Creating a Client Scorecard

rAe9xrlgWe have been working with a lot of our middle market clients lately on implementing or refining scorecards for sales or sales leadership roles.  The power of a well-crafted, clearly defined job scorecard is it takes all the guess work and ambiguity out of a position.  This is the job, this is how you'll be measured, these are your priorities, here are the resources you can leverage to be successful in your position.  If you're not using scorecards for your sales team contact us at info@intelligentconversations.com and we'll send you a sample.

All this work on creating job scorecards got me thinking - what would happen if your sales team knew exactly what you were looking for when acquiring a client?  Would your salespeople benefit from the same focus and clarity created by a clearly defined scorecard?  What would happen if your sales managers applied the scorecard concept to map out your ideal client? In our experience, too many sales teams use an “anything for a buck” sales strategy; they'll sell anything to anyone and move on. In the short term this approach will drive revenue, but remember, not all revenue is created equally. The more specific you can get about really keeping your team focused on your your dream client, the better the results will be.

Take a look at your current client base. Where are you making the most money? Who are the clients that are easy to work with? Write down your top five or six clients and what they have in common. What industry are they in? How big are they? How did the conversation with them start? What was your entry point? What's the strategic value of that client? Are they a name brand that give you instant credibility? Do they push your firm to be better?

Some clients can be a real pain in the neck. Some clients are awesome. You may have both in your portfolio, but who do you prefer? Are the pain-in-the-neck clients paying a premium? Is it enough?  Do they see the value in everything you provide? Or do they nickel and dime you and negotiate every transaction? What's their potential for making quality referrals? Can they influence you and improve your standing in the market? Are they paying you on time or do they have long payment terms? These are just some of the filters to think through.

 When you take the time to look at your ideal clients that are already in your portfolio and map out what you like about them, how you got them, and describe them in as much detail as you can, you can create a client scorecard that will help your salespeople focus on who they should be talking to, what they should be selling, and how they should be selling.

Without that focus, they'll continue with the “anything for a buck” strategy and you'll find yourself wasting important delivery cycles or production cycles trying to fill orders that really don't make sense to the overall strategic direction of your company. So get focused, develop a client scorecard, and teach your salespeople which clients to quickly disqualify because they don't meet your ideal client criteria and move on to those that do. 

Living in the Land of Ahs

One of the things that absolutely destroys sales is when the buyer perceives a lack of confidence in the sales person. If the sales person isn't able to effectively transfer emotion and communicate their ideas in clear, crisp, concise language, if they same hesitant, if they appear to lack confidence, it absolutely undermines that sales person's credibility in the buyer’s mind.

One of the areas where sales people are often lacking in the way they communicate, whether it's in a presentation, on an initial phone call, or in a meeting, is when they use filler terms like ahs and ums. Those are just little comfort things that, wsWeCWNlwhile a salesperson is gathering their thoughts, they may not even realize what they're doing. It really muddies the waters and undermines a buyer's confidence in that sales person. They think, "Does this guy really know what he's talking about? He seems to be unsure." They press their advantage. They'll continue to ask tough questions and put your sales people in a corner. That erodes their confidence even more, and then it just spirals down.

The challenge is sales leaders are not always on the sales call with salespeople. We don't always hear or see them present. One of the tools that we've added to our arsenal at Intelligent Conversations is a very powerful platform from a company called Refract. We're deploying this across all of our clients, because it's giving us the ability to actually listen to live sales calls or to issue a video challenge to everyone on the sales team and say, "How would you handle this price objection?", or "Let's hear how you position your product or service." We get all sorts of great insight into pace of speech. We can listen to tonality. We can hear the quality of their content.

It's amazing how when people who sell every day have to get in front of a video camera, and then say what they say in front of customers all day long, seize up a little bit. You hear a lot of these filler “ahs” and “ums” coming out. You hear the hesitancy in their voice. You hear them get nervous as they talk about something they're just learning. The more you can incorporate tools, whether it's observational coaching where you have managers riding along, or whether it's using tools like Refract, you need to get that feedback loop.

