'm looking for," he said. "If someone is very quiet and gives me no feedback, I can't sell well to them."
3. Work together
All of the effort you spent fine-tuning your process will be for nothing if you and your client aren't on the same page. "I think within our industry, relationships are so important to form," David said. "I think it's detrimental to just jump in without knowing somebody. I think that you need to be able to have your own agenda and questions to evaluate an end game, and until you're on the same page with someone, neither of you can be very effective."
To stay on track, she recommended asking certain questions from the start. For example: What is the objective? If you're selling a product, how is it going to be used? What is the target demographic?
"You can't pitch the same item to males and females all the time," she said. "Do you have a women's conference that you're trying to sell a very manly tool kit to? Do you have a men's event that you're pitching lip gloss to? Obviously those won't work, so knowing your audience and end game is extremely helpful."
4. Practice routine maintenance
Of course, no process is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Making tweaks and adjustments to your process on a regular basis can prevent bad habits from forming and allow you to see what does work.
David said that when salespeople don't make procedural maintenance a regular part of their routine, they risk falling behind. "I think that sometimes we try to function in an ideal situation, like 'If I do this every three weeks,' or, 'If I evaluate myself quarterly,' you are just often making deadlines to make deadlines," she warned. "If you're not constantly adapting every day, you're probably going to get into a rut that's more difficult to get out of.
"We form habits, so if you're forming a bad habit and you're set to evaluate three months from now, you're three months into a bad habit that will be harder to get out of," David concluded.