From the CCS® Sales Blog

April 2018

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Sales Tips: 8 Things All Sellers Should Do Now to Make the Quarterly Number

By Kasia Kowalska, Growbots – Sales Platform

For sales representatives, success and failure can often be measured with one metric: the sales quota.

With warmer months fast approaching, now is the time to set yourself up to fight the dreaded summer slump before a bunch of “Out of Office” messages get you down. When it’s time to make the quarterly number, you’ll be glad that you put the work in now to ensure that you’ll knock it out of the park.

Here are our top eight suggestions to ensure you can make the quarterly number without breaking a sweat.

making sales calls1. It’s time to hustle.

At the end of the day, the reality is that sales people can’t make anyone buy your product or service. What is within your control is the number of opportunities you create for yourself so that someone else can say ‘yes!’ For example, the conversion rate for cold calls hangs right around 2%. Which means that if you call 100 leads, you will likely snag two sales. The more calls you make, the more emails you send, the more meetings you schedule, the greater the likelihood that you make the quarterly number.

2. Get serious about who’s serious.

Oftentimes, if you’re not constantly vigilant, it can be easy to end up spending a lot of time with prospects that are never going to buy. If you aren’t sure you are going to make the quarterly number, it’s time to do a pipeline clean up. Look through your contact list and say goodbye to prospects that aren’t going to pull the trigger. This can often result in renewed interest that can lead to a sale. And if it doesn’t, you will have freed up time to focus on warm, qualified leads instead.

3. Get organized.

Whatever it might mean to you, it’s time to get organized. Whether you need to clean up your Google Calendar, clear off your desk, or start writing comprehensive notes during cold calls to refer to later, it’s time to get your ducks in a row. An organized sales rep is an effective sales rep. It is so much easier to offer value, delight prospects, and demonstrate why your product and your brand is the right choice when you’re not scrambling to remember names, conversations, or showing up late to meetings.

4. Follow up on your follow-ups.

One of the rules of sales that is important to keep in mind is that people buy when they’re ready to buy (not when you’re ready to sell). A prospect that wasn’t ready three or six months ago might be ready now. The only way you can know is to follow up with them. The Rule of 7 comes into play here too. On average, it takes seven interactions with a brand before a customer is ready to hand over their hard-earned money. Be tenacious and follow up with your prospects. Remind them of your company and why your product will make their lives easier.

email prospects5. Switch it up.

Not everyone communicates the best in a specific medium. You might feel most comfortable calling prospects, but some prospects might prefer email where they can think over the information in their own time. If you’re not getting the results you want, try contacting your prospect another way. And if you’re not a fan of email because you think it takes too much time, it doesn’t! The most effective emails are between 50 and 125 words (about the length of this paragraph)

Creating different avenues for communication with a prospect also offers you additional opportunities to restate your message. You might know the features of your product like the back of your hand, but your prospect doesn’t – yet. Each contact offers you another opportunity to explain why your product is so wonderful.

6. Create time to become a better salesperson.

No one knows all the secrets of sales. Human psychology is deep and vast and plays deeply into how and why we spend our money. Each salesperson will develop their own selling styles that work best for them, but there is always room for improvement. Set aside time each day or each week to consciously develop your skills. That can take the form of a more experienced mentor, seminars or conferences, webinars, curated reading lists, or whatever else inspires you.

7. Use active listening to get an extra boost.

The classic image of a superstar sales rep is a smooth talker with the right answer in her back pocket. But in actuality, active listening is an equally important skill for sales reps to hone.  Active listening is not simply giving your prospects the space to talk, but also learning how to ask the right questions. Productive conversations with prospects aren’t one sided.

You should be aiming not just to sell your product, but to get information. These pieces of knowledge will reveal your prospects true pain points. Your prospects might not always come right out and say what they’re looking for (or they might not know yet!), but a few key questions can help you understand their needs. Which means that you can talk about the benefits of your product or service in a way that speaks to your prospect’s needs.

hit sales target and make the number8. Don’t focus on how to make the quarterly number.

This might seem counterproductive, but if you can feel your monthly quota slipping through your fingers, it’s easy to fall into the realm of desperation. When your main priority switches from, “How can I help this prospect?” to, “How can I sell to this prospect?” it’s going to be infinitely harder to close a deal. Your enthusiasm for your product or service (and not your need to make a sale) is what is going to excite your prospects and convince them to buy.

Coming to the end of a quarter doesn’t have to be stressful when you set yourself up for success. Creating opportunities, using your time wisely, and focusing on what your customers need are good guidelines that will help you in making your sales quotas.

What are your best tips for setting yourself up for success? Let us know in the comments how you plan to make the quarterly number?

Kasia Kowalska - GrowbotsAbout the Author: Kasia Kowalska
Kasia is the Content Manager at Growbots, an all-in one outbound sales platform that helps you get new customers faster. By automating prospecting and prospect outreach Growbots allows salespeople to spend more time on closing deals. 