Now, a note about observational coaching. One of the things to keep in mind is, when a sales leader is going along on a ride along call, it's not the normal call. The sales person's behavior changes. Frankly, sometimes the prospect's behavior changes knowing there's a manager in the room. You have to be mindful of that and factor it in. It's the Heisenberg Principle. A physicist, Warner Heisenberg, basically summarized that the mere fact that you're observing something changes the outcome. When sales managers are riding along, they're not seeing sales people in their natural state. They may not see the whole picture.

It's amazing, when sales people get to listen to themselves doing a cold call or when they hear themselves back on a recorded scenario challenge. It's a really powerful to go back, listen, and ask, "Am I using filler words? Am I hesitating when I shouldn't be? Is there anything I can do to improve my tonality, tighten up my messaging, or pause a little bit to allow time for the prospect to think?" All of these things factor into the buyer's perception of your sales people. A buyer's more likely to move forward, or at least move to the next step, if they perceive your sales person as highly confident, highly competent, and speaking with authority. Hesitation, ahs, ums, and pauses that are inappropriate can undermine that sales person's authority and will absolutely cost you sales.

If you're looking for ways to raise your sales team's performance and drive remarkable revenue growth, please reach us at Intelligent Conversations!  Whether it's one-on-one coaching with a certified Intelligent Conversations Coach or a full program leveraging platforms like refract, please take a moment to complete the form below and we will be in contact.  Thank you!

What Makes Your Sales Team Likable, Knowledgeable, and Memorable

Salespeople and sales leaders often ask us: "What can  I do to stand out?" This is particularly important when selling in a highly competitive market or facing strong resistance and fierce competition. There are a handful of things that salespeople can do to stand out from the competition to be a little bit more likable, demonstrate their knowledge and expertise, and most importantly, be memorable.

One of the things you can do to be a more likable salesperson is learn to be agreeable. Something as simple as smiling and nodding, even if you're disagreeing with the client, will make it hard for the client to wLa7SDhxgant to argue with you. Just listen to them as they're questioning your product or challenging you in some way. They're going to find it difficult to stay angry if you're open and seemingly agreeable.

Another thing you can do is simply ask questions. Find ways to genuinely appreciate them as a person, find things to compliment, give them strokes, and smile even in the face of challenging questions. 

Think about the energy you're bringing into the meeting or conversation with your client. Leave any negative calls, rejection, anything going on in your life that's going to hold you back at the door. Put that aside, and be enthusiastic. Your energy will influence your client’s feelings towards you and your company. Remember, sales is a transference of emotion, and you've got to get the prospect as excited and as passionate about your product or service as you are.

You need to understand how your product or service may impact your customer. The best way to appear knowledgeable isn't by showing up with stats and figures you've memorized from the technical manual of your product. It's about asking good, thought-provoking questions. If you can lead the prospect through a conversation they haven't had before,  shining a light into areas of their business where you can create value or efficiencies, you're going to come across as much more knowledgeable than the competitor. 

Don't be the salesperson who just shows up and starts talking. Make it about the prospect, and ask questions that make them say, "I'm not sure. I'd have to look into that. I've never really considered that." These are the things that make you memorable. You'll stand out from the competition, who just shows up and shows them a brochure, or walks through a PowerPoint deck.

If you're a sales leader looking to coach your sales team to differentiate themselves and sell more effectively in the field, or are a salesperson wondering what might give you an edge on the competition with your customers, please reach us at Intelligent Conversations!  We have several approaches to personal and professional development in these areas!

 

The Importance of Simplicity

 

 

As a CEO, one of the things you can coach your sales managers on is to really inspect the language choices their salespeople are making. Are they sounding like a brochure? Do they speak in terms of features and benefits? Do they spew facts and jargon without even realizing that they're doing it? One of the most impactful things your sales managers can do when coaching their salespeople to higher performancJwrVASdQe is being mindful of their language. There's a huge difference from a customer's point of view between knowing and understanding. Salespeople are naturally inclined to flex their knowledge and expertise. They throw three letter acronyms around to appear to have more authority, but in actuality, it undermines the opportunities they may have to build relationships and ultimately, sell.

