Truth, What Is Truth?
Many of today’s experts love to tell us that everything has changed. It’s a dangerous new world and all the rules have changed, they claim. Nothing that used to work in sales or sales management still works today. Nothing. Traditional approaches, techniques, and methodologies are no longer effective.
Yet Mike insists that the most effective executives, sales managers, and salespeople are masters at the basics. They have perfected old-school, traditional approaches. Instead of constantly entertaining themselves by shopping for the latest, greatest, and trendiest new tool, toy, or trick, they stay with the tried-and-true, proven fundamentals of sales and sales leadership. Not sexy, but incredibly effective.
Great Salespeople Don’t Chase Opportunities, They Create Them
These keys seem to get the least attention from sales authors and trainers, yet they are absolutely foundational for becoming a consistent top-producing rainmaker:
- The Right Attitude
- Intentional Calendar Management
- Strategic Targeting
- Compelling Messaging
- Commitment to Prospecting
The #SalesTruth is that top-producing salespeople in every industry have mastered these five aspects of opportunity creation. If you want to up your game, or possibly experience breakthrough results for the first time, then you need to master these areas too.
Key #1 The Right Attitude
If you want to master winning more new sales, it requires mastering creating new opportunities. The first keys to doing so are getting your heart and your mind right. When your motivation is to deliver the best possible outcome and help the customer win, and you believe with certainty that your proactive efforts to contact prospects will be effective, good things follow.
Key #2 Intentional Calendar Management
High-producing sales killers have no trouble delineating between work and high-payoff, revenue-generating activity. They delegate as much service and administrative work as humanly possible. They’re ruthless with their time because sales killers understand the game is won by maximizing selling time, which requires minimizing their involvement in everything else.
Key #3 Strategic Targeting
Seek input. Talk to others in and outside your company. If you are a salesperson, schedule time with your manager, and possibly even others in your company, who can offer wisdom, experience, and perspective. And then commit to this finite list for a season. You don’t have to cast the names in stone, but hanging targeted accounts as often as you change your clothes doesn’t help either. Impatient and inexperienced sales hunters get easily frustrated when they’re not creating opportunities from targeted accounts as quickly as they’d like.
Key #4 A Compelling Message
Think about how much more confident and effective salespeople would be when it comes to creating new sales opportunities if they are armed with a compelling, customer-centric message. A solid, usable case study has three very simple components:
- The customer’s situation when we found them or became engaged
- What we did
- The outcome
Once the case studies are drafted, they are reviewed for accuracy, edited for clarity, and distributed to the sales team. But it’s not enough for a salesperson to have these studies in writing. They must be committed to memory.
Key #5 Commitment to Prospecting
There is nothing wrong with using the phone. It’s not an antiquated approach, and for that matter, neither is knocking on doors! Are you aware that respected major corporations still deploy in-person prospecting as a primary means of developing new business?
Salespeople who struggle with proactive calling tend to make prospecting into something bigger, scarier, and more difficult than it actually is.
Stop Rushing to Present and Demo
Would you trust a doctor who gives you a prescription before examination? It Is impossible to be a trusted advisor if you pitch before you probe.
Most sales presentations are about the company doing the selling, its merits, and its offerings. Instead of making the customer and its issues and desired outcomes the focus, sellers drone on with self-focused, uncompelling garbage. When you don’t bother to do professional discovery work prior to presenting, it’s pretty difficult to make the focus of your presentation what you discovered about the prospect and how you are going to address their issues and produce their desired outcomes.
An Inferior Product Is Not the Excuse
It’s a total myth that you must have the superior product to succeed in sales. The product superiority and technology advantages are usually both temporary and fleeting. Competition in free markets is such that the breakneck pace at which new products are developed and released means that even if you are blessed to have the premier product, it’s likely to remain that way for only a short season. When you live by the product, you die by the product.
Neither Is the Higher Price
Even worse than throwing in the sales towel for having to sell an older or slightly inferior product are salespeople complaining they can’t make a sale because their offerings are priced too high! These sellers are the first ones to come back to management seeking discounts and declaring that “this customer is a price buyer”.
In fact being priced above the market can be a good thing. Higher prices communicate higher value to the customer. It would be more difficult articulating the value you create when your price is too low. Customers are not stupid. Everyone knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and buyers are rightfully suspicious when hearing that you have the best offering and the lowest price. Buy cheap, get cheap. It says it all.
Accountability Is Not a Dirty Word
Coaching is an important part of the sales leader’s job. No argument here. But the very simple act of the sales manager sitting down formally with each salesperson every month—not for coaching, not to listen to excuses, not for reps to ask the manager to do their job, but for the singular purpose of forcing salespeople to answer for
- what they produced (results)
- what they are working on to produce results in the future (pipeline), and
- where they focused (activity) to advance opportunities is transformative.
One Aspect Most Sales Managers Underlook
Most sales managers work too many hours, receive too many emails, get dragged into too many meetings, and have way too much on their plate. Due to this overload, which nonurgent task do you think often gets ignored? Recruiting.
The paradox here is that possibly the single most important job of the sales leader is to staff the team with the best fit and highest quality talent available. Yet, recruiting is typically the first responsibility to get shelved simply because it’s not urgent, and it is very rare that managers are held accountable for their recruiting efforts unless they’re currently understaffed.
Two Iron Laws For Recruitment
First, recruit ahead of the need. It is a whole lot easier to add solid talent to your team when you already have a “bench” of potential new hires selected. Carving out just a few hours per month to build a bench of potential candidates is the best practice that prevents managers from getting in that unenviable position where they feel trapped and are unwilling to hold people accountable.
Second, never hire a candidate who is not better than the average person on your team. If the candidate doesn’t raise the bar, then walk away. The moment you hire someone who brings down your average, you have put yourself and your team on a very dangerous slippery slope. When you settle by adding someone to your team that everyone realizes is not up to par, it sends an awful message and has the potential of destroying your culture.
Stop Searching for the Secret Sales Sauce
One of the biggest takeaways from #SalesTruth is that there really is not much new under the sun when it comes to professional selling and sales management. Be wary of the online “experts” who are all too quick to proclaim that everything about sales and selling has changed. Be even more wary when they poke fun at those who are succeeding using proven, tried, and true methods.
- If you are looking to achieve breakthrough sales success, the single most important thing you can do is dedicate yourself to becoming a master at creating your own new sales opportunities.
- Belief alone, however, is not enough to create sales opportunities; you must commit more of your calendar to allow sufficient time for proactively pursuing strategic target accounts.
- Put in the effort to sharpen your messaging. Nothing will increase your confidence or make you more effective and comfortable pursuing new opportunities than a compelling, customer-issue, and outcome-focused message.
- Use every ethical and effective means necessary—yes, including the good old-fashioned telephone—to secure early stage meetings with prospective customers. Don’t make the proactive prospecting call into something bigger, scarier, and more daunting than it is.
- Stop rushing to demo your product/software or conduct a presentation. There is no way to be perceived as a true professional problem solver, consultant, or value-creator when you show up in pitch mode before doing solid discovery work.