Sales Tips: 4 Components of a Repeatable Sales Process

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Henry Ford is credited with creating production lines allowing cars to be built consistently regardless of the staff that assembled them. I’ve worked with consulting companies that wanted to “cookie cutter” engagements because repetition makes people more competent and efficient. It provides the added benefit of being able to identify and share best practices.

repeatable sales process

That said, many people feel sales calls are like snowflakes in that no two are identical. While calls are never identical, there are ways organizations can make them more consistent by defining parameters to provide context.

  1. One of the key components is creating sales ready messaging®:
  • As sellers go higher in org charts, calls become more predictable, largely because the primary focus shifts from offerings/products to desired business outcomes.
  • By leveraging the collective expertise of internal resources, vendors can identify the high level titles sellers must call on to sell, fund and implement a given offering. Many sellers find it helpful to understand what titles they should target.
  • Once titles have been identified, menus of business outcomes or goals can be created for each potential member of buying committees. Ideally the value of achieving the desired outcomes should exceed the cost of the offering. The start of buying cycles can now be defined as a particular title sharing one of more goals from the menus that were created.
  • Each title/goal becomes a conversation sellers should be able to execute. To help them position offerings consistently, Sales and Marketing (and other departments with relevant input) can map only those features/capabilities that are relevant to a title achieving a specific goal.
  • Once the features/capabilities have been defined, packets of diagnostic questions can be created for each capability. These questions allow sellers to uncover needs based upon buyer answers to diagnostic questions. Sellers can then offer only capabilities relevant to achieving the desired outcome. This approach allows sellers to clarify buyer needs and avoid discussing extraneous features/capabilities that would actually be distractions.

I’ve briefly described the process of creating sales ready messaging® to gain more consistent positioning of offerings.

Once messaging has been created, three other components are needed to facilitate consistent execution:

  1. Sellers need a common set of skills. The elephant in many offices when managers try coaching sellers is that they ask them to perform tasks they don’t know how to execute. This makes them likely to fail.
  2. Milestones for different types of transactions should be defined. The steps should vary based upon the size and complexity of offerings. One size does not fit all. Whenever possible, achievement of milestones (based upon sellers executing messaging) should be determined by buyer actions rather than seller opinions.
  3. After executing sales ready messaging® prompters, sellers can imbed answers to five debriefing questions in correspondence to buyers. These letters or emails allow managers to ensure opportunities are qualified and grade the pipeline.

In order to have sales process defined milestones, consistent positioning of offerings, a standard skill set and the ability of managers to audit pipeline by reviewing correspondence with buyers are required. Sharing best practices can provide organizations sustainable competitive advantages.

Sales Tips: How to Maintain Key Player Access

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

maintaining key player accessInitiating opportunities at high levels offers several potential advantages to salespeople:

  • They can take prospects from latent to active need by uncovering desired goals.
  • They can enjoy the benefits of being “Column A” from the start.
  • Key Players can fund can find funding for unbudgeted initiatives.
  • Discussions about capabilities can be done at a conceptual level.
  • Transactions can be larger because buyers are not budget-constrained.
  • Buyers will self-qualify themselves.
  • Shorter sales cycles.
  • Higher win rates.

In my previous blog post, I raised the issue of when “ugly” conversations take place. By “ugly” I mean very product-focused discussions that involve lower level staff asking esoteric questions about things Key Players would not be interested in.

The later in buying cycles ugly conversations take place the better for sellers. They are important and necessary conversations.

If and when delegated to lower levels it is important that sellers maintain connections to the Key Players they’ve called on.

After calling on mid and lower levels, sellers will be much more familiar with a prospect’s current way of doing business and the specific capabilities buyers need to achieve their goals. Being delegated by Key Players is a “get” for them and a “give” from sellers that have to commit time and potentially technical staff for ugly meetings.

PRO TIP: When delegated to become the “eyes and ears” for Key Players, my suggestion is that sellers should request that they be able to keep higher levels apprised of their findings as they work with lower levels to better understand the companies needs at far more granular levels. Without such access some opportunities fall under their own weight because executives are no longer involved.

Sales Tips: 3 Sales Productivity Traps to Avoid

By Lisa Cook, Chief Operating Officer, Cien

While selling has never been easy, it hasn’t become harder either. Selling has become a more refined process where efficiency is key. Increasing sales productivity requires operational awareness of the quality of leads generated from marketing as well as the productivity of individual salespeople.

With artificial intelligence (AI), your business can understand the deeper dynamics of the sales process and make it possible to see the incremental value created by sales and marketing activities. You can then better allocate time and resources to unlock the productivity gains within your organization. There are pitfalls to avoid, however. Here are three of the biggest, and what to do about them.