It's much better to keep things simple when  you speak to a customer about your product or services to fit the customer's point of view. Putting it in simple terms requires a deeper understanding and a deeper level of expertise than just spewing out three letter acronyms and jargon terms. Asking your sales managers to really listen to the phrases used on sales calls, information shared in emails and proposals, and really challenging their salespeople to simplify and clarify rather than throw around formal language will have a huge impact on the quality of the sales conversations your company has and ultimately the revenue your salespeople generate.

Part of the simplification of language is dependent on the context of the sales interaction. There are times where your salespeople may be talking to a high-level executive who really doesn't want to get into the weeds of your product or service; they just want to know about the impact you can have on their company. There are other times where your salespeople might be talking to somebody who has a more technical perspective. Maybe they're in operations, or they're the person who will actually work with your product or service. They’ll most likely have a different set of questions, so being able to adapt is critical. Simplifying isn’t a one size fits all situation. Your salespeople have to be able to interpret who they're talking to, understand what's important to them, and make their language fit accordingly.

As an example, we have a client that sells financial performance management software to the CFO and that whole department. It was easy for these guys to start talking about technical finance terms, and how the workflows could improve with their solution when we first started working with them. It was always a very technical conversation about improving KPIs and driving better outcomes, but they didn't really cover the ultimate benefits of their product! The ultimate benefit was "Hey, we're going to free up your team from running these mundane reports so they can begin to work on the things that really matter."

Naturally, they would run into resistance because if you come in with a solution that's going to automate something that a mid-level manager spends 35/50 hour workweek doing their immediate reaction is "Why would I ever bring this in here? I'm going to lose my job." It wasn't until they were able to put it in terms that were simpler and convey the benefits of "Imagine what you would do with your time if you didn't have to run these manual reports every month or do a data query in this arcane fashion. You could program that in and it would happen automatically. You could actually invest your time in higher impact activities that drive more value for your customers or your company."

When they made that change and adjusted their messaging to start talking about the benefits that would appeal to middle-level managers or CFO’s depending on the audience, they started having much more productive conversations. Don't over-complicate things. Your sales team's job is to simplify and make your offering easy for your prospects to understand. If you can coach your managers to inspect the language that your sales team is using and make sure that they're keeping it simple from the customer's point of view, you'll see a dramatic change in your sales results.

At Intelligent Conversations, we implement leadership training and development programs to coach leaders on how to coach their sales teams to do this effectively. We also leverage Software which helps us closely inspect specific language choices which may be the key to unpacking why they're facing the challenges their facing with their clients! We're happy to help, simply reach out to us at Intelligent Conversations!

Wanted – Humble Sales People

iTEJd_6QOne of the challenges when you're hiring salespeople (or coaching them) is the dichotomy between being confident and being humble. Part of being effective in sales is coming across as knowledgeable and confident, but if your sales people push that too far they'll be seen as arrogant and cocky.  What would happen if they came across as humble and curious as well as confident? You can explore this tension between confidence and humility as you're interviewing salespeople.  Ask tough questions and change topics quickly to see how can they handle pressure. Also, ask for examples of how they've grown and what they've learned - then listen carefully for stories of humility and curiosity.

From a practical sales perspective, the balance between confidence and humility really comes down to being a great listener. Nobody wants to talk to a know-it-all, and yet so many sales people spend all their time focusing on mastering the technical aspects of their product. You certainly need to know your product, but more importantly you need to know what questions to ask. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having a great set of questions – without being overbearing – that can uncover the compelling reasons for a prospect to buy and help them understand the full impact of their current situation.

An arrogant salesperson will ask a question then begin to answer it before the prospect has a chance to jump in to contribute to the conversation.  Or, they'll asks overly complex questions that make the conversation harder than it needs to be. Many salespeople falsely believe that showing off their intellect and demonstrating their technical knowledge makes them seem more confident.  Usually they are just masking their insecurity and are afraid to just have a conversation.

In our experience, the most effective questions are simple, direct, and straightforward. Most importantly, a good salesperson takes the time to pause after asking a question. There’s no need to rush in and start talking right away if the prospect is considering your question.

