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Leveraging Your Sales Team for Greater Success

 

The obvious marker of success for a sales team is bringing in revenue for the company and hitting goals and targets. That said, there are some strategies you can undertake that will provide your sales team with even great success and provide added value for the entire company. By leveraging your sales team’s relationships with your customers and their experience in your field, you can build the reputation of your company.
 
Use the Sales Team to Uncover Success Stories
Success stories are a factor in closing business and attracting new customers. When a potential customer can relate to one of your other clients, they can visualize themselves doing business with you and understand the practical implications of doing so. Success stories and case studies are an essential part of your marketing strategy, and salespeople are in the perfect position to collect them.
 
Sales teams are most often in front of clients, and they hear the positives and the negatives of the clients’ experiences. Sales reps should be trained to dive deeper with their customers, collecting the success stories and finding out why the clients chose to do business with your company, and what keeps them continuing to do so. They need to capture and quantify the results that your client is getting thanks to your product or service.  
 
Of course, your sales team is focused on selling and writing success stories might not necessarily be in their job description. Bring a marketing employee or a consultant on board and have the sales team feed her leads as to which customers should be interviewed and what the highlights of their stories are. Make sure the sales team is familiar with these stories so they can relay them either in conversation or in writing to potential customers. 
 
Another reason to outsource this task? Sometimes a third party will reveal different (more honest?) assessment of how the customer really feels. 
 
Present Your Sales Team as Marketplace Experts
Sales is about relationships, and one way to boost your company’s image and reputation is by having your sales team active in blogging, contributing to trade publications, speaking and presenting within your marketplace. Training sales reps in the marketplace and helping them establish expertise can be just as valuable as cold calling skills and negotiating tactics. 
 
Today’s buyers aren’t just seeking to do business with companies they know and like. They’re also looking for marketplace experts that can guide them and add value to their purchase, eventually helping the customer to become more successful. Seek out opportunities for your sales team to speak at conferences where they’re delivering practical presentations based on real marketplace successes. Alternatively, encourage sales reps to participate in webinars—with or without customers—that educate your prospect base.
 
Get your sales team writing and commenting on industry blogs based around your customer success stories and using products and services to solve problems. Your team doesn’t need to be doing the writing; perhaps someone else on staff is available to ghostwrite for them. At the very least, ensure that sales reps are sending out the articles, positioning themselves as resources, thought leaders and experts to help generate leads. 
 
For sales teams that are used to focusing on cold calling and prospecting, the shift to spending time becoming experts can be counter intuitive. However, by becoming experts, sales reps are looked at not only as successful businesspeople, but also as resources who are laser-focused on helping clients in the market solve problems and make their businesses better. Eventually, they’ll find that more sales will result more easily and leads will be flowing more naturally.
 
Of course, much of this leverage requires for you to invest in your sales team, whether that’s providing them with writers, taking selling time out to go to a conference or send out a useful article, or providing them with webinar tools.  The pay-off is huge!. By establishing them as an expert, you’re expanding your company’s reach and ability to close sales.
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Successfully Implementing Strategic Direction for Your Sales Team

 

As a sales leader, you have a vision for how to accomplish your sales goals and fulfill on company targets. In order to accomplish your objectives, you need to work closely with your sales team and ensure that they share that vision. Sales leaders are often challenged with how to get their strategic direction implemented throughout the sales team.  There are a few simple steps you can take to achieve your strategic direction and fully put it into practice.
 
Step 1: Get the Sales Team Involved. First, schedule a sales meeting where you bring in your sales team and present the strategic direction. It seems intuitive, but it often happens that sales leaders understand their strategic direction, yet have never filled their team in, which makes it impossible for the team to help meet goals. Sharing your strategy with the team is a simple step and an easy way to ensure your team is on the same page and understands what the direction needs to be.  
 
