The New Year is just around the corner, and soon sales managers the world over are going to start looking at their year end numbers and either be happy with the results or disappointed in what they’re seeing.
After twelve long months, it can be difficult to get yourself and your team thinking about what you can change in the coming new year so that sales are not only maintained through the slow winter months, but that they also improve.
If you’re unhappy with how you or your sales team performed this year, then here are a few of the most common mistakes that sales people make and tips to improve sales processes that suck.
More salespeople fall into this trap than you’d think. While it might seem like common sense to know who you’re selling to, are you sure that you’re being diligent about it? Are you keeping accurate records on who you’ve called, how many times you’ve called them, what they said in each successive call, etc? Not only is it important to know who the person and the company is, but it’s also of paramount importance to remember whether you’ve been in contact with them before. Believe it or not, I’ve talked to many a salesperson on multiple occasions who was apparently experiencing a bout of amnesia because they talked to me as if it were the first time.
Yes, it takes work, but researching your prospects and keeping diligent records is work that pays off in the long run. I cannot overstate this enough–nothing turns off potential customers more than a salesperson who obviously doesn’t know who they’re talking to. In a terrific piece over on the New York Times, TerraCycle CEO, Tom Szaky, emphasizes that knowing your client is of the utmost importance, saying, “One size hardly ever fits all, and you look much stronger if you care about the business enough to invest in the research.”
We know that your sales presentation is awesome, your deck is amazing, and you know all the lines by heart and can recite them with passion and conviction. Are you letting the customer get a word in edgewise, though? Are you asking them questions and listening to their answers? Or are you pretending to listen before you launch into the next step in your spiel? Well, stop it!
If you’re doing all the talking, then you’re not being a good salesperson. Ask them pertinent questions that not only help you determine whether they’re a good prospect, but also help you understand better who you’re selling to (see resolution #1 above). To get you started, write down some questions that will help you determine 1) what they’re looking for in terms of the product or services you offer, 2) what their role in their company is and how involved they’ll be in the decision making process, 3) what their company’s current situation is like, and 4) what they’d like to see improved in their company as it relates to your products. Customers don’t want to be talked at; they want you to listen to their needs and requirements.
Of course you need to follow a script sometimes, and the sales presentation is there for a reason, but it’s pretty obvious to the average person when someone is giving them a sales spiel rather than talking to them like a human being. While it is important to know your “lines” so that you won’t be tripped up by customer questions and inquiries, you also don’t want to get locked into the same routine over and over to the point where your pitch sounds like it’s coming from a robot.
While we all can’t have the pleasure of selling something that we truly care about and believe in, there has to be something that you can focus on that will allow you to let your excitement and energy shine through. It’s easier to sell when we’re passionate about what we’re talking about, and if you can manage to find the right angle that will allow you to be excited for what you’re selling, you’ll definitely start to see a shift in the way customers respond to you.
Many salespeople get lulled into the false sense of security that comes with finding something that works pretty well and just sticking with it until the end of time. We all fall into this trap, but the problem is that while these processes may work and increase sales right now, they won’t continue to give you exponential growth forever. At some point, its effectiveness will plateau, and you don’t want to be stuck in a plateau, do you? Resting on your laurels is probably the worst thing you could do as it eventually leads to stagnation.
That’s why always thinking about how you can improve your sales process is so vital. To refer to Tom Szaky’s great tips again, sales is “never perfect and can always improve.” He gives an example of TerraCycle’s process, which is to continually iterate new versions of their sales deck, going through as many as 95 versions in three years. While you certainly don’t have to keep up with that kind of pace, continually questioning how you can do better will go a long way towards helping you improve your sales process on a daily basis.
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