Humble sales managers can make a huge difference as well.  We’ve seen great sales people get promoted to become a sales manager, and suddenly it's like they walked through a magic portal with the title "sales manager" above it and forget to ask questions. The very thing that made them so effective and helped them rise to the top of their sales team was likely their ability to ask great questions and be a great listener. Yet, when they become a sales manager, they forget all about that and instead they start telling their team, "Well, here's what you need to do."

What ends up happening is rather than developing a team of diverse personalities, each with their individual strengths, they start building a team of clones. Sometimes that can work well in the near term, but ultimately they’re limiting the growth of each team member by just making them do the job their way. It's not about telling your team, "Do this, do that, here's what you need to do next in this situation," because you're doing the thinking for your sales people. Instead, think like you're back in a sales role. How can you get them to the right answer? How can you ask them questions that help them discover what they need to do next?

If your sales people come to the conclusion on their own, it's their idea and they'll start to apply it. They'll have more ownership. If you just tell them what to do and it doesn't work, they can blame you. For salespeople, be humble and ask questions. Ask questions that make the prospect think and give them a pause to answer the question. For sales managers, rather than telling your team, “do this, do that,” ask a question to help them get to the right answer. Being humble enough to ask questions rather than show off how much you know because you were once a top distribution salesperson can really make a big difference.

Leveraging Sales Enablement Practices that Drive Performance

How much focus do your sales managers put on conversation speed and tonality when they coach their salespeople? At Intelligent Conversations, we use a powerful analytical tool called Refract that looks at conversation speed and tonality, among dozens of other factors which play into your team's sales performance. If you'd like to learn more about sales enablement best practices, please join me on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST for a free live "Sales Enablement Mistakes - And how to Avoid Them!" webinar, sponsored by Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. All registrants will be invited to submit a brief recording of one of their top sales performers in action, and receive a FREE call analysis.

Even without a tool, a good place to start is to have your sales managers listen to live calls or recordings of calls. It's common for salespeople to ask and answer their own questions before the prospect has an opportunity to engage. You can coach them to slow down and to be comfortable with a pause.  Even though your salespeople have had this conversation 500 times before, they should remember it's the first time for the prospect..

Blog Photo1The next time you meet with a sales leader, ask them to pay attention to this when they coach their team.  Whether they're making cold calls, following up on an inbound lead, or even in a face-to-face meeting, a good mindset to teach salespeople is go “low and slow.” As salespeople get nervous or grow uncomfortable, they tend to speak faster and at a higher pitch. When they slow down and talk with a lower pitch, they sound more authoritative and confident.

The pace of their speech should depend on your market and where they are calling.  For example, if you're in New York City, and calling on prospects in the Northeast, a faster pace is appropriate.  If your New York sales rep calls a prospect in Birmingham, Alabama they should slow down.  In other words, let the market dictate the pace of your conversation. The ideal pace - across any region - should be somewhere between 100 and 150 words per minute. Speaking slower than that may indicate a lack of confidence and any faster than that may come across as nervous or difficult to understand. 

Where they are in the sales cycle can also affect speed and tone. As your salespeople hit crucial moments in the conversation, coach them to allow a little space before asking, "Would you like our help?" or "Would you like to move forward?" A simple pause before a question like that can make the prospect more comfortable and facilitate a smoother communication. Be comfortable with the pause, and don’t say anything until they've had an opportunity to consider and respond.

Even early on in a cold call situation, give your prospect time to absorb the fact that they're receiving a phone call. Too many salespeople introduce their name and company, and immediately launch into their pitch. It's better to just say their first and last name, then let the prospect respond. 

We hope you'll join us on Tuesday, June 25th at 1pm CST to do a deeper dive into all things 'Sales Enablement'! Register for free, HERE!

For any other inquiries about Intelligent Conversations,please fill out the text boxes below:

Keeping Your Sales Team Focused through Goals-Based Coaching

As a follow up to our recent post “Is Your Sales Forecast Giving You a False Sense of Security” I think it’s pretty safe to assume that your company has at least a few of the signs we listed that may indicate your CRM installation is failing (or is “sub-optimal” as CRM integrators like to say).  Please don’t feel bad, many companies we work with struggle when it comes to getting their sales people and sales leaders to using the CRM properly and fully leveraging its power.  This isn’t a new issue; however in this post we’d like to suggest a new approach that can help you do something about it. 