In addition, it is essential to ask for the sales team’s feedback on how they can assist with determining and carrying out your strategy. Sales people typically won't do something just because they're told to, and their main motivation is hitting their targets. Involve them in your vision so they can understand how this is going to help them serve their clients and make more money. Sit down with the salespeople as a team and brainstorm each point of the strategic direction, asking questions such as: 
 
How does this strategic direction apply to helping our client succeed? 
How do we take an internal direction and really make it customer consumable? 
How do we take that strategic direction and how does this improve the client condition?
Another question to pose is how the strategic direction affects daily work and what the team needs to do on a daily activity basis to make sure that the strategy is a success. Have the sales team create goals, objectives, measurements, or even KPIs around your strategic direction. 
 
Step Two: Monitor. To ensure that your strategic direction is implemented, you need to make sure you are tracking progress. In your weekly sales meetings and your weekly coaching and mentoring sessions, make sure that you're measuring the sales team’s progress to implementing the strategic direction. If your sales team is failing, if you consistently allow them to not hit quota, or if you consistently allow them to get away with not doing the activities that they set out to do, then you're really complicit in their failure. It’s up to you to proactively monitor and tweak strategy to help them achieve their goals or change direction if they're not moving in the way that you want them to. This is a pretty simple principle, but it works!  
 
Step Three:  Motivate Through Compensation. If you're really concerned about implementing a strategic direction, then make sure to pay the sales people to achieve the activities or behaviors that you want. Simply, align their compensation with the strategic direction you are trying to implement to motivate behavior. Here's a basic rule; 
 
Sales people do exactly what they're paid to do.
 
If their compensation, specifically variable compensation, or commission and bonuses, isn’t consistent with the direction that you want the team to go, they will simply act in whatever way maximizes their income. So make sure your compensation plans, your bonuses and your commissions are fully aligned with the behaviors that are expected to implement the direction.
 
In three straightforward steps, you can successfully implement strategic direction within your sales organization. First, get them involved. Second, monitor and measure their progress on a weekly basis.  And third, pay them in a fashion that encourages them to implement the ideas that you want carried out. It will take some time and dedication, but if you follow these three principles, you can rest assured that the sales team will step in line with your objectives. 
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Three Actions that Lead to a Customer for Life

 

It’s a statistic that’s commonly repeated in sales departments: it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. That’s why it’s important to not just make sales, but to acquire lifelong customers. Sales representatives should be thinking about how to turn a sale into a customer for life from the very first conversation with a prospect. There are three simple, proven actions that will help your company retain happy customers at higher rates.
 
Action #1: Establish relationships that are not only deep, but also wide.
Many sales representatives establish strong relationships with their main contacts at each of your customers, but oftentimes, that’s not enough. Build relationships with senior managers across multiple departments at your client to ensure the security of your relationship with them far into the future.
 
Use an organizational chart to understand the players within the company and commit to building those relationships. The best defense you have for protecting an ongoing relationship with any customer is to build a wall consisting of a number of relationships within the company. Concentrate on being a trusted resource, not just a vendor. If done right, your customer will stop seeing you as a supplier and start seeing you as an insider or a partner. 
 
A cautionary tale came from a client I consulted with a number of years ago. The client resisted the idea of building relationships across their customer’s organization because the executive vice president of HR was a huge advocate for them, and she signed all the checks and was the key decision-maker at the organization.
 
Two months later, the EVP was unceremonious marched out of the building after an expense scandal. My client’s key ally was gone, and worse than that, the new EVP wanted to separate himself from anything that the old one had in the works, including ending most of her vendor relationships. Despite a situation that was out of its control, my client lost the business. Ensuring you have multiple points of contact and allies within your customer can help you avoid a similar situation.
 
Action #2: Have a genuine interest in ensuring your client’s success
We hear it all the time in sales: “I’d walk away from the customer if I wasn’t selling them a product or service that wouldn’t solve a problem they have.” But in working with dozens of sales organizations, I don’t always see that philosophy genuinely in action.
 
In order to develop a customer for life, you have to honestly believe that what you’re providing is helping them improve their business or personal life. This means that it’s important to be there in between sales opportunities. Offer them advice or offer them introductions to other people when you’re not the right resource. Develop a long-term relationship with the client by focusing on their overall well-being and success, and they’ll view you not only as a vendor or service provider, but as a trusted counsel and part of their business.
 
