Sales is an art and a science; it can be highly lucrative and exciting – but behind every glorious new sales deal stands a succession of simple, everyday survivor skills and sales processes that help put the sales person in position to close. Success in sales is built not on “home runs” but on every day selling skills that help you “get on base.”
Here are 4 survivor tips that can help you and your sales team navigate through rough waters:
1. Think “long term” with your sales leads: Sales people are always clamoring for “more sales leads,” but instead of constantly chasing new prospects, have you given enough attention to the sales leads that you already have? B2B sales lead management requires patience and long-term commitment. You have to be prepared to nurture your sales leads like tending a garden. Your sales team might be shutting the door on too many existing business leads. Even if your prospecting calls received an unfavorable response a few months ago (or even a year or two ago), that doesn’t mean you can truly say that the sales leads are not interested. A lot can change in a few months at a prospect’s company. People move on. Suppliers fail to deliver. New executives come in and shake things up. New needs arise that the prospects hadn’t realised before. A prospect that said “No” six months ago might be willing to say “maybe” today – but you’ll never know if you don’t make the effort to nurture and re-connect with “old” business leads.
2. Make constant, clear-eyed assessments of your pipeline: Unless you have good visibility into your pipeline of sales prospects, what you can’t see can hurt you. Having a sales pipeline is about more than making cold calls; it’s about establishing clear benchmarks, measuring and understanding your conversion rates. Keep in mind that analysing the value of your sales pipeline is about more than conversion-and-close ratios. A recent study from the Aberdeen Group found that nurtured sales leads yield a 47% higher average order, increased opportunity to sales conversion ratios, and higher bid-to-win ratios. A better understanding of your sales pipeline can help you identify and focus on the most profitable sales, and find out how to achieve more of them.
A better managed sales pipeline gives you the ability to create multiple marketing “touches” throughout the sales process, leading to a more predictable and efficient sales process and more consistent revenue.
3. Bounce back faster from rejection: Rejection is part of the sales business, and it’s not easy to hear people say “No,” but it’s a reality. The challenge of sales lead management is that not all “No” and “Not interested” responses are the same. “Not interested” does not mean that all hope is lost. Instead, your sales team needs to find ways to re-engage with “not interested” prospects over time, with patience, diligence and discipline. “Not interested” responses might have a lot of different hidden meanings. A customer who says they’re “not interested” might really mean, “We’re not interested right now” or “This isn’t a good fit for our current needs,” or “We’re about to put this service out for bid in another six months.” Customer needs can change rapidly, so don’t pre-emptively close the door by taking one “not interested” response to mean, “We’re never going to be interested ever again.” Instead, build a lead management system that helps you reintroduce yourself over time and keep marketing to your potential customers, even if at first they’re “not interested.”
4. Make the calls: Sales people are the tip of the spear of every company. We’re the ones who make the calls, make the introductions, get a foot in the door and get a place at the table. But all too often, sales people find ways to avoid making that initial phone call. Don’t let lack of confidence, lack of understanding of the prospect’s business, or lack of a compelling angle to approach the customer keep you from trying to get in front of the customer. You lose 100% of the sales that you never try to make. Don’t talk yourself out of picking up the phone. Don’t give yourself a reason to avoid making the call. Instead of looking for reasons why the prospect won’t be interested, allow yourself to be more open to possibilities. Sales prospects might just surprise you by being better suited than you expected. Prospects might have just gone through some internal changes that make them receptive to what you have to offer, whether it’s starting a new product line, terminating a supplier relationship or merging divisions within the company. You might be calling at just the right time – but you’ll never know unless you make the call.
One of the reasons that sales is so exciting is that we’re in the business of creating something from nothing. Every month, every quarter, every year you start from zero and work your way up. Sales people are survivors and success doesn’t happen without employing simple, basic common sense shills and logic along the way.
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