Basically you have two options:

1.  You can continue the beatings until morale improves (“Ok team, get your CRM updates in by Friday or else!).  I’m joking, but this is actually quite common.

2..Or you can try something different.  An option we’re helping our clients focus on as they drive remarkable sales growth is to simplify things by using a goals-based coaching methodology. 

We’ve built an entire system around this and if you want the details you can send us anemail.  For purposes of this post let’s keep it simple.  Have everyone on your sales team identify a small number of goals to focus on for the upcoming quarter.  These should be meaningful, achievable, easy-to-measure goals that align with their territory plan and their annual sales goals.  How many goals?  A good target in our opinion is three (3) business goals and one (1) personal goal.

Intelligent Sales Coaching

For example, quarterly goals may include:

  • Sales People –  acquiring a new account in an under-served vertical market or in an under-served geographical market, selling new/additional products or services to existing clients, achieving certain revenue goals (new revenue, profit margin, etc.), or holding a top-of-funnel event to attract new prospects to the sales funnel (e.g. lunch and learns, breakfast events, networking mixers, etc.)

  • Sales Manager – making a key hire, increasing profit margin across the team, improving forecast accuracy, shortening the sales cycle, improving proposal win ratios, creating more consistent LinkedIn profiles across their team, etc.

  • Personal Goals – these goals can be anything from fitness-related goals (losing weight, working out more consistently, eating better), to family-related goals (home by 6, family vacation, coaching your child’s team, etc.), to personal development goals (reading three books, taking a class, learning a language, and so on). 

When sales people create a handful of meaningful goals (both business and personal) and begin to see the company as the means through which to achieve their goals, it is easier to motivate them and hold them accountable.  And when a sales manager supports their team by understanding both the business and personal goals of every team member and discussing these goals during a formal weekly coaching session, it becomes easier to stay focused on the right activities and behaviors that drive success.  And this focus and clarity will absolutely help you cut through the data fog we see too many failed CRM installations create.  You might be surprised how powerful an impact this coaching methodology can have on your organization and sales growth.  If you’d like some help getting started, please contact us.


A Practical Story About Effective Sales Listening

Blog Listen Train

I’d like to share a personal sales story to illustrate an issue we often see in our coaching conversations with the sales people and sale managers at our clients’ companies.  It provides a practical, real-world example of effective listening skills.

I recently had a meeting scheduled with a CEO after completing the first phase of our program -- a detailed analysis of the people, systems and strategies impacting sales (our Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis).  We had already reviewed our findings and identified the biggest issues and challenges facing his sales organization, and we had scheduled a meeting to review our recommended course of action and the investment required (both in terms of time and money) to make a meaningful impact on their sales organization, revenue growth, and profitability.  

At the appointed time I called the CEO (they’re in a different city and it wouldn’t make sense to fly there for a one hour meeting) and was about to begin reviewing the action plan we had developed.  When the CEO answered, he sounded a bit harried.  I asked him if this was still a good time and he quickly recovered and said “Yes, yes of course, this is important and I’m looking forward to getting started and learning how we need to proceed.”

While he was extremely convincing and was working hard to make me feel comfortable, my instincts told me he was masking something.  So I paused and asked a follow up question, “Jack, you sound a little stressed, are you sure everything is ok?”  And he smoothly replied “Well, I am a little rushed this morning but let’s go ahead.  We scheduled this meeting so let’s go forward.”   

I still wasn’t buying it.  Something told me I wouldn’t have his full attention on this call.  So I followed up with “Jack, if you need to take care of something else this morning we can easily reschedule this call, it’s not a big deal.”  And finally he said, “Really? That would be tremendously helpful.  Can we talk next Tuesday morning at the same time?  Thank you, that’s really nice of you.  We have a bit of a crisis this morning with a key customer and I need to get involved to help turn this situation around.  Thank you so much for you flexibility!  I really appreciate it.”  