Action #3: Commit to Lifelong Customers at All Levels of Management
The development of a loyal customer for life requires more than just the involvement of your sales staff, it requires a commitment from your CEO, your sales leadership, customer service, development, and every other department within your organization. It’s important to ensure that each member of your company realizes that they have a role to play in serving the customer, and that it’s their priority to ensure the customer has a positive experience and stays with your company.
 
I once discussed the idea of commissions for staff based on repeat business with a hotel vice president of sales, and discovered it was something he did not do at his company. To me, that sends the message to his team that they should ignore existing customers, as they were only being rewarded for new business. It’s essential to commit to rewarding your staff for repeat business and to create compensation plans around your goals to retain clients, not just in sales, but also across the organization.
 
A commitment to customer loyalty and retention will help your company cut down on customer acquisition costs while improving your bottom line. Ensure that your employees understand the importance of lifelong customers, create sales policies that help you develop deep and lasting relationships within the organization, and reflect the customer retention priority in your policies across departments at your company.
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Motivating Your Sales Team: It’s (Not) All About the Money

 

When sales managers think about keeping their sales teams motivated, they often make a critical mistake. Most of them immediately think of money, and most assume that the entire team will be motivated by the same things. 
 
In truth, this attitude is a mistake. While some individuals are driven completely by financial rewards, other incentives often play a role as well. In fact, spending the time and energy in coming up with that one unique, perfect thing that the whole team will embrace will likely backfire. While some team members may be motivated, your plan could serve to deflate others.
 
Having a multi-dimensional point of view on your sales team—understanding both individual motivations and being open to unconventional rewards—will help you develop the best way to move your team towards your sales goals.
 
At Engage Selling, we’ve developed some specific tactics to help you create a bonus plan that is tailored to your sales organization, will enhance your standard compensation plan and that will ensure that the individuals within it are being additionally rewarded in a way that suits them personally. 
 
1. Ask Your Team What They Want. When it comes to sales, money and bonuses are often the go-to motivators. But what happens when money comes out of the equation? For starters, stripping cash out of the motivation options gives you some fresh knowledge about the individuals on your team. 
 
Ask the people on your team what kind of bonus or recognition they’d want for great performance if there was no money in the budget to reward them. You may be surprised how many creative bonus opportunities come up. While some employees might be motivated by a day off, others might simply seek recognition or praise. Understanding what each of your employees seeks as a reward for great performance—aside from their paycheck and bonus—helps you to relate to them all year round.
 
 
2. Be Consistent. If you’re thinking about new ways to motivate your sales staff, the first place you may go is the compensation plan. We’ve already learned that your team is motivated by more than money, but when it does come to compensation and bonuses, it’s essential to keep consistency in place. In other words, stick to your promise.
 
People typically go into sales because it offers unlimited earning capacity in a chosen field. You want to make sure that you have a fair and consistent compensation plan that rewards people on a monthly basis. One sure way to demotivate your team is to start changing or tinkering the compensation plan throughout the year.
 
Test the plan you’re considering, ensure that it works and then roll it out and stick with it for the year. If you’re concerned about aspects of your plan, give it a chance to work in the field before making changes. If you’re constantly making changes, you’re never giving it a chance to work and your sales reps have very little chance to react to the goals being set and the way they’re being paid.
 
While on the surface, compensation plans are purely analytical and monetary, they’re actually quite emotional for sales reps. When your team sees their compensation plan being changed throughout the year, they tend to assume the company is looking for ways to reduce their pay or pulling a bait and switch by setting goals and then changing the reward. 
 
3. Recognize It’s About More Than Money. As sales leaders, we’ve all seen it: the sales superstar who leaves a team despite his or her high earnings. Everyone may scratch their heads over the departure, but if asked to think about it, most of us will acknowledge that the superstar left because they weren’t being recognized for their contributions to the company. Feeling as though you’re good at your job and that the company is benefitting from your work is essential to workplace happiness and loyalty.
 