Sales Productivity

#1: Misallocating Sales Resources

One of the biggest productivity traps that organizations fall into is not understanding sales’ contribution to the revenue generation process and failing to allocate resources accordingly. This comes from recognizing the true revenue contribution of each salesperson and understanding the actual role that marketing and sales develop activities play in generating quality leads and opportunities. A mistake that many firms make is assuming that the people generating the revenue are the same ones who are closing the sales. This is not always the case.

The best sales person on the team isn’t necessarily the one who has signed the most contracts. Instead, it’s the one who has added the most value to the leads and opportunities received by the marketing and sales development teams. It may appear that sales professionals sell more because they’ve received more valuable leads from marketing, or they work a territory that has greater demand than another representative. An external market factor, such as a local competitor leaving the market, can also distort the picture of sales person’s performance.

#2: Assigning the Wrong Leads to the Wrong Salesperson

Many firms have inadequate awareness of the true dynamics of the sales process, because they don’t understand which sales professionals are actually producing the most value. This skewed assessment leads to many firms assigning some of the best leads to salespeople who are less likely to convert them into won deals.

With a better understanding of sales performance, organizations can optimize sales productivity by allocating the best leads to the most productive sales professionals or those who can maximize the sales volume for a lead. This is accomplished by having the best product knowledge or closing effectiveness, generating incremental sales value without increasing marketing expenses or sales headcount.

#3: Inefficient Training for Your Sales Staff

As counter-intuitive as it seems, sales professionals can actually destroy value when marketing activities have produced a quality lead. Negative sales value often arises when a rep has insufficient product knowledge, a low work ethic or inadequate closing skills. Having the right operational intelligence, makes it easy to train the right sales professionals on the right skill.

With better awareness of the true contribution of each sales professional, implementing spot training for those who need it can have a huge impact on overall sales productivity.

Avoiding Productivity Traps

While improving sales productivity requires better operational intelligence, most firms do not have the time, skills or resources to analyze their sales data comprehensively enough to generate this insight.

The good news is that advances in statistical science, machine learning, natural language processing and AI now allow businesses to analyze their sales and CRM data for new levels of understanding that were not possible before.

For a deeper look at improving your company’s sales productivity, check out Cien’s  Guide to Solving Sales Productivity Traps.

Lisa CookAbout the Author

Lisa Cook is Chief Operating Officer at Cien, a new AI-powered sales productivity app for B2B sales teams. Cien gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of artificial intelligence to increase the productivity of their teams. The mobile app automatically detects problems, predicts outcomes and recommends the shortest path to success. For more information visit www.cien.ai.

Sales Tips: When to Make “Ugly Calls”

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

As a salesperson one of my best customers was a large insurance company in downtown Boston. Their CIO was an astute businessman who wasn’t very current with technology. He depended upon his staff to handle technical details. The company had two IBM mainframes whose performance was bottlenecked because processor memory (Bill still referred to it as “core”) was maxed out. This meant that programs had to be paged out of memory to disk drives that were orders of magnitude, slower devices and significantly increased user response times.

At the time, upgrading a processor was a seven-figure decision.

buyer meeting

I met with Bill and discussed the potential of using a device that could address the performance issues immediately and allow the company to defer processor upgrades for at least a year. I asked if he would consider it. He said he would and wanted to know the estimated cost. I shared with him that it would be $250K per processor. He quickly realized the short-term performance benefits would more than offset the cost. The ability to defer purchasing new mainframes that were trending to be cheaper with future announcements made the decision a financial slam-dunk. He then asked me to schedule a call with to Tom, his technical guru, who was by far the smartest person in the organization.

The business case had been made and now it was time for a technical evaluation of my offering.

I brought my top Systems Engineer for the meeting with Tom that lasted about two hours. He wanted to know specs of the auxiliary storage, how it would be supported by IBM’s Operating System (it emulated an IBM disk drive), approximately how much response times would be improved, etc. While I was fairly competent technically, there were blocks of time when they could have been speaking a foreign language. I did my best to understand the gist of the conversation.

At the end of the meeting Tom told us he wanted to run some things past members of his staff but he was comfortable that it was a device that would certainly allow them to address the performance issues and therefore would make IT’s life easier because they could deliver end users the better response times they wanted.

Within a week I had an order for one unit and a commitment that if it performed as advertised they wanted a second unit (which they installed).

ugly sales callsWhen selling technology or any complicated offering it is often necessary to have what I refer to as “ugly” calls.

By that I mean that they are highly product-focused. User-level staff that will be impacted will want to know things about offerings that even salespeople can’t be expected to know. I sometimes refer to ugly calls as “mind-melds” between technical staff of the prospect/customer and vendor.

I believe a seller’s quality of life (and win rate) will be significantly better if executive calls are made to establish potential value so that ugly calls can be deferred until a later time.

It amounts to executing top-down vs. bottom-up buying cycles.

Oddly enough, both buyers and sellers stand to benefit because there will be no need to take the technical staff’s time if a business case can’t be built.

Buyers and sellers are both beneficiaries when agreeing to defer ugly calls.