So let me share a few observations about this exchange:

  • I can’t pin down exactly how I knew he was preoccupied, but something in his tone of voice told me he was under some stress. 
  • I didn’t accept his immediate response that “everything is ok.”  I had to press and probe three times to get to the real issue.  He wasn’t giving it up very easily.
  • On my sales forecast I had this meeting down as a high-probability close. I probably would have been able to slam through the meeting and close it right then and there.  But I would have missed a great opportunity to build up our relationship and may have even created some resentment.
  • Slowing down and asking these follow up questions allowed me to bond with the CEO and build our relationship.  He was very appreciative when he finally admitted he was preoccupied with a customer crisis.
  • When I’m in the program talking about effective listening skills with his sales team, I will ask Jack to share this story and that will create tremendous credibility (he’s a pretty intimidating dude and I think most of his sales people are afraid of him).
  • A lot of sales people would have missed these signals and would have just barreled ahead with the call, thrilled to get the CEO on the phone.
How would you rate your sales team’s listening skills?  Would they have picked up on these signals and slowed the process down, or would they have moved ahead full speed?  What would happen if everyone on your sales team had the courage to slow down the sales process and apply these types of listening skills?  What kind of relationships would they build for your company?

Why Your Sales People Fail to Listen Effectively

Blog Listening Cartoon

I love this cartoon because it is so true.  The more you listen the more you sell.  How effective are your sales people at listening?  At truly listening…not just to what is said, but what is not said.  Not just for the words used, but also the intent behind those words.  If there is one thing you can get your sales people to do more effectively this year that will dramatically improve sales, drive revenue growth, get into new accounts, expand existing accounts, increase profit margins, and improve customer satisfaction -- I can make a strong case for improving listening skills.

First, let’s look at what gets in the way.  Here are the top barriers to effective listening we’ve observed in our sales consulting practice.  How many do you recognize on your sales team?  Sales people fail to listen effectively because they…

1.     Lack confidence

When sales people really know their stuff, they have no problem listening effectively and asking open questions.  When they are unsure of themselves and lack confidence, they tend to talk about what they know rather than ask about something they might not know.

2.     Rush their calls

Instead of slowing down and investing quality time in quality prospects, many sales people buzz from call to unqualified call.  They sure look busy!  But being busy is not the same as being productive.

3.     Lack empathy for their prospects

For too many sales people, it’s all about them.  No, it’s all about the customer and prospective customers.  It is impossible to listen effectively if your sales people feel it’s all about them.

4.     Never learned how to listen

Yes, your sales people can get better at listening.  Just like they can get better at asking questions or making prospecting calls.  Listening is a learned skill and like every skill worth having, it takes practice and consistent maintenance to stay sharp.

5.     Ask lousy questions

If your sales people sound like they are reading from a script, they are probably waiting for the prospect to finish talking so they can get to the next question on their list.  Great listeners stay in the moment, giving all of their attention to the person speaking and responding with great follow up questions because they are fully engaged.

6.     Cannot quickly synthesize information

Great listeners can absorb everything being said, pull it all together succinctly, and summarize the key points back to the prospect.  As a sales person improves their ability to quickly synthesize what is being said and provide a concise summary that is accurate and on point, they will learn what to listen for and how to listen better.  When they can make connections that the prospect has not considered, they will do even better in terms of moving the conversation forward and being memorable.

7.     Talk too much

Some sales people just like to hear themselves talk.  It may be because they lack confidence (see #1 above), but it can also just be that they like to talk.  We have two ears and one mouth for a reason – we should listen twice as much as we talk.  So in a one-hour sales meeting your sales people should talk for about 19 minutes and listen for about 41 minutes.

8.     Don’t practice enough

How full are your sales people’s calendars?  Listening takes practice and if your sales people are not regularly engaging in qualified sales meetings to keep their listening skills sharp, they fall apart when they finally do get in front of a prospective buyer (or worse, they think they do great but when your sales manager debriefs them it becomes clear that they didn’t truly listen).

9.     Are too focused

While it is helpful for your sales people to know what they should be listening for, they also need to be flexible enough so they can catch all the information being shared.  Sometimes sales people are simply so focused on listening for the one or two specific issues they know they can solve, they miss great information that could also move the conversation forward.