Cultivate loyalty within your team by ensuring you’re recognizing good work, and you’ll find you’re motivating the team as well. One simple and no-cost way of doing this is to celebrate the success of a big win. Take a few minutes to send the team or the company an email recognizing the individual and the deal they just won, or showcasing their contributions and success. Acknowledging success in front of peers costs no money and little time, but makes people feel fantastic. And when they feel fantastic they will stay, be motivated to sell more and serive more rigourously.
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Three big challenges every executive struggles with to meet targets and how you can solve them

 

As a VP of sales, you’re constantly on the lookout for that winning edge to help you and your organization consistently achieve and even surpass your revenue targets.

 

Success in sales is everything. Among executives, it is the most important thing that we are all measured on.

 

Therefore, it’s vital that you check in with your own work regularly. Ask yourself the following three important questions and take action with the following three solutions.

 

How effective are your hires?

 

Are you hiring the right sales people? Far too often, VPs of sales make the mistake of letting their hiring decisions be guided by personal likeability rather than by criteria squarely focused on giving your business the boost it needs to succeed.

 

Solution: Take stock of business habits that your organization needs to emulate more often. Hire people who are the right fit for those business habits. If, for example, you have a long sales cycle featuring multiple buyers, hire professionals with experience selling under those conditions. If your product sells quickly in one sale over the phone, then hire sales people who have extensive selling-by-phone experience.

 

A misaligned hire can put at risk your organization’s sales success for many quarters. A strategic fit, on the other hand, can pay dividends again and again.


 

Are you investing enough time in coaching and mentoring?

 

Most VPs of sales don’t coach or mentor their sales teams enough. Studies have shown that three hours or more of coaching between a sales leader and an individual sales rep per month results in 103% quota attainment, whereas less than two hours of coaching a month results in 87% of quota attainment. The impact is huge, and you can just imagine how many opportunities are lost in cases where no there is no coaching at all on a monthly basis.

 

Solution: Make sure you are spending at least three hours per month per sales rep coaching and mentoring them for success. Not only will your organization achieve better results more often, you will also become more intimately involved in your sales pipeline. This means you will gain a much more objective view of what your sales numbers mean, and of the sales process needed to get those deals closed. You cannot over-coach a sales person. Your top reps are no exception. In professional sports, even at the top of their game, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan showed up for practice regularly. Look to the top performers in your business—people who are already doing great work—and look to make them better.

 


Is your sales process well understood and applied consistently?

 

The final thing that you can do to ensure your sales team is successful this year is define a sales process that everybody sticks to. Don’t let your team sell just any way they want.

 

Solution: Think of your sales process as a playbook. It has to be understood and used by everyone consistently. That’s the only way that it can give you measurable results. The outcome is that you are able to analyze your sales process on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual basis and make adjustments based on the market conditions. This gives you data, and data is your key to objectivity.

 

Far too many sales VPs that I work with coach or manage from a subjective place. They rely too much on emotion and not enough on facts. The best way to start the transition to objective measurement is to have a process that everybody sticks to, and that you can measure results against.

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Building a sum even greater than its parts: Why it’s essential to create a cohesive sales team

 

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.” Henry Ford, one of the great industrialists of the 20th century, said that about the importance of teamwork and of how it applies to businesses of all sizes.

 

Today’s economy is more diverse and more fiercely competitive than ever before, and yet Ford’s insights still ring true today. Whether you are leading a small sales team, managing a large sales department, or are part of a group of sales professionals, your personal success is going to hinge on building an ambitious, motivated team that can work together towards a common objective. 

 

Even where sales targets are met individually, they are meant to be assigned to all members of a team. A team that meets and exceeds its combined targets is far more valuable than one where only a few succeed and the rest fail.

 

Work together for sales and against the corrosive effects of disunity.Infighting or squabbles with other departments isn’t just bad for morale, it also leads to lost business. Here at Engage Selling, we once worked with a company that had lost a quarter of a million dollar account because the sales and the engineering teams didn’t trust each other enough to communicate properly.

 

That’s a tough loss for any company. Worse still, it’s entirely preventable.

