I was asked to give a talk on sales not long ago. There are so many topics relative to sales that it is difficult to choose one that will appeal to everyone. Out of nowhere came The Power of Five. The five topics I covered were:
- Define Markets
- Create Personal Financial Goals
- Build a Prospecting Plan
- Own a Sales Process
- Get a Coach
I maintain that these 5 are the foundation of sales success. Are there others? I’m sure they are out there but for October 21st these will do.
Market definition, who buys from you, who you should prospect for, what does a perfect client look like are all pretty much the same thing at least in a general way. I started with this one because it helps to know who you need to sell to before you put together a prospecting plan. When I work with clients whether they are individuals or companies I ask that they profile existing accounts to determine if there are common characteristics among them. Again, not rocket science.
Here are a few characteristics:
- Products they buy from you
- Company size
- Why the customer buys from you
- How did you get them as customers
- How often so they buy
- Do they buy an assortment of products or services
The other important question to ask is: What are You Good at? This has tremendous implications on market definition. What you are good at doing and who you sell to are flip sides of the same coin. Through trial and error (probably more errors than are necessary) I discovered that I am at my best when I work in a small company environment. That has played out over the last 10 years as I morphed from pure sales training to helping smaller companies grow their business. What I am good at also relates to what I like to do. Very large on my list of ‘likes’ is seeing people grow their talents. Nothing makes me happier than to see a salesperson or a company moves past obstacles that previously held them in check. And frankly, it is not about me! Providing the knowledge and experience and showing someone why that knowledge can propel them past their current level of mediocrity is more than enough for me.
Also, be wary of trying to be all things to all people! It is tempting to say “I can do that” when a prospect asks if you can provide specific expertise in an area you are not particularly familiar with. Dollar signs trump experience! My advice is don’t do it. Broadening your markets may mean that you are diluting your efforts and losing opportunities in your main market. And if you don’t succeed in a new market what does that do for your reputation and confidence?
Here’s the last question worth asking yourself: What are the Characteristics of What You do That Appeal to Potential Clients? It really comes down to the more you know about yourself, what you do and who your best clients/customers are.
This should probably be on my tombstone so that when people stumble upon it they’ll be forced to ponder the meaning of life and what a sales manager should do with their time. Sales managers can be a dull lot. When promoted from whatever they were doing-assistant to the assistant to the assistant to the president, worst salesperson, best salesperson-they sit in their new office and think wow, this is way cool! And is that an admin assistant I see out there? This is really getting better!!
Poor dumb clutz! Can you imagine how many managers there are that don’t have a clue how to answer the basic question-what is my role? Ah, I’m guessing somewhere in the vicinity of half. Ok, here’s the answer. Job number one for a sales manager is develop the skills of your salespeople. That’s it! If it’s Wednesday in Omaha and you’re traveling with Sam you had better focus on whether this cobber understands the mechanics of selling. And if he doesn’t then your job is to mentor Sam on selling skills.
This is not as easy as it sounds. Where do you start this process? How do you tell ole Sam that maybe he should back off the toothy grin, the break cartilage hand shake, and the latest one-liner about Nebraska football? Let’s face facts, Sam is on the brink of being a sales statistic. He’s getting by only by the thinnest of margins. Moving Sam from social butterfly to skilled sales professional requires base knowledge on specific techniques that apply to specific parts of the sales call. These are repeatable techniques, which means that the sales call on Wednesday in Omaha will be similar to the one made in Lincoln on Thursday. How simple is this? So simple that most managers don’t get it.
This is where I decide whether the post is going to have a 1,500 word count or 550 word count. I’ll stick with the latter. Regardless of whether you’re on day two of your management career or day five hundred you need to dissect the sales process for your company and your product. How do you start the sales call to a new prospect? How do you start the call to a regular customer? How do you probe for needs? How do you discover if there are multiple decision makers? How do you disqualify prospects? How do you cross sell? Wanna make a bet that you can break down the sales process into at least 50 or more components?
Here’s another way to look at this? Hasn’t your VP of manufacturing broken down the manufacturing process into definable steps? I guarantee that he or she has. Your mission as a sales manager is to do the same thing for how your product gets sold. Once that is defined then you can create the techniques to use during each step of the sales process and then make sure your salespeople use these techniques on their sales calls. If all of that sounds like a monumentally difficult task then ask for your sales job back.