10.  Get inconsistent coaching

Listening is a skill that needs constant reinforcement and development.  Are your sales managers doing everything they can to coach and reinforce effective listening skills across your sales team?  Do your sales leaders know how to coach for improved listening skills?  What would happen to your revenue and profit margins if they did?

If some of these issues ring true for you, tell us the top three listening challenges your sales team experiences. I also recommend reading Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston. And never underestimate the power of a good listener.

Four Ideas to Shorten Your Sales Cycles and Keep Things on Track

Sales Cycle, Keeping Sales Conversations on Track, Intelligent Conversations, Mike Carroll, Milwaukee Sales Expert, ToutApp, Postwire, sales toolsOne of the more common frustrations I hear when talking with Presidents, CEOs and Business Owners is that their sales cycle seems to be taking longer and longer.  They'll describe how their sales people get great meetings, ask good questions, find opportunities that seem to fit what they can do, qualify the budget, prepare a proposal,

and then....everything grinds to a halt.

The sales train comes right off the tracks.  Calls are not returned.  E-mails are ignored.  Prospective clients seem to disappear into thin air.  

What happened?  And more importantly to the executives and owners I talk to about longer sales cycles, what can you do about it?

Here are four ideas you can implement today that will dramatically shorten your sales cycle, sustain sales momentum, increase revenue, keep your sales team focused, improve feedback from prospects so your team understands how prospects are engaging when prospects disappear, and keey sales conversations on track.

 

 

 
 

1) Begin every meeting with a strong agreement
This is something every sales person on your team can do. Have your sales people set expectations at the beginning of the meeting to clearly define the purpose of the meeting and what they want to accomplish by the end of the conversation. This simple step keeps everyone on the same page, sets a goal and expected outcome, and idenfities any potential misalignments. All in the very first 5 minutes of the meeting.

A strong agreement at the beginning of a meeting sets a clear agenda for the call and will seperate your sales people from everyone else calling on that prospect.

 

2) End every meeting with a strong agreement
This is also something every sales person on your team can do.  No matter how the meeting ends there should be a clear next step. Let's say the meeting is dreadful and there is no potential for future business. An appropriate step might be taking that prospect off your list.

Let's say the meeting was good, but the timing is not right. A great next step is to ask the prospect "could I call you in 3 months" or whatever the appropriate timeframe might be.

And when it's a great meeting wher the timing is right and the conversation should move forward? A great next step will summarize the key points agreed upon, define the next steps each person needs to complete, set a timeframe as well as the next meeting or phone call. Actually scheduling it right on the spot will greatly increase the momentum and keep things on track.

 

3) Use Postwire to share and distribute information
At every stage of the sales process a common next step is to send additional information (design specifications, product information or brochures, case studies, testimonial videos, and more). Rather than just e-mailing it and hoping they read it, we have been using Postwire to create pages for prospects where they can go to one place to view all of the relevant information to the sales conversation.

The presentation is much better, you can include videos and other media, and you can track whether they open the information, when they open, whether they forward it to someone else in their company and much more. This creates a better client experience and will help your company and your sales people appear far more professional than just sending an e-mail with a bunch of attachments.

 

4) Use Toutapp to manage your e-mails and track engagement

Bring greater consistency to the sales communication process using this great little application. Instead of each sales person on your team reinventing the wheel every time they need to send a follow up e-mail, break down the wall between sales and marketing and have them work together to create common templates that apply to each stage of the sales process.

Not only will this save time for your sales people, it also helps them be more timely in their follow up. For example, you can set an alert so when the prospect opens the e-mail your sales person can call them right then and ask "did you get that e-mail I sent to you?"

Time kills deals and if your competition has this kind of insight and your sales people are just following up whenever they get to it, who do you think is going to win the business?

 

Sales Effectiveness & Improvement Analysis
How long is your sales cycle? Could it be shorter? What would your business look like if it were? Are your sales managers capable of coaching your team to set strong agreements at the beginning and end of each sales meeting they go to? 

Need answers? Ask for a free overview of our newest tool - the Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis - and we will follow up with you to find out if it makes sense to talk about helping your sales organization become more effective.

CTA sales effectiveness improvements analysis