 

Ensure your group keeps meeting and exceeding their sales targets. Implement the following five tips on creating a cohesive sales team.

 

Choose people whose team skills even the balance.  When hiring sales professionals, be sure to look for people who demonstrate more than just a healthy competitive streak. They need to show they have team-oriented skills, too. These are not contradictory qualities. All proven sales people have the motivation and the tools to succeed on their own, but the truly exceptional ones are able to help others on their team succeed as well.

 

Open the communication channels in-house. Ensure you are communicating cross-departmentally on a regular basis. Bring in your engineering teams, your implementation teams, and your customer service teams so you can have meetings that inform each group about what the others are doing in the common pursuit of serving the customer.

 

Eliminate ambiguity. Within your sales team, ensure everyone is clear about their sales territory and about how they are being paid. Sales teams can quickly become dysfunctional when staff are expected to perform well while dealing with unanswered questions (e.g., “Is that my lead or yours?” and “Do I get paid for this service I’m providing?”). Fill in the gray areas. Create well-defined territory agreements and compensation agreements.

 

Don’t compete against your own team. If you are a sales leader, make sure you are not selling directly to the customer. Some of the most dysfunctional sales teams I have coached got that way because the sales leader was competing directly against their own sales team. Your job is not to sell directly: it’s to help each sales person close more business.

 

Celebrate success. Dysfunctional sales teams stay that way because all they hear is bad news or negative feedback. Granted, a sales person’s commission is a fine motivator on an individual level, but what I am talking about here is what you can do to show that money isn’t the only reward for hard work. Good sales professionals leave organizations when they feel they’re not being recognized. So celebrate big wins. Ensure that every team member feels like they are contributing. Ask for their opinions. Celebrate when a new hire wins a new customer. If customer service or engineering has also helped in that win, make sure you include them in the congratulations as well.

 

A happy, motivated sales team that knows how it is going to be paid and communicates throughout the organization is the team that’s going to help you meet and exceed your sales goals…year after year.

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The key to better decision making: knowing the difference between what you know is true versus what you feel is true.

 

In business, your success hinges on the decision-making process you use to solve problems. Sound decisions are determined by making the right choices for the right reasons from a range of potential options.

 

Not only does this influence where your company or your sales team is heading, the choices you make also are reflected in how successful you will be in communicating your ideas with employees and customers.

 

Be disciplined in your thinking

 

One of the biggest mistakes that any decision-maker can make is to be misguided by subjective information—personal feelings, biases or opinions, rather than objective data—verifiable, measurable facts.

 

Granted, experts on human behavior will point out that most people are highly susceptible to emotional inputs in their thinking. There’s no escaping that fact.

 

Where you have your work cut out for you is in being disciplined in how you let subjectivity influence the way you look at the problems you need to solve in your business.

 

“Let’s look at the actual numbers”

 

The following example illustrates the dangers of not knowing the difference between what you know is true versus what you feel is true.

 

Recently, I was coaching VP of Sales of a fast-growing, successful company. He described to me in great detail how both he and his CEO had really strong feelings about a particular competitor in their market. At the heart of what he had to say was a sense that this competitor was stealing business from them and that they were powerless to stop it.

 

Asking him objective-based questions about the problem he was struggling with revealed a lot about his decision-making process.

 

I asked him: “Specifically, how much business are you losing to this competitor right now?”

 

He indicated in his reply: “Well, we are losing tons of business to them. We lose to them all the time. It feels as though we lose each time we go up against them.”

 

I forced him to take a step back and be objective, to look at the actual numbers and see if the facts supported his feelings about that competitor. The results were very surprising.

 

October’s sales data indicated of all the deals lost, less than 10% were as a result of this particular competitor. Next, we looked at data for November and December. Again, similar results. The company they felt was responsible for so much lost business was, in fact, behind about one in ten losses.

 

Keep problems in their proper perspective

 

In this example, when the VP of Sales looked at the data, he quickly realized he had been communicating incorrectly with both his sales team and his CEO. The competitor in question was taking away less business than they thought.

 

Up until that point, he had been ready to embark on a new sales strategy and new tactics to address when he perceived as his company’s biggest challenger in the marketplace. It would have been a mistake. The firm would have been focusing all their resources in one place, rather than solving the larger challenge of determining what was behind the majority of lost sales.

 

Keep problems in their proper perspective. Always look at the numbers first. By demanding facts, it will either confirm what you feel is true, or it will show you it’s time to reconsider your assumptions, rethink your strategy and retool the messages you send both inside and outside your organization. 

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Debunking the perfect sales process myth: Three steps to help you to better meet the unique needs of every customer or prospect

 

“How do I build the perfect sales cycle or the perfect sales process?”I’m often asked this question and my answer tends to disappoint those who are looking for quick answers to challenging problems. 

 

There is no such thing as a perfect sales cycle, or a perfect sales process that you can either build or replicate and unleash on your entire market.

 

Sorry, but that’s the truth.

 

To assume otherwise is akin to treating sales no differently from any mass-produced product, assembled the same way for every customer as quickly as possible to solve a very short list of problems that your customer has.

 

That sounds a lot like how fast food is made and sold, doesn’t it? Unless you’re in that line of work (hey, no judging here, really), you need to stop and look carefully at your product or service and to whom you are selling.

 

Do the work and the truth will be revealed.

 

You’ll see that every sale is different. Every market is different. And every product or service you make is different. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that your sales cycle and sales process needs to reflect these facts and be flexible to meet the needs of each sale.

 

Here are three steps you can implement today to better meet the unique needs of every customer or prospect.

 

1.     Address the needs of your new customers.

 

My research shows that many organizations overlook how they sell to new customers and instead treat them like every other client. That’s a big mistake. Selling today is more relationship-based than ever before. Each time you land a new customer, you’re establishing a new relationship, so it’s smart to treat the sales process here a little differently from others. From a net new lead that comes into your organization—whether you found that lead, or the lead found you—through marketing programs, you ought to have a process for quickly transforming each one into a loyal customer.

 

2.     Address the need of your existing customers.

 

Your existing, well-established customers have different needs from your newer customers, so your sales process should reflect this fact. If you sell multiple products to an existing customer, consider having a unique process. Similarly, if you have a customer who regularly provides you with great new referrals, examine how your selling process can acknowledge that fact and encourage more of that practice.

 

3.     Invest in account management.

 

I’m constantly surprised now many companies overlook the importance of having an account management process. Every one of your customers has a total lifetime value that you need to maximize, and many companies forget that you have to manage and nurture client relationships to maximize that total lifetime value.

 

Your account management should be flexible to meet the unique total value of every sale. What this means is if you sell one product to a company that can be renewed over time, or one product to a company that they pay for once and continue to use for a lifetime, or you sell 300 products to one company, you should have a process for each, developed carefully to maximize the value.

 

When you undertake all three of the steps I’ve outlined for you, your organization can accelerate revenue and profit. Remember that most companies see the greatest amount of profit from the second, third, fourth, and fifth sales to an existing customer.

 

If you’re not developing a well-oiled process to maximize the unique needs to every customer and every sale, you risk leaving a large amount of money on the table.

 

 

 

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Price, Price, Price!!! Six steps you can take to keep cut-rate competitors from stealing your customers

 

All sales reps face competition. And nothing is more frustrating than having your competition offer to sell to your existing client base at dramatically reduced prices.

 

Consider the following scenario: Your biggest client calls to tell you that they’ve been offered a cut-rate price on the very same products you’ve been selling to them for years. They like doing business with you, but with the pressure on to save money and increase profits, this new lower price is just too attractive to pass up. No matter how much you preach value to the customer, they continue to come back with the lower price and tell you they are working from a strict budget.

 

To make matters worse, your competition is also trying to offset the lower price with a longer contract, which will hurt your chances of ever getting the client back if you lose their business now. You know this is a risky move for your competition, and that they will probably lose money on the deal.

 

What can you do to close this business without taking a huge bath on your profits?

 

Step One: Focus on testimonials.

Testimonials are the most powerful weapon sales people have to prove their value to their customers.

 

Clients tend to believe other clients more than they believe you. So find customers who already switched for a lower price and then came back to you because their experience with the competitor was less than satisfying. Or find clients who were considering moving their business, only to change their mind when they realized that the long-term implications were less than positive.

 

These client stories will add firepower to your case and help you convince your customer that doing business with you truly is a better and more profitable solution in the long run.

 

As a side note: you should be collecting testimonials from every client you do business with regardless of how well your business is currently doing. Testimonials are your most profitable selling tool, and you can never have too many.

 

Step Two: Learn from history.

As your team’s manager, show your sales people that prospects who only buy on price are not the best customers for your business because, in the long term, they are not profitable customers.

 

If your sales team is confident in selling based on the quality of your service, they will seek out prospects who value quality over those who only care about price. Your team may have to be willing to endure the short-term pain of letting a customer go, in order to make long-term gains with other, more profitable clients.

 

Step Three: Reward loyalty.

Show your long-term customers how much you value their loyalty by creating an account management process that rewards them for keeping their business with you.

 

Most companies make the mistake of only offering discounts and bonuses to new customers. Instead of devising a scheme to reward new business, create a program that rewards loyalty. For example, perhaps your customers can receive a lower price after 2 years of continuous ordering. Or maybe longer-term customers can be the first to receive special new products or access training at reduced prices (or maybe even free).

 

Take a look at your current client acquisition plan, and make sure it’s not “sweeter” to become a new customer than it is to stay an existing customer. After all, long-term customers are far more profitable than new customers. Some studies show that acquiring a new customer costs as much as 15 times more than it does to sell more to existing customers.

 

Ask yourself: can you increase your profits by spending some of the money you currently allocate for landing new customers, towards keeping your existing clients instead?

 

Step Four: Give yourself some breathing room.

Make sure you’re never in the position of having to save an account at any cost, simply because it’s the ONLY account you can close this month. If you don’t have other options, you will feel enormous pressure to close business at any price.

 

What can you do to avoid this scenario? Always be prospecting. The best sales people manage a full funnel of leads (at least 3-4 times your quota of active qualified leads) at all times. This gives them the freedom to be able to walk away from an unprofitable deal, and focus their attention on a profitable one instead.

 

Step Five: Do your research.

A company’s website is a great place to do a little pre-sales call research. However, most companies only put what they want you to see on their sites.

 

If you’re trying to save a deal, you might want to dig a little deeper to find out more about your client’s past, present and future, what their customers think of them – and their reputation in the industry.

 

Start by using Google or any of the other countless search engines out there. You may be surprised how many blogs, message boards or other websites you’ll find that may provide you with some deeper insights you can use to ask your clients about the price issue. Just be sure to consider the source. After all, most message boards are unfiltered, and you can’t trust everything you read online!

 

Step Six: Don’t add value if your customer won’t value it.

Last but not least, don’t randomly add value unless you know for a fact that your customer will appreciate it.

 

Sales people often make the mistake of piling on extras that the client may not want or need. The result is that it will cost you more to give the customer something they couldn’t care less about in the first place – a perfect lose-lose proposition.

 

When I ask many of the sales people I coach why they do this, they usually tell me it’s because they “think the customer will like this.” Thinking the customer will like something is the same as assuming they will like it. You only need to think back to grade school to remember what happens when we assume.

 

Value, like beauty, is in the eye of the buyer. Ask questions to find out what, besides price, would keep the customer from giving their business to someone else. Then set to work to provide them with as many of those concessions as you can.

 

If the client doesn’t want any extras, then you can’t use the value vs. price argument to win this business. Quit trying and go on to something else.

 

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, pricing pressure is a constant menace. If you want to be successful, you need to make sure the deals you are closing are profitable ones. Although your first goal should be to keep your existing customers, be careful of offering so much that the client actually ends up costing you money. If your client base is too price sensitive, go out and find new clients that want the value you have to offer – not just the lowest price.

 

It’s not easy, but it is simple to do if you have conviction. The first step to finding better clients – ones that focus on value and not price – is making sure you are 100% confident that you are delivering such a high value to the marketplace, that all buyers will want to own it at full cost. 

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Three things you must do before putting pedal to the metal and accelerating your sales

 

Having a well-oiled sales team and a great product ready to launch can fill your head with a lot of tempting plans. Just like finding a shiny roadster waiting in your garage on a sunny day and that wide open road beckoning, the urge can be irresistable to turn the key, hit the accerlator and see just how fast that thing can go.

 

Don’t start your engine quite yet. There’s an important checklist you need to pay attention to first.

 

At my business, we conduct ongoing sales research with businesses and with the professionals who work there. Among the issues we study include the challenges that executives, managers and sales staff face when trying to accelerate revenue and sales.

 

This is where the checkered flag comes in. We’ve identified three key critical points that you must address before you even think about putting the pedal to the metal and accelerating your sales.

 

Give your sales team a tuneup

 

High-performance machines work best when they’re tuned regularly to meet current conditions. It’s not all that different from how you need to look at your sales team.

 

A trend that we’ve noticed here is how often organizations have been selling the same way for 10 to 15 years. Successful businesses are moving from a transactional, commodity-based way of selling and embracing a value-based sales process. They’re doing this to capture more market share, to sell more to existing clients, and to build a longer-term relationship with those clients.

 

It’s lucrative and highly effective, but it requires a behavioral change in the way that you and your sales team do business.

 

As I remind my clients often, some of your best sales people have been with you for a long time. You can’t expect them to change overnight.

 

It requires time and consistency that only sales coaching and mentoring can provide on an ongoing basis. Stay the course and invest in weekly group sessions with your team, and weekly one-on-one sessions with your team. Do this for more than months at a time: plan to do it over a period of years.

 

Some of our very best clients who are now leading the marketplace—taking millions of dollars of business away from competitors and earning the number-one position on sales teams—have been making this transition, too. They consistently make this investment over a two to three year period. That’s why they are now really starting to see success.

 

Make sure you have all systems ready, built for speed.

 

The second challenge that we are seeing in the marketplace stems from the all-too-common need to get to market quickly with a new product or service and start generating revenue. You need to have all system ready to sell and capable of doing so from the moment you give the green light to go.

 

Your sales team has to be as ready and as refined as the product or service you’re launching. You can’t afford to have big lulls in revenue. Every month has to be a good month and the team has to be well trained to stay on target. That starts with having you as a leader to monitor and measure those results on a regular basis.

 

Your client retention and support system has to be ready, too. This is a vital part of reducing your sales cycle. You need to ready to flood the marketplace with social proof: case studies, testimonials, product-use scenarios—anything that showcases your value and that you have happy customers succeeding with your product or service. Do this because let’s face it: your prospects believe your customers more than they believe you.

 

Your internal systems also have to be ready. Many times, my clients get bogged down in the selling process and capturing marketplace because their company structure can’t handle a sudden, steady burst in sales. Don’t be afraid to look at your internal processes and make sure that you can transact that business and serve your customers quickly and successfully.

 

Recognize that audience attention is a scarcity.

The third challenge that our clients are facing in the marketplace today is the fact that there is just too much noise out there. Buyers are easily distracted by competing messages, other projects, and a long list of bright, shiny objects.

 

It’s not an easy thing to do, but you must invest in building high-level relationships across an organization. That’s a first-order-of-business priority. Otherwise you’ll be faced with trying to sell to single point of contact in a noisy, crowded marketplace.

 

The best way to keep an organization focused on your project or your priorities is to ensure that you sell top-down and bottom-up at the same time across multiple departments. If, for example, you are only selling to one department, it is easy for that department to get distracted by the other priorities. If you have three or four different departments all focused on your project it is hard for that company to get distracted.

 

You're building allies horizontally as well as vertically inside the organization and that is the best way to make sure that your priorities maintain or become the top priority in terms of what that company is doing to partner with other vendors.

 

Talk to me

I want to hear from you. What challenges is your organization currently facing right now as you get into position to accelerate your